Account Management Due Diligence at the Help Desk

A man speaking to others in a conference room in front of a board of graphs

The job of selling a help desk solution is never finished. Earning a client’s business is something that should be doggedly and creatively pursued every day. Since the challenges faced are often unique and occasionally unexpected, the response should never be standard operating procedure. Not only does complacency mar the relationship with client IT Management, it erodes the confidence of the end users supported and minimizes their use of the service. Consequently, CIOs are usually the first to notice if they’re not getting what they’re paying for especially if the solution isn’t being used as directed. And a help desk that primarily deals in password resets and connectivity issues is not a real help and not delivering value. The essential question towards achieving value is to ask, “How can we resolve more?”

Meeting SLAs are an essential requirement and while they’re important to recognize, they are no cause for resting on statistical laurels. It is the team leader’s responsibility to dig deeper and analyze the metrics for service improvement opportunities. A valuable team lead regularly performs ticket aging analysis and deep dives on incidents pending resolution beyond specified intervals. If there was a delay in resolution, the lead should do a little detective work regarding the hold-up and recommend how to prevent it going forward. On a broader scale, monthly operational reviews are focused on continual service improvement with significant emphasis on increased resolution at the help desk through access, training, and documentation. A due diligence refrain from the team lead will be to suggest supplemental agent training and development of knowledgebase articles for new technology rollouts as well as access to systems currently retained by other teams.

The handoff of duties that are resolvable at Level 1 should be addressed on an ongoing basis. Following a “one IT” approach it’s fair to have a conversation about what issues are being retained internally and why. As the first point of contact for the client’s entire end-user population, the ROI comes from first call resolution on as many call types as possible. That being said, if agents are routinely required to escalate incidents that could otherwise be resolved remotely, use of the service desk will be consequently discouraged and the case for less efficient, walk up support requests justified. For this reason, the lead reviews all escalated tickets and regularly recommends incident categories that should be added to the service desk repertoire. In turn, client IT management is invited to assist with knowledge and access share where appropriate. If internal technicians are unwilling to offload remote Level 1 tasks or continue to accept walk-ups or direct calls for support requests from users, the ROI on the solution suffers. Considering how extremely involved and time-consuming the help desk implementation process with workflow and user portal development, telephony, programming, agent training, customer contact entry, and testing, none of those tasks should go for naught. Imagine building a bridge and never crossing it. If the service desk has set up all ITIL processes in the end user portal including change and asset management and those modules remain unused, the analogy fits.

One fallacy is that help desk organizations must be incentivized to lower monthly contact volume. The reality is that low utilization tends to be a consequence of organizational downsizing, seasonal volume dips, or internal IT staff continuing to maintain duties that should have been outsourced to the MSP. Obviously, end-user education, self-service, and call avoidance must be built into the service in order to minimize frivolous use. But ensuring the service desk remains the first point of contact leads to a reduction in distractions for internal IT resources that are often compensated more than their Level 1 counterparts as well as faster Average Speed to Answer with a fully staffed team of agents. If the help desk does its job well, usage increases with end-user confidence. It does not subside unless the need for support wanes.

Communication is a key component to building momentum with the solution. A good help desk not only issues end-user satisfaction surveys but requests honest feedback from the management teams. The team lead can listen in on calls, monitor agent KPIs, and SLA performance all day long, but without regular touchpoints on client perception, the silence can be deadly. Stepping up the cadence of communication any time there is a disconnection between expectations and what’s being delivered is ultimately the wisest of all account management due diligence tasks.  At the conclusion of each operational conversation, the help desk must come away with a list of action items and follow up on execution with the client. The lead must continue to ask questions about upcoming rollouts and changes in the IT environment that may impact the help desk so agents can be fully prepared. If the help desk team doesn’t shoot first with the strategic dialogue, they may not get the chance to ask questions later.