Using Your Help Desk Software's Bells and Whistles
Implementing your newly purchased help desk software can be a time-consuming task if you are an already overburdened support department. Software packages may boast that you will be "up and running in days" but rarely take into account the time required to configure additional product features. These features, known as the "bells and whistles" of your help desk software may not be required for tracking purposes, but offer important benefits to your help desk. Although additional configuration time may be necessary, don't overlook these key features that may help you greatly improve customer service, significantly decrease call resolution time, and free help desk agents from performing routine tasks.
One of the biggest time savers your help desk can employ is the use of an automatic notification tool. This tool generates automatic communications (typically in the form of an email or page) based on user-defined criteria. Automatic notifications are then scheduled for delivery at designated time intervals. These communications can serve as a great customer service tool, allowing you to pro-actively inform customers of the status of their trouble-ticket. If your support department maintains service level agreements (SLAs), a notification tool can be used to alert technicians of tickets that are nearing a deadline, notify agents of newly assigned issues or issues whose priority or status has been escalated. Your help desk software may contain a few standard notifications, but this tool is generally customizable allowing you generate communications based on specific needs.
Many web-based products in today's marketplace can greatly alleviate an agent's workload by allowing customers to actively enter support requests. With a web-based interface your customers can enter trouble-tickets directly to your help desk, check the status of existing trouble tickets, or access a knowledge base without the intervention of a help desk agent. A web-interface that is accessible by your customer base can allow help desk agents to focus their time on solving problems, not entering and checking support requests.
Consider providing a knowledge base for your customers so they can independently search for a problem's resolution before submitting a trouble-ticket. A knowledge base that contains (at a minimum) commonly occurring problems and an efficient search tool will encourage your customers to access it again and again. If your help desk is not staffed around-the-clock, a knowledge base can help provide answers to customer requests 24/7/365. A well-constructed knowledge base would allow customers to either search for problems by category or submit a search request via a search engine. Keep your knowledge base up-to-date and include reference documents or other attachments when necessary.
The old saying "You can't manage what you can't measure" is especially true for a help desk. However, measuring the performance of your help desk agents is more complicated than simply calculating their number of assigned issues. An agent that is handling a high volume of calls is not necessarily more effective than an agent who handles a low call volume. When measuring an agent's performance, consider not only the volume of calls but incorporate additional tracking data, such as time spent, and category or priority fields. Some software packages provide the flexibility to create queries or real-time graphs that enable you to generate performance measurements that will provide an accurate measurement of your workload distribution.
Does your help desk software have the ability to attach files to issues? If so, take advantage of this tool by creating step-by-step guides or other documents that can be easily attached to emails or faxed to customers to resolve problems. Request that your customers send screen shots of error messages or other problems that can be visually displayed on their monitor. These displays can be saved as a bitmap or other image and attached to the trouble-ticket.
These "bells and whistles" can help maximize your help desks efficiency by employing methods that effectively handle routine requests, automate customer communications, and provide Internet access to your help desk. If your help desk software does not include these features, investigate whether these tools are offered as optional or add-on components to their core-tracking package.
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