How to Help the Help Desk: 21st Century Support for IT Pros

Whether your company calls them “technical support technicians,” “help desk representatives” or “strategic support analysts,” in-house help desk professionals are an integral part of any business. Increasing productivity and satisfaction ratings while reducing costs and resources are the hallmarks of an effective IT help desk.

Finding fast, accurate answers to end-user questions and problems are critical so that employees can continue working and meet deadlines. These savvy gurus are dedicated individuals that contribute much to the bottom line of any successful business, but sometimes even the experts don’t know all the answers. Did you ever wonder where they go when they need help?

As the old saying goes, “Time is money.” Today’s help desk analysts don’t have time to prowl the Internet for answers. Using such outdated methods as entering a Boolean phrase or term into a search engine and then hoping for an accurate result isn’t realistic anymore. While blogs, developer forums and social networking sites are often used, it’s often hard to distinguish trusted answers from inaccurate or misleading information. Here are several strategies that modern help desks employ in today’s IT environment.

Strategy 1: Online Subscription Resources

Today’s IT professionals are quick to adopt new technologies. Subscribing to an online resource provides instant access to accurate and trusted information, which ultimately reduces customer callback. For instance, an online resource can give subscribers access to a database which contains the full content of thousands of vetted business and technical books and videos.

An online subscription resource permits simultaneous search across all books in the library, and also allows the IT professional to cut and paste essential information, such as how to apply a new Microsoft patch, from editorially reviewed content in published books. It also gives access to books that are currently being written. Since new content emerges every day, this gives a company the edge on their competitors. For the IT help desk professional who wants to improve his technical skills, downloads for offline viewing and studying are often allowed.

Strategy 2: Professional Associations

Professional organizations provide important networking opportunities as well as timely industry information. One such organization is HDI, an IT service and support organization by THINK Services. Rich Hand, executive director of membership, states that “as the (help support) industry evolves, so does the role of the help desk. Our organization’s role is to continually provide resources. Our members share information, collaborate, improve their processes and procedures, and their standing in the IT industry.”

HDI also provides local chapters, Web access, white papers, an “Ask the Expert” area and other benefits. For instance, if a member wanted to learn more about support center consolidation, that information would be provided. Hand further states that HDI “validates the information.”

Strategy 3: Remote Desktop Support

A recent report by Forrester Research reveals that only 53 percent of surveyed IT users reported satisfaction with their help desk support. To help improve that statistic, help desk representatives have recently employed the use of remote support solutions.

This software allows the support representative to remotely access the desktop and system of an end user. The representative can view the user’s system, record help sessions and even install software onto the system if necessary. Since many customers are technically challenged and thus unable to describe their computer problems accurately, this allows representatives to quickly analyze and solve the problem.

Remote desktop applications also keep the help desk professional from transferring the customer to another level of support or to upper management. It’s a big time-saver for support representatives and reduces customer frustration.

Strategy 4: Formal and Informal Training

The IT workforce often suffers from problems with job satisfaction and motivation. As a result, companies are concerned about retention. The more tools a help desk manager provides his or her employees, the better.

For example, if an organization gives employees up-to-date tools and both structured and unstructured learning programs, technologists can not only expand their knowledge and share findings with one another but also to transfer that knowledge to their customers. When a team works toward a unified goal of providing the best technical service, synergy occurs. Employees that remain competitive in the marketplace remain happy, provide above average contributions, and are more likely to remain loyal to their employers.

The end result: satisfied customers and a motivated team.

Improving Competitive Edge

The corporate IT help desk is impacted by an organization’s end users in many ways: metrics, costs, overall satisfaction rates and the way that the help desk is perceived by the company as a whole.

Providing help desk professionals with the latest technology such as online subscription resources, professional associations, remote desktop support and both formal and informal training programs lowers costs and improves a company’s competitive edge. Enhancing the help desk’s productivity is a win-win situation for everyone.

C.J. Rayhill is senior vice president of product management and technology of Safari Books Online.

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