Best Practices of an IT Help Desk

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IT help desk best practices can keep users working productively.
IT help desk best practices can keep users working productively. (Image: Jupiterimages/Pixland/Getty Images)

In a company, the information technology (IT) help desk is the first point of contact for employees who have IT problems and need help. An effective help desk can help to maintain IT users’ productivity and improve an organization’s return on investment on its IT projects. However, a Forrester Research survey found that only 53 percent of respondents felt satisfied or very satisfied with support from the help desk. Following best practices is essential to improve technical support to users.

Information Technology Infrastructure Library

Follow Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) best practices. ITIL is a series of best practice guides that are recognized as an international standard for the IT industry. ITIL includes a guide to help desk best practices covering the key functions of incident management, problem management, change management, configuration management and release management. Organizations such as NASA and Disney have adopted ITIL.

Self-help

Speed up support by publishing frequently asked questions, or FAQs, on an intranet. Cover only the most common issues, and don't require users to have special skills to resolve the issues. Also offer training to users covering the same types of issues. Encouraging self-help reduces the workload on the help desk, giving tech support more time to concentrate on urgent problems.

Ticketing System

Establish a ticketing system, which puts a priority on requests and gets the most urgent or potentially damaging incidents handled ahead of routine issues. The system must have the capability to route requests to team members with the appropriate product knowledge or skill level. Prioritizing support requests makes the best use of support resources and can also help to improve customer satisfaction levels.

Communication

Communicate throughout the support process. Let users know the target time for resolution, and keep them updated on progress. If the team cannot resolve an incident within a specified time frame, then establish an escalation process, where issues get escalated to a supervisor, for example. Let users know ahead of time about planned system upgrades or changes to minimize any inconvenience to users.

Help Desk Software

Make sure help desk software can capture and analyze incidents to build up a "picture" of recurring events. This will enable the help desk to prepare problem management reports. Setting up a community forum on an intranet can also help to capture and share knowledge on recurring issues.

Metrics

Use metrics to monitor performance and plan future resource requirements. Metrics that only record the number of requests and time to response may not provide a complete picture of help desk effectiveness. Measuring users' satisfaction with the level of service provides a customer-focused basis for planning improvement programs.

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