Keep a log of telephone support calls to pinpoint how your time is spent

We'll tell you why you must keep a telephone support diary, and we'll even give you a form you can download and use.

How many telephone support calls did you answer last week? How many calls were made to your help desk line last month? In the last six months? If you can’t answer those questions, you need to start keeping a formal log of support calls—that is, if you want to accurately identify where and how you’re spending your time.

Why bother?
Some of you may think it’s not worth the energy to keep a log of support calls. However, it only takes an extra minute or two to document the call, and that’s time well spent. Here’s what you get in return:
  • You know where your time is going. If you keep a log, you’ll be able to determine exactly how much of your time those calls are consuming. You won’t have to guess.
  • You identify training needs. You’ll be able to spot trends that can help you identify users who need additional training or systems that need to be fixed. If the same one or two employees are making the majority of the calls, this will be your signal to focus on training those people. On the other hand, if dozens of people are calling about the same printer error, maybe there’s a hardware or software problem you can fix to eliminate those calls.
  • You can justify new hires. If you’re swamped because you’re dealing with vendors, attending meetings, troubleshooting problems, and trying to meet a programming deadline—all at the same time—maybe you need a new hire in your department. Your boss may ask, “Come on, is it really that bad?” Show him or her the phone log.

A few ways to keep the log
Keeping a telephone log is pretty easy. Getting into the habit of keeping the log is the hard part. Ideally, you’d probably want to track these data items:
  1. Date of the call
  2. Time of the call
  3. Call tracking number
  4. Your name
  5. Caller’s name
  6. Caller’s department
  7. Caller’s phone
  8. Caller’s e-mail
  9. Problem description
  10. Outcome
  11. Time spent

To maintain your log, you can use the old pad-and-pencil approach. However, if you’re like me, you’ll be prone to losing the scraps of paper. That’s why I recommend that you create a word processing document or spreadsheet named Phonelog and enter the appropriate information every time you receive a call.

I know it’s much easier just to deal with the call and move on to the next item on your to-do list. However, when you need to justify a new hire because you’re spending too much time on the phone, you’ll be glad you took the time. (To make it easy to get started, you can go to TechRepublic’s Downloads section and download a Word document named Phonelog.)

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