8 Characteristics of an Excellent Helpdesk Support
Excellent customer service creates loyal customers and a much higher customer retention rate. Happy customers are much more likely to recommend your services to friends, family, colleagues and business contacts.
Here’s our take on how to provide the ultimate effective customer service helpdesk and technical support. After all, as quoted by Vince Lombardi, ‘it takes months to find a customer… seconds to lose one’. So every effort needs to be made to ensure customers are completely happy with the service and/or products they receive and to build strong long term relationships throughout the customer experience and customer journey.
1. A Strong Focus on Customer Service
In order to be effective in achieving company goals, customer service needs to be right at the forefront of key decisions and plans for future company growth. Companies that are successful in delivering focused customer service are very customer centric and aim to deliver their products and or services to meet or exceed customer expectations. By putting a customer experience strategy in place with a range of activities and procedures, companies can really improve their focus on customer service.
Follow-up action – customers appreciate it when they feel looked after. Actively follow up an initial call by scheduling a follow up call to ensure the customer has either received the product or their problem has been resolved.
Clear understanding – make sure your communication with customers is clear, reassuring, accurate and realistic. Rather than saying a problem will be fixed ‘right away’ (which may be a promise you can’t keep), be specific and let them know how and when to expect a resolution ie ‘an engineer will be with you by 12pm’. Take the time to listen and understand customer issues fully.
Global time zones – if you service customers across the globe be mindful of the different time zones – simple things like making sure you say ‘good morning’ at the right time of day will be appreciated by the customer. Keep this in mind also when follow up calls or appointments are made so that they are convenient timings for the customer – do the time difference maths so they don’t have to.
Be prepared – try to anticipate customer needs before the need arises. If you can preempt something that you know will be required by the customer, your effort and kindness will be appreciated. For example a call may be logged about a specific product fault which can be fixed, but you may be able to offer some additional advice or product to negate or ease the problem in the future.
Acknowledge frustration – showing an understanding of the issue raised and being compassionate about how the customer is feeling can help to reduce their anxiety and stress. If you can show a true understanding of the problem in hand, this will help to diffuse a customer’s anger by acknowledging their frustration.
Better still, if you can find a way to spot a situation before it escalates, you can prevent the customer getting angry in the first place! For example if you know your engineer is going to be delayed, let the customer know and give them new timings so they are fully informed and know when to expect the engineer (this will also relieve the stress of the engineer when he arrives on site).
Take action with all the customer-focused points above – if you know and understand the needs of your customers you will be better equipped to be able to meet or exceed their expectations and offer them a good customer experience.
2. A Robust Support Process in Place
Optimise your helpdesk by having a robust workflow process in place. This process should enable support teams to continuously increase their knowledge and problem solving techniques, as well as ticket management and desk workflow. If a helpdesk technician figures out how to solve a complex call, the details of this should be made available for future reference. This bank of information can then be used to solve problems as they arise and will help the desk team save time in response to the query or support requests.
Here’s an example of a helpdesk workflow process:
The process should be developed for customer support including a reporting hierarchy to escalate an issue if required. This may be used if a ticket is expected to or has breached SLA or a customer complaint has been received. The hierarchy should have several tiers of management to escalate support as appropriate.
Here’s an example of an escalation hierarchy plan:
3. Excellent Technical Skills
It is important to have a strong team with the right technical skills in order to provide the expected levels of helpdesk service. The UK Government website outlines the role of a service desk analyst or service desk manager and the skills required to do each job. Helpdesk technicians, analysts and managers should have the right level customer service training and experience for each level of the team. The key competency skill areas are as follows:
Call response – to be able to track, log and plan responses to calls and live chat.
Continual service improvement – to be able to identify and explore opportunities for business improvement.
Customer service management – dealing with customers and their requests to ensure customer satisfaction and improving customers perception.
Ownership and initiative – to be accountable and to proactively resolve technical problems.
Service focus – to maintain focus on the whole life of the service delivery.
Service reporting – analysis and use of key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure service delivery.
Technical understanding – to apply a broad technical knowledge of your product or service and having a deep knowledge base.
User focus – the ability to engage in meaningful and friendly interactions with customers showing good listening skills and understanding.
Every member of the service delivery team should possess these top 10 skills:
- Customer service (what to ask, how to ask)
- Communication & listening skills
- Ability to learn quickly
- Problem solving skills
- Ability to work under pressure
- Team working skills
- Interpersonal skills
- Support experience
All these skills should be put together to provide and improve customer experience (CX) with the aim to exceed expectations, improve customer loyalty and retain customers.
