Archive for the ‘Q&A’ Category

And Now to Answer all Your Help Desk Questions…It’s Q&A Time with The Help Desk Coach!

November 12, 2011 Leave a comment

Welcome to another fresh edition of the Help Desk Coach Q&A, sponsored by!

Help Desk agents worldwide have either submitted these questions to or asked these questions during customer service training for helpdesk agents presented by Donna Earl (The HelpDeskCoach). Enjoy!

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Q. Dear HelpDesk Coach: As a supervisor, I’m struggling with one of my helpdesk engineers. He is the smartest agent on the helpdesk, but users don’t understand him and get mad at him. He’s made some enemies in the company and although I try to explain that he’s really smart and I need him on the helpdesk, he’s giving the department a bad reputation. He completed an online customer service class, but it was worthless. How can I make others in the company see he’s really a good guy, and leave him (and me) alone about it?

A. Dear HelpDesk Supervisor: One of the truisms about customer service is: perception is everything. If your internal users don’t perceive your ‘star’ to be helpful or user-friendly, then he is denting your reputation. You realize his behavior could use tweaking, and since you provided online training for him. You didn’t mention how others on the helpdesk team react to him, but I’ll guess they feel he drags down the group’s reputation. Here are some considerations for you:

1) Online training can be very effective in many areas, however without interaction with other people, its hard for the agent to transfer behavior to real world scenarios. If your agent could participate in a coaching or training session and receive feedback, it would be a fairer means of helping him learn people skills.

2) You don’t mention whether or not calls are recorded or monitored. I would strongly recommend you begin recording and monitoring calls, and provide your agent coaching and counseling on effective call handling. (see article on providing coaching for call monitoring: If you and the agent can hear what users hear during calls, it can help him develop a more user friendly communication style.

3) Make improving customer satisfaction a goal for the entire helpdesk, and an individual goal for this agent. Make sure the agent understands customer satisfaction is part of the job. Managing the performance of helpdesk agents includes insistence on standards of customer satisfaction and user friendliness.

4) Not everyone is cut out for constant customer contact, especially in a helpdesk setting. Some talented technical people find dealing with people for 8 hours to be overtaxing. They aren’t cut out for a high people contact job. Often these techies are best at dealing with escalated issues, recreating and researching issues and bugs, and functioning as a ‘coach’ to others on the team. If they can be assigned some non-people contact responsibilities to break up the day, it helps them deal more effectively when they must be ‘on’ for customers.

Q. Dear Help Desk Coach: The company I work for just acquired two other companies. IT support for these companies was centralized into our helpdesk. Prior to the consolidations, the other companies had onsite desktop support. Now they have phone support from our helpdesk, and can request onsite support, which takes a while. Users are upset about the changes, and when they call they complain to us about the changes in IT support now available. Not only are their complaints demotivating, but they don’t know how to use phone support since they’re accustomed to ever present desktop support.

Diligent Derek

A.Dear Diligent Derek,Every end user’s dream is on demand desktop support, however it is more costly to the organization, and when companies merge, often the IT support function is consolidated. However this reality does not make your job easier, or your end users happier. Brace yourself for a few months of organizational change ‘shock’ on the part of your users. When they complain, don’t take it personally. Tell users you’ll do your best to solve their problems, and help them get accustomed to phone support. Then ask troubleshooting questions. End users who are not adept at describing issues over the phone, will need extra patience addressing their issues. You might consider emailing troubleshooting questions to new users when they enter a ticket so they’ll be more prepared for the call. Keep your tone positive and encouraging, and thank them for their patience at end of conversation.

Q. Dear Help Desk Coach: Our organization has been acquiring other companies, and then converting their IT structure and software. This has been really stressful for our helpdesk, not only due to extra work, but mainly the bad attitudes of users due to the conversion. I used to enjoy my job, but now hate getting up in the morning.

Clara Lead

A. Dear Lead Clara: Conversions are a fact of IT corporate life and never well received by the user base.  As in my reponse to diligent Derek above, don’t personalize frustration of end users. Conversions are stressful while they last, especially on leads who take escalated calls, and provide a role model to other agents. Often companies provide a customer service course just before a conversion to refresh agent skill in defusing frustrated users. Coach your agents (and yourself) to maintain your cool while dealing with upset users. Remind the users that although the changes are unsettling, your job is to help and you promise to do your best. Then move into troubleshooting questions. Maintain your professionalism and stay focused on problem solving through this challenging time.

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Categories: Q&A

New Help Desk Q&A: Ask The Help Desk Coach!

April 24, 2011 Leave a comment

Hi everyone. Welcome to a new edition of “Ask The Coach”, the industry’s only free help desk staffer Q&A column.

Help Desk agents worldwide have either submitted these questions to or asked these questions during customer service training for helpdesk agents presented by Donna Earl (The HelpDeskCoach). Look for tips that can help you in your Help Desk role!

Q. Dear Help Desk Coach:  *New!*
I’m the help desk coordinator of a busy tech support help desk, and the first person the end user talks to when calling in for technical assistance. The user typically blurts out their whole problem to me. When I tell them I can’t help them but have to transfer them to a technical person, they usually get madder and yell at me, even though I’m polite and tell them I can’t help them with their problem but can only transfer them. In addition, I have to ask for their customer account number and sometimes the user doesn’t know what that is, and they yell even more. It is frustrating and I feel like I take the brunt of customer anger all day long.

A. Dear Help Desk Coordinator:
Your job is to ‘triage’ calls to the appropriate tech rep, gather appropriate customer information up front, instill confidence in the customer, and keep your eye on the queue. This is not a job for sissies. You have a big responsibility and even though you aren’t providing technical assistance, a big part of the customer’s perception about the quality of the support your company offers is a result of how you handle incoming calls.

Let me offer the following suggestions:  1) Before the caller gallops through their whole problem, gently interrupt, saying excuse me for interrupting, to help you most effectively, I will transfer you to one of our specialists for help with your specific issue. 2) To gather necessary information from caller, say  to help you quickly, I will need your customer account number first, please. 3) Don’t forget the power of an apology. Even though you’re not responsible for their technical issues, say I’m sorry you’ve run into complications today. 4) Thank them for their patience, even if they’re not. Being thanked for model behavior they’re not modeling can be highly sobering. 5) Always communicate all information about the customer (or enter in ticket) before transferring to the technical support desk.

Q. Dear Help Desk Coach: *New!*
I work at a help desk that supports 396 educators in a school system. We provide phone support and on-site support, so we’re really busy all the time. I can’t understand why many of the teachers won’t learn how to solve their own problems. They’re teachers, but they don’t want to learn! I feel really frustrated when I have to go to classrooms multiple times to (re)solve the same problem over and over again. How can I teach teachers?

A. Dear Tech Guru:
Other tech support professionals will confirm that teachers aren’t the only end users who would prefer an on-site guru to resolve every issue. Part of our job is to provide technical assistance, and the other part is to provide technical coaching. Some users will always be dependent on us, however many will learn to help themselves if we coach them properly. Here are some guidelines for coaching users to help themselves: 1) Wait for the teachable moment before you try to educate them.

Most tech support agents try to educate the user while solving the problem. The user is still frustrated, and just wants the problem fixed! 2) After you’ve solved the problem (and the user has calmed down) quickly offer a suggestion: Next time this happens, try ______ first. If I’m busy and can’t get to you right away, it might solve the problem (or provide me with valuable troubleshooting information etc.) 3) Every time you resolve a problem or issue, add a brief suggestion or simple coaching tip. Most users will appreciate the information and will try to be more self-reliant.

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Categories: Q&A

Help Desk Q&A: Ask The Coach!

March 12, 2011 Leave a comment

Hi everyone – Thanks for stopping by. Here’s the latest help desk Q&A from Donna Earl and

If you have a help desk related question of your own, be sure email us! Your question may get published on!

Question: Dear Help Desk Coach,

I was recently transferred from systems into the role of help desk supervisor. I’m not sure where to start because there are so many complaints from the user base about bad service, and so many reasons why. The to accommodate an increase in user base, management transferred several agents from the data center to the help desk.

These agents hate talking on the phone and dealing with users. Their negative attitude is not only impacting users, but other agents. We have no knowledge base. Evidently before I arrived there was a software conversion which wiped out the previous knowledge base. Now the agents ask each other and some have stacks of paper notes to refer to. I know this sounds prehistoric, but it is true. The previous supervisor told agents that when call volumes are high (for example during system outages), to only solve the most important problem a user calls about, and tell the user to phone later to have other questions answered. Agents were told their job was to get users off the phone as quickly as possible.  What recommendations can you make?

Answer: Dear New Supervisor,

You’re certainly starting your role as a help desk supervisor with some big challenges. Consider these suggestions to help the agents, the help desk, and you:

  1. If the agents who were transferred from the data center are more comfortable handling email contacts with users the might be more suited for an email support role. You didn’t specify whether or not your help desk has dedicated email agents, so this might help them ease into a support role.
  2. Talk to the new agents and let them know you want to support their success at the help desk, and would appreciate them bringing their concerns to you directly rather expressing their frustrations to their peers. Remind them that because of higher call volume, they play an important role at the help desk.
  3. With no formal knowledge base, your agents are the knowledge base. This should be an immediate high priority project for you. If the previous knowledge base is truly lost, find out how to build knowledge base in new package, and make your senior agents responsible for contributing. They’re already spending (wasting) time functioning as resources for the newer agents and sifting through hard copy notes. During lower call volume times, dedicate one senior agent to working on the knowledge base.

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Categories: Q&A
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