The Helpdesk you used to know
Tuesday, September 27, 2011
The face of helpdesk is changing, and it's not pretty... Do success or limited resources mean sacrificing courtesy and professionalism?
The Helpdesk you used to know...
I remember a time that when you paid for a product or service, you felt secure that if you had any problems with it you could get advice and support, or return it easily for repair, replacement, or refund. Most service providers were more than happy to work with you on a personal level to help you get up and running again. If you sent an email, you could expect a response from a real person.
Now, however, as helpdesks become more ambiguous, especially for small business, we could be losing the personal touch that used to work wonders for our business. Many big businesses have already lost this vital contact with their clients.
Have we forgotten that showing a little TLC to a client would bring you a level of customer satisfaction that money can’t buy? Have we allowed our helpdesk to lose the humanity it once had? Have we pushed the role of support into the hands of those that need the support?
Let me relate an example. A friend of mine told me he purchased a product to assist him perform technical translation more efficiently. This product is the one of the leading software packages to use if you are in the translation industry, and it costs a bomb. The package he bought included premium support through their helpdesk.
He discovered a simple bug, wherein if you tried to open MS Word from within this translation tool it would open Word twice. It wasn’t affecting his productivity, but being a Good Samaritan, he made an international phone call to report it to the helpdesk. Now, put yourself on the receiving end of that call. How would you respond if a brand-new client, your bread-and-butter, called you and notified you of a bug that is easily rectified?
I’m sure, knowing he was a new client, you would commend him, and then thank him for his time to report this issue. Also, you would log the bug in your system (if you have one), and assure the client that it will be addressed by your development process. Then you would inform him when the bug has been removed so he can download the latest bug-free version. In addition to this, you would do well to encourage the client to call you again the next time he has any questions, or if he notices any other irregularities. This is all good for your business. It dignifies the client, helps to ameliorate your product or service, and heightens the chances that this client will recommend you publicly to colleagues or in online forums.
But, this is not how this software company responded. Do you know what they said?
“Let me ask our development team if they have heard of this before... nope, they said they have never heard of this. Try to find the answer in our online user-to-user forum. Goodbye”
At this point, I would be on the phone again asking to speak to the manager. Why did I pay for high level support, if my support is meant to come from other users? It is true that the collective mind sometimes comes together to solve a difficult problem. However, forcing your clients to try to help themselves even for simple bug reports is heartless and unprofessional. It is like a Doctor who has never seen your problem before, telling you to go and ask the people in the waiting room for help with your ailment. Sure, one of the patients might have experienced the same symptoms, and possibly would know the remedy. But what if they didn’t? You’ve wasted your time and money, as now you need to make another appointment to see the Doctor. Also, the Doctor would quickly lose the respect of his patients, who pay him to help them with their aches and pains.
This is, in effect what is happening when a support desk tells a person in need to consult the user-to-user forums. These forums are great for sharing clever ways to use software or a product, sometimes beyond the scope its makers had in mind. But they should not be the main avenue for support, especially with bug reports, software issues, or helping new users get past the learning curve of a new system or product.
How can this be avoided? First you need to care, or, more importantly, your client needs to feel that you care. When a client contacts you for help, either by email or phone, you must have at your fingertips this client’s history. Is he a new user? Does he need a little hand-holding? Is he a VIP who just spent big $$$ with you? Knowing this gives you an advantage, as you can tailor your response to the needs of this individual client.
Also, he needs to know that you feel his pain, and want to help. Imagine a Doctor who said “Durrrrrrrr, I have told 5 people this morning the same thing, but you still don’t get it, you are suffering from sickness XYZ because you don’t eat healthy food. Now go away and learn what healthy food is.” Now imagine a Doctor who said “I’m sorry that you aren’t feeling well. It must be very uncomfortable for you. Let’s discuss a few options for a healthy-eating plan. Try it for 30 days, then you can come back for a follow-up.”
Likewise, you might have heard the same complaint 5 times already today, and given the same answer 5 times already today. It may even be a n00b question that could be answered with a “Duuurrrrrr”, but that doesn’t ever give the freedom to be curt, lazy, or apathetic. Every call needs to be treated with the same high level of professionalism and courtesy. It takes only 5 seconds to say “I’m sorry to hear you’re not having a great time with ABC... let’s see what we can do to solve this.”
If as a team you have been able to deliver this type of high-calibre service, odds are your business is healthy and growing. So, what can you do as your customer base expands? Hire more staff?
In this economic climate, hiring staff is a very expensive process, and really should be treated as a last resort. The more realistic option is to automate as much as possible. This doesn’t mean turning your helpdesk into a robotic, soulless system that processes calls. It means you initiate a system that will give your clients the confidence that their cry for help has been heard and you understand the issues, and that progress is being made. At the same time, keep your staff aware of the more important jobs, and those that might be a little neglected. Automatically send emails with heart, which include the name of the client, and the name of the technician who is providing the assistance and a measure of personal touch, so it doesn’t give the impression that your client is just a job number to you.
PRD Software have been providing quality solutions to the helpdesk industry for almost 15 years now, and have made it a study of helpdesks, the staff behind these, and the users that access them. In addition, they have spent countless hours in education, training helpdesk managers, supervisors, and support technicians to run the helpdesk as a well oiled machine. If customer satisfaction is important to you, give PRD software a call. You will be able to speak to a real person about your needs, your processes, and where you want your helpdesk to go.
Finding the balance
A balance exists between being efficient and being human. You will be pleasantly surprised at how PRD’s HelpMaster can help you do this. Even more so, take advantage of the great experience we have had working with all types and sizes of business, from home offices and family businesses, up to multinational and Government organizations. We hope to hear from you soon! Meanwhile, I am interested to know if you have had any good or bad experiences contacting, or working at a helpdesk, and what you would change to avoid the loss of human-ness. Leave your comments below.