If you’ve managed a Help Desk for very long, you know the frustrations your staff feels when dealing with callers who can be irritable and demanding. It helps to counsel your staffers to keep their calm and explain things patiently to the caller, but it may also help to give your end-users some tips for making a Help Desk call more productive. Make a copy of these guidelines and post it on your company intranet:

If you use technology, sooner or later you’re going to be calling a Help Desk. In those situations, you’re at a disadvantage, undoubtedly already frustrated with the hardware or software problem you’re having and not in a frame of mind to proceed methodically and ask good questions. But the quality of your Help Desk experience will be very dependent on your ability to manage the call!

Here are six tips for getting what you need from a Help Desk operator, without blowing your stack.

1. For starters, don’t blast the tech support person when s/he picks up the phone. In a pleasant tone of voice, ask for the tech’s first and last name and have them spell it for you. Most tech-support operators will give you their name without hesitation if you ask for it, calmly and cheerfully, at the beginning of the conversation. If you wait until later in the call, your chances of getting a name plummet, so do this as soon as your call is answered. Write down the operator’s name along with the date and time of your call.

2. Next, before you begin describing your problem, ask the tech if s/he has logged a ticket for your call. If not, ask them to log the ticket and give you the ticket number. Write it down! They cannot delete a call once a ticket number has been assigned.

3. Explain your problem without rushing through it, and realize that you may not be speaking to the person who can actually help you. Quite often, you’ll be talking to a pre-screener whose job is to decide where the call needs to go. If you hear “I am transferring you now,” get the tech’s direct number in case your call is dropped (this happens often)!

4. After your explanation, and a wait, and a transfer, you’d expect to finally be connected to a technician who can solve your problem, right? But that’s not always what happens. You may be transferred to a first-line agent who has access to a help desk knowledge base. Ask for this person’s name and write it down. Explain your problem again using key words (e.g. Outlook vs. Microsoft, “I cannot connect to the internet” not “My internet is down.”) They will be typing in your comments as you speak, to see what comes up in their database. Often they can bring up a document to help you out. Be patient; these employees are trained to follow the document word for word. If you have already tried what they are asking you to do, you might as well resign yourself to doing it all again as they cannot pass you up the ladder till they go through their checklist.

5. If/when it becomes apparent that this person cannot help you, ask for your call to be escalated. If you have been polite and cooperative up to this point, they will usually pass the call on. If that doesn’t happen, ask to speak to a supervisor, but be ready: this is where things can get ugly really fast. But you have their name (remember) and your ticket number, so if they “accidentally” hang up on you, you can call back, give your ticket number explain to that agent that you were just hung up on (remembering to get their name first) and repeat your request for a supervisor. I have only had one agent “lose” me at this late point in the process, and I received not only a letter of apology from the supervisor, but got free memory for the computer I was working on! All of that happened because I had names, times and my ticket number so their documentation backed up my story.

6. Above all, be patient, ask for another agent if you cannot understand the one you’re talking to, and treat it as an adventure into another culture! LOL