There are many factors to consider when you design your Help Desk structure. These Help Desk organizational structure factors include contact channels, hours of operation, language, customer base location, security, and many other items. These are the core foundation Help Desk structure decisions you make to build your policies and processes on.
Help Desk a Single Point of Contact
Question 1 – Is your Help Desk a Single Point of Contact where all issues and requests initiate with your Help Desk?
A Help Desk should be the single point of contact for the company end-users. Users should not have to contact the desktop team directly for a new computer. They should not have to contact an application team for access to an application. All requests for IT services and assistance
should flow to and from the Help Desk. Uses contact the Help Desk for any of their technology needs creates a seamless experience for the users. This is what we call a single point of contact. It may also include a self-service portal serviced by the Help Desk.
In the Help Desk Management book by Wayne Schlicht it states “As a single point of contact, the Help Desk will be the first and last contact for your customers having issues.” A Help Desk is the first point of contact by receiving calls from customers, event alerts from monitoring, and engagements from social media channels. The Help Desk is the last point of contact by communicating and confirming the incident resolution or request for service with the customer has been completed before closing the ticket.
One main contact phone number
Question 2 – Does your Help Desk have one main contact phone number and email address?
A Help Desk structure should have one main contact channel. This is one phone number where users can report issues or request service. The only caveat could be that the Help Desk also has a main email address and self-service portal. This is acceptable, but again only one of each as with one main phone number. Having multiple phone numbers and email addresses can be confusing for the end-users. It can also make support staff more challenging when multiple contact points must be monitored.
Some Help Desk managers argue they need multiple Help Desk phone numbers to offer different language and country support. Instead of using multiple phone numbers for criteria such as user location or language is spoken, you should use an Automatic Call Distributor (ACD) system. An ACD will handle incoming and outgoing calls to make sure they follow the call routing rules that you set up. Routing of a call is the process where a caller is redirected to a specific queue based on programmed criteria. Programmed means Help Desk Management can set up criteria based on time, volume, location, caller selection, language, and other criteria to redirect the call to specific call queues.
One ticketing application
Question 3 – Do you have a ticketing application used by the agent and all ticket escalation staff?
As with most business and consumer transactions, an official record is a must. For a Help Desk structure, the preferred official record is to use a ticketing application where you can record the specific support details of the interaction with the customer. In addition, the help desk should keep call recordings, emails, chat interactions, and other transactions between the customer and the support person. As a manager, having the ability to review the recorded interactions will allow for better training, coaching, policy enforcement, and procedure compliance.
If the Help Desk Agent is unable to solve a ticket, the ticket must be able to quickly and easily be passed on to an advanced support group called an escalation support group. An escalation support group is the second-level support group that handles more complex issues originating from the Help Desk. These groups include the system administrators, engineers, and developers responsible for maintaining service. To make the escalation process seamless, all escalation groups need to be using the same ticketing application. All support notes by the Help Desk and escalation groups must be recorded into the ticket. That way the escalation group can review the steps the Help Desk took and then add their notes on how the issue was resolved.
Level one technical support
Question 4 – Does the Help Desk Level 1 provide technical support versus ticket taking (logging the call and assigning the ticket to another group)?
There is nothing worse for a caller waiting for the next available Help Desk agent to find out the agent will take down their information and have someone call them back. This is called ticket taking, which is taking down notes and not providing support. To improve the customer experience, all first-line staff should be able to resolve at least the most common issues. This is done through training, knowledgebase articles, and empowering the Help Desk agent with the proper access and tools.
Total Contact Ownership
Question 5 – Does the Help Desk maintain ownership of the ticket from start to finish?
End users can become very frustrated if they report an issue and never hear back. Even worse, if they call the Help Desk again and the agent that answered their call cannot provide a status update. That is why it is important to implement Total Contact Ownership (TCO). This process is based on whoever started the initial contact with the customer owns the ticket from the cradle to the grave. The Help Desk Agent will have a vested interest to ensure the customer’s issue is resolved versus just escalating it to another support team. If a ticket is escalated, the Help Desk agent will follow the progress, understand how it was resolved, and update the customer to ensure they agree the issue has been resolved.
The knowledgebase also needs to be updated for the specific issue and resolutions steps. If the same type of issue occurs in the future, the agent will know exactly how to resolve the issue, and you will see FCR rates improve. By keeping good status notes in the ticket, any agent could provide a current status if the customer called in for an update.
