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Building a Helpdesk that Actually Helps

In today’s demanding business environment, especially now, when the way we work has been turned on its head in a few short weeks, the pressure on helpdesks has never been greater. In this blog, the Head of Customer Services at Touchstone explains how they built a helpdesk that helps and ensures our customers’ experience is a positive one.


Author: Head of Customer Services, TouchstoneFMS

I’ve spent over 20 years at the sharp end of customer support services and over that time i’ve seen many changes in the way organisations engage with customers; from the increase in the range of services offered, to the technology that has transformed the way helpdesks operate. Most importantly, I have seen the shift change in the expectations the customer has of the service level they should receive.

At Touchstone we keep abreast of current trends and respond well to the needs of our customers. The one constant, that we will never lose sight of, is that when a customer calls us or logs a ticket, they want help. They have a problem, they may be stressed, frustrated, or up against an important deadline so they want a positive experience, they want empathy, they want to be treated as an intelligent person, they do not want to be patronised and most of all they want their problem solved as quickly as possible.

I look at some of our competitors and I see people being routed through automated call systems with multi-layered menus. I see calls being pushed out to off-shore hubs where no matter how good their people are, the complicated triage process to speak to a human being means the customer is having a negative experience before they have even logged the issue. Then when you do get through you might be told “sorry that’s not covered by the helpdesk service but is chargeable consultancy”, hands up who’s heard that one before?

At Touchstone we take a simple approach to problem solving. If our customers are in need of help it’s our job to help them and to make the experience as painless as possible. All our staff are UK based, they have many years of frontline experience as either field consultants or end users but most of all they have empathy with the customer. We will always help, even if the query is a request for advice, a “how do I…?” type request. Our Freshdesk customer portal is invaluable as a first point of contact for logging issues, ensuring they are placed into our system to be dealt with as soon as possible, but it is also a vast treasure chest of “How-to” guides and FAQ’s. Chances are, if you are having an issue with your software, someone else has already asked the question and the solution can be found in our KnowledgeHub.

I take the view that it is the job of the Helpdesk to Help. Ours is to make the customer experience a positive one and take the stress out of a situation that the customer finds themselves in and we do this by making sure we have the best people in our team, people who possess a number of key qualities.

1. Patience

Patience is one of the must-have qualities of a help desk agent. Patience is not only important to the customers who reach out to us when they are confused and frustrated, but is also important to the company. Our help desk agents can provide greater service with patience, where the time spent with the customer is used to understand their problems in a better way.

2. Empathy

One of the first and foremost steps when fielding a help desk support call is to stop for a second after hearing or reading the issue and putting yourself in the shoes of the customer you are dealing with. The help desk agent should be able to think about what the customer is feeling and try to understand their problem.

3. Active listening

It is important for help desk agents to listen to the customers intently; missing a small (but ultimately important) detail can make all the difference in the agent’s ability to solve the problem. Similarly, knowing which are the right questions to ask and when, especially if the customer is unsure as to the root cause of their problem. A keen ear is a must when it comes to understanding problems and find solutions.

4. Sense of urgency

The help desk agents should recognise the urgency of the issues that need resolution. It is a must to know the difference between issues that need to be taken care of immediately and the ones that can be resolved afterwards. It also depends on the services you provide. There are a few services that need immediate assistance, while some can be resolved later. Being able to filter and prioritise takes patience, time management skills and knowledge.

5. Good interpersonal skills

To build a strong customer relationship, your helpdesk agent should go above and beyond being friendly. The agent must be able to convey a complicated process in an easy manner to help customers understand it easily. Explaining technical issues in a manner that can be understood by the end user (whatever their level of technical understanding) is a key skill, and at Touchstone we try and avoid the use of jargon in order to aid clarity.

6. Well-organised

Helpdesk agents should be incredibly organised. They should be able to juggle several tasks across multiple platforms for better support. Whether it is checking the knowledgebase, taking notes in helpdesk, or updating the CRM, the help desk agent needs to do all while attending the customer’s needs. Staying organised allows helpdesk agents to reduce errors during the process, address customer’s needs effectively while completing all the after call work accurately.

7. Speed and accuracy

Helpdesk agents should have the qualities of speed and accuracy. They should work quickly without compromising the quality of work. Customers want the call to be answered as soon as possible and provide accurate information/solution.

8. Creativity and flexibility

Strong helpdesk agents are always creative and know how to work with customers to find a solution that works for them. The agent should be able to come up with workable solutions, regardless of the complexity of the problems thrown their way. Helpdesk agents can meet the caller’s needs in the best way by being creative.

Flexibility is another must have quality in helpdesk agents. The agent should be able to interact with customers with challenging personalities and be flexible enough to meet the needs of different kinds of customers. They should be able to handle an angry customer one moment and a chatty customer the next.

As a helpdesk, we are not in the business of upselling or setting the meter running when we come across an issue that might be slightly out of the ordinary. Our job is to provide help, guidance, advice and counsel to our customers. I quite often speak to users who aren’t having the best experience with their current provider and they ask me what makes us different; to which my answer is simple, we are a helpdesk that actually does what it says on the tin, we help and we care how we do it.

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