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.