In recent years there has been a trend for helpdesks to become nothing more than call loggers. The desk used to resolve a lot of problems without passing them to back line support, but now the emphasis seems to be on improving call statistics rather than resolving issues. This can lead to delays in creating resolutions and may even be affecting global warming.

The real skill that helpdesks can offer is communication. They excel in getting to the bottom of problems and, if empowered, can resolve most issues thrown at them. In the early ’90s, I worked on a helpdesk where our first time resolution rate was in excess of 95%. It soon became clear that the call stats weren’t being monitored for getting things done but for how long it took to answer the initial call to be picked up.

After this, we passed more calls to second line so that we could achieve the expectations of the ACD. In turn, more calls were passed to field engineers, necessitating field visits. Although the field force usually have better practical skills, their communications skills are often not as well developed. Given the chance, the helpdesk could resolve more calls at the first call, but this would mean a change of tack in the industry.

We are missing an opportunity to skill up our helpdesk analysts and make them a more valued part of the support establishment. It can also increase the staff turnover of the helpdesk, as people get bored with simply becoming human answering machines. The trend has been towards a call centre approach, with operators working from scripts. True, they can get through the initial calls more quickly, but is the end user getting a better service?

I maintain that they aren’t.

Calls might not get answered as quickly, but a few seconds longer wait would mean an overall reduction in down time, and this is the goal that seems to be getting lost in the rush to produce a good set of call statistics in order to have a pretty pie chart to display at monthly progress meetings, surely another case of “Death by Powerpoint”?

I feel that the decision makers at the top of organisations are becoming too remote from the true reason for the existence of the helpdesk, which is to support the end user and get their problems solved so that they can get back to being fully productive as soon as possible.

With the helpdesk being empowered to reset passwords and deal with network problems without having to eat into the second line department’s resources, we used to have a great system of maintaining services and freeing up the specialists to do the jobs they are paid for, and it also gave us a sense of pride and involvement.

The helpdesk is often perceived as the poor relation of the IT department, but they have their own distinct set of skills that are of equal value to any other team.

Do you have any examples of the dumbing down of the helpdesk? Have you seen an increase in the number of inquiries that are passed to back line teams?

Let me know what you views are.