IT Policies

Recognise the Value of the Helpdesk


Often the helpdesk is seen as a bit of a dead weight that the rest of the organisation has to carry. They can’t write code, they can’t configure routers or even run cables. So why do we put up with them?

The way the helpdesk works is a key part of the overall service provided by IT services.

There are many ways that the helpdesk is valuable and when they fail in their duties that knock on effect to the rest of the team can be enormous.

Firstly they are a dedicated point of contact with the user base. They know what questions to ask and, possibly more importantly, how to ask it. They make sure that the information that is past up the line or to the field is relevant and accurate. With field work, the accuracy of the information is vital.

In my job we are tasked to call ahead to every customer to advise an arrival time, confirm the nature of the job and to try to resolve the call without a visit. This can only happen if the name and phone numbers given to me are accurate. When an hour’s driving is required to get to the call, the ability to evaluate is vital.

There’s a recurring theme here – communication. The technical skills to deal with problems are a given, the thing that slows us down and wastes our time is communication. Communication misses are the thing that costs us the most lost time, effort, stress and customer annoyance.

The first thing we must do is make the helpdesk feel better about themselves. When the department has a meeting make sure that a representative from the helpdesk is included.

When you want to introduce a new call logging system involved the helpdesk in the decision, I know that sounds like a no brainer but this has happened to me in my helpdesk days. We arrived one morning to find that the software we know had gone and the new one was running. I closed the helpdesk so that the staff could have an hour or so to familiarise with the new software. It wasn’t suitable for our purposes and I asked that we revert to the original system, which suited us fine. We were then castigated for wasting money!

Try to remember that they are part of your team, their job is to keep the users off your back so that you can get on with your job, they soak up a lot of the calls themselves and take all the abuse, leaving the rest of the department carefully insulated against the outside world. In return for this they are often treated like the poor relation of the IT team. Their skills lie in a different area, they communicate, filter out the dross and the no brainer questions and decide who is best placed to seal with real problems. If they sometimes get that process wrong it is because nobody told them any better.

5 comments
NickNielsen
NickNielsen

This happens from my point of view, not because the HD techs aren't technically competent or can't communicate, but because they receive no orientation or training on [u]system-level[/u] issues or, for that matter, proprietary or specialty software. Often any such training consists of a faded graphic titled "System Overview" or "Store Systems." For example, none of the possible major actions I can take at a store (reset/reboot router, switch, server, POS controller, etc.) will have an affect outside that store, yet on more than one occasion, I've called the help desk to notify them of such an action and been asked "How many stores will this affect?"

whistl3r
whistl3r

"They can?t write code, they can?t configure routers or even run cables. So why do we put up with them?" Just be careful. That's a HUGE overstatement. I've seen many Helpdesk employee's write code and know more about networking than those in the field.

ManiacMan
ManiacMan

been trained to always ask "How many stores will this affect" like a bunch of parrots. I blame those in charge for not empowering the helpdesk to actually understand what the heck it is they're actually supporting instead of reading questions off of a queue sheet like some mindless telemarketer. If these guys in helpdesk ever want to progress beyond helpdesk and into desktop or server support, they need to start showing more intelligence than they're doing and show an interest in why they're doing it. If to them it's only a job and nothing more, than they're in the wrong business.

ManiacMan
ManiacMan

They should move to desktop support or at least junior level admin work if they know more than the average helpdesk staffer, who at times, is nothing more than a glorified phone operator and does nothing more than to pass on the problem to the engineers instead of actually attempting to troubleshoot the issue and help the immediate customer in need of assistance. Helpdesk gets a bad rap because of the attitude I just described. If they're nothing more than useless desk jockeys who answer phones and expect the admin and engineers to deal with mundane issues that the helpdesk should be capable of solving, then perhaps the helpdesk is useless and indeed a drain on the corporation. I've seen both good and bad helpdesk departments, and the one's that are bad just keep continuing this status quo of stupidity and laziness, while the good helpdesk departments rarely get the recognition they deserve and people who should be promoted to the next level of IT are denied from doing so. Yes, I pity the helpdesk because answering the phone and dealing with irate customers isn't easy, but I also pity them because they tend to all get lazy eventually and pass the buck to us engineers instead of doing their own work.

whistl3r
whistl3r

[i]while the good helpdesk departments rarely get the recognition they deserve and people who should be promoted to the next level of IT are denied from doing so.[/i] Besides, some may feel comfortable with the company they work for and are willing to wait for an opportunity to become available or one that should which never does. I also know that some prefer to work the Helpdesk as they enjoy explaining the fundamentals. Less becoming that mechanical engineer that isn't paid what they're worth. Same reason as some great individuals become Teachers and/or Professors.

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