How to get good service from your Help Desk or Support Center

Help Desk
Image by Michael @ NW Lens via Flickr

I was going to make this a snarky post on how to get bad service from IT, but then I realized that it might actually be more useful to write this in a more positive light.  Also, I actually had positive things to say.

So you’re someone who has a computer problem at a company, and you have some sort of computer support/MIS/IT department that you need to help you.  Here’s what to do to get the best service both now and for your problems in the future:

  • Follow the process.  Maybe it seems really silly to call into the Help Desk line rather than just walk up to the systems administrator (since you just did tequila shots with him last night), but I really mean that you should call in instead.  Why do you need to follow the process?
    • If it’s a system-wide problem, having all the calls come into one place will allow it to be diagnosed & fixed faster.  If 4 different people get 4 different calls about the same problem and we’re all in different offices, we’re not aware that it’s system-wide until several minutes or hours later.
    • Your buddy in the IT department might not be the best person to ask about your question.  Your drinking pal the sysadmin usually can’t fix your Word problem, and the IT Director probably doesn’t know her way around common Citrix problems the way the Help Desk does.
    • You can make sure your problem gets documented properly.  When I ran IT departments and had to handle a user’s issue directly, I rarely remembered to document it in the ticket tracking system.  Unfortunately, that meant that the next time that user had that problem, someone else had to take the same troubleshooting steps I did.  If it’s a problem you have all the time, you also WANT your problem to be documented properly, since it’s more likely to be taken very seriously if you can prove a pattern via the documentation trail.
    • Walking straight up to IT & support folks tends to tick them off.  They might be in the middle of a different user’s problem, or they might be held to a certain hold time standard.  Your walk-up interrupts them and probably annoys them as well.
  • Call the support line WHILE you’re having the problem (and you’re at your computer!).  Calling after you’ve already moved on or–even worse–calling when you’re not in front of the computer removes almost all the tools that the support folks will need in order to diagnose and fix the issue.  This is another reason not to walk directly up to the IT folk; we need you to access your computer so we can figure out what’s going on!
  • Call the support line yourself.  Don’t have your boss/secretary/wife/dog call for you.  Maybe you feel like your boss will have more clout & get things done better or faster, but it’s the same as the last point–we still need you to be at your computer.  And if you’re the boss, you should note that your secretary can’t fix it for you if he’s not at your computer.  Your wife will make us laugh but probably won’t help us fix it, either.  And your dog doesn’t have opposable thumbs.
  • Be nice. I know you’re annoyed that your @!#&* document has @#$%^&* frozen yet again, but cursing at the person on the other end of the phone won’t motivate them to fix it any faster.  Please keep in mind that geeks are people, too, and treat them politely and professionally.  If you’re rude, chances are we’ll fix your problem this time, but you might find yourself ringing to voice mail a bit more often, since the support folks will be more likely to jump to answer the calls from the users who are nice to them.  If you did happen to lose your temper, donuts make good apology tools.  Just sayin’…
So what have I missed?  What are other sure-fire ways to get good service from your support geeks?

6 thoughts on “How to get good service from your Help Desk or Support Center

  1. Love this article. It touches on so many things that I have to deal with every day. If only it could be distributed at my place of employment in some way (yeah, right!).

    One thing I can think of to add: I guarantee that the IT person working on your problem is giving it all of their attention and working on it as fast as they can. Telling them that you are “doing this for a client” or that your “boss needs this right away” isn’t going to get it fixed any faster. I always say that I don’t have a magic wand, as much as I often wish I did. My coworker has stated in the past she wishes we could put a sign on our door saying “Ollivander’s”.

    1. Ah, yes, I also dislike the assumption that we’ll work harder/faster/better because of extra pressure. If anything, I feel like that tend to piss off geeks rather than motivate them.

      If you find that magic wand, can you please order one for me, too?

  2. I would add one more example. If you ask for the wrong thing from your IT or service team, and that causes you to miss a deadline or just look bad, don’t turn around and blame it on them. They will find out, when your boss wants to know why you gave them the wrong report, for example. Then your boss will know that not only did you screw up, you also lied about it.

    Or at the very least, you will get far worse service down the road.

  3. Be flexible and understanding: probably the only reason the IT department is still taking my calls. I have profile, application, network and hardware problems which means I’m on the phone with IT regularly. Only some of the problems can be solved easily, some are going to take a bit of work and there a few that I’ll have to live with. Maintaining my sense of humor is essential.

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