Question 6 – Do your Help Desk agents log into the phone system with a unique user account?
All phone metrics and call recordings should be based on the agent’s identification and not just their extension ID. Having the agent authenticate into the phone system is a best practice. Help Desk management should review agent’s work to ensure they are maintaining quality standards. This includes reviewing call recordings for proper handling of calls and monitoring their call metrics. Since this information is used for performance reviews and possible correction action plans, having the agent login is necessary.
Roles and responsibilities
Question 7 – Does the Help Desk staff have clearly defined roles and responsibilities?
For Help Desk agents, one of the best ways to understand their work expectations is to review their job descriptions. Help Desk manager must ensure the job descriptions are well-defined. Well-defined means the primary functions and duties you expect completed by your staff to be documented in the job description. Revising the job descriptions used by your Help Desk team is a valuable Help Desk staffing structure process improvement activity. By updating your job description structure, you will find it easier to build a Help Desk career path and lead to performance management improvements.
A well-defined job description will describe the most important abilities and skills necessary to be successful in the role. A job description is also a good foundation to use for measuring performance against. A job description will ensure the employee in the role and their manager understand the responsibilities of the position and what is expected from them. During performance reviews, the job description will provide the manager with a good foundation on what the employee’s performance review should be based on. If the employee is not performing to expectations, a job description is one document that provides a common set of job duty expectations the company and manager had for the employee in the position.
Level 1 and level 2 agents
Question 8 – Does the Help Desk have a tiered structure, such as level 1 and level 2 agents, and clearly defined position descriptions for each of these tiered levels?
You first should determine if there is one general job description or multiple job descriptions based on experience and special skills. Just having one general job description for the entire Help Desk staff, will not promote a career path. It means as Help Desk agents season and mature in their position, they will not have the opportunity for an internal position within the team. In a mature Help Desk structure, you will see job positions have a level 1, 2, and 3 tier level experience modifier or you may have a junior and senior level. Level 1 or junior positions will perform routine duties under direct supervision. As the staff becomes more senior, this can change to indirect supervision. Industry-standard Help Desks will have 70% to 80% level 1 or junior Help Desk agents with a 20% to 30% of more experienced or senior level Help Desk agents.
Onboarding training program
Question 9 – Does the Help Desk have a new hire onboarding training program in place?
It is important that the employee’s first impression of the company is positive. Proper onboarding will affect their initial engagement, integration, and set a positive expectation with their new positions. A new hire onboarding training program should include;
- An agenda and checklist of onboarding tasks for the first week.
- Dedicated time to complete required paperwork and training
- A tour of the building and services available
- Plan a manager’s meeting, such as lunch for the first day.
- Cover important work processes and safety procedures as applicable.
Supervisor to staff ratio
Question 10 – Is the reporting ratio of Help Desk agents to supervisors ten to one or less?
A significant factor in employee engagement is the supervisor-to-staff ratio. If the ratio is balanced correctly, supervisors can provide proper coaching, direction, and mentoring. Focused supervisors with correctly sized teams will allow good communication to improve efficiency and reduce issues. If the supervisor-to-staff ratio is too high, your team could suffer engagement, morale, and employee productivity issues.
So, what is the right supervisor-to-staff ratio? There are many factors to consider, such as work complexity, staff demographics, staff engagement, and budget constraints. If the supervisor is a subject matter expert for one or more technical areas, they will be engaged more in providing technical direction. This engagement is increased if the customer support provided by the staff is frequently complex, and the staff has unique job function roles within the team.
The demographics of the staff will also determine the ratio. If the staff tenure average is under three years, the staff will require a higher level of coaching and work direction. If the team has a higher percentage of contractors, you may have a higher turnover and less company engagement. A higher percentage of staff working from a remote work location may require more management overhead.
Your department budget is also an important factor in determining the supervisor-to-staff ratio. The budget constraint can lead to supervisor layoffs, and organizational restructure that leads to staff ratios that are higher than ideal.
For a Help Desk with complex procedures, specialized job roles, and the need for management approvals, the ratio is typically not more than 10 to 1. For a Help Desk with repetitive tasks, a generalized job role, and scripted escalations, the ratio is typically not less than 15 to 1.