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Recruiting for a Service Desk

Updated: Apr 26

Recruiting for a Service Desk

Much of the following will be generic for recruitment and training across various roles and most likely strongly influenced by an organisation's HR or People team, but where it touches the running of the Help Desk explicitly, I will call it out.

Team Structure

The following is a generic summary of roles within a Help Desk. Likely there will be more, depending upon the size and complexity of the environment you are working in.


However, regardless of nuances, they will broadly align to the following.

Roles & Responsibilities

Support Analyst (or Help desk agent)

  • Respond to user inquiries and support requests

  • Diagnose and troubleshoot technical issues

  • Document incident details and resolutions

  • Escalate complex issues to higher support tiers or specialised teams

  • Follow up with users to ensure satisfactory resolution

Helpdesk Team Leader(s)

  • Oversee a group of helpdesk agents

  • Assign and prioritise tickets to team members

  • Monitor team performance and provide guidance and coaching

  • Handle escalated issues that require advanced troubleshooting

  • Collaborate with other team leads and departments to resolve cross-functional issues

Helpdesk Manager

  • Manage the overall helpdesk operation

  • Develop and implement policies, procedures, and service-level agreements

  • Monitor helpdesk performance metrics and identify areas for improvement

  • Allocate resources, including staff and technology, to meet support needs

  • Ensure effective communication and collaboration among team members and with other departments

The Benefits of Team Leaders

OK, if you don't have team leaders or senior members of your Help Desk, now is the time to consider it.

a team leader

Implementing structure and training is very organisation-specific, but flat structures aren't ideal. By introducing team leaders (or perhaps Senior Analysts), you can delegate some of the more routine work from the plate of the help desk manager to the team. For example, team leaders can;

  • Free the Help Desk Manager to focus externally (customer focus) rather than internally (team mechanics).

  • Provide support and guidance to help desk agents, ensuring they have the knowledge and resources to resolve customer issues effectively.

  • Monitor help desk metrics and identify areas for improvement, helping to drive continuous improvement in the quality and efficiency of help desk services.

  • Act as a first point of contact for escalated issues, ensuring that high-priority problems are addressed quickly and effectively.

  • Promote a positive and supportive team culture, fostering collaboration and teamwork among help desk agents.

  • Provide valuable feedback and coaching to help desk agents, allowing them to develop new skills and improve their performance over time.

I've included a role description for a Help Desk Analyst and a Team Leader for you to download.





Trainers

Throughout my experience in the IT industry, I've had the opportunity to collaborate with several internal IT trainers. I can confidently vouch for the significant value they bring to an organisation.



a trainer

Having an in-house trainer available to offer personalised training not only eases the burden on the Help Desk team but also dramatically enhances the department's overall efficiency and perception.


These trainers can often serve as an essential escalation point for "how-to" inquiries, ensuring that complex issues are addressed swiftly and effectively. Moreover, they can step in and serve as ambassadors during the launch of new projects, liaising with different teams across the organisation to ensure a smooth rollout.


Technical Authors / Content Creators

The value of technical authors or content creators in an organisation cannot be overstated. These skilled professionals possess the expertise to create high-quality documentation, such as application user guides, and can effectively build and maintain a comprehensive knowledge base. In addition, their ability to produce precise, concise documentation is a skill set many analysts may not yet possess.

a technical author

In many organisations, staff members are reluctant to document information, and the time constraints most employees face only exacerbate this challenge. Consequently, the process of creating and maintaining documentation becomes a considerable struggle. This is where a technical author's role proves invaluable, as they can provide the much-needed boost to address documentation gaps and ensure that knowledge is captured effectively.

For organisations that may not have the resources to hire a full-time technical author, engaging a contractor for a specific period with a well-defined scope of work can be a viable alternative. This approach helps enhance the quality of the organisation's documentation and facilitates better knowledge transfer, ultimately leading to a more efficient and knowledgeable workforce.

Onboarding New Team Members When welcoming new members to your Help Desk team, setting them up for success is vital. A well-planned onboarding process is crucial for helping new hires feel comfortable and confident.


One of the key concepts is that new people, no matter how well-skilled, will need far more support in the early days as they ramp up in competency and confidence. It's startling how many organisations don't enforce the need for a planned induction and think that a new starter can just read some documents on a shared drive somewhere and then get on with things. The greater the thought, planning and support issued to new starters in their early onboarding period into the organisation, the better it will be for everyone.

It might be that your organisation already has a slick induction programme, or it might be entirely down to yourself, but here are some points of consideration;

Company Culture, Policies, and Procedures

Start by familiarising newcomers with the company's values, work culture, and the policies and procedures they need to know. This will help them understand the ethos and how their role contributes to the bigger picture.

Remember what I said about getting staff out into the business? I'd encourage new starters to shadow teams, watch, and learn what they are doing to understand the organisational context better.

Overview of Help Desk Tools and Systems

It's essential to provide a thorough introduction to the tools, systems, and processes they'll be using daily. Clear explanations and hands-on practice will ensure they're well-equipped to handle any helpdesk situations that arise.

Don't forget to train them properly on the applications they are supporting. It's pretty amazing how people are sometimes dropped into a Help Desk team and expected to respond with scripts and knowledge articles but no real training in the technologies they are supporting.

Mentoring and Shadowing Pair new team members with experienced staff to show them the ropes, answer questions, and provide real-time support. This mentorship approach helps them learn more quickly and builds strong working relationships within the team.

New team members can potentially listen in on phone calls to get a feeling of how they are handled, or they could start by responding to the email / written requests, which may be more routine and procedure based.

