Managing an IT help desk is one of the most visible roles in IT. Done well, you can support your team, inspire great service, and increase customer satisfaction. Done badly, you’ll demotivate your people, have unhappy customers, and a high churn rate (in terms of both team members and help desk users).
If you want to improve how you manage your IT help desk, are about to take on a help desk manager role, or simply want to ensure that you’re doing whatever you can to get things right, then here are ten tips for becoming a great IT help desk manager.
Tip #1: Lead by example.
Show your help desk analysts the behaviors that you want them to model by demonstrating them yourself in your day-to-day activities. Set expectations early on so that your team is aware of what’s required. Also, bear in mind that help desks are pressurized places to work – so, let your employees know that they always have a safe space to vent after difficult calls.
Tip #2: Get your communication right.
When managing a busy IT help desk, strong communication skills are a must. Also, remember that different scenarios will need different approaches, for example:
- Informal team meetings
- Escalating issues to senior management
- Communicating downtime to customers
Know what the most appropriate communication style is for the situation at hand and flex your approach accordingly.
Tip #3: Use prioritization to make strategic decisions.
If you don’t already have a priority matrix in place to triage incidents, then you’re missing a trick. Being able to prioritize means that you know what needs to be addressed immediately versus what can wait. Build a priority matrix based on impact and urgency so that you can “see the forest for the trees.” It can also help you to make more strategic decisions – for example, knowing that a senior executive’s laptop is approaching end of life and planning a replacement before it starts to fail. Another example could include looking at equipment provisioning for new hires and suggesting keeping an agreed stock level available to ensure demand is always met.
Tip #4: Combine multi-tasking with stakeholder mapping.
Help desk managers need to be master multi-taskers – juggling the needs of everyone from first-line analysts to second-line support personnel, vendors, project managers, and customers. Take the time to map out your key stakeholders so that you can block out time each week to check in and make sure everything is being addressed as it should be.
Tip #5: Make sure you build coaching and supporting your analysts into your routine.
Your people are your biggest asset on an IT help desk, so take the time to coach and support them. Treat training as part of the day job and build in learning and development tasks as part of the regular routine so that everyone gets the chance to develop their personal and professional skills over time.
Tip #6: Invest in managing relationships with support teams.
Schedule check-ins with the next tier of support so that you can get regular feedback about what’s working well as well as any pain points. Tensions arise when everyone is under pressure and things get missed. By having regular meetings with the other players in your IT support model you open the line of communication – meaning that any bumps in the road are treated as minor inconveniences instead of major escalations and sources of conflict.
Tip #7: Invest in managing your relationships with customers.
Don’t get caught by surprise. One of the most frustrating things about working in IT is that if you don’t have the right relationships in place, you’re only as good as your last failure. Take the time to meet with your customers so you can give them an overview of the service provided as well as understanding any current business drivers or initiatives.
Tip #8: Use metrics for positive actions.
Look at how your help desk reports can be used to drive the right actions and behaviors based on what’s right for your organization. Some IT help desks will be focused on triaging calls and assigning them to the next level of support. In this case, focusing your reporting effort around average call times and the percentage of correct onward assignments will help you to better understand how your team is performing. Other IT help desks will be focused on resolving as many calls as possible at the first line of contact. So useful metrics here would be first-time fix rates and mean time to restore service metrics. Know your IT help desk and report accordingly.
Tip #9: Have a game plan for escalating onwards.
Have an agreed approach for escalations, complaints, and crisis management. This could include:
- Serious complaints
- Management escalations
- Needing to invoke disaster recovery following a major incident.
Make sure you have your agreed ways of working mapped out and know who to go to. There’s nothing worse than being faced with an emergency and not knowing what to do. So, if you haven’t already got a plan in place, document your escalation list and don’t forget to include back up contacts to cover annual leave or sickness. Don’t wait for a crisis – get ahead of the game.
Tip #10: Get holistic with your ambition for the IT help desk.
Your IT help desk can act as a “shop window” for best practice throughout your organization. Look at how your area can add value – for example, by asking to be part of the change advisory board (CAB) or forging closer relationships with project management so that you’re more aware of the service pipeline. By strengthening relationships with other practices you’ll have more perspectives and more opinions to bounce ideas off of – which can only lead to service improvement. What’s not to love?
So, that’s our top ten tips for becoming a great IT help desk manager. What would you add to this? Please let us know in the comments.