Right now, nearly all IT departments, and especially the help desk, are overworked and understaffed, some half the size they really need to be according to a 2011 survey from Robert Half Technology. (On average, the companies surveyed employed one held desk staffer for every 112 users. However, when asked what the ideal ratio would be, the average answer was 65 to 1)
Many of the calls that come in to the help desk are for small, preventable things that can be headed off before they take up your technicians time, such as answering questions that most computer users should be able to answer for themselves by now.
One of the ways to reduce these calls is to have a designated person in each department who can field some of these questions for you. There is someone in each department with enough knowledge to handle questions about personal devices, browsers, navigating web sites, and other such things that really aren’t what your help desk staffers should be doing. While you may want the ‘credit’ for answering these things (yes, those calls certainly boost your numbers for the month), it is NOT the best use of the skills and resources you have on your help desk team. Often, that person in the other department is happy to volunteer for such a role, as it bolsters their career and makes them a vital part of their department. I’ve had such wonderful success with this that I wish it was possible to implement across the entire company instead of just the few departments I work with. Another nice side effect is that if a need or question DOES need to come to the help desk, we often have much better information as the liaison in the other department asks the basic questions needed to frame what the real problem is, saving the help desk technician’s time.
Another way to reduce calls is to make sure your employees/clients know what is acceptable to call the help desk for, and when. The occasional question for personal technology assistance can escalate to clients asking the help desk to fix their personal electronics. While some of your help desk staff members may ‘moonlight’ by providing these services, the help desk is NOT the place to line up the work. Make sure clients know that the help desk is for company support, not their home theatre system.
Provide education to users, and make sure you follow-up by providing resources for users to put that education to use. If you don’t follow-up, you can’t know if your education efforts are having any effect. Provide reference materials, and a self-service portal where they can look up how-tos and solve simple issues on their own. And make sure they 1) know about it, and 2) use it!
And probably the best, easiest, and most often overlooked way to reduce calls to the help desk: Let users know when a known problem exists. If a server is down, let the users of the application know as soon as possible. Or if a piece of equipment like a network printer stops working, let everyone know who uses that machine. This reduces the calls about it and stops a lot of time being wasted taking calls and answering those questions over and over again. And email isn’t always the best way to do this. Along with an email to the affected users, try a notice AT the malfunctioning printer or have the department liaison let everyone know in person about the app being down. Make sure you provide as much information you can about expected resolution or repair times, because the client WILL call to ask that too. Make sure you post all this to your self-service portal as well, since you have trained users to go there first for help 🙂