New Service Desk Staff - Training for Facing your Customers

It's easy to overlook training.

I can think of a few occasions in my career, particularly during spell I had of short term contract work, where I'd show up for work on a Monday and the Service Delivery Manager would seem quite surprised, usually muttering something along the lines of 'I thought you weren't due till next week'.

Out of a handful of contracts, the average training time I received was 4 hours (a morning usually) and included in that was the dull and often pointless company induction video or a presentation by the HR department. I was usually on the phones dealing with customers before the end of the day.

And it showed. On the whole I think I coped quite well (but then I would say that), however the fact is customers were aware they we speaking to 'the new guy' - and often took the time to explain things carefully to me.

There are many things wrong with this approach slap-dash approach. Here are two of them.

Firstly, it is bad for customers because it's hard for the new start to understand what the problem might be (and sometime understand the specialist terms they are using), it's impossible to resolve the Incident first time and often impossible to ask the right questions for 2nd line support. There's a negative effect on quality that ripples right through service delivery.

Secondly, the new start can't but help to have a poor initial impression of his new manager and employer. Chances are they'll say 'my boss is an idiot' if asked.

So, long before you recruit anyone you need a training and induction programme for the Helpdesk/Service Desk person you are recruiting.

The form this takes will vary. For instance:

  • A training course on the products you support, if you are supporting a single groups of products or services - including sending the new recruit on your customer-focussed training course (even if this is days rather than hours in length).
  • Whatever you do, don't just say 'have a play with Product X' if for whatever reason no training course is available. Instead, set measurable goals that will test learning and understanding.
  • If you are engaged in more general IT support, make sure the new recruit is aware of the services you are supporting and has access to your Service Catalog.
  • Don't expect the employee's call handling and customer handling skills to come complete and perfect. These skills can be honed, as I've mentioned here.

A really good idea is to consider role-plays before any customer exposure. Take 5 or 6 typical cases ranging from easy to difficult, go into another room, and make the calls. This will also help to test how well they can use your ITSM tool.

Most importantly, add training time to the budget allocated for the new employee. It will help you understand what you are losing if staff aren't sticking around for very long - something I'll write about next week.