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What Makes a Good Help Desk: 8 Characteristics to Ensure High-Quality Customer Service

Home » IT Operations » Help Desk » What Makes a Good Help Desk: 8 Characteristics to Ensure High-Quality Customer Service


Adriana Bombaci

Running a high-performing service desk should be a top priority for successful CIOs. After all, the reputation of the entire IT organization typically depends on how well end-users perceive service desk quality.

Yet while providing a high-quality service desk is more important than ever – it’s also becoming more difficult to get right.

Today’s “Work at Any Time from Anywhere” mindset is stressing help desks with an unprecedented number of requests at new hours. Widespread digital transformation and heavy technology dependency across organizations is also forcing service desk teams to support an ever-widening range of new technologies.

At the same time, tightening budgets and mounting pressure for IT to create strategic value across different departments in the organization makes it hard for help desk operations to receive enough attention or funding. Making matters worse, the severe IT labor shortage has many IT Departments stretched too thin, lacking the resources for a dedicated support structure.

If CIOs do manage to hire talent, retention is a major concern: North American help desks experience average turnover of 40% per year.

To deliver higher-quality technical support faster and more cost-effectively, CIOs are increasingly turning to outsourcing – with investment in help desk services growing from 25% to 50% nationwide.

But while improving quality is the main driver for outsourcing the help desk (see Figure 1), 86% of respondents to a recent Auxis poll worry that outsourcing will have the opposite effect: decreasing service desk quality.

graficas blog help desk-19-2

graficas blog help desk-20-2With quality being such a big priority and concern for service desk organizations, let’s examine what makes a good help desk – and what to look for in an outsourcing partner to ensure the highest levels of service.

8 Service Desk Critical Success Factors

Help desks typically carry many pain points that can sour the relationship between the business and IT. Modern challenges often force a “break and fix” approach with poor and inconsistent service levels, high costs, inadequate schedules, an outdated knowledge base, and limited documentation or metrics.

Outsourced or not, growing business needs demand a transition to a modern service desk with high performance.

Here are the key eight essential characteristics of a high-quality service desk:

  1. Clearly defined services mapped to business needs. Not only does this minimize the likelihood of disappointing end-users, but it also ensures the service desk stays focused on key business requirements.
  2. Process-dependent vs. people-dependent. With turnover being such a significant issue, help desks that rely on individual knowledge and performance will struggle if a key employee leaves or even misses work for a few days. Process-dependent service desks reliably achieve exceptional performance by implementing repeatable processes anyone can follow.
  3. Robust web-based knowledge tool. Help desks can’t adequately support end-users without proper documentation. Knowledge management software organizes institutional knowledge into a searchable database. The best tools also use automation and machine learning to automatically put relevant resources at the fingertips of agents or end-users in self-service portals.
  4. Workflow automation in core processes. Automated workflows reduce time spent managing tickets, enabling help desks to respond faster and more precisely to customer requests. They also reduce human errors and free staff to focus on challenging topics where a real agent’s support is needed.
  5. Self-service capabilities. High-performance service desks offer easy-to-use tools that enable end-users to create tickets, monitor their status, and even self-resolve some repetitive issues – reducing overall ticket volume and saving valuable time for the end-user.
  6. Continuous improvement mindset with strong performance metrics and proactive problem management. Tracking key performance indicators like average call abandonment rates helps continuously improve efficiency and quality, reducing response times alone by an average 16%. Metrics also reveal trends that enable teams to proactively identify, resolve, and prevent problems before they impact the business.
  7. Consumption-based pricing model. Whether you decide to outsource or not, high-performance service desks have a clear understanding of their cost to operate and how this cost scales up or down as their business evolves. Therefore understanding your cost per ticket or per user is key to monitoring the performance of your organization and making decisions that can improve or impact the quality of the operation.
  8. Flexible staffing model to deal with business cycles. Staying “right-sized” with a workforce that easily scales up and down as needs change makes your organization more flexible and cushions economic volatility.

Considering help desk outsourcing? Make sure to look for these attributes in your selected partner

If you are one of the many organizations looking into outsourcing as a faster, easier way to ensure high-quality in their service desk, make sure to evaluate your ideal partner beyond just pricing. Even though this advice sounds “obvious”, this is a quite common mistake that we see many organizations make when evaluating outsourcing.

Some key attributes to look in your outsourcing partner beyond cost include:

  • Proven automation and innovation capabilities
  • Good cultural fit and willingness to be flexible and adapt to your changing business needs
  • Excellent talent management practices with strong recruiting filters and retention focus
  • Strong service level agreements and ability to report in real-time the key performance metrics to measure the success of your relationship
  • Above all, look for a partner that is obsessed with improving the end-user experience and wants to work with you to move beyond SLAs to XLAs (experience level agreements) that ultimately measure performance based on what is most important to the end-user.

For more practical tips on what to look for in your outsourcing partner, check out our article “Selecting the Right Help Desk Outsourcing Partner” or download our Step-By-Step Guide To Successfully Outsourcing your Help Desk:

Step-by-Step Guide to Successfully Outsourcing Your Help Desk

Written by

Adriana Bombaci
Adriana Bombaci is part of the Sales & Marketing organization at Auxis. She started her career in Management Consulting by supporting the delivery of multiple client transformation initiatives across different industries before moving into sales. She has been working closely with CIOs and IT executives in helping them design customized solutions to operate their organization. She previously worked for organizations such as KPMG and Accenture. Adriana holds an MBA from IE Business School.

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