A quick read with a big impact.

2 Simple Ways to 10X your IT Help Desk Customer Experience

Man workind on Help Desk

Customer satisfaction is the golden ring when it comes to IT help desk metrics. If your customers are satisfied, it typically means your agents resolve customer problems quickly, effectively, and pleasantly.

So why do so many companies struggle with IT help desk customer satisfaction? As it turns out, there are two key components that these companies frequently miss. And by doing so, they’re setting their team up for failure.

The two things that can make the biggest difference in your IT help desk customer satisfaction scores? Setting expectations and implementing accountability.

“Well, we already do that!” you might be thinking. “We set very clear expectations for our agents.”

But … are your agents setting expectations with your customers? And are you holding your agents accountable for those expectations?

Let’s examine these in detail.

Tip #1: Set Clear Expectations to Improve the IT Help Desk Customer Experience

You can safely assume that just about every caller who reaches out to your IT help desk expects you to resolve their issue during that call. Actually, they expect two things. They expect you to resolve their issue and they expect you to resolve it promptly.

This means every time your agents answer a call, they are dealing with a caller who has two expectations of the call before a single word has been spoken. One expectation is about technology and the other expectation is about time.

This is where many calls head off the road and into the ditch.

If the customer’s expectations do not match up with the reality of the situation, you’re going to end up with a lot of angry customers, callbacks, and a dismal customer satisfaction score.

That is why it is so crucial for agents to clearly communicate timelines and expectations to the customers. Callers should know exactly when they’ll hear back, and what steps your team is taking to resolve their technical issue. This level-setting allows customers to have a crystal-clear understanding of next steps, which then keeps their expectations reasonable – and attainable.

The good news is that setting customer expectations satisfies customers, even when the news is not what customers expect or desire. For example, research shows that callers are more forgiving of longer wait time and resolution times when agents have told them what to expect.

Train your agents to set customer expectations. Conduct role-plays and common call scenarios, so that your agents practice informing callers about how and when you are likely to resolve their issues:

  • "I'm sorry, I can't help you with this right now. We're going to have to send this off to somebody else. You will receive a call back from them in about four hours."
  • "You should hear back from one of our agents within 30 minutes."
  • “I can't resolve all three of your issues today, but I might be able to resolve the first two issues in the next hour. I will call you tomorrow with an update."

The Consequences of Not Setting Customer Expectations

When your help desk agents fail to set customer expectations about how and when issues will be resolved, expect consequences – namely, drops in productivity and increases in shadow IT.

Consequences with productivity

Customer satisfaction drops when agents forget that behind every technical support request there is a business issue. Your callers typically express their issues in technical terms, but behind that technical issue is a job that the caller can’t do until that technical issue is resolved.

This is why setting caller expectations is so vital – if the caller knows they’ll receive a response in two hours, they can turn their attention to other tasks and remain productive instead of twiddling their thumbs waiting for their issue to be resolved.

Consequences with underground IT

The second consequence you can expect when your call center agents don’t set caller expectations is a rise in underground IT. Underground IT, also known as Shadow IT, is what happens when employees circumvent your IT department and solve their IT issues themselves, using solutions that they never report, never document and never tell you about.

This has real consequences, some of them severe, for your day-to-day operations. Imagine, for example, that you are a medical clinic:

  • A nurse is trying to do charting during off hours, but he’s facing a technical glitch.
  • He calls the help desk and is told they’ll get back to him, but an hour has passed with no word.
  • So, he gets around the problem by entering patient names and codes into note-taking apps on his phone and sends these text files by email to his colleagues who work the day shifts.

This “solution” compromises patient privacy and confidentiality, contravenes federal regulations, and puts your organization at risk of penalties and fines.

If the help desk had set clear expectations, odds are, the nurse would have been reasonably content to wait for a proper resolution.

Tip #2: Hold Your IT Help Desk Agents Accountable for Setting Expectations

The key to making sure your agents always set expectations? Implement accountability. Here are four practical, proven ways to hold agents accountable for setting caller expectations:

  1. Incentives: Give your IT help desk agents an incentive for setting expectations. Use a points system, for example, with goals linked to bonuses. The bonuses you offer can be financial, but they can also be anything that your agents value, such as time off, training, company-supplied lunches, and swag.
  2. Penalties: If incentives don’t work, try penalties. Take away rewards for not hitting individual targets and team goals.
  3. Quality standards: Document and enforce your quality standards. Listen to recorded calls, conduct one-on-ones with agents as soon as you identify issues, and employ an active management style.
  4. Adjust early: Don’t wait for QA periods to assess and remedy agent performance issues. Make small, early adjustments to avoid big mistakes later on.

Metrics that Hold Agents Accountable

It may surprise you, but accountability can be measured. You can know how – and how often – your agents are setting caller expectations. Here are the top KPIs you should track to hold agents accountable for following your quality standards:

  1. Knowledge base utilization: Measure how often your agents refer to your knowledge base. Poorly trained agents lead to drops in customer satisfaction. Agents that fail to use your knowledge base are also likely to fail to set caller expectations.
  2. Script adherence: If your help desk agents use open scripts and closure scripts, do they adhere to their scripts word for word? Or, if word-for-word adherence is not required, are your agents communicating the intent of the scripts? Plus, is there a section in each script that helps agents set customer expectations?
  3. Ticket completeness: To formalize your QA, you need to look at things like ticket completeness, setting expectations and explaining next steps. Then check these requirements against business needs. Do they meet the business needs? For example, if medium-priority issues give agents two days to get back to callers before a four-day resolution, does that work for your business?
  4. Setting expectations and next steps: The greater the priority of the issue, the more vital is if for your agents to set expectations and communicate next steps clearly.
  5. Call control, tone, and active listening skills: Make sure your calls are personal or professional, depending on the type of users you serve. Some IT help desks are strictly scripted, others are more informal. So, set your standards and metrics based upon what’s right for your organization.

The secret to boosting IT help desk customer satisfaction is to understand that callers pick up the phone with preconceived ideas about how their call is going to go. Once you understand these expectations, you are in a position to adjust caller expectations when needed, to do so early and clearly, and to hold your help desk agents accountable for doing so. The result? Happier callers and happier agents all around.

E-book: 10 Help Desk Challenges & Concerns