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We’ve all heard the jokes about the “helpless desk.” Employees complain about the lack of service. Help desk staff lament the lack of respect. The fact is the help desk represents a huge opportunity. It occupies critical real estate in the enterprise. It’s where IT meets the business, and ultimately, cements the impression that many employees have of the IT department as a whole. Keeping your help desk customers happy fuels business productivity and ensures the IT department is viewed as a valuable asset.

 

Boosting your help desk customers’ happiness quotient (HQ) is no small task as customer expectations of service and of receiving service are at an all-time high. Outside of their day jobs, a new generation of customers relies on emerging technologies for unlimited connectivity, mobility and access to unprecedented volumes of information, uninterrupted communication and 24/7 service. They anticipate the same conditions in the workplace. It’s this expectation that has helped spawn a much-talked-about trend: the consumerization of IT.

 

In a recent InformationWeek piece, columnist Jonathan Feldman wrote, “Consumerization is banging down the door of IT.”He continued, “…the CIOs I talk with do get it, but they're vastly outnumbered by their staff, and staffers don't necessarily get it yet. CIOs are going to have to take the time to educate their staff in what consumerization is, why it's not going away, and how it may even make their lives easier or better."

 

IT organizations that are serious about improving help desk service—and reputations—will embrace this new reality. The good news is that they don’t have to break new ground to get started. Companies in the business-to-consumer space are already blazing those trails, adapting to the ever-changing expectationsof their always-on, always-connected customers. Their best practices translate well to IT help desk principles.

 

How? Here are four steps to help you get started:

 

1] Help customers help themselves

Today’s help desk customers are technically savvy. They have come to expect service that’s timely—often, instant—effective and on their terms. If it doesn’t meet their expectations, they will seek resolutions on their own.

 

This does not bode well for the help desk’s reputation and can result in ineffective,even destructive, work-arounds that end up haunting IT staff.

 

Enter self-sufficiency. A self-service infrastructure allows customers to create and resolve their own incidents, freeing help desk staff from tending to the most repetitive, time-consuming incidents. This means, for example, allowing your customers to reset their own passwords and update tickets. SRMconsole.png

 

Asyou learn how your customers are using self-service, you will gain greater insight into their needs. You will also feel more comfortable about accommodating them, in a consistent, highly controlled manner. Then you can expand your service offering, allowing customers to submit hardware and software requests or providing systems access, for example. The result: Your customers enjoy greater flexibility and responsiveness, while your IT staff improves efficiency and control.

 

2] Promote transparency

Self-serviceworks when there is transparency. In other words, customers must have access to useful information that helps them resolve their problems (preferably delivered in compliance with ITILbest practices).

 

For example, how many tickets are opened when there’s a system-wide outage in your organization? Why not give your customers a way to find out if their problems spring from a universal issue before logging a ticket? Broadcast the details associated with IT issues that are currently impacting the organization and let your customers see what other employees are searching for. Give them access to a shared knowledge base to troubleshoot their own issues, while ensuring helpdesk staff can tap a broader knowledge base that archives past responses to customer questions and requests.

 

Transparency can have a halo effect, too. As customers have more access to and visibility ofthe information they need to resolve their issues, their level of trust in theIT organization grows. This can help break down the barriers between IT and thebusiness.

 

3] Make them feel at home

Today’s help desk customer represents a younger generation used to live chat, instant messaging, online discussion forums, tweets and status updates. By providing them with the tools and channels that resemble those they rely on every day,they can engage with IT on their own terms. They may even come to regard IT as a partner, invested in their success.

 

For example, with real-time collaboration tools, they can see where their peers are having trouble and how they’re resolving issues. When they’re operating in their own comfort zone, they’ll reach positive outcomes more quickly—and without the angst associated with processes that have been thrust upon them.

 

4] Hold yourself accountable

Thanks to the Internet, mobile devices and social media, word of mouth plays a greater role than ever in influencing reputation. The help desk is not immune. Your customers can quickly share their satisfaction—and disappointment—with your service. All it takes is a text here or an instant message there to compromise your reputation. By establishing a few accountability controls upfront, you can stave off the need for damage control later.

 

Startout by setting realistic service levels and soliciting buy-in from the business. Next, ensure your help desk is adequately staffed and skilled to deliver. Keep your customers in the loop by publishing the details of those service levels and clarifying expectations at every interaction.

 

Maintain open communication with your customers. Survey them on a regular basis to find out what’s working and what could be improved. Act on their recommendations and close the loop by reiterating their recommendations and sharing your resolutions.

 

Historically,the help desk has been home to a cultural divide. Those who staff it own the knowledge crucial to keeping the business moving forward. Their customers, increasing technically adept, are beholden to them. Sometimes, it seems like never the twain shall meet. To ensure they do, however, communication is key.  That means embracing a new market reality and aligning help desk infrastructure and processes with evolving customer behaviors and expectations. Done right, it can boost everyone’s HQ.

 

See this in action with some really cool videos!