We've been running various help desks for over twenty years, from single person operations, right up to a team of almost fifty dealing with hundreds of tickets per week.
We've learned so much, it would be fair to say that nothing about running a help desk at scale is easy. But here are five things we think will help you out if you're just getting started:
1. Gather the right info
Whatever you're supporting, there's bound to be information that will make your support agents lives easier. Whether that's an order number, a web page URL, or the date they wish to travel - you should ask for that information when the customer is opening the ticket. Working on a new ticket when they don't have all the info just means your agents are spending a chunk of their time just asking the same information over and over again.
It might mean asking your customer for more information up front, but it will mean their query gets answered more quickly.
2. Take ownership
Make sure somebody has responsibility for tickets as early as possible in your process. Tickets that come in should be immediately assigned to a team, or even better, an individual. Tickets that hang around not being assigned to anyone take longer to get answered because nobody wants to take ownership. You need your team to feel a sense of ownership on the tickets that come in, so they know what they're responsible for and what they need to work on next.
3. Smart measurements
Think hard about what you're going to measure your support team on, knowing that whatever you choose is going to determine the behaviour of your agents.
For example, if you decide that the most important measurement is the number of tickets an agent answers per day, don't be surprised if the easy tickets keep getting answered first, or that the level of customer satisfaction goes down because they're concentrating on speed more than being helpful.
Measurements need to be looked at over a long period for the best results, as this will help smooth out any day to day or even week long anomalies. You can only start to measure an agent over a whole month, or when they've dealt with a specific number of tickets to start getting a true picture compared to their peers.
4. Context matters
Support tickets do not often exist in a vacuum. The answer to a ticket can often change depending on a number of external factors, such as what else the customer has ordered, how long they've been a customer, or maybe because you're also trying to win another big contract from the organisation that the customer works for.
Empowering the agent with that information helps them answer them more effectively. Letting them see how long somebody has been a customer, or see notes about the customers' organisation so that other parts of the business can share contextual information with the support team can help things run more smoothly.
5. Learn from it
A ticket isn't just about the conversation with the customer, it's also about the conversation with the rest of the team, during and after the ticket has been closed. Encourage your agents to share their thought process with the rest of the team through private notes, as they work on the ticket. And when the ticket is done, make sure they use private notes to explain how they finally resolved the problem. Use tags to not only make the ticket easy to find while it's being worked on, but also to find solutions later.
Not only will your current support agents appreciate having detailed notes so they can learn, but your support team two years from now will also appreciate being able to find past instances of the same problems, and see exactly how it was dealt with last time.