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Industry experts agree that the most effective way to operate a help desk involves the essential elements of advance planning, better employee training, and the best software tools available on the market. When help desks do not employ all of these elements, efficiency is reduced and companies may find that a great deal of employee time is spent simply reacting to problems as they develop rather than taking a proactive approach to resolving difficulties before they ever occur. However, one size does not fit all when it comes to managing help desk issues. Different companies have taken different approaches to resolving help desk issues and each of them has found solutions to different company-specific problems. The important issue to consider in all cases is quality of service and how best to achieve a high quality of service.

Some companies have found that automatic call distribution systems are the best approach for worldwide solutions. Truly international organizations that have branches and subsidiaries based around the globe and process a high volume of calls during all hours of the day and night, can substantially benefit from automatic call routing that follows the sun and thus, employee work hours. In addition, if one call center is overloaded during a particular time period, calls can be re-routed to a less busy center thereby distributing the workload and reducing customer wait time. Some companies have realized efficiency increases of 30-40 percent by using automatic call distribution systems.

On the other hand, some smaller companies have found that the answer to their help desk problems lies in improving employee interpersonal skills rather than bigger and better technology. Efficiency can be a key factor in resolving issues on a first-call basis rather than having to extend to make repeat calls and provide subsidiary services. When calls are resolved quickly, the cost per resolution can drop substantially, sometimes even by over 50 percent. Deployment of knowledge can good processes can become more critical in this type of solution than deployment of calls through an automated software solution.

Another solution consists of adequately stratifying employees into specialized knowledge groups rather than investing advanced knowledge across the board. In this methodology, the emphasis is on entry-level employees who resolve only a few calls, but spend a lot of very short time intervals on simply taking messages and routing them to highly specialized technical professionals. The only real expertise demanded of first line telephone answerers, then, is the ability to know when and where to route calls to the real experts. These employees, who handle the largest call volume, are the least experienced and command the lowest salaries.

No matter which way a company chooses to jump in implementing a help desk methodology, employee training remains a key factor in keeping the organization effective and providing the best possible customer service at the lowest possible cost. At any level, help desk employees have to be familiar with all of a companys products and have to be well trained in problem solving techniques.

While the trend in help desk operations is definitely toward the self-service approach - toward more automation and more centralization thrugh software an IT, there must also be substantial emphasis on communication and organization skills. Companies that are recognized as being most successful in their help desk functions, are those that are most proactive in developing effective processes. It is clearly important to develop a working system, refine it until it is working most efficiently, and continue to update it as new technologies or better training programs become available. Most importantly, companies must plan their approach and implement it systematically, rather than just putting out fires as they develop.

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