Documenting the Help Desk Contribution to the Organization

When the phone stops ringing, we may find time to reflect on the position of the help desk in the organization and its continuing contribution to an organization's success. Position and contribution are at the heart of budgeting, adjusting resources, and prioritizing customer calls. We know that the help desk that allows itself to function on the periphery of the business will probably not achieve its full potential and consequently will have difficulty identifying a contribution, let alone documenting it. To start we must identify appropriate measures. The precise nature of the contributions frequently eludes help desks that measure their success by the simple metrics, such as average calls closed per day or average time per call. We must not ignore call content and trends. Statistics should be compiled that indicate the customer perception of our support and the value of the support provided.

Statistics are definitely of value, but the full value is probably lost as reports go up the corporate ladder. The numbers which provide insight to performance lose their significance the further they are removed from the support organization. It is clear that help desk management should care about the number of calls and averages as an important component of measuring analyst performance and help desk operations. Open, closed, and pending calls are all important to identify trends and to evaluate customer satisfaction, and these values will assist management with coverage decisions and prioritizing new requests.

However, help desk managers and analysts must ask themselves if these metrics are of value to higher levels of management. Does a CEO really care about the number of calls taken per day or average response time? The CEO's concern probably relates more knowing if the customers feel they are getting good service and that the cost of service is commensurate with the results. In fact, the CEO may only be interested in those areas that require high level attention.

The CEO may be very interested in the number of calls when our organization offers external support services because these calls represent revenue. Response time may be of interest for the same reason especially when it is contractually mandated. The help desk must be responsive to the interests of senior management, understand business objectives and communicate the information promptly and properly. In essence we must document our contribution to the organization.

Documented contributions include actions that have increased revenue, potentially increased revenue, or avoided costs. As indicated, with external support, there may be an interest in raw statistics at high levels, but it is more likely that the content of the calls contains the most meaningful report to senior management. How are the clients using the product and what is the potential for increasing revenue by enhancing the software, or what features should be added to the next release? The question that must be asked by every help desk analyst is simply--Is there another area in our organization that would benefit from having the information in this call referred to them?

The CEO's and CIO's interests lie in making the company more profitable, tight knit and self-sufficient. If the help desk is being supportive in this role then the focus shifts from a passive role in the background to one in the forefront, supplying references and recommendations to key company personnel and to the CEO.

A help desk documents its contribution to the company by providing accurate referrals and answers in a timely manner to several areas of the company. The referrals provide users with the ability to track repetitive customer problems and relay them to the source. “Recently, while experiencing troubles with the evaluation disks being sent to customers, the referrals report documented the problem to an administrator, who was able to research and correct the problem by quickly recreating the master disk. This minimized the number of customers receiving the faulty disks and improved our customer support level with the help of the referral report. The customer support process was further improved by calling the customers who were suspected of receiving the faulty diskettes and insuring them that replacements were being shipped to them promptly.”

Monitoring job performance thru satisfaction surveys is the contribution of another help desk. The ultimate job of the help desk is to fulfill the needs of its customers. The customers are in the unique position of deciding whether or not the their needs have been satisfied. From the customer satisfaction surveys, the administrator realizes that the help desk is receiving positive comments. The only negative is the time spent waiting on hold for the next available technician. The administrator has realized now that the staff of his help desk needs to be increased to handle the additional volume of calls. To substantiate this increase in staff the administrator must gather the reporting criteria and prepare a well defined report to validate his request. The report content for management must consist of items that reflect an organization-wide interest, such as additional work completion or reduced hold times for employees calling the help desk.

The help desk manager has to be able to report on these criteria and summarize the results. A summary of these results describes the effectiveness or conversely the ineffectiveness of the help desk. The ability to relay this information quickly and concisely to upper management, coupled with the efficient management of help desk staff are important characteristics of the help desk manager. Both the first level and the senior management rely on the effectiveness of this communication to provide an accurate description of the overall operation of the help desk.

Another help desk prides itself as a major contributor to the organization's software quality initiative. They realize that they are the logical organization to monitor the success of the program. They produce an MTBF (mean time between failures) metric to measure how well the Quality Assurance / Testing group tests the software or hardware products. They also measure the MTTR (mean time to repair) as an indicator of backlogs and software quality.

The types of contributions that senior management wants to see include other items such as: service contracts sold, customer suggestions forwarded to the development team, accounts saved because of quality support, and every instance where the company was able to maximize the return on its computing investment.

An easy solution

HELP!Desk for Windows makes the process of documenting your contribution easier. Comprehensive reporting enables a support center to accumulate statistics and report appropriately. The HELP!Desk manual contains instructions on accessing these features and reporting.