Your help desk works, or does it?

by Frank 3. June 2012 06:00

Almost every organization, commercial or government, needs a help desk. Help desks support either internal or external ‘customers’. Generally speaking the job of a help desk is to support users who have problems or questions about a product or service.

Help desks may run as either a profit centre or as a cost centre. Normally, help desks supporting internal customers run as cost centres (though maybe with an internal accounting function that attempts to allocate costs to all the departments that utilize the service) and help desks that support external customers run as a profit centre, charging for their services via an annual service fee or incident fee.

The only true measure of the worth of a help desk is the level of customer satisfaction and this is very difficult to measure other than in an anecdotal way. This is because of human nature; customers who are happy with the service rarely take the time to write to the help desk manager and tell him. The same is true of customers who are unhappy with the service; most just make a decision not to use that product or service again. A small number of very disgruntled or even litigious or nuisance customers will complain repeatedly in the most vociferous and rudest manner but will largely be ignored as repeat offenders or the usual suspects.

Trying to get a reading across the customer base by using a survey rarely works either as most won’t respond  and the ones that do respond are usually from the two extremes, the really, really happy customers and the really, really dissatisfied customers. Plus, we all know that a survey is like a poll, if you design the questions in a certain way you can always get the result you first thought of.

Because it is so difficult to obtain enough customer input to be able to rate the help desk we usually fall back on internal metrics. Such things as how many calls did we receive last week? What percentage was closed within 1 day, 2 days, 3 days, etc.? How many are still outstanding after 7 days? How many had to be escalated?

The problem with internal metrics, like police reports on crime statistics, is that they can be manipulated to produce the result you first thought of. Remember that old saying about statistics, "Lies, damned lies, and statistics." A smart and politically savvy help desk manager will always find a way to guild the lily and dress up the stats so he looks good.

So, how do you know if your help desk is working and servicing your customers to the highest standard? There is only one sure way I know of and that is to ring the help desk yourself (incognito I hope, calling up and saying this is the CEO won’t really give you a fair reading about how ordinary customers are treated), or organize a team to call the help desk with a list of known issues and test the responses.

This sounds like it should be a business opportunity; a kind of reverse outsourced help desk, an organization that specializes in testing help desk services. All you have to do is provide them with scripts and a way to measure the effectiveness of the responses. However, I don’t know of any organization that provides this service just as I have never met a CEO lately who seems to know or care what is happening with his help desk service and this is the real problem.

You can always tell the company with the disinterested CEO because there is no way to contact him or her on the website. Companies that aren’t interested in supporting customers always make it almost impossible for a customer to provide feedback. Unfortunately, this ‘we are hiding from you approach’ is becoming the norm as companies remove all contact information from their websites and force customers to endure long waits and rubbish ‘service’ from outsourced support centres.

The executives don’t receive negative feedback because they make it so difficult for customers to reach them. Personally, I think this is a short term and eventually damaging practice as customers tend to have long memories and frustrated, dissatisfied customers will make it their business to tell everyone but the company’s management team (because they aren’t able to contact them) about the rubbish product and the shoddy way they were treated.

Before you ask, let me explain that we do have a support centre but it is not outsourced and we make it as easy as possible for customers to contact us by web form, email, mobile device or toll free number. Please see the links below:

Just so you know that we practice what we preach.

Paradoxically, I believe the reason that I get so few complaints (apart from the high standard of our support services) is that I make it so easy for customers to contact me or any other executive in my company.

We also use our own product RecFind 6 as our help desk software so we are able to build in all the alerts, escalations and reporting we need to manage each and every support call to the best of our ability. And finally, my office is just 20 metres or so from the support centre so I make it my business to be in there talking to the support staff at least 4 or 5 times a day.

I am a CEO who is vitally interested in his customers and the quality of support they are receiving and not just for altruistic reasons but for sound business reasons.  Happy customers stay with us and invest in our products and services year after year. It is quite simple really; I invest in my customers so they will invest in my company. It works for us and I wonder why other CEO’s don’t understand this very simple message.

The relationship between a vendor and a customer should be a mutually beneficial partnership; it should not be an destructive, adversarial relationship. In my opinion CEO’s who do not allow their customers to contact them and deliver either a complaint or a compliment are fools and bad business people with a strictly short term view. It is a formula for more short term profit but less long term customers. We opt to spend more money and time on support so we can foster better long term relationships. I think in the ‘old days’ this used to be called service.

Comments (1) -

SimpleScripts United States
7/6/2012 7:10:16 AM #

This post is good, whenever I just visit blogs I comes across some shitty articles written for search engines and irritate users but this information is quite good. It is simple, good and straightforward.


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