How to handle help-desk overload

The following riddle was recently posed to the Best Practice Exchange of CIO magazine in the U.S.: Your help desk is staffed by productive workers. You expect your call volume to increase because of a new system implementation that affects a good chunk of your user base. But your budget doesn’t allow for additional headcount. What do you do? Exchange members agreed that while the conundrum is hardly an enviable one, it isn’t the end of the world. In fact, they offered smart ways to get out of the bind.

1. User, help thyself. “Put together a sample group of affected users, help-desk technicians and project team members to brainstorm a sizable list of FAQs, and post the results on the help-desk Web site as part of the launch communication,” suggests Robert Urwiler, CIO of Macromedia Inc. “And strongly encourage the use of online knowledge bases and self-service ticket management capabilities.”

2. Keep it simple. “Make sure your online knowledge base is simple and easy to use by focusing on the 10 percent of problems that account for 40 percent of the calls,” says Hank Zupnick, CIO of GE Real Estate.

3. Work those metrics. “Make sure you’ve got very clear metrics around average handle time and average speed-to-answer, and train your team to use these metrics effectively,” advises Bill Wray, CIO of Citizens Financial Group Inc. “You’ll get more calls handled by the same number of people; even those you already assumed were productive.”

4. Bring on the superusers. Enlist some great business users early on in the project, and train them alongside the help desk, suggests James Emanuelson, VP and CIO of Land O’Lakes Farmland Feed LLC. “They can help with the surge of calls for weeks after implementations at their respective sites,” he says. “Not only will this help you deal with the call surge, but it can also build a team environment between IS and the business at another level in the organization.”

5. Show your support. Good morale boosts help-desk productivity. “This is the perfect opportunity for the CIO to spend some quality time in the area, showing his support for the help desk,” suggests Roger Coville, CIO of Abercrombie & Fitch Co. “Most people leave a little in the tank each day, but help-desk crunch time is when the staff needs to go home on empty.” Showing how much you value your team will go a long way.

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