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Tasks of the Help Desk Operator

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1 Tasks of the Help Desk Operator
Help Desk Operator Skills for Call Processing

2 Help Desk Operator Skills for Call Processing
Help desk operators need skills other than technical and problem solving to be competent operators. Additional skills include: Telephone skills Listening skills Questioning skills Dealing with difficult people skills

3 Telephone Skills For the help desk operator, the telephone is the primary means of communication with customers. It is therefore very important that help desk operators have good telephone skills. The two main topics are answering calls and transferring calls The following material is an adaptation of Answering the Telephone in the NSW DSE's Telephone Excellence (NSW DSE, p. 4). Answering a call Answer in as few rings as possible. A maximum of three rings is a good standard. Have pen and paper ready. Use the four answering courtesies: Greet the customer State your organisation or department Introduce yourself Offer your help

4 Telephone Skills Example: Good morning, IT Help Desk, John Smith speaking. How may I help you? Remember to smile as you pick up the receiver - your voice will sound much friendlier. Personalise the conversation by finding out the person's name and using it. If it is a misplaced call, transfer it in a responsible manner (see next section).

5 Transferring a call Ask the customer's permission to transfer the call. For example, 'Would you like me to redirect you?' Give the customer the name and extension of the person they are being redirected to. If they get cut off or need to call back they then know how to get back to the right person. If, when you make the transfer, the line is engaged get back to the customer and offer to pass on the message. Don't transfer the customer to an engaged line. If the line has voic , get back to the customer and ask them if they would like to leave a message on the person's voic . Again, you shouldn't transfer the customer straight to a voic system.

6 Listening Skills Good listening skills enable the help desk operator to clearly understand the customer's problem. The following material is an adaptation of Effective Listening in NSW DSE's Telephone Excellence (NSW DSE, p. 6). Be ready to listen by having pen and paper ready. Let the customer know you are listening by providing progressive affirmations ("yes", "I see", "okay", etcetera) and attentive words ("Mmmm", "I understand", etcetera). If you need to let the customer know you are serious tell them you are making notes. This also helps the customer organise their thoughts.

7 Listening Skills Don't interrupt the customer unless it is to get clarification. Restate the problem back to the customer but don't repeat it word for word. Take the main points and phrase them using your own words. This enables the customer to confirm that you have the correct understanding and if not, to correct you.

8 Questioning is an important part of seeking understanding
Questioning is an important part of seeking understanding. There are two types of questions: open and closed. Open questions are ones that require an explanation, for example, 'What happened next?' Closed questions are ones that require yes or no answers. The following material is my adaptation of Questioning Techniques in NSW DSE's Telephone Excellence (NSW DSE, p. 7). Open questions begin with words like: Who? What? When? Where? Why? How?

9 Closed questions begin with words like: Did? Can? Have? Do? Will? Is?
Good questioning skills arise out of appropriate use of open and closed questions. To build up a picture of what is happening ask open questions. What were you doing before the problem occurred? How did you do that? Why did you do it that way?

10 Questioning Skills To test a theory or obtain confirmation ask closed questions. Is it a red light? Does it work if you type XXX first? Are you happy with that solution?

11 Dealing with Difficult People Skills
From time to time the help desk will receive calls from disgruntled customers. Dealing With Conflict, TAFE NSW subject number 8979S, deals with this and other human communication topics. The following information is provided as a reminder and is an adaptation of Managing Difficult Clients in the NSW DSE's Telephone Excellence (p. 22).

12 Dealing with Difficult People Skills
Remain calm yourself. This is the most important step since you can't calm a customer unless you're calm yourself. Keep an open mind. Don't take it personally. Let customers vent. Don't interrupt. Let the irate person lot off steam. Stay in the adult mode. Show empathy. Listen to the problem. Acknowledge the problem, for example, "I'm glad you brought that to our attention".

13 Dealing with Difficult People Skills
Restate content or feeling. Paraphrase in your own words; don't repeat word for word. You can direct the conversation by restating what you believe is the real issue. Ask questions that will help you understand the real problem. Take notes if possible and read them back aloud to check the information and to show you're taking the customer seriously. Accept their point of view. Use phrases such as "I understand", "I agree", etcetera. This is a great way to get on the same side of customers and defuse anger.

14 Dealing with Difficult People Skills
Gently confront. Use the customer's name. Start with a 'help' statement. For example, "Mrs Miller, I really want to help you, I know you want to get this resolved, just as I want to help you. What can I do?" Gentle confrontation will often get the customer to apologise for their manner. If this does not work then... Delay or transfer. The customer may need time to cool off, so end the conversation with a promise to look into the situation and commit to a time to call back. Alternatively, transfer the customer to a second person. In some cases the customer may just need to be reassured by a second person.

15 Other Help Desk Operator Tasks
The main task of the help desk operator is to take calls and deal with them using the call processing procedure. Other tasks that the HDO will perform include: Call tracking Call closure Reporting Staying up-to-date Interactions with user community

16 If a call is referred to a skill group for resolution then there is a stipulated completion date and time for that job. However, human nature being what it is, not everyone meets their deadlines. A skill group that takes customer support seriously will monitor its own progress on jobs and will be aware of jobs that it cannot complete on time. These skill groups will contact the customer before the due completion date, explain that they are not going to meet the target deadline and will negotiate a new completion time. The customer may not be very happy but they will feel better than they would have had the job not been finished on time and they weren't told about it.

17 Call Tracking Other skill groups will not have the self discipline required for good customer service. In this case, the help desk will track, or monitor, the progress of a job and start asking questions if the deadline is close with no apparent resolution in sight. The help desk does this by producing a daily report that shows which jobs are due the following day. This is very easy with help desk software. Each job is a record in the transaction database. All the help desk operator has to do is extract all transactions that have a status code of 'Open' and a target completion date of the following day.

18 Call Tracking Involving a manager is a second type of 'referral'. The term normally used for referral is 'escalation'. Bruton (1995, pp ) calls the two types resolution escalation and authority escalation Resolution escalation is the passing of a problem to a skill group for resolution and is what I have called 'referral'. Authority escalation is when the problem is given to a person in the organisation that has more authority. The person uses their authority to provide a solution or enable a solution. For instance, a manager can authorise expenditure on additional staff to get through a tight spot. This is not an option for the staff working in the skill groups. Another example would be when the staff in a particular skill group are being uncooperative and the manager whose responsibilities include help desk is used to talk to the manager responsible for the uncooperative skill group.

19 Call Closure Call closure comes from the practice of good customer service. Call closure is the action of calling a customer hours after a solution has been provided or a problem fixed to check that the solution is still working and that the customer is still completely satisfied. Let's take a hypothetical example of you having a video machine that suddenly breaks down. You take it to a repair shop to be fixed. Four days later you get a call to say that the job has been done and is ready to be collected. When you get it home the machine plays videos just fine but now the lights on the front panel flicker. They didn't flicker before you took the machine to the repair shop. It's not such a big deal but it is slightly irritating. You could take it back to the repair shop but it will take another 60 minutes for the round journey. What the heck, you decide you can live with it.

20 Call Closure A week later, the machine is playing videos just fine but that flicker is annoying. How do you feel about the job? Do you feel satisfied? Not really there's that flicker. Will you use that repair shop again? Not very likely. Will you recommend this repair shop to someone else? No! The repair shop thinks it has done a good job. They completed the job on time and within the cost estimate they gave the customer. How are they to know the customer is dissatisfied? Unknown to them they have lost a regular customer. What's worse, they now have an ex-customer who no longer recommends them.

21 Call Closure How could the repair shop have discovered that you were dissatisfied? The answer is, through a call closure step. Had they called you 24 hours after you had collected the video machine and asked you if the machine was still okay and if you were completely satisfied with the job they would have learnt, yes the machine is working fine...but there is one little thing, not serious, quite trivial really... it's the lights on the front panel, they flicker now whereas they didn't used to. This gives the repair shop a chance to remedy the new problem and retain you as a customer. Now your attitude may be, Yes they introduced a new problem but they looked after me...they made sure I was completely satisfied. Yes, I would use them again. Yes, I would recommend them to others. On the IT help desk all resolved calls should be closed within hours.

22 Reporting The help desk staff produce daily, weekly and monthly reports. Daily reports support the day-to-day operation of the help desk. For example, a list of nearly due and over-due jobs. Weekly reports will assist the help desk supervisor in planning weekly help desk functions such as staff rosters. Monthly reports are mainly for management. They allow the help desk work load to be analysed and give management the opportunity to develop preventative procedures

23 Staying Up-to-date The more up-to-date help desk HDOs are the better they are at providing first line support. Help desk personnel stay up to date by: attending seminars and training sessions in new products 'playing' with new software and hardware (note, this should be directed playing)

24 Staying Up-to-date Reading magazines, journals, NEWS and others forms of print-based information Organisations introducing new products for its staff to use must train its help desk staff who will take the brunt of the support for the new products. Playing with new software and hardware is an extremely profitable means of learning new products. It may be the only form of training available if formal training sessions are not available or offered. Playing should be 'directed' or goal-oriented rather than hap-hazard. Directed playing means having some task that has to be accomplished by playing with the product.

25 Interactions with the User Community
Help desk operators get involved with customers in more ways than just answering the phone. Some examples are: contributing articles to the help desk newsletter participating in user group sessions conducting training sessions for customers writing tip sheets for circulation to customers Help desks in large organisations usually have a newsletter that they send to all their customers. This serves as publicity for the help desk and lets customers know what's going on. In some organisations staff will form user groups to discuss common problems. Help desk operators will sometimes serve as the help desk representative at such meetings providing a link between the help desk and those extremely valuable forms of local support.

26 Interactions with the User Community
Training is one of the major methods of reducing problem incidence. Help desk staff may be required to run training programmes from time to time, or it may be an integral part of their job. Another method of reducing problem incidence is to prepare a single paged tip-sheet which explains how to perform some function that many customers are getting wrong.

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