IT Credibility Challenge #4: Stop Thinking of Your Helpdesk as a Helpdesk


If users have a terrible experience with the helpdesk, they will likely form a bad opinion of IT and/or the CIO. It’s very hard to recover your credibility once this view is widely held. If you want to build a consistent, positive impression for IT you need to focus on things that users can see and understand, which is not the technology. A critical and good place to start is by thinking of your helpdesk as much more than a helpdesk.

Your helpdesk is your statement to the world outside of IT about who you are, what you do and how you do it. You should think of it as your “store front”. It can entice, welcome and serve customer’s needs, or it can send them away unsatisfied and annoyed. This article will discuss some critical questions to consider and take action on:

  • Do you know what’s in your store window? Look.
  • Do you know what users experience when they come to IT? Take a shift.
  • Can your users understand what you offer? Delete the jargon and speak in their language.
  • Can your users easily find what they need? Create consistent, common sense interfaces.
  • What overall impression does your helpdesk provide? Develop a compelling “storefront”.

Store Window

Do you ever get up from inside the “store” of IT operations, go outside, and look in your store window? What is on the website home page? What impression does it give? What are you communicating? How are you communicating it? What are you not communicating that you might like people to know about IT?

What is it like to call in? What happens when you log a request online? or send an email?

Unless you’ve done these things personally, you have never looked in your own shop window.

Take a Shift

If you haven’t done this recently, (or ever), you need to. You’ll learn both what it’s like to be on the support staff, (which will win you big points with your front-line employees), and you’ll get a direct view of people’s experiences then they call in.

You will learn way more in one shift about what is working and broken about your processes than you ever will from talking about it with your team. Do this at least once every six months.

Delete the Jargon

In a prior article IT Credibility Challenge #2 : Inconsistent View of IT performance I talked about the importance of letting the business name things. Nowhere is this more important than on the help desk, because that is the most visible, widely, and frequently used contact point with IT. IT organizations often present their help desk services in terms of the IT skills involved instead of what the business users are likely to be looking for. Examples are things like “SAP database support”.

When requesting help for a problem, a user is not going to know if he needs help with “SAP database support”. From his perspective, he has a problem with “SAP financials”.

It is critical that you don’t project your IT labels for things out into the business. Take the time to get the list right, and make sure it’s understandable to non-IT people by getting the business to help define and approve the names for IT services.

Be Consistent

If the website, the email interface and the phone scripts have been developed separately, often the list of services or problem descriptions is different for each. This is particularly maddening to a business person who is trying to find what they need, and has to go someplace different than last time.

Assign someone to audit this, and once you have an official list, make sure it is used everywhere. The act of creating this consistency alone, will go a very long way to establishing IT’s credibility and the perception of the level of service you are delivering.

Compelling Storefront

Don’t leave the content of your main IT website homepage and helpdesk interface to chance. This should be constructed/approved very intentionally (by you)—not only to deliver service with a user friendly interface, but to show additional content, which serves to create a positive impression of IT for all who visit.