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Help Desk Overview
The term help desk refers to a companys arrangement for handling service requests. The help desk is the center of that process; the place where communications with customers, and transfer of information and knowledge to them occurs. The help desk functions as the first point of contact for customers, no matter where they are in the world.

Since help desk staff are critical to the service experience and generally provide the service that dictates the level of satisfaction that a customer is going to feel in regard to the way his or her question is handled, well trained and experienced help desk personnel are a key part of any organization. Help desk staff should be well schooled in customer satisfaction and retention, personal relations, the use of software, and marketing message of the business they are representing.

There are a number of functions that are integral to service delivery and therefore critical of an effective help desk. These include knowledge management, customer self-learning, system administration, messaging services, desk-side field support, external contract management, technology deployment, strategic planning, change movement, web content management, permission marketing, service-level reporting, asset management and remote access. As a part of todays business environment, most businesses need a help desk at one level or another. The size and makeup of that help desk is determined by individual business needs, including the level of customer service demands and customer complaints.

Help desks may be insourced (provided within the company itself), or outsourced (provided by a third party service provider). If a company desires an internal help desk, it is important for management to have a complete understanding of current help desk trends and business processes. The help desk must be aligned with all strategic company visions and plans. Sometimes these directions are expressed in terms of a team charter, specifying the mission, vision, core processes, roles and responsibilities, and performance goals of the help desk.

Many companies outsource their help desk functions by contracting with a third party service provider to provide the necessary services. There are a number of service providers who specialize in help desk design, implementation, and even service management. While a company to provide outsourced services is not difficult to find, the contracting organization must make certain that anyone providing the actual services to its customers is well versed in products, cores processes, and so on. The company must identify critical success factors for so the agency that will be answering questions on the businesss behalf. Fundamental items like service hours, customer response time and call duration should be included in a written agreement.

Whether a company decides to keep the help desk in house or to outsource it to a company that specializes in providing such services depends entirely on the companys resources and which method can provide the best return on invetment. There is no doubt that a help desk can vastly improve customer relations by being responsive to customer needs and making certain they get the right information the first time. The image created by the help desk provides customers with a reflection of the entire company and how well its services and products are delivered. Therefore, efficiency and effectiveness should be primary considerations, rather than just the lowest cost.

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