Build an IT help desk

An IT help desk is often the first line of support for many organizations. However, some businesses can’t justify the cost of implementing and managing a dedicated help desk to serve the demands of their end users due to a lack of available IT resources or budgetary constraints. This creates a unique challenge: end users need access to support for productivity, yet a fully staffed help desk is out of the question.
Solving the conundrum involves finding a balance between supporting users and reining in costs, without either spiraling out of control. Still, businesses lacking an IT support mechanism will encounter productivity-sapping problems, which may not have any easy solutions, forcing them to employ their very best creative problem-solving skills.

Building a help desk

Most businesses start by relying on vendors to provide help when problems strike, but vendors tend to be limited when offering free support for their own products and may require the purchase of a support plan. While the initial cost may not seem daunting, the complex, hybrid networks in use today require more than a single vendor and product support plan to keep end users productive.
Creating a help desk for internal and external staffers should not be an insurmountable challenge. There are myriad options available, ranging from cloud-based contracted services and value-added reseller (VAR) provided solutions to internally deployed hardware and software. Regardless of the path chosen, every help desk solution should contain three critical elements:

  • Staff: Someone has to man the help desk and be ready to answer phone calls, emails, or other end user requests for service and additional help.
  • Platform: A tracking system should be set up to support the creation of troubleshooting tickets and document interactions between help desk staffers and users requesting support.
  • Remediation: A mechanism should be in place to assist help desk staffers in remediating the reported problem(s).

Normally, these three requirements are met by deploying a help desk system, which is a combination of hardware and software tools supporting the overall mission. Many hardware vendors include elements to ease the adoption of help desk techniques.
In many cases, those additional capabilities can reduce the overall support costs and speed resolution times. For example, some hardware vendors offer remote boot, remote control, and other features that make it easier for a technician to connect to a problem system and resolve any issues. Some vendors also offer software clients and hardware capabilities to simply and smoothly integrate their products into a help desk platform.

Affordable alternatives and solutions

You may also choose to go the open source route to create an internal help desk. There are several free options available that provide a decent starting point. For businesses seeking more information, Capterra offers insight into some popular free tools, such as UserVoice, Freshdesk, and osTicket.
Nonetheless, there is a lot more to deploying a successful IT help desk than just selecting support software. You’ll need to take into account the situations where help requests may arise and how critical it is to solve those problems before productivity is impacted, much of which can be accomplished by adopting some industry standard best practices, including:

  • Implement a web-based knowledge base tool.
  • Use the help desk software system to increase communications with agents and customers.
  • Make a customer self-help portal accessible 24 hours every day.
  • Install service request automation processes in your help desk software.
  • Utilize real-time help desk reports, dashboards, metrics, and analytics.
  • Institute an asset management system and integrate it with the help desk software system.
  • Apply a change management system.
  • Perform customer satisfaction surveys on a regular basis.

Following these steps can lead to a successful help desk system, and soon, you’ll be able to leverage the technology and services, receive all the benefits, and keep your business running.

Return on investment

One of the most important issues surrounding a help desk is affordability. Many businesses tend to focus on the cost of the hardware, software, and staff needed for an effective help desk to determine operational costs, yet those same companies fail to realize the value offered by a help desk, which can be simply measured by increased productivity. The quicker problems are solved, the quicker staffers return to productivity.
It’s also a good idea to keep tabs on help desk operations in the form of reports. By evaluating the number of problems, the time to resolution, and the return to productivity, company operators can discover how much a help desk contributes to overall productivity, thereby justifying the expenses involved.
Unifying help desk and system management solutions can revolutionize your business’s service desk options and inventory control, and when your business starts to grow, you’ll be glad you didn’t overlook the importance of having a stable IT help desk.