The primary goals of the IT help desk are to assist end-users, solve problems and maximize technology value. These goals cannot be met unless and until help desk services are fully utilized. Success depends upon acceptance and awareness. Acceptance is derived from service quality and acquired credibility, while awareness comes from active marketing and engaged end-users. Read on to learn how to deliver both.
The Value of Acceptance and Awareness
Help desk services only have value if they are being used. When a help desk is functioning properly, it is able to assist end-users with regard to technology usage, and also solve problems (either on the spot or through appropriate escalation). A properly functioning help desk promotes productivity, saves money and becomes a central repository of actual “experience” to improve future technology plans and decision making.
To realize all these benefits, end-users must believe that the help desk is capable of providing the required assistance. That belief comes from actual experience and the quality of the services provided. To realize “acceptance”, help desk services must be provided in a manner consistent with the overall strategic IT management vision.
Awareness is equally important. If the end-user community is not sufficiently aware of the help desk mission, and the services provided, it is unlikely that utilization and “acceptance” goals can be met. This is the purpose of a help desk “marketing program”.
Strategic Marketing for Help Desk Awareness
The marketing goal is simple - to ensure that all end-users have been fully informed of all available the help desk services and how these services are to be requested and utilized. Beyond the basics of communication and information sharing, internal marketing efforts must also seek to generate interest and enthusiasm for the services that the help desk provides. There are (3) keys to marketing program development and success:
- To evaluate help desk value and visibility and to then tailor a marketing program to fill specific needs.
- To produce tangible “program” deliverables, used to achieve identified objectives.
- To focus on improved “visibility” as part of the strategic IT management vision.
Evaluating Help Desk Value and Visibility
The first step in planning and developing an effective marketing program is to evaluate current help desk value and visibility. To start, you need to ask and answer the following defining questions:
- Is current help desk utilization all that it could be and should be?
- Do you need to improve the awareness and understanding of help desk policies and procedures?
- Do you need to improve the quality of communications between the help desk staff and the end-users?
- Do you need to improve the end-user/help desk staff relationship?
- Do you need to improve the level of awareness of all help desk service level obligations?
- Do you need to boost morale for help desk staff members?
- Do you need to reduce "hidden" support costs due to non-use of help desk services?
- Do you need to improve awareness of and compliance with related technology usage and IT service policies?
The answers to these key questions will establish the scope and purpose of the help desk marketing effort, establishing prioritized needs and related program objectives. These needs and objectives can then be translated into actual program deliverables.
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Producing Marketing Program Deliverables
A "Help Desk Services Handbook" is the primary program deliverable used to market help desk services, promoting both acceptance and awareness. This handbook should be an established organizational mandate, institutionalized by the strategic IT management vision, to be given out to all employees (to be included as part of any new employee orientation).While specifics will vary according to individual circumstances, the handbook deliverable should incorporate the following components:
- Charter: Stating the overall mission of the help desk department, including the services provided and commitment to service quality.
- Organizational Information: Stating the organizational structure and staffing of the help desk department.
- Operational Information: Stating the locations, contact information, hours of operation, email contacts, service ticket access, and related matters.
- Procedural Information: Stating all policies and procedures relating to the delivery of requested help desk services, including all the corresponding obligations of the end-user community.
- Service Level Obligations: Stating service response obligations (as per an approved Service Level Agreement).
In addition to a published handbook, regularly published newsletters are another key marketing program deliverable, used to reinforce handbook information, provide new information, and promote help desk services. Newsletters should be produced on a scheduled basis (electronic and/or print depending on individual needs and budgets), to accomplish the following:
- To announce technology related updates and changes.
- To announce changes to help desk services, operational parameter, procedures and or policies.
- To publish helpful tips and tricks for in place technology.
- To announce upcoming events, including training classes, scheduled maintenance, upgrades, new product rollouts and related matters.
- To provide warnings relating to technical problems, bugs, errors and problem conditions.
- To publish important data security alerts and advisories.
- To announce help desk organizational changes (i.e. promotions, new hires, staff member of the month).
- To publish help desk service statistics (as a means of building help desk credibility) including the number of calls received, calls successfully closed, and any improvements over time.
- To publish service success stories and end-user testimonials (toot your own horn). This can also include explanations for widely known service problems and plans for avoiding similar problems in the future.
Marketing for Sustained Visibility
Positive and sustained “visibility” is the key to help desk service awareness (and ultimately acceptance). Visibility techniques can be used during marketing program launch and execution to ensure that the end-user community (both key individuals and at-large) are sufficiently engaged in the help desk service process. Here are a few key tips and techniques:
- Service reviews and customer surveys should be conducted on a regular basis to collect feedback regarding service satisfaction, service priorities, views of in place technology and ideas for possible service improvements.
- Institute procedures to ensure follow-up on all service related encounters. For example, brief “how did we do surveys” can be sent in response to a closed service ticket.
- Help desk management should interact with end-users directly, perhaps by attending departmental staff meetings to promote help desk services, receive feedback and become more involved in line of business issues.
- Managers should work to build and strengthen relationship between the help desk and other IT groups, perhaps rotating staff to short help desk assignments so that other network engineers, design staff, programmers and project managers can see how the "support half lives". It’s wise to encourage and build an strong IT “team” to promote visibility and build credibility.
- Make sure help desk services are fully aligned with the strategic IT management vision. To successfully promote help desk services within your end-user community, you must have a solid grasp on the nature of each and every identified "IT management" priority and the means by which each is being met. It's important to maintain open communications and to develop service portfolios designed to suit business needs, technology requirements and the capabilities of help desk entity.
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