5 annoying help desk calls -- and how to banish them

Free your help desk staff and empower your IT customers by eliminating these five all-too-common calls.

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Hayes worked with an insurance firm's help desk that was seeing about 5% to 10% of its 400 daily calls stemming from these types of questions. He first enlisted line-of-business managers to help them understand why it was a problem, explaining that the tedious questions tie up help desk staff and keep them from reacting more quickly to more critical questions.

Then he deployed an education campaign to give users application basics. Via brown-bag lunches, tip sheets and easy-to-use self-service websites developed by IT, users could find answers quickly on their own. Beyond that, the help desk now compiles and disseminates quarterly "tips and tricks" to address the most persistent questions.

The results of their work: an 80% reduction in those types of calls.

About that trouble ticket...

The help desk for Franciscan Alliance Inc., a Mishawaka, Ind., healthcare organization, runs 24 x 7 with 17 staffers supporting 20,000 users. It handles about 8,000 calls monthly. Dan Lafever, IT service quality manager, says he noticed that more than 700 tickets were some sort of callback question, mostly "What's the status?"

Franciscan Alliance did have a self-service portal that workers could use to see the status of their tickets, but it took 17 keystrokes, four mouse clicks and four screens just to get to an open ticket -- and even more effort to get to the status report. Lafever says he understands why users called the help desk instead.

So Lafever's team developed an easier way for employees to check the status of their tickets. In early February, the team launched a new portal that gives real-time information about every ticket issued by the help desk. Whenever the help desk fields a request, it automatically sends the user an email with a link to the visual ticket, which lists the status, who's handling it and any notes.

Lafever, who in March was readying a marketing campaign aimed at getting workers to use the new portal, says it's too early to track statistically how well the new portal is working to deflect calls to the help desk, but that responses from users have been positive.

Enterprise app woes

Margie Meyers, the support services manager at Hubbell Inc., an electrical and electronics manufacturer in Shelton, Conn., says she used to see a flood of calls whenever IT rolled out new applications.

She anticipated a high call volume -- well over 300 -- as the company got ready a few years ago to implement a proprietary appropriations-request application for 500 of its workers. Based on past experience, she figured it would be the calls that typically came in following a rollout: I don't know what I'm doing. I can't attach documents. I can't log in.

Meyers knew there had to be a better way. So she spearheaded a move toward more aggressive user education before the fact, spending 10 hours of her own time to map out a training session and then recommending -- though stopping short of requiring -- attendance at the hour-long event.

"I knew if we got them properly trained there would be fewer calls going to my team," she says, noting that the training material can be also used to onboard new workers and refresh the skills of existing workers, other ways to reduce help desk call volume.

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