Cut Help Desk Costs Without Sacrificing Service

By Anna Maria Virzi  |  Posted 2002-07-10 Print this article Print

The average phone call to the internal help desk costs between $12 and $40. See how much your company is getting for its technical support dollars.

Ever consider what a call to tech support costs? Combine charges of $12 to $40 with the help desk's poor reputation, and employees might be tempted to call a psychic hotline instead.

Experts say any effort to make help-desk operations more efficient and accountable starts with keeping metrics. First, establish a baseline, says Bob Wooten, author of Building & Managing a World Class IT Help Desk.

Tracking the types of calls received, the time to resolve problems and other metrics helps you analyze trends and recommend solutions to problems. With documentation of frequent hardware failures, for example, you can make a case to buy new equipment more easily. Or if you receive repeated calls about printers, you may decide to offer training to the users themselves. "Take the attitude of working yourself out of a job," Wooten advises.

Other ways to improve your help desk include installing tools to help users diagnose hardware and software problems. John Ragsdale, research director of the Giga Information Group, suggests using Web-based self-service software to establish a knowledge-base of fixes.

No matter what you do, calls to the help desk won't—and shouldn't—disappear. The more questions that employees can answer by themselves, the more complicated the questions that come to the support desk. "The only way to stop getting calls is to give really bad service, and I don't recommend that," he says.

View the PDF -- Turn off pop-up blockers!

The Gallup Organization, for one, is moving in the right direction. The company installed software two years ago to better monitor help-desk usage trends and analyze reported problems. To address peak demand periods and provide coverage on weekends and overnight, staff was added to the help desk and shifts were staggered, says Charlie Colon, who supervises a dozen help-desk workers as Gallup's director of information technology global support.

Gallup's tech staff also runs a "learn at lunch" program on topics such as remote access and Excel. These sessions do more than reduce support calls; they raise the profile of tech workers. "We don't want to be like the obnoxious tech guy Nick Burns on Saturday Night Live," says Colon.

He recruits workers who have good people skills for the help desk. "Our core belief is that we can teach any smart person technology. We can't teach any smart person customer service," he says.

Executive Editor
Anna Maria was assistant managing editor Forbes.com. She held the posts of news editor and executive editor at Internet World magazine and was city editor and Washington correspondent for the Connecticut Post, a daily newspaper in Bridgeport. Anna Maria has a B.A. from the University of Rhode Island.

Submit a Comment

Loading Comments...
eWeek eWeek

Have the latest technology news and resources emailed to you everyday.