Help desks and service desks are similar but not exactly identical. This article has 14 best practices for help desks and service desks, with 8 for IT help desk best practices and 6 for service management, though many help desk practice tips also apply to service desks.
A quick word about help desk vs service desk before we dig into the details.
Help desk management is mainly about quick resolutions to simple problems, in other words, it’s a break-fix system.
Service desks, on the other hand, are more big picture, and they seek to implement problem-resolutions to improve the system's overall functioning through new methods, processes, or asset implementation.
IT help desk best practices: 8 help desk processes and procedure you should put in place
As IT help desks and service desks become increasingly popular across organizations, it is essential to establish procedures and processes that ensure efficient operations.
We have prepared eight tips for the best help desk procedures. These following IT help desk best practices are meant as guides, not necessarily to be taken as commandments.
Still, any list of common good help desk processes will likely include many of these points, and good customer support depends on many of these practices.
Assemble a help desk support team
Implement the ideal help desk software stack
Pick your communication channels
Service Level Agreements, or SLAs
Take advantage of automation and workflows
Aim for first contact resolution
Maintain a great knowledge management system
Analyze your data
1. Assemble a help desk support team
Our first help desk best practice is perhaps the most important aspect of any great customer experience surrounding help desk support: the people. Make sure you hire people with the right mix of technical skills and people skills. Also, you should maintain a help desk team member count that matches the capacity of ticket volumes for the customer support you expect to deliver. Give the employees enough time to master the help desk software too. Help desk management's job is to keep the staff motivated, dedicated and satisfied. For further tips in this area, you should get familiar with the best help desk interview questions.
2. Implement the ideal help desk software stack
Once you’ve assembled your stellar help desk support team, you need to match those amazing humans with the best help desk software and ticketing system. There will be no single platform that everyone in the industry agrees is superior, so it is best to do the research and try out a few apps with free trials or free versions. Of course, get feedback from your help desk staff, because they will be the ones using the software.
3. Pick your communication channels
Some help desk systems are omnichannel platforms. This means that end-users can reach out for support via email, text, phone calls, social media, and live chat. Make sure your help desk agents are assigned to the right channel that is best for them. Otherwise, figure out if you’d prefer to limit the comms channels to a single point of contact, like a web form or telephony.
4. Service Level Agreements, or SLAs
SLAs are service-level agreements. The Information Technology Infrastructure Library, or ITIL, describes SLAs as agreements between end-users or stakeholders on one hand and the service providers or help desk team on the other hand.
This agreement documents what kind of service is expected, how it will be delivered, and in what timeframe. Make sure to have your SLA practices in order for great customer support.
5. Take advantage of automation and workflows
You can streamline a lot of your IT support activities with automation and workflows. For example, use workflows to set up canned responses to be used in a chat for support triage.
Alongside canned responses that speed up response times, you can use automation for repeated easy fixes to common issues and group similar service requests together to deal with them in a unified manner.
Finally, automation is great for routing specific customer issues to the best-suited support rep and sending automated follow-up notifications.
6. Aim for first contact resolution
Of course, some IT support tickets will have a faster resolution time than others. A help desk best practice is to identify a system whereby many of the more common problems can be resolved in a single support session, otherwise known as first contact resolution.
Having a great protocol to maximize first-contact resolution is key to maintaining top customer satisfaction. This is also a key metric when analyzing performance.
7. Maintain a great knowledge management system
A solid help desk system should have some elements of a self-service portal, although not as robust as a service desk customer portal.
Your knowledge management should maintain, at minimum, an FAQ, knowledge base, how-to articles, tutorials, and videos that offer easy fixes and other simple instructions. It would be ideal if you could update FAQ in real time based on ongoing developments and new resolutions.
8. Analyze your data
It should hardly need to be mentioned that any help desk system will produce loads of valuable data as your support team does their work. Great help desk software can help gather that data to offer insights into all important help desk metrics.
Some key performance indicators, or KPIs, you should watch out for include the amounts of first contact resolution rates, escalation rates, the average cost per support ticket, mean time to resolution, and overall CSAT or customer satisfaction surveys.
Service desk best practices: 6 service desk processes and procedure you should put in place
After covering IT help desk best practices, there are six service desk best practices that we want to add.
Remember, first and foremost, many of the best IT service desk best practices for help desks are also applicable to ideal service desk processes. And many software solutions will fuse the best practices of both.
Still, here are some extra suggestions for best service management systems.
Design a serious software stack
Specialized service support teams
Get you asset management in order
Advanced self service portals
Implement a risk-identification mechanism
The best practice of big picture planning
1. Design a serious software stack
Our first service desk best practice is similar to that of help desks - it is all about the apps. While with help desk systems you might be able to find one single software solution to handle all your basic break-fix needs, things can be more advanced with service desks.
Sure, there are individual platforms for service desk software, but because of the scaled-up nature of service desks, you could use a stack of different apps, with connectors and integrations keeping everything in sync in real time.
Once more, it is empowering to your service desk team if they can offer input when choosing the best service desk software.
2. Specialized service support teams
With help desk staffing, most people will be doing simple break-fix resolutions. However, things get more complicated with service desk teams since there are many more directions one can take to optimize service management.
One of the IT support best practices is to have a robust team that is separated into specialized categories. Some might be focused on fixing problems, while others could spend more time designing new systems or methods to improve efficiency or cut down on future issues.
3. Get your asset management in order
ITSM, or information technology service management, emphasizes how service management has many important modules, and asset management is chief among them.
Asset management as part of ITSM includes software, hardware, personnel and network infrastructure, among other things.
Asset management should also be run with some form of good process management or procedure management, which is how you organize how all your assets are connected, and outlines steps to be taken when there is any restructuring of your assets.
4. Advanced self-service portals
You might have a basic customer portal or knowledge management system with both help desks and service desks, but with service desks, there should be a customer portal that allows for way more options than a mere knowledge base.
Not only can customers independently use the portal to seek answers and easy fixes to common problems, but a service desk customer portal should maintain their personal preferences, allow them to access their account details, check on the status of SLAs or support tickets, and more.
5. Implement a risk-identification mechanism
It is worth repeating that while help desks usually fix problems, service desks aim to evade problems and minimize risks. It’s a more system-wide approach to maximizing performance and efficiency.
One of the most important service desk best practices is having a risk-spotting process in your system. Such systems can use past data to make future projections based on pattern recognition and other intelligent tools.
Automation can play a part here too. The idea is to catch issues before they start and resolve them via new processes or methods.
6. The best practice of big-picture planning
To sum up again, service desk management is all about the larger perspective of how your entire IT department runs.
The main questions that service management should always be asking are: Can we do this better? Is there a new tool or process we should implement? What can we do differently if we want to achieve this new goal – be it faster resolution times, less common problems, or gaining more visibility on future risks or obstacles?
Every single incident and ticket should prompt management to think of these issues.
Our key takeaways on how to run a help desk or service desk effectively
In conclusion, running an effective help desk or service desk requires careful consideration of various factors. From specialized staff to asset management and self-service portals, organizations need to have the right solutions in place that will ensure efficient and effective service management.
Additionally, identifying risks and creating big-picture plans should be part of any good service management plan. With the right tools, processes, and personnel in place, organizations can ensure that their help desk or service desk runs efficiently and effectively.
We hope that this article will serve as a help desk and service desk best practice handbook and teach you how to have a solid grasp of all the most important practices for running a smooth IT customer support department with either system.