Does Your Helpdesk/Service Desk Phone Just Ring Out?

I’m prompted to write today by a customer who doesn’t have enough staff on their Service Desk/Helpdesk taking calls from customers, and who is looking for any strategies to help cope with this. The business is both outbound and inbound sales order processing, with a user base in excess of 500.

My first response, naturally enough, is to suggest recruiting more staff. However, our customer is adamant that there is no budget for this.

So where do you start?

First of all, you need to understand what your current position is – just how understaffed on the front-line are you? You can normally find this out from your telephone statistics (yes, if you ask the right people you can get statistics from your telephone system).

There are a few Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) you need to look at in this regard:

Number of rings before pickup. My opinion is that anything below 6 is OK, anything above 10 is poor. Look at the average and standard deviations. Ideally you’ll get this in graph form. This is because incoming call activity for Helpdesks and Service Desks exhibits natural spikes of activity at different times of the day and week.

Call Abandonment Rate. This is the number of calls where the caller has given up, and not surprisingly it’s linked to the number of rings before pickup. You can think of this as the number of unhappy and dissatisfied customers you’ve had, and is a major KPI.

Voicemail cleardown. If you use voicemail (for instance, it kicks in if all lines are busy, or picks-up after a number of rings) then this can muddy the waters somewhat. What you need here is the number of voicemail messages left, and the time taken (again displayed in graph form) to delete a message (deletion usually being an indication that the message has been actioned). The reason I say that it can muddy the waters is that is either replaces or distorts the Call Abandonment Rate KPI I mentioned earlier.

These three statistics will give you your current position in terms of call volumes.

I’ll post later about strategies for dealing with this, but before I do that I just want to issue a word of caution. There seems to be a tendency amongst Service Desk Managers to play-down the importance of telephone statistics (‘they can log it through the web, so what's the problem?’), but I think this is a bad attitude. If you offer a telephone service it should be ‘fit for purpose’. In addition to this, some users prefer to speak to someone particularly if the Incident is important to them.

In the case of the customer who prompted this article, it might be a front-line sales advisor who needs to earn commission on sales, but is having problems with their IT system and wants to speak to someone. Whatever the situation, customer perception will be damaged no matter good other service provision might be.