by Scott Jack
Content Contributor, E-N Computers
10+ years of experience in healthcare IT and tech support.
Are you a little afraid about how to outsource your IT help desk? Are you worried about slow response times, rude or clueless technicians, or dropping to the bottom of someone’s task list because they have other clients to worry about?
Those are all legitimate fears, so how can you make sure to hire a help desk that will provide the kind of service your team needs to be successful? It’s important to consider 1) the help desk technicians, 2) help desk processes, and 3) whether you should hire internally or outsource this service.
Help desk technicians need to be people-oriented, good communicators, and critical thinkers that are eager to learn. Also pay attention to processes for receiving and prioritizing support requests. MSPs can take care of these details for you in a cost-effective way, allowing you to focus on your business.
The Help Desk Technician
The purpose of the IT help desk is to provide prompt, friendly technical support and act as a first point of contact for all IT issues. However, we’ve all had experiences similar to the SNL skit, Nick Burns, Your Company’s Computer Guy: the technician that’s irritated because you want help, has no people skills, and doesn’t listen to you about what’s actually happening.
The best help desk technicians are people-oriented, good communicators, and critical thinkers who love to learn. If a person has these important skills, it’s not essential that they have robust technical knowledge. But what makes these skills so important?
Help desk technicians must first and foremost be people oriented. Although help desk staff carry out technical work, their focus is to help people. This means that they should be friendly, sympathetic, patient, and respectful toward the person requesting support. Callers should feel confident that help desk staff is approachable, concerned about the issue and how it is impacting the person’s work, interested in gathering all the pertinent details, and respectful and kind in the way they speak to callers.
To learn about how we hire technicians with good people skills, read our post, The 29 best interview questions to ask IT job candidates.
Help desk technicians must be good communicators. To gather pertinent details on a reported problem, help desk staff must be good listeners and thoughtful when asking questions. The best help desk technicians collect more than the bare minimum of information. They seek out information that reveals how severe the problem is and how many people it affects, narrows down possible causes, and covers what the caller has already done to resolve the problem.
These qualities are important because a caller may explain a situation differently than a technical person would and may exclude important information. A good listener will be able to translate the information provided, clarify what is said, and draw out additional information. This contributes to less back-and-forth, faster resolution, and better caller satisfaction.
Help desk technicians also need to have well-developed written communication skills so that information can be tactfully and accurately conveyed via email, support tickets, and documentation.
Help desk technicians must have critical thinking skills and a desire to learn. Each help desk technician has their own approach to solving a problem; the important thing is that they have an approach. On hearing a description of the issue, they should have an idea of various things they can test to eliminate possible causes. They should also know how to research using internal documentation, help articles, and online search engines. Technology is always changing; a technician doesn’t need to know everything, but they do need to know how to find and process information.
To learn about other common IT roles, read our post, How to Hire an IT Specialist.
Help Desk Processes
A well-run help desk relies on established processes to receive support requests, prioritize them, and resolve them in a timely manner. When you evaluate an IT help desk (or start one internally), pay attention to how users can contact the help desk and how issues are prioritized and handled. Here’s how we do it.
How to Contact the Help Desk
E-N Computers receives support requests via email, online form, PC agent, or phone. We endeavor to acknowledge all routine requests within 12 minutes. When you call, the call is routed to help desk technicians in a rotation. When you write, our dispatcher receives the request and assigns it to a help desk technician to do basic troubleshooting and gather information.
How Support Requests are Handled
The help desk handles issues that can be resolved in 15 minutes or less. Our technicians don’t follow a script; they each have their own way of approaching problems. They make use of questions, documentation, and experience to resolve common issues. If an issue cannot be handled in that time, they will gather as much information as possible, which will be added to your support ticket notes. The ticket will then make its way to our dispatcher, who will set the priority and assign it to another technician.
We prioritize requests according to urgency (number of users affected) and impact (extent of business operations affected). The assigned technician will follow up within one to four hours depending on the priority level; we follow up emergencies within 30 minutes.
To protect the help desk’s ability to provide a quick initial response, help desk support beyond 15 minutes per request may be billed at our regular hourly rate at the discretion of your account manager. (For example, we allow the help desk to perform some simple application installations; but if the installation takes longer than 15 minutes, each additional minute is billable.)
Both our Service Manager and Dispatcher proactively monitor open tickets to make sure that all requests are handled in a timely manner. We have automatic rules in place so that open issues are seen by one of them every three to five days. We check on the status of any pending items and will provide an update if needed. If we are waiting for a response from you and it has been more than three days, we close the ticket.
To learn about how we handle common user permissions requests, read our post, Onboarding employees when you have outsourced IT.
Hire Internally or Outsource?
It’s tempting to hire IT staff with the intention of providing full-service IT management and support in-house. It’s appealing because internal IT reports directly to you and are often seen as more responsive to people in charge. However, the complexity of the modern tech landscape makes it challenging for one person to properly support an entire company on their own. Many IT professionals aim to specialize in areas like support, security, or cloud infrastructure. So hiring an internal help desk will require either 1) building out an entire IT department or 2) partnering with a co-managed IT provider.
Meanwhile, using a managed service provider (MSP) provides several benefits. We are often more cost-effective compared to hiring IT staff, we can provide you with a wide range of IT skills, and we can scale to meet your needs. We already have staff and processes in place to provide you with a high-quality help desk experience as well as the skills and tools to quickly escalate and resolve complex issues.
E-N Computers is proud of our help desk team and the responsive support they provide to customers across Virginia and D.C. We focus on hiring technicians that are people-oriented and good communicators and train them to be effective troubleshooters. The processes we’ve established and fine-tuned over the years ensure that your support requests are resolved in a prompt manner. Our proactive approach takes the stress out of IT and allows you to focus on your business.
If you’re like many businesses, you feel like you’re not getting the most out of your technology — like it’s getting in the way instead of helping you reach your goals. That’s why we’ve put together our free IT Self-Assessment, which will provide you with practical suggestions on streamlining your IT so that it works for you, not against you.
Is your business ready to weather changes, including employee turnover? Find out by taking our IT maturity assessment.
You’ll get personalized action items that you can use to make improvements right away. Plus, you’ll have the opportunity to book a FREE IT strategy session to get even more insights into your IT needs.