Help Desk Structure and Effective Policies

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There are many factors to consider when you design your help desk structure. These factors include contact channels, hours of operation, language, customer base location, security and many other items. These are the core foundation decisions you make to build your policies and processes on.

Help Desk Structure: Policies

Managers know that well thought-out job-related policies are important for employees to meet or exceed expectations. Implementing fair and consistent policies related to time away, disciplinary and grievance issues gives clear direction and creates an environment where employees are engaged and happy. It also provides managers structure on how to appropriately manage fairly.

Help Desk Structure: Contact Channels

How should a customer contact support? A contact channel is the avenue that is available for the customer to use to initiate support from your help desk. Historically the primary contact channel is email.

However, email, web portal, chat, and social media are also popular contact channels. You should decide what official contact channels are available for use by your customers. You must also ensure the customer is also aware of all the available contact channels by marketing and training. Setting the expectation on how and when support will be provided is an important part of that awareness. For example, with response time the expectation to answer a call could be seconds or hours verses an email which could be hours or days. Many companies that offer most or all of the previous contact channels will state that if your issue is urgent or impacting many people, please call for assistance. In this case they are stating to the customer that calling will provided the quickest and most reliable response time verse other contact channels.

Help Desk Structure: Hours of operation

For businesses competing in a global Internet driven economy, it is important to define your core support operations hours. If the core support hours are 24/7/365 then you have to ensure you have around the clock coverage to handle support issues. If the core support hours are anything other than 24/7/365 then you should consider offering options for support after hour emergency coverage.

Help Desk Structure: Support base location

Many companies create a centralized support team, which is a locally based team to provide daytime, evening, graveyard, weekend and holiday support coverage. Staffing of all of these shifts in one location can be a challenge if the company resides in a small or medium size city with a small labor force pool. Some companies create a decentralized support model. Decentralized support is where support labor resides in other cities, states or countries close to the customer base and loosely collaborates with the company headquarters. A third option is a hybrid support model. A hybrid virtual support model is where support labor from any location logs into a centralized platform for contact channels, communication, ticketing and collaboration.

Help Desk Structure: Language

English is the primary language of the United States and in business but this is changing with the significant rise of Spanish and other popular languages. Most companies offer customer support in multiple languages, especially if they have operations outside the United States. When contacting support by phone, customers should be presented the option to select which language if more than one is available. If the company’s operations or customer base has a significant base in a country where English is not the primary language, many companies will have a support center in that country.

Help Desk Structure: Official records

As with most business and consumer transactions, an official record of is a must. The preferred option is to use a ticketing application where you can record the specific 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 ability to review the recorded interactions will allow for better training, coaching and ensure policy and procedure compliance.

Help Desk Structure: Security and audit

Help desk personnel usually have elevated right to reset passwords, install software and navigate data repositories. Administrative accounts with elevated rights need to be secure and controlled to ensure the help desk personnel only have the appropriate amount of permissions and only when necessary. Many companies give help desk agents two accounts. The first account is their day to day account where they can do most of their activities that do not require high level administrator rights. They receive a second account that have administrator rights and is only used when they need to work with passwords, installs and such.

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