11 help desk best practices for better internal support
Here are 10 help desk best practices to set IT and HR teams up for success.
By Erin Hueffner, Content marketing manager
Last updated October 11, 2023
Businesses are laser-focused on customer experience and customer service today. And as work transitions from in-person to remote, customers are heavily relying on digital channels for help. This is no different for your employees — they need digital internal help desk solutions now more than ever.
Companies are leaning even more heavily on technology to keep their customers and employees connected while the world is in survival mode. Beyond communication tools like Slack and Zoom, you need a great internal help desk to keep things running smoothly.
11 important help desk best practices
Here are some tips for making sure your service desk is set up for success.
- Choose the right ticketing system
- Create a service catalogue
- Offer a knowledge base
- Develop a culture of helping
- Hire good employees
- Determine appropriate help desk staffing levels
- Build a workflow that tracks issues end-to-end
- Use analytics to power data-driven decisions
- Customize your work environment
- Collect feedback
- Deploy a chatbot to help you scale
1. Choose the right ticketing system
Overly complex ITSM solutions can bog down a help desk team. Look for something simple, reliable, and intuitive instead. An effective ticketing system keeps employee requests organized and prioritized. An omnichannel ticketing system ensures that a help desk team can track, manage, respond to, and resolve every ticket—no matter where the conversation originates from.
2. Create a service catalogue
One of the first things to do is develop an IT service catalogue. This roadmap should be designed with the end user in mind, and include all the information they need to open a ticket and request service. It should be written clearly with easy to understand instructions. Some of the key pieces your service catalogue needs are:
- Catalogue item name
- Category (software, hardware, support, infrastructure)
- Approval structure
- Cost of service
- Security and access permissions
- Issue tracking process
- Delivery expectations
- Point of contact for questions
3. Offer a knowledge base or self-service portal
One of the big problems employees run into when asking for IT help is knowing who to ask in the first place. Institutional knowledge never seems to be written down, and it’s changing constantly. An internal help desk or directory-based workflow helps direct questions automatically to the right department. Once your service catalogue is hammered out, make it easy to access in a self-service portal. And make that portal simple to access — for example, by keying “IT help” into a browser.
Help desk software should always come with an option for a knowledge base. Often, people are just looking for a quick solution to a simple issue. Rather than submitting another ticket, a knowledge base allows employees to search for and resolve issues on their own. This reduces the strain on the ITSM team so they can solve more complicated issues that need 1:1 support. And, it empowers your users with the tools they need to do their jobs.
4. Develop a culture of helping within the help desk
If the help desk manager is too focused on minimizing costs, then you end up delivering poor customer support, according to SaaS expert Matthew Monahan. If, however, you focus on giving the users everything they need to get their jobs accomplished, then you win – twice. Monahan says the first win is that your team will become more proactive, looking for opportunities to help users before waiting for them to report problems. The second win is that your user base will come to view the help desk as a partner in problem-solving, rather than people to yell at when things go wrong.
Make sure you communicate. How long should customers expect it to take for a response? How long does it take to resolve tickets, and what priority level is their ticket? Make sure everyone in the company knows — this can help reduce frustration for all involved.
5. Hire good employees to retain great employees
It’s one thing to hire great people, and it’s another to keep them — and that has a lot to do with your employee experience. Research by Gartner found that engaged employees who felt personally invested in their jobs were more willing and empowered to impact customer experience. On top of that, since 2009, a portfolio of Fortune’s “Best Companies to Work For” companies outperformed the S&P 500 by 84.2 percent.
There are some things you can do to set yourself up for success. Invest in customer service training to equip your team with the tools they need to succeed. You can engage your more tenured agents to help with onboarding and training, too — they have a treasure trove of valuable knowledge to share, and it can make them feel valued. Look for job candidates who are not only technically able to do the work, but also passionate about helping other people. You are, after all, running a help desk.
6. Determine appropriate help desk staffing levels
Reliable IT specialists are an incredible resource for any organization, but they can only do so much when your business is chronically short-staffed. The good news is that you can improve job satisfaction and lower turnover rates by identifying staffing deficits early. Use the Zendesk staffing calculator to determine if and when you need to add more help desk experts to your team.
Weekly utilized hours for a full-time agent:
Total utilized hours (weekly):
Estimated full-time agents needed:
Solves per hour:
Average handle time:
Disclaimer: The above formula should be used as a guide—it shouldn’t replace a typical workforce management staffing calculator. Teams will also need to consider factors such as breaks for agents, multiple shifts, and different customer requirements.
7. Build a workflow that tracks issues end-to-end
Providing seamless internal support is key to a company’s success. Both the customer and the help desk staff should be able to see the status of the issue at a glance. This helps reduce anxiety and frustration for everyone involved, which is a better overall customer experience. Any help desk employee should be able to jump in on any ticket at any time and see the entire workflow of the issue so they can move it toward resolution.
8. Use analytics to power data-driven decisions
Help desks can provide a goldmine of insights to help you measure and improve the employee experience—from identifying areas of development for your team to understanding how employees interact with you.
With real-time and historical analytics built inside your help desk solution, help desk teams can take action on what’s happening at the moment and understand past trends. Predictive analytics can also help you forecast what your employees are likely to do based on historical data. This can help your support team anticipate employee needs and identify patterns, and as a result, deliver a better experience.
9. Customize your work environment with automation, apps, and integrations
Automation, apps, and integrations enable your help desk team to customize their work environment. This ensures that your help desk can access apps, systems, and integrations for change management, asset management, team collaboration and more—all from one central place. You can also create request forms that direct certain types of requests to the appropriate team, close tickets after a specified time frame, connect popular apps like Slack and Zoom to reduce system switching, and build custom processes. And, if you’re a global business, you’ll likely need your help desk to support translation apps.
10. Collect feedback and use it to improve
To improve your IT or HR help desk, collect employees’ feedback on how it currently operates. Their input will help IT or HR help desk agents understand where problems are happening and how they can be resolved.
OpenTable was able to strengthen its IT help desk experience by surveying team members. “Our employees said it was cumbersome to submit support tickets to our internal help desk,” recalls Russ Gangloff, director of customer support at OpenTable. His team realized that OpenTable’s employees needed more channels to submit tickets and regular status updates on the progress of their tickets.
Since implementing these two updates, OpenTable’s IT service desk has created the smooth, transparent process that employees asked for—and their follow-up surveys prove it. “We keep hearing [from employees] that we’re so much more responsive now,” Gangloff says.
To collect feedback from your employees, set up triggers in your support software to automatically send a survey to employees when their tickets close. Ask survey questions about an employee’s level of satisfaction with their service desk experience and how much effort they had to put in.
11. Deploy a chatbot to help you scale
Chatbots can be a great partner to a help desk team. They can recommend help center articles to empower employees to self-serve on a one-to-one level, saving agents time from answering repetitive requests. Bots are also “always on,” so customers get answers 24/7. This enables a help desk team to scale by reducing wait times and answering more tickets.
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Build a best-in-class customer self-service experience
This free guide is designed to help you create the right practices internally and build the best self-service experience you can for your customers.Get the guide