4. Helpdesk Software & Tools in Operation
The best helpdesk support teams run Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software to document all calls and keep track of progress and reports. The CRM software solution usually has the capacity to give customers access to a portal from where they can keep track of the progress of incidents they have reported as well as other useful information related to their account.
CRM platforms are often designed for different purposes and industries, for example, ConnectWise is a great software platform which is specifically designed for the IT industry. Other departments within the company can make full use of its capabilities and tools such as sales, accounts and marketing.
Adequate training should be given to the helpdesk team to ensure full and efficient use of the desk software and to maximise the benefits of the CRM tools. By logging and tracking calls through the software, communication will be transparent and updates can be sent directly to the user base customers through the service portal. All the ticketing and helpdesk tools available through a software such as ConnectWise will help to improve customer experience.
5. Smart SLAs Available
Use clear SLAs which can be easily understood and tracked – customise SLAs so they are flexible, meaningful and relevant. Therefore keeping the customer happy by offering the best possible service that is tailored to their needs. Flexible SLAs can often be the foundation for stronger customer relationships.
A smart SLA will describe how the work of the service desk is prioritised together with the agreed response and resolution times. It represents a contract between the service desk and end user which helps to manage customer expectations.
6. Best Practices & Accreditations Applied
As the helpdesk is a critical link between users and technical support, it is important to ensure best practices are followed to achieve SLAs and customer satisfaction.
- Provide a single point of contact (SPOC) for the life of the ticket or support issue
- Make sure internal issues are not exposed to customers
- Always provide help and assistance using tools, experience and knowledge.
- The mindset of the helpdesk should be focused on resolving tickets and avoiding user issues.
- Engaging the right support resources first time ensuring resolution as quickly as possible.
- Follow the support process workflow (see diagram) and have a plan and be prepared for reopening resolved tickets or escalation if required.
- Continually analyse data to improve the performance of your helpdesk.
- Get ISO accredited to show your commitment to areas such as Quality Management, Environmental Management Systems, IT Service Management and Information Security.
7. Request for Feedback Process
Request feedback from your customers to make sure that you are providing a service that meets or exceeds expectations. Positive feedback can be used to reassure new and potential customers through their buying journey and can help them reach their purchasing decision. Feedback can be requested through various forms such as reviews, surveys or case studies. A combination of all of these sources of feedback will give new customers a rounded indication of the customer service provided and the customer experience received.
We can’t satisfy customers unless we understand them, that’s why customer data is so critical. Introducing an online survey platform such as Survey Monkey, allows you to create customised surveys specific to your products or services. Measure what matters most i.e. customer journey and experience – drill in to trends that can help make the biggest improvements. Encourage your customers to provide feedback by sending them a link to your survey in any communications you send to them.
A well designed customer survey will be quick to complete and will extract important information that you can use to assess customer satisfaction and to improve your service. The results will give you critical customer satisfaction statistics which may highlight areas that require improvement. It is difficult to know whether your customers are actually satisfied or whether they would recommend your services to a friend or colleague. Through the use of surveys you can find out – customers who provide feedback are usually very honest!
It is important to use the negative as well as the positive feedback you receive and deal with complaints openly and consistently. Go the extra mile to put things right with customers who have raised issues or concerns. Make sure you use any negative feedback to your advantage by making adjustments to improve your service. Most importantly communicate back to your customers to show that their feedback is valuable and that you act upon their suggestions.
8. Analytics Proactively Assessed
Use data to prevent incidents recurring rather than just solving problems. Take time to review the statistics and look at what causes ‘good’ experiences as well as ‘bad’ ones. Equally take a look at peaks vs troughs and low vs high volume days and times. Use the information to improve and develop the service that you offer (i.e. increase staff on busy days).
Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) can be used to assess and evaluate progress towards achieving targets within a customer’s SLA. Publish statistics like first time fix rates, ticket volume, response times, SLA compliance rates, infrastructure stability, change success rates, customer satisfaction (CSAT) and review scores. Showcasing and communicating these statistics to your existing and potential customers will verify an excellent customer service provision.
Use data internally to encourage employees and praise achievements. Open communication with staff can significantly improve performance and engagement. Understanding key KPIs and organisational goals can help to motivate employees and establish a clear connection between the impact of their daily activities and enterprise outcomes.