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Help Desk Software and Metrics
There is no escaping the cost-cutting trend that has been impacting nearly all phases of business operations over the past few months. Even corporate help desks and call centers, traditionally one of the most risk-averse components of a business, felt the affects in 2003. These affects have been consistent across a lot of different types of companies. Even the typical metrics that are used to evaluate performance in other parts of a company, such as revenue, may not apply to corporate help desks. Therefore, the main functions have to be quantified and measured in some other way. Two metrics, call times and costs per incident are particularly important. These two measures are most likely to produce consistent, repeatable, accurate evaluation of help desk functions and allow comparisons between centers.

The average speed of phone answering at each organization is also important. Many companies want to lower the time it takes for representatives to answer the phone. Almost a quarter of companies indicated that call times were in the 10 seconds or less range. Many companies reported answer times between 10-30 seconds, and fewer respondents reported longer customer waits that the companies indicated last year. It may be that the times that companies reported may be a factor of consensus in the industry about where the acceptable limits are. When many manager were asked what their target call answering times were, managers indicated that the 10-20 second answer range is not as important to them as it was during the previous year, which may be indicative of the tradeoffs between fast answers and lower costs.

Many companies are also trying to have their help desks provide solutions to customers to help the customer resolve incidents on their own. Better technology may well lead to a drop in the cost per incident ratio over the previous year. Moreover, customer culture may also be changing over time, as consumers become more cost-conscious and tech savvy themselves. This may increase the popularity and demand for self-service applications such as Frequently Asked Questions and online knowledge bases.

While email and self-service costs per incident are substantially lower than telephone service costs, they still remain relatively high considering the decreased need for labor costs for each of these two methods. Technology innovations in this field may temporarily boost the cost per incident attributed to these two types of service methods. Email costs per incident are generally going down as people and customer service reps become more proficient with email..

In an effort to reduce overall service costs, many companies are choosing to drop 24 x 7 service and instead offer more limited service hours. This can greatly reduce costs. With this corresponding drop in service hours, companies have been able to shed full time positions through normal attrition or layoffs in order to reduce labor costs.

Help desk positions appear to pay best in the western U.S as a region and least in the central region of the country. The average salary for a level 1 support person across all areas is somewhere between $32,000 and $37,000. The level three average was reported near $45,000 in a couple of survey and support manager salaries averaged close to $60,000. These numbers of course vary depending on the area.

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