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Tips for Handling Repetitive Help Desk Tasks

Level 9

Any Help Desk is going to have to handle repeat requests (hopefully not always for the same customer – although repeat requests from customers is definitely a metric worth tracking…). There are a few things you can do to help avoid having “repetitive” become “mind-numbing boredom”, while improving the level of service provided to your customers.


The first, and most obvious, thing to do is automate. Many common requests received by the Help Desk can be automated through scripts. Requests like password resets, creating new accounts, permission changes, and provisioning new resources can all be automated.


Who will write these scripts? I’ve always found that this is a great job for the administrators who wish they were spending less time doing break-fix. Not only will they welcome the chance to keep their skills sharp by writing some code, but they’re also most likely the folks with the most knowledge of what needs to be accomplished to meet the particular request.


The second thing to do is document. Not all repeat tasks can be easily automated. Creating “How To” documents or “run books” for your Help Desk staff can make their jobs easier and keep your customers happier. The keys to successful documentation are:

  • Keep it centralized
  • Keep it up to date
  • Make it easily and quickly searchable


A lot of organizations find that setting up an internal Wiki serves this purpose well.


Handling repetitive Help Desk tasks well, whether through automation, documentation, or training, serves both IT and its customers. Help Desk feels more valued if they can help a customer quickly without having to transfer them to someone else. Customers feel better taken care of if the first person they speak to can assist them immediately. Lastly, the fewer repeat tasks that get pushed to other staff, the more time they have to focus on improving the overall environment.


How does your organization handle repetitive requests? What tasks do you see as good candidates for automation?

25 Comments
MVP
MVP

I have seen all of the above utilized.

In the end, all of the mentioned methods should be incorporated...wiki or knowledge based articles are the primary tool we use in my current lifetime.

The challenge is keeping things up to date in a growing/evolving environment.  It is practically a fulltime job to keep it all current.

Level 13

One important piece to keeping documentation current is to allow all employees the time to document their work properly. Many companies say that they want their employees to document processes, but what they really want is for their employees to have documented their processes. The difference is the willingness to allow the employees the time to complete the documentation properly, and reward them at review time for doing so, rather than calling them on the carpet for excessive "call work" time when they do actually take the time to update documentation. It also matters that they staff sufficiently to allow for that additional work time, and recognize that this time investment in documentation now yields greater time savings in the long run.

Level 17

The Service Desk that I came from went to a nice on line based FAQ for the simple, phone, email, VM and file management.

  Though we had our own internal FAQ/Tech Notes - to know who handled what systems, who reset what passwords - since there were a mass # of systems.

The folks keeping all that up to date did not take calls at all, they ran a meeting once a week to inform us of changes and new things coming - then went back to meetings and updating both public and private documentation.

Level 17

Keeping things up to date is key. Though if you can never find it the desk will just get a call for, helping to find this Process/Application document.

  I think the internal design is an issue these days for most businesses. If you don't have the user feedback or the ability to create for the user experience your method of learning and delivery will create more questions.

MVP
MVP

Yes it is key to keep things up to date.

Internal design as an issue for some, yes.  For many others it is a time and resource issue.

ROI for a documentation analyst is hard to document...but I know in many environments it is what is needed since most shops are working with less and having to do more.

It is a vicious cycle that is hard to break even when you know it has to happen.

Level 17

I couldn't get past this part. They are a documentation expert after all ...

Jfrazier wrote:

ROI for a documentation analyst is hard to document...

Only if they don't document their worth.

Level 9

It's absolutely essential that all documentation remain up to date, but it can be difficult to enforce in practice. I've found it's best to institute regular (at least quarterly) reviews of the documentation to ensure it takes into account any recent environmental or process changes.

Level 9

It's the same for most preparation work. The time spent planning and preparing is made up for in time saved - it's just harder for some folks to see that up front.

Level 15

We do not have a lot of automated scripting but we do have a large WIKI with common tasks.  It took me about 2 months to come up to speed with the contents of the WIKI when I started with the company.

We also do an excellent job of communicating changes and projects down to the help desk, so they are prepared for possible issues.

Level 13

I just had an interesting conversation about this, regarding an initiative to reduce ticket counts. A coworker raised the point that in order to reduce ticket counts quickly, it may be beneficial to not care about the ticket counts for the first few months, in order to allow for a temporary surge in tickets while things are being automated. We made the analogy cracking down on crime. If you measure the crime in an area by the number of arrests, you will see an increase in arrests at the beginning of the crackdown, when you're going after the relatively easy targets. Once those arrests are made, the numbers will drop to a lower baseline and you can focus on the more challenging targets.

Level 15

That's a really good point.  Microfocusing on ticket counts will cause a "panic" mode to engage as the number will jump sharply.  I will have to ponder that some more as we are transistioning to new service desk platform.

Level 9

That system sounds like it must have worked really well.

Level 9

The other thing to remember about ticket count is that not all tickets are an indication of problems. Some tickets are customers wanting to do more, to ask questions, to renew subscriptions, etc. Not all tickets are bad news, some are good news.

Level 17

Yes the internal KB was very useful. I still have access to it and reference it at times. The hard part was keeping it up to date - at times with personnel changes or lack or things became stagnant. Even with some old data, it still retains it's value.

Level 15

We try to keep it updated as part of a new employee training.  After they are on-boarded and get settled, as new projects appear there is less desire to update older documentation.  Here is where the noob gets the opportunity to update the older documentation since in some regards the issue is being seen by fresh eys.

Level 17

Not a bad idea. We had a tech start with us in viewing Orion, he learned what he could then jumped off and is one of our best technicians.  Giving the new guys an on boarding process that gets them familiar from the inside out in my mind is the best process.

Level 11

‌I like the idea of automation as long as you still have a way get a real person when you need one.

Level 14

In larger environments, it is a full-time job to keep up-to-date.  Most large environments have a help desk administrator for this purpose

Level 14

I am a big fan of automation and documentation.  Knowledge and ease-of-use.  And who doesn't hate it when you are transferred from person to person to solve a simple problem.  Give the first person you call the tools to be successful in helping others.  Make things easier with automation too!

Level 17

First contact resolution is always a winner in my book. But most of those on the front lines do not have the proper tools to make this happen. I'd rather get someone with a internal KB and critical thinking skills who may be a little dry but can help rather than some over friendly script reader, who repeats most everything back to you.

Level 13

I agree. I can't stand it when the person I'm on the phone with repeats EVERYTHING back to me, not least because I'm usually calling from a cell phone and using up minutes.

Level 17

I forget some people still watch minutes... For God Sakes Jim, It's 2015!

Level 13

I don't use enough minutes to make it worth switching to an unlimited-minute plan. Switching to a Mobile Share Value plan would increase my bill ~$20/month, mostly because of the amount of data I use.


They'll pry my unlimited data plan from my cold, dead hands.

Level 17

I just wait until the promo's then upgrade for the same price or keep the same service for cheaper. Unlimited everything, and that's a good thing because teenagers need their own data cap, and it better not come off mine.

Our Wiki is in Sharepoint's Portal, locked away from other IT groups.  I'd like a solution that ties it all into Orion's various areas, with a "public" Orion Wiki that all teams would reference and keep up to date.

Is there such product in SW's product line?  I can't think of one.