Help Desk R-e-s-p-c-t
Product Managers make or break the Help Desk
Your company has reached the phase where it is time to build a Help Desk. Your Engineering and Operations folks have been fielding the customer calls, but now it is time to relieve them from their duties and insert the proverbial Help Desk layer in front of them. For many companies, the creation of a Help Desk is the belief that customer issues will not end up with your Engineering or Operations group, but unless your Product Manager and Engineering team have done their job, the Help Desk will merely become the “Triage” desk.
Once you have gone through the effort to hire the Help Desk, you need to enable them with the tools to fix the customer issues. This requires that you engage the Help Desk in the deployment of new features before it gets to the customer. If you choose to skip this step, then you need to provide Knowledge Base articles and user guides for the Help Desk. The Knowledge Base articles need to have the specific error messages as keywords to provide for a quick search retrieval from your Knowledge Base System. If you fail to provide this then the Help Desk has no choice but to pass the issue back to Engineering.
In addition to the Knowledge Base articles, you need to enable the Help Desk team with access to help make a change to help the customer quickly. In many systems, Checks and Balances (Startup Companies Need Checks and Balances) is instituted to validate that one user is not in full control of the system. It is a difficult balance to enable all of the Help Desk team to have the rights they require, yet still adhering to the Checks and Balances Systems. One idea to combat this is to put the other team members that approve changes into a rotation for them to approve changes. This will minimize the amount of time that a customer waits for their issue to be resolved.
The continued failure of companies to enable the Help Desk with the tools they need to make a change creates this industry-wide issue that the Help Desk is merely a group of “Operators” that take a call. Every Help Desk team member I have worked with genuinely wants to help people, but are often constrained by the fact that they don’t know what the problem is or they don’t have the rights to make the change. Please note, in the case of “off the shelf software” this is not as prevalent. For example, issues in Microsoft Office can be resolved through the Help Desk and their research on the Microsoft site. If Product Managers and Engineering do not engage with the Help Desk early in the product deployment, then Product Managers and Engineering deserve to get the customer calls until they provide the right information to the Help Desk. Furthermore, calls that are passed through to Engineering need to be dealt with expeditiously and should not wait for a response for days.
The Help Desk industry needs the data to do the job they want to do. The consistent lack of data on the products makes the job incredibly difficult ripe with high turn over.