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Top 5

Keys to a Smarter Help Desk

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by Chris Pfauser

Most well-managed IT Help Desks are very good at meeting targets for basic performance metrics such as resolution rate and average handle time (AHT).  But while these measures assess the efficiency of agents in handling contacts, they potentially miss an opportunity to be effective in improving operational performance.

In fact, some metrics can create incentives to leave problems unaddressed. Consider: if an agent is inundated with contacts about a particular problem that’s easy to resolve, he or she may well be tempted to simply rack up high scores for resolution rate, rather than reporting the problem so that it can be addressed.

The key to an effective Help Desk: Integrate measures with other parts of the IT organization to enable problem analysis and resolution. More specifically, create incentives for agents to identify problems and incidents and report them to the business and other areas of IT so that they can be investigated.

In other words, don’t manage problems – eliminate them. Here are the TPI Top 5 measures and incentives top-performing Help Desks employ to create incentives to identify problems and improve performance:

  1. Knowledge Management Incentives. Define targets for agents, such as "publishing x number of articles per period." The key is “published” so that they are incented to provide quality KM content that is worthy of being published.
  2. Demand Management Incentives. Reward the Help Desk team for reductions in contact volumes for specific types of incidents and problems.
  3. Incident Management Integration. Create incentives and requirements for agents to tie incidents to known existing problems. This is a key ITIL fundamental, and having a tool in place to do this is critical.
  4. Problem Management Integration. Build incentives for agents to define problem attributes that will assist in diagnosis. For example, if the environment includes a Configuration Management Database, problem attributes could relate to affected configuration items.  
  5. ITIL Process Integration. Align your ITIL processes to feed each other. Some Help Desks measure their top five or 10 incident types and then track progress toward eradicating them by linking reduced contact types to the incident type. Linking incident and problem management facilitates root cause analysis, thereby enabling removal of the cause of the incident.

Compass and TPI experts can help you meet your Help Desk challenges through industry experience and specialized knowledge of your industry. For more information contact Chris Pfauser, Compass.

About the author

Chris has helped more than 100 client companies optimize their IT operations, increase business and user satisfaction, control IT spending and align business unit objectives with IT strategy. He brings more than 30 years of technology management, consulting and operations experience that spans a wide range of industries.  He is an expert in improving enterprises’ ITIL and best practice models, creating balanced scorecards and IT measurement programs, technology business management (TBM) and implementing technology governance and policy. He has helped clients with national and global projects, including operational performance optimization, service chargeback models, service catalogues, cost reduction initiatives, sourcing strategies and IT operations consulting. Chris is ITIL v3 certified.