Whether your IT organization supports 100 or 100,000 end users, effectively prioritizing support calls is a critical process for providing high-quality, efficient service. Such a system enables a help desk tech to quickly and accurately rank and route calls by their importance and the expertise required to resolve them. When creating a prioritization system for your organization, take care to create a practical scheme that can be periodically reassessed and reworked.
One method of call prioritization that I have found to be particularly effective is a call level system. To create call levels, support calls are divided into different levels based on a combined measure of the expertise and amount of time required to resolve an issue. Each level corresponds to a staff member or members whose duty it is to address that level of call. Typically, intake staff solves the simpler issues and assigns the more complex issues to an appropriate level, often referred to as Level 1, Level 2, Level 3, etc.
To help you create such a call level system for your organization, I have created a call level chart that you can download and then customize to fit your organization's needs. Here are some benefits of using a call level system, tips for creating a system for your company, and a sample of our call level chart download (see Table A).
Why use a call level system?
A call level system tends to achieve a greater number of solved problems per staff hour expended. Level 1 staff members can either resolve or assign a large number of issues per day, providing the quick first response that is critical for users to feel that their concerns are being addressed, and reducing frustration and multiple calls. Level 2 and Level 3 staff can focus on their areas of expertise while Level 1 staff avoids spending time working on problems they're unlikely to solve.
When the Level 1 person cannot provide a final solution to a problem, the next most qualified person to help is assigned to it. If calls have been logged on to a voice mail or e-mail system, the assignment may take place before the user is even contacted. By directing callers to the best resource quickly, this tiered system minimizes the repeated handoffs and delays that leave users feeling that nobody cares or wondering about support staff competence.
Answering numerous phone calls and switching tracks frequently can be lethal to tasks requiring focus and creativity, providing only the illusion of getting more work done. With a call level system, upper-level staff who may have management or project responsibilities gain the blocks of time that are often necessary for both resolving issues assigned to them and for fulfilling their other work responsibilities.
If issues are tracked to allow support staff to review the resolution of a call, Level 1 staff can review issues they have promoted to increase their own knowledge base. Due to the large number of calls they receive, Level 1 staff can also be instrumental in detecting patterns of problems and in suggesting resolutions for frequent issues.
Issues to consider when creating your call level system
When creating your call level system, consider the following points:
Call priority should be integrated into any call level scheme. Level 1 staff would assign an initial priority when promoting calls they cannot resolve and would immediately contact Level 2 staff for any critical issues.
Help desk analysts can work multiple levels
With a smaller staff, some individuals may work at more than one level but at different times. Thus, one may spend a certain amount of time resolving Level 1 calls and then switch to Level 2 mode to concentrate on the calls promoted to that level, or your staff might try rotating schedules for taking Level 1 calls.
Remember: Call level doesn't always correspond to skill level
When implementing a call level system, remember that the different call levels require different types of skills. A Level 1 staff person might be quite skilled but prefer the faster pace at that level. A Level 2 person may not know everything but could be a good diagnostician and researcher. Staff at each level should be respected for the resources they each bring to a support team.
Download TechRepublic's call level chart
You can download our call level chart by following this link or by clicking on the Downloads link in the navigation bar to the left of this page. TechRepublic has many useful documents, templates, and applications available for download, so be sure to check out our other offerings.
TechRepublic's call level chart is available as a Microsoft Word document and an Adobe PDF file. To increase download speed, we've zipped the files. You will need an unzip utility, such as WinZip, PKZIP, or WinAce, to expand the zipped file. You will also need Microsoft Word or the Adobe Acrobat Reader. You can download the free Adobe Acrobat Reader here.