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Help Desk, Service Desk or Call Center - Which is it?

blog Jul 15, 2016

Are you running a help desk, service desk or a call center? And do you know the difference? I find it odd that so many small companies try to run some version of a help desk as if they had infinite technical resources like a call center. They say, “We want a real person to answer the phone when the client calls and it must be within four or five rings.” They have a tech or engineer answer the phone and get tied up for who knows how long, forsaking all they had been focusing on the minute before and completely interrupt driven. C'mon, you have three people working for you and twenty-five clients with over one hundred (if not hundreds of) users combined. A call center can answer the phone on the third ring and provide never-ending support, you cannot. So stop trying to. Figure out what your capability is and competencies are and map out a strategy that works.

A call center has the resources to staff a lot of phones and solve a lot of problems in any given day. It's what they are designed and built for. Your little company cannot ever do this and it is irresponsible to try. You know how this goes the minute the fourth call comes in (assuming all three of you are in the office). How many times a day does a client get the answering machine or put on hold until you finish the call you're on? And the other element that doesn't make sense is trying to solve every problem, big or small in one phone session. There must be a limit to how long you spend trying to fix it. You need to get to, or back to the projects and higher priority issues.

Here's where a Service Desk come in. A service desk accepts calls and services clients and their issues in a priority order. They do not try to solve issues immediately. They take inbound calls and they say to the client, "We're going to get a ticket into the system for you and someone will get back with you.” Then they go back to the project or higher priority issue they were working on. They have explained to and shown the client that they do not lose tickets and they do not neglect them. There is a queue of work and it all gets done in priority order. This is the only way you can ever meet the realistic workload and give reasonable service. Anything else is imbalanced, disorganized and inefficient.

A help desk feature or function can only work if you have limits on its intended purpose and use. There must be a time limit on how long the tech or engineer can spend trying to resolve the issue. It should be fifteen or thirty minutes. The escalation threshold must also include things like practical limits to effective efforts. Basically, if we can't solve this remotely, then create a ticket, collect the information and get off the phone. This kind of help desk function is realistic for smaller companies but it's still impractical for organizations that cannot dedicate one person to the help desk role. If you really must have this available for your clients, you could have set help desk hours by putting a tech in a seat to do these things X number of hours a day, Monday through Friday. Again, as long as it's not a runaway wagon.

Stop doing a disservice to your clients and to your own work productivity. If you don't have the massive staff and resources, don't try to run a call center. If you don't have enough staff to single out a tech for help desk, then don't offer this service. It will only make you look as small as you are and that looks bad. If you get even close to that point where you can start having a help desk function, make sure you have a process and that you set limits on its intended purpose and use. Now you will look as sharp as you are, and that's good. :)

Don't miss a beat!

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