Help Desk Structures - FVTC Information Technology Instructor Web Site

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					    Help Desk Operations

A Guide to Help Desk Concepts,
        Second Edition

             Chapter 2           1

In this chapter you will learn:
• The different types of customer service and
  support organizations
• The components of a help desk mission
• The role and operation of internal help desks
• The role and operation of external help desks
• How size influences a help desk’s operation

                         Chapter 2                2

• The benefits and challenges of centralized and
  decentralized help desks
• The benefits and challenges of managing a help
  desk as a cost center or a profit center
• The role of outsourcing in the support industry
• The characteristics of a support center

                       Chapter 2                    3
     Types of Customer Service and
         Support Organizations
• One type of customer service and support
  organization is a call center, which is a place
  where telephone calls are made, or received, in
  high volume
• An inbound call center receives telephone calls
  from customers and may answer questions, take
  orders, respond to billing inquiries, and provide
  customer support
• An outbound call center makes telephone calls to
  customers, primarily for telemarketing
                       Chapter 2                      4
     Types of Customer Service and
         Support Organizations
• Telemarketing is the selling of products and
  services over the telephone
• Some call centers are blended call centers, which
  means that they receive incoming calls and make
  outgoing calls
• The term contact center is being used
  increasingly to refer to a call center that uses
  technologies such as e-mail and the Web in
  addition to the telephone to communicate with its
                       Chapter 2                  5
     Types of Customer Service and
         Support Organizations
• Help desks are often structured in a series of
  levels, an approach commonly known as a multi-
  level support model
• The help desk refers problems it cannot resolve
  to the appropriate internal group, external vendor,
  or subject matter expert
• A subject matter expert (SME) is a person who
  has a high level of experience or knowledge
  about a particular subject

                       Chapter 2                    6
Multi-level Support Model

          Chapter 2         7
             Help Desk Mission

• Without a clearly defined mission that is
  determined by its customers’ needs, a help desk
  can fall prey to the “all things to all people”
• A help desk’s mission is a written statement that
  describes the customers the help desk serves,
  the types of services the help desk provides, and
  how the help desk delivers those services
• There are two principal types of help desks:
  internal help desks and external help desks
                       Chapter 2                      8
Help Desk Mission

                  •   An internal help
                      desk supports
                      internal customers,
                      or the employees
                      who work at its
                      company, whereas
                      an external help
                      desk supports
                      customers, the
                      people who buy a
                      products and

      Chapter 2                         9
           Internal Help Desks

• An internal help desk responds to
  questions, distributes information, and
  handles problems and service requests
  for its company’s employees

• A company can have several types of
  internal help desks that employees
  contact for support
                   Chapter 2                10
        Internal IT Help Desk’s Role

• Historically, IT departments focused solely on the
  technology for which they were responsible, such as
  hardware, software, and networks, and concentrated
  on ensuring that the systems were “up and running”

• IT departments are now being challenged to function
  as internal vendors

• An internal vendor is a department or a person within
  a company that supplies information, products, or
  services to another department or person within the
  same company

                         Chapter 2                      11
        Internal IT Help Desk’s Role

• In an effort to satisfy their customers, most IT help
  desks strive to resolve 70 percent to 80 percent of
  reported problems and service requests

• They also take ownership of all incidents, whether or
  not they can resolve them

• Taking ownership of an incident means tracking the
  incident to ensure that the customer is kept informed
  about the status of the incident, that the incident is
  resolved within the expected time frame, and that the
  customer is satisfied with the final resolution

                          Chapter 2                       12
       Internal IT Help Desk’s Role
• Training involves preparing and delivering
  programs that provide people the knowledge and
  skills they need to use technology effectively
• The help desk may also provide ad-hoc, or
  informal, and one-on-one training in the course of
  responding to users’ questions and problems
• Training might take place in a classroom setting
  with an instructor, on a one-on-one basis in a
  user’s office, through media such as audio, video,
  computer-based training, or Internet-based
                       Chapter 2                  13
      Internal IT Help Desk’s Role
• Computer-based training (CBT) uses
  computer software packages to train and
  test people on a wide range of subjects

• Internet-based training (IBT) uses training
  systems that people access from any
  personal computer that has an Internet
  connection and a browser

                    Chapter 2               14
      Internal Help Desk’s Role
  Network and System Administration
• Network and system administration activities
  include day-to-day tasks such as setting up and
  maintaining user accounts, ensuring that the data
  the company collects is secure, and performing
  e-mail and database management
• Other activities include file management, printer
  and server management, monitoring server and
  network performance, performance tuning, and
  capacity and disaster recovery planning

                       Chapter 2                      15
         Internal Help Desk’s Role
            Asset Management
• Asset management activities include moving
  equipment, installing and configuring new
  systems, and upgrading existing systems
• These activities are often referred to as moves,
  adds, and changes (MACs)
• Most companies prefer to have experienced staff
  perform these tasks because they can complete
  them more quickly than an inexperienced user,
  and they know about and can avoid many of the
  problems that may occur during the installation
                       Chapter 2                     16
         Internal Help Desk’s Role
            Asset Management
• Some internal help desks operate very informally
• Others have very formal processes and require users
  to follow clearly defined procedures to obtain
• Some organizations have established Service Level
  Agreements with their internal clients
• A Service Level Agreement (SLA) is a written
  document that spells out the services the help desk
  will provide to the customer, the customer’s
  responsibilities, and how service performance is

                        Chapter 2                       17
       Internal Help Desk’s Role
          Asset Management
• Examples of customer responsibilities

  – Customers must call the help desk (not
    someone else in the company) when they have
    a problem

  – Customers must maintain their systems

  – Customers must attend training

                     Chapter 2                18
  Internal Help Desk’s Position in the
• One ongoing challenge that internal help desks
  face is proving their worth to the company
• Although computers, tracking systems, and
  people are expensive, they are investments that
  help the company avoid lost productivity and lost
  opportunity, which are also costly but harder to
• An efficient, effective help desk can help lower
  those costs by increasing the effectiveness with
  which employees can use technology
                       Chapter 2                     19
  Internal Help Desk’s Position in the
• The technologies that internal help desks use to
  do their work usually reflect the company’s
  willingness to invest in the help desk
• The best help desks strive to provide high-quality
  service within the limits of their funding
• Instead of rejecting requests that are beyond their
  capabilities (sometimes called out-of-scope
  requests), under-funded help desks provide the
  best possible alternative by directing the
  customer to another source that can help
                       Chapter 2                     20
          External Help Desks

• External help desks support customers
  who buy their company’s products and
• Most hardware and software companies
  have external help desks to support their
• The services that external help desks
  provide vary by industry
                   Chapter 2                  21
        External Help Desk’s Role

• External help desks can provide a variety of
  services to customers
• Some external help desks provide pre-sales
  support, meaning that they answer questions for
  people who have not yet purchased the
  company’s products or services and may take
  orders and respond to billing inquiries
• Most external help desks provide traditional post-
  sales support, which involves helping people who
  have purchased a company’s product or service
                       Chapter 2                  22
          External Help Desk’s Role

• Post-sales support activities include:
   – Answering questions
   – Helping the customer learn to use the product
   – Explaining the advanced features that the product offers
   – Resolving problems
• Customer relationship management (CRM) involves using
  customer contact and relationship information to generate
  additional sales and increase levels of customer service
  and retention
• A CRM initiative involves implementing software products
  and processes that enable the help desk to collect,
  maintain, and share information about the company’s
  customers with other authorized company employees

                             Chapter 2                          23
  External Help Desk’s Position in the
• In much the same way that an internal help desk
  shares information with other groups, such as
  development and network support, an external help
  desk exchanges information with its company’s sales,
  marketing, field services, development, and research
  and development (R&D) departments
• External help desks have become a major focal point
  for customer interactions
• They are responsible for creating a customer memory,
  a record that includes all the information and
  transactions relevant to a given customer
                        Chapter 2                       24
    External Help Desk’s Position in the

•   As with internal help desks, the resources available to an external
    help desk reflect the company’s commitment to customer
    satisfaction and willingness to invest in the help desk

                                Chapter 2                             25
            Sizes of Help Desks

• Help desks range in size from small to large

• Although it may seem logical for small
  companies to have small help desks and
  large companies to have large help desks,
  that is not always the case

• The size of a help desk is determined by its
  mission and the scope of its responsibilities

                     Chapter 2                    26
                 Small Help Desks

• Small help desks have anywhere from one to 10 people on
• Companies may have small help desks for a number of
• Some companies have a single-person help desk, although
  most will grow to have more people in time, if only to
  provide backup for the primary analyst
• Efficiently and effectively operating one-person help desks
  are rare, but they do occur
• Some large companies prefer to have a number of small
  help desks, rather than one large help desk

                           Chapter 2                        27
                 Small Help Desks

• Some smaller companies set up their help desks as a one-
  stop shop, which means that the help desk is fully
  responsible for resolving all problems and service
  requests, even if the solution requires extensive research
  or even coding changes
• Small help desks tend to be people-dependent, which
  means that individual analysts specialize in a particular
  area, such as a customer community, vendor, product, or
  suite of products
• Medium help desks have between 10 and 25 people on staff
  and can take on the characteristics of both small and large
  help desks

                           Chapter 2                           28
            Large Help Desks

• Large help desks vary in size, depending
  on whether they are internal or external

• Large internal help desks have more than
  25 people on staff, whereas large external
  help desks can have as many as several
  hundred people

• Large help desks evolved in several ways

                    Chapter 2                29
Large Help Desk Setting

         Chapter 2        30
              Large Help Desks

• Many grew from small help desks over the years
  as the company produced more products
• The challenges that large help desks face are
  different than those for small help desks
• Large help desks, particularly those that have
  evolved over time, may lack the discipline that a
  larger work force needs
• Large help desks enable people to work in a team
  setting and usually offer many opportunities for

                       Chapter 2                      31
          Help Desk Structures

• Some companies have a single centralized
  help desk that supports all of the
  technologies used by its customers

• Others have multiple decentralized help
  desks that support specific products or
  customer communities

                   Chapter 2                32
             Centralized Help Desks

• A centralized help desk provides customers with a single
  point of contact for support services
• Customers appreciate this approach because they do not
  have to determine whom to call within the company
• Customers contact the level one help desk, which contacts
  the level two resources at the remote site only when the
  level one help desk cannot resolve an incident
• A trend is to provide on-site analysts with personal digital
  assistants (PDAs) that can be used to capture information
  about customer problems and requests when they cannot
  readily access the company’s call tracking system

                            Chapter 2                            33
           Centralized Help Desks

• A personal digital assistant (PDA) is a small
  mobile hand-held device that provides computing
  and information storage and retrieval capabilities
  for personal or business use
• A centralized help desk receives a wide diversity
  of calls on any given day
• Because of this, effective tools and adequate
  training are key
• Without them, analysts can find the centralized
  help desk a frustrating place to work

                       Chapter 2                      34
          Decentralized Help Desks

• Some companies establish multiple decentralized
  help desks in an effort to provide a high level of
  service to customers with specific needs
• When help desk services are decentralized,
  procedures or technology must direct customers to
  the appropriate help desk, based on their questions or
• A decentralized help desk can provide fast
  resolutions for incidents because customers receive
  expert assistance immediately from someone familiar
  with their needs and who may be on-site as well
                         Chapter 2                     35
         Decentralized Help Desks

• Help desks can be decentralized in several ways
• Some companies establish internal help desks at
  each of their corporate offices
• This approach provides customers with on-site
  assistance but can duplicate the same services
  from office to office
• Decentralized help desks face challenges in
  providing quality support and service
• They sometimes have difficulty justifying the
  resources that a centralized help desk can justify
                       Chapter 2                    36
  Centrally Decentralized Help Desks

• Some companies, particularly large
  companies, take a “centrally decentralized”
  approach to delivering help desk services
• This approach combines a single, central
  help desk with multiple, specialized help
• The process of determining a customer’s
  need and routing him or her to the
  appropriate support group is known as triage
                     Chapter 2                  37
 Help Desks as Cost Centers or Profit
• Help desk services can cost companies a
  considerable amount of money

• Whether internal or external, small or large,
  centralized or decentralized, help desks need
  many resources

• To pay for these expenses, help desks are
  run either as cost centers or as profit centers

                      Chapter 2                 38
Help Desk Expenses

       Chapter 2     39
       Help Desks as Cost Centers

• Historically, help desks have been cost centers,
  in which the budget items required to run the help
  desk are considered a cost (or expense) to the
• When a help desk is run as a cost center,
  management’s main objective is to minimize and
  eliminate expenses so that profits will be as high
  as possible
• Figure 2-8 shows the expanded services being
  offered by support centers
                       Chapter 2                   40
Support Center Model

        Chapter 2      41
       Help Desks as Cost Centers

• Technology is enabling this further consolidation
  of support services
• Another area in which technology is
  consolidating support services is remote support
• In the past, the help desk dispatched a field
  service technician to investigate problems it
  could not properly diagnose, or required
  customers to ship their equipment to the help
  desk, resulting in a delay of hours or even days

                       Chapter 2                     42
       Help Desks as Cost Centers

• With remote support technologies, the help desk
  can take control of networked devices to resolve
  problems, distribute software, and deliver
  informal training on the spot
• Under the support center model, companies can
  deliver services more efficiently and effectively,
  increasing customer satisfaction
• The help desk industry is growing and changing,
  and clearly, one size does not fit all

                        Chapter 2                      43

• Although the underlying purpose of the help desk
  is the same from one organization to the next, the
  services it offers and its operating characteristics
  such as type, size, and structure vary, depending
  on the needs of the company and its customers
• Call centers, contact centers, help desks, and
  support centers are all examples of customer
  service and support organizations
• Help desks and support centers tend to handle
  technology-oriented problems and questions
                        Chapter 2                   44

• Customers can contact call centers using a number of
  methods, including the telephone, fax, e-mail, or the
• The two principal help desk types are internal and
  external help desks
• Within these two categories, some organizations are
  small and others are large, some are centralized and
  others are decentralized, some are run as cost
  centers and others as profit centers
• Help desk outsourcing is a rapidly growing industry

                         Chapter 2                       45

• The success and profitability of a service agency is based
  on the quality of the services the help desk delivers to its
• The consolidation of support services continues to be a
  primary theme in the support industry
• The support center model challenges managers throughout
  the company to move transactions that directly involve
  customers into the support center
• Technology is enabling a further consolidation of support
  services, which is resulting in more efficiently and
  effectively delivered services

                            Chapter 2                            46

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