Best practices for an effective MSP help desk
Your clients are looking for a near-hands-off approach to their IT needs, and an efficient help desk can significantly reduce friction during interruptions to service. Whether it’s a simple password reset or a more complex issue requiring extensive troubleshooting, your help desk is the gateway to delivering next-level customer service.
If your MSP is in growth mode, addressing more tickets while maintaining the speed and service standards your customers expect can be challenging. Here are some tips and strategies to improve the efficiency and productivity of your help desk as your business scales.
The role of help desks in IT support
An IT help desk is often the first line of customer support, responsible for triaging and resolving IT issues to minimize interruption and downtime for the end user. An efficient help desk should function like a well-oiled machine, effectively funneling support requests through a ticketing process for delegation and issue management.
Help desk support not only plays a crucial role in customer satisfaction and retention, but the productivity of your help desk can have a significant impact on your operational efficiency.
Building a strong help desk team can pay big dividends for your MSP. If you’re looking to streamline your help desk operations, here are some best practices and processes to help you get the most out of your support team.
Staff and training
Your staff is the most expensive—yet most crucial—part of your help desk. According to Salary.com, a single technician commands a median salary of about $49,000 per year. But finding the right balance of labor costs and technician head count can be tricky, especially if you do not have a firm grasp on your resourcing costs or utilization rate.
Below are some recommendations to keep in mind as you recruit and develop skilled technicians:
Skilled staff will be the cornerstone of your help desk know-how. Senior technicians who are highly proficient in your tools and well-versed in house rules and institutional knowledge are great for mentoring junior staff. Job posting sites like LinkedIn or Zippia are a good place to kick off your recruiting efforts.
Depending on your budget, be conscious to hire staff with a wide range of expertise and experience, including mid-career and junior staff. Resources like Service Leadership’s Annual IT Solution Provider Compensation Report can be key to make sure you are offering compensation packages suitable to draw in the necessary staff. When it comes to staff size, being familiar with service desk KPIs such as average ticket volume and average resolution time can help determine staffing needs.
In addition to skilled technicians, it also takes a team of dispatchers and managers to run an effective IT support help desk. Dispatchers can help delegate incoming tickets based on severity, while managers keep everyone on task and accountable.
When looking to fill your hiring needs, don’t neglect the impact of the IT talent gap. With the IT skills gap and labor shortage impacting MSPs across the industry, outsourced help desk services have become a viable option for MSPs looking to scale their support capacity without the upfront costs and infrastructure of in-house operations.
Using certified technicians to train less experienced staff on your MSP’s workflows can often provide more robust training compared to the general onboarding resources that come with your software. Implementing shadowing for hands-on experience is another way to familiarize your support team with your processes and common issue types before they are in a high-pressure situation. ConnectWise Certify offers free training on how to use our products efficiently and effectively.
Shadowing technicians gives less experienced hires an opportunity to see what a typical workflow looks like. It can also be beneficial to switch this process around to have your senior staff shadow more junior team members. Oftentimes, it can be this hands on experience that unearths technician pain points or inefficiencies in the workflow.
Even as your technicians reach a level where they are proficient in their responsibilities and software, it’s important to sustain their development through ongoing training. Investing in advanced skills training and certifications can help lead to greater retention rates, making your team members valuable assets for years to come.
Certificates and skill enhancement programs provide technicians with the tools they need to meet more complex issues as they arise. Examples of certificates to improve your staff training are:
- Google IT Support Certificates for beginner technicians
- CompTIA Security+ for cybersecurity
- CompTIA Cloud+ for cloud technology
Making training available to technicians can be an incentive to draw in new and passionate talent while improving the staff that you already have.
Monitoring service team performance
Understanding and monitoring your service desk performance can help inform your help desk management strategy and enable you to make more informed decisions about your business. The right service desk KPIs can provide valuable insights into productivity, efficiency, and quality of service.
Average resolution time is just one example of a worthwhile productivity KPI to