5 Core Components to Enhance Your Help Desk Experience

While the ideal help desk experience will look different for every organization, there are five core elements to providing excellent customer service.

White Paper published July 20, 2018

How should organizations be managing their help desk experience? A help desk should do more than just provide support. It should provide an overall experience for customers, employees, alumni, or any constituents seeking help that will build their trust and keep them coming back time after time.

It’s important to realize that help desks aren’t just call centers. They are another way to present an organization as a qualified and exceptional brand. They should show the customers who contact them that they care and work to provide a unique and positive experience for them.

It is not easy to maintain and manage your own help desk internally without proper support and staff. Consistently negative experiences can leave callers with a bitter taste in their mouth. In order to keep an organization’s help desk thriving and providing exemplary customer satisfaction consistently, take heed to the following core components that drive a great overall help desk experience. 

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1. Quality and the Customer Experience

When dealing with customers, it’s important to provide them with not only answers to their questions, but also go beyond their basic needs to deliver an exceptional experience that shows that the help desk cares about them and wants to continually provide them with excellent service. This level of quality and assurance builds loyalty and lets customers know that they are valued. 

Accomplishing this can take a fair amount of time and effort. It would be nice and easy if great help desk service happened overnight, but that isn’t reality. A consistent and exceptional help desk experience starts with the managers and team leaders developing standard processes, developing attitudes that show how to treat customers and questions, and demonstrating how to handle difficult situations with poise and professionalism. Many organizations conduct employee training that clearly lays out the guidelines and goals of the help desk experience.

A Genesys Global Survey discovered the two biggest things that make a satisfying customer experience are competent service reps and personalization. In fact, according to the Gladly Customer Service Expectations Survey, 59 percent of consumers value personalization. Both competency and personalization, when implemented and used correctly, can boost a help desk’s service quality and overall experience. 

Another issue that some organization’s help desks have is the false reality that they are already providing quality service. In the Genesys State of Customer Experience Report, the three industries consumers rated as offering the worst customer experience rated themselves higher than consumers did when asked about their own performance related to customer service. To get an accurate gauge of service levels, send out surveys and heed the responses. 

2. Knowledgeable Help Desk Agents 

In managing the help desk experience, people play a big role in how everything operates. Choosing the right people for the job is paramount, since they will be the ones representing the organization. According to the Help Desk Institute, individuals who have excellent customer service and problem-solving skills are the most sought-after people in a help desk workplace. 

Both of those skills are necessary for the job, but help desk agents also need to be knowledgeable about what problems they are solving. Agents that know what they are doing and what they are helping the customer with every step of the way lead to a better customer experience and increase the chances of a satisfied caller.

Help Desk Agent Training

In order to have knowledgeable agents, they first have to be trained. There are several areas to focus agent training on, but it is important to ensure that the most critical areas are covered. Here are five of the most common types of training that help desk agents receive, according to the Help Desk Institute:

  • The technologies used to provide support
  • Help desk service skills
  • The technologies used by customers
  • Problem-solving skills
  • General communication skills

3. Help Desk Hours of Operation

Most help desks are only available during business hours, which is extremely inconvenient for people that work late hours or can’t call or email until after they get off work. Today’s workplace is becoming more flexible, which means that there are more employees who set their own hours and work beyond the typical shift. In fact, a FlexJobs survey of more than 7,300 workers found 75 percent of them wanted flexible work options in order to maintain a healthy work-life balance. Help desks need to realize this and create a way for their services to be available at all hours of the day when customers are working and consuming resources. 

This may lead to hiring more help desk agents, or even outsourcing the help desk services to a partner company, in order to let people call in anytime they want. Having a help desk with extended hours and potentially 24/7 support further enhances the experience by accommodating the customers’ needs and schedule.

4. Independent Workers

It is not enough to just be content with simply having knowledgeable agents. Having workers that are also independent is the next logical step. Independence allows help desk managers and leaders to focus on the bigger picture without having to micromanage help desk agents. Independent workers are able to execute correctly and make decisions that are in line with the overall goals and customer experience objectives. This type of flexibility puts the leadership team in a position to work “on” the help desk framework and not have to work “in” it all the time. This leads to a better help desk experience and one that is focused on constant improvement.

Cultivate a Successful Work Culture

To cultivate employees that exemplify these traits, consider the elements of a successful work culture from a Help Desk Institute report that surveyed help desk employees, desktop support employees, and management. Even though this report doesn’t call out independent workers specifically, all of these factors apply to what goes into developing trusted employees, which leads to more qualified and independent agents. The surveyed employees identified a number of very important elements.

Elements of a successful work culture to develop trusted employees:

  • Opportunities to learn
  • Access to training and development
  • Work/life balance
  • Attainable performance goals
  • Opportunities for advancement
  • Good working relationship with boss
  • Camaraderie with coworkers
  • Employee empowerment
  • Reward and recognition program

5. Focus on the Customer Experience 

The final component of the help desk experience is always staying focused on the outcome, and producing results that will enhance the overall help desk service for end users. Here are three main ways to be outcome focused: 

Strive for First-Call Resolution

No matter who is on the other end, customers want an answer to their question right away. Make it a priority for help desk agents to try and resolve the problem as quickly as possible, because a high first-call resolution rate is directly associated with high caller satisfaction.

Based on 16 years of data, Ascent reports that a one percent increase in first contact resolution generally correlates with a one percent improvement in customer satisfaction. That same report indicates that improving first-call resolution not only leads to increased customer satisfaction, but also a reduction in operating costs.

Sometimes the initial agent just doesn’t have the knowledge or tools to solve a customer’s inquiry. In these cases, be sure to have higher level agents available immediately rather than creating a ticket for followup.

Reduce Response Times

In order to boost satisfaction, work on cutting down the response time for calls, emails, or social media. Speed isn’t the most important goal — an extraordinary experience is — but it certainly factors into how the customer views an organization. There are a few ways that help desk agents can respond quickly to the customers to let them know that their problem is being handled, such as assigning a help ticket (this could be an automated response), and then providing an estimated resolution time for that case number or ticket. Phone calls are a different situation, since the caller will be on hold waiting for an agent to pick up the phone. 

According to the Genesys report, nearly half of consumers are willing to wait on hold between one and three minutes. It is important to have a very clear understanding of typical call volume, arrival patterns, and length in order to optimize your staffing plans in advance. Things won’t always go as expected, but they will more often if a plan is in place. When there’s a higher call volume than normal, and there’s not enough staff to get to all the calls, consider implementing a hold message that gives the caller an estimated wait time. If customers know what to expect and how long until their call is answered, they will be more understanding of high call volume wait times. 

Conduct Surveys

Surveys are a great way to get an accurate picture of the help desk experience. Some questions to ask in a help desk survey would be:

  •  Did the help desk resolve your problem?
  •  Was the help desk prompt and professional in responding to your problem?
  •  Were you happy with the help desk service you received? 

Measure the survey on a five-point scale, and instead of looking at average survey score only, measure it in terms of “top two boxes” and “bottom box.” That is to say, measure the percentage of respondents that rated their experience as exceptional or very good and the percentage of respondents that rated the experience as poor.

There are various thoughts on this, but a typical best practice is to expect more than 85 percent to fall in the top two boxes and less than 3 percent to fall into the bottom box. Be sure to follow up on every single bottom box rating. Determine if there is an action item to correct a potentially systemic issue and decide if there is additional follow-up required for that specific customer. Each of these outcome-focused points are important to improving the overall help desk experience and seeing where changes may need to be made.

Outsourced Help Desk Solutions

The components that make up the optimal help desk experience can be complicated to implement correctly and maintain. So how do organizations go about aligning them properly? Some organizations have the expertise and resources to accomplish this internally, while others turn to professional help desk providers to get access to the resources and thought leaders needed to accomplish it. Both approaches can make sense depending on an organization’s specific circumstances. The key is to ensure that the appropriate time is taken to assess the current environment and determine which course of action is best. 

Even though the core help desk components remain constant, the ideal experience looks different for every organization, depending on environment variables and size. By focusing on these unchanging help desk pillars, organizations can work to create an entire help desk experience that not only meets their customers’ needs in a timely manner, but always creates a positive impression for their brand.

What is your organization doing to provide an optimal help desk experience?