Ongoing Training and Feedback

Finally, don't overlook the importance of continuous learning and feedback during their probationary period. Regular check-ins and constructive feedback encourage growth and development, leading to more competent and confident team members.


Recruiting The Right Team Members & Setting The Tone


The help desk is different from most other technical teams. Sure, there's overlap; they should all have good interpersonal skills and a knack for technology and troubleshooting, and positions on the help desk are often the first step on the ladder to technology guru. However, Help Desk is a unique skillset in an IT team and one that is often criminally undervalued.

An interview

The Groundskeeper Trap


It's long been a joke that the groundskeepers at golf clubs shout at the golfers to "keep off my grass!" The joke is that they put so much work and effort into their lawns that they don't want the golfers to walk on them, putting their wants ahead of their actual purpose.


I've often seen team members indignant because people are using their software perhaps in a way they hadn't anticipated or want to evaluate non-standard software. After all, it fills a business need. Ultimately, the team needs to support the end to which the user works rather than protect the sanctity of standardisation (security concerns acknowledged).


Never let your team fall into the trap of becoming the groundskeepers! Instead, always foster an approach of 'let's find a way to enable our customer' rather than 'let's find a reason not to help'.


I would recruit kind, happy, communicative people every day of the week over technically talented but socially awkward staff.

Technical skills can be learnt, but good communication isn't easily taught. You either have it or don't. We can all improve, but it's the raw materials I'm referring to here. The tone the help desk sets, often led by other teams, will massively impact their perception of them.

Essential Skills To Recruit & Nurture In A Team These are the skills I'd been looking for in staff joining the team. They'd also be the skills I'd be fostering and helping grow.

Communication Skills

Active Listening: Analysts should be able to listen attentively to customers, understand their issues, and ask relevant questions. This skill is crucial for accurately identifying problems and providing appropriate solutions. There's more on active listening in a later section.

Communication: Clear and concise verbal and written communication skills are essential for help desk analysts to effectively convey information, instructions, and solutions to customers in an easy-to-understand manner.

Empathy: Understanding and acknowledging the customer's feelings and frustrations is crucial for building rapport and trust. An empathetic approach demonstrates that the analyst genuinely cares about the customer's concerns.

Patience: Help desk analysts often deal with customers who might be frustrated, confused, or upset. Remaining patient and calm while handling such situations ensures a positive experience for the customer and facilitates effective problem resolution.

Conflict Resolution: Analysts may encounter situations where customers are unhappy or dissatisfied. The ability to handle conflicts professionally, calmly, and efficiently can help turn a negative experience into a positive one and maintain customer satisfaction.


Competencies


Problem-Solving: The ability to analyse issues, think critically, and identify the root cause of a problem is essential for help desk analysts. They must be able to provide timely and efficient solutions to resolve customer concerns.

Adaptability: Analysts should be able to adapt to various situations, handle different customer personalities, and stay up-to-date with evolving technologies and processes. This skill is necessary to provide relevant support and guidance to end users.

Time Management: Help desk analysts need to manage their time effectively to prioritise and address multiple customer requests, ensuring prompt resolutions and maintaining high levels of customer satisfaction.

Technical Knowledge: A strong understanding of the organisation's products, services, and systems is essential for providing accurate and effective support. Analysts should also be willing to learn and update their technical knowledge to stay current continually.

Teamwork: Help desk analysts often work as part of a team and must be able to collaborate effectively with their colleagues. Sharing knowledge, assisting team members, and working together to resolve complex issues contribute to a successful help desk operation. I said that these were the things I'd be looking for. However, effectively evaluating them in one or two interviews can be very difficult. However, here are a couple of ideas;

Ask some behavioural-based questions - Ask candidates to provide examples of past experiences demonstrating their customer service skills. This helps reveal how they have handled specific situations and applied their skills in real-life scenarios. For example:

  • Can you describe a time when you dealt with a demanding customer? How did you handle the situation?

  • Tell me about a situation where you had to solve a complex problem for a customer. What steps did you take?


Ask candidates to explain something simple to you - I suggest asking a candidate to describe something like 'how to make a cup of coffee'. This will allow you to gauge their communication skills. Everyone knows how to make a coffee, right? But can they explain a simple process methodically?

Active listening and empathy - Observe the candidate's ability to listen attentively and empathise with your questions or concerns. Candidates who can actively engage and ask follow-up questions to clarify understanding will likely possess strong, active listening skills.

Time management skills - Ask candidates how they prioritise tasks and handle multiple requests simultaneously. This will give you an understanding of their time management skills and ability to work efficiently under pressure.


Team Development & Training Maturity Model

Level

Description

Summary

1

Ad-hoc

  • No formal training and development process is in place.

  • Inconsistent skill development.

  • Reliance on individual efforts and experience.

2

Basic

  • Basic onboarding and training programs.

  • Limited focus on professional development.

  • Inconsistent performance evaluation and feedback.

  • Informal knowledge sharing.

3

Structured

  • Well-defined training and development procedures.

  • Regular performance evaluation and feedback.

  • Structured professional development plans.

  • Improved collaboration and communication.

4

Managed

  • ​Proactive approach to training and development.

  • Continuous improvement processes in place.

  • Comprehensive training programs and career development paths.

  • Established performance metrics and KPIs.

  • Focus on retaining and developing talent.

5

Optimised

  • ​Fully integrated and optimised training and development.

  • Advanced learning methods and tools.

  • Strong leadership and mentoring culture.

  • Continuous improvement is a core value.

  • Alignment with IT and business goals.




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