“Help Desk, this is Flo, how may I help you?”

[Another Gem from Guest Blogger – Jeff Ward]

At this year’s ILTA conference, I had the honor of speaking alongside Lance Waagner,  CEO of Intelliteach, regarding what makes a good technology support center (aka help desk) system. I wanted to share with you some thoughts I’ve taken away from that session.
Before you stop reading, thinking this blog will delve into technical jargon, I want assure you this is more of a human-interest story about often unsung heroes in the legal office. You see, a good system doesn’t revolve around the technology; it’s dependent on the people, and to be effective, they have to be very, very good at what they do. Obviously, not every help desk tech can score a 10 on every problem, but I’d like you to picture what it takes to provide perfect service.
When your first-class help desk tech—let’s call her Florence—assists you, she seamlessly relies on fairly deep knowledge of just about every system, on strong customer service skills, and sometimes on common sense and wits alone. I often compare the help desk to OnStar, because usually you call when you’re lost or there’s been an accident. Unlike trainers, who are tour guides showing you the best paths to take, the help desk has to figure out where you are and get you back on the road. This means Florence has to be familiar with a much larger field of problems and solutions. (Many trainers excel at this task as well, but then they’re really acting in a help desk role, aren’t they?)
But knowledge of virtually everything technical is the easy part. When you call, what mood are you in? Do you really understand your problem? Are you able to describe it? None of this is your responsibility; after all, you’re lost or have been in an accident. Florence has the responsibility to stabilize your situation, grasp your need, and even at times determine what the problem really is. Florence takes your problem seriously, no matter how silly it may seem to your coworkers. And when Florence figures out your problem, she already knows whether to fix it for you or whether you are willing to learn something new. Florence doesn’t have all the answers, but she knows the right way to inspire confidence—she knows the right people and resources that can tackle the problem. Most importantly, your problem becomes her problem, and she will do everything possible to get you the best possible outcome, and then confirm your satisfaction at the end. And then, after all that, Florence moves right on to the next call.
Not every help desk tech can be as good as Florence on every call, but from watching our help desk crew day in and day out, I can tell you it’s their goal and their passion. Do you have any praise or good help desk experiences to tell? I’d love to hear your stories.
  • Anonymous

    From the Help Desk side, a simple 'Thank you' can make our day, near bring us to tears sometimes… I received the below from one of our users recently and I can't tell you how much it changed my day:

    "I just want to say thank you for all the help you provided yesterday. I really appreciate it. I don't think that you receive very many good emails so I wanted to send you one. And also thank you for fixing my Word it is working amazingly today.

    I really appreciate when there are issues that you are so willing to help, with a smile on your face.

    So thank you."

  • Jeff Ward

    Thanks for sharing that great comment, Anonymous! The occasional praise is golden and can be the difference between a regular day and a really special one.

  • Anonymous

    The help desk is NO SUBSTITUTE for training. It is my experience that those people that make up names for the help desk (and don't give praise) are also the people too busy to attend training. They get frustrated because they don't know how to use the computer and when it is not a simple few clicks to learn they blame the person on the other end of the phone ( this does not typically happen during face to face meetings).

    The help desk is vital to a successful firm, but is no substitute for training.

  • It is refreshing to hear that our hard work does not go unnoticed. While simply being able to solve the myriad of problems that come our way may be professionally satisfying, hearing that our efforts are appreciated brings personal satisfaction.

    From my experience in managing both Help Desks and Training Departments, I've found the best you can possible offer users is an environment when the two work in tandem – well-trained users are a pleasure to support, and well-supported users are infinitely easier to train.

    Thanks for the good thoughts, Jeff.

  • Jeff Ward

    Steve–you're right! There's no substitute for good training. In fact, neither role can substitute for the other because they serve very different purposes. One is proactive and the other reactive. Throwing out another analogy, if your life with a computer were a book, trainers would be at the beginning: the table of contents and the forward, helping guide you into the book's structure and pointing out how to make use of it. The help desk is the index, and maybe the end notes, helping you at specific points where you need further guidance. There are two truths in any new endeavor: (a) proper preparation helps you do better at staying on the path, and (2) you're bound to misstep on your journey. What a great comfort it is if you have folks to help in both ways.

  • Jeff Ward

    Charlotte–I love your fresh axiom: "well-trained users are a pleasure to support, and well-supported users are infinitely easier to train."

    Thanks for sharing!