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INDUSTRY INSIGHT

7 essentials for a top-performing IT help desk

The help desk forms the backbone of IT operations for many federal, state and local government agencies. In fact, the cross-functional nature of its operation means the help desk directly impacts productivity and is an essential part of what enables an agency to meet its stakeholder needs.

However, owing to increasingly complex IT environments, managers struggle to ensure that their help desks are operating at optimum efficiency. This seven-point guide will help IT managers ensure their help desks deliver exceptional service while maximizing productivity.

1. Create the right structure: Properly structuring an IT help desk can greatly improve its efficiency. Organize help desks into multiple levels or tiers. In a three-tier help desk, for example, tier 0 can be a self-service portal, with tiers 1, 2 and 3 made up of technicians with increasing levels of knowledge and skill. Depending on the complexity of the issue in a ticket, issues can be routed to the appropriate tier. IT managers should also set up a channel for interlevel communication and escalations.

2. Queue and assign requests: Most help desks address tickets on a priority basis, with higher priority tasks taking up most of the technicians’ productive time. Other tickets can remain unaddressed until a technician responds to it, leading to higher turnaround times and violations of service-level agreements. Queue up tickets on a first-come, first-served basis and use automated assignment models like round robin and load balancing to keep on top of requests. Priority-based business rules can also be applied to ticket assignments.

3. Conduct end-user surveys: To better evaluate the help desk’s performance IT managers should assess critical success factors like processes, technicians and technology. Technicians should be evaluated on their responsiveness and speed of ticket resolution; processes by the ease of submitting a ticket, reaching a technician and receiving support; and technology by the ease of communication.

To get feedback on individual tickets, send a survey to users when their  tickets are closed. For higher-scale feedback, conduct annual or semi-annual surveys.

4. Empower end users with self service: Users often encounter simple and repetitive issues that they can resolve themselves, which can take some of the burden off of the IT help desk team. To help end users solve their own problems, create a self-service portal that provides information and solutions as well as a service catalog where they can easily view and choose the services they need. Additionally, a self-service portal can be used to make organizationwide announcements to keep users informed about any issues, planned maintenance, etc.

5. Better manage routine tasks: IT help desks often carry out periodical tasks like changing a printer’s toner or performing system checks. These tasks can be managed in two ways:

  • Scheduling: A ticket for routine tasks is created at a set time and gets assigned to a technician.
  • Automating: Routine and simple tasks like password reset requests can be automated so that technicians can address higher priority tickets.

6. Generate reports with targeted key performance indicators: To gauge help desk performance, one tell-all report will not suffice for all stakeholders. Generate targeted reports and, for starters, measure the following:

  • First contact resolution: the percentage of tickets resolved upon first interaction with a user.
  • SLA violations: the percentage of tickets in which the response or a resolution violated the SLA.
  • Backlog tickets: the percentage of new tickets remaining unresolved.
  • Mean resolution time: the time taken on average to resolve a ticket.
  • User satisfaction: the percentage of users happy with the support provided.

Presenting those metrics as scorecards is an effective way to monitor help desk performance at a higher level and can be particularly useful for strategists and decision makers.

7. Increase collaboration and communication: On certain occasions, technicians communicate back and forth extensively with the requester. Technicians may spend considerable time switching between applications and typing out emails. This overhead can be eliminated by using a help desk tool that sends and receives emails from within the request. Canned text for routine responses and resolutions will further reduce the need to manually type emails.

Government agencies have now started looking at IT help desks as value additions rather than cost centers. To meet the needs of stakeholders, agency help desks have had to keep pace with the evolution of emerging and increasingly complex technologies. The tips above can set up the help desk for success and add value agency users.

About the Author

Ujjwal Sood is a product analyst at ManageEngine, a division of Zoho Corp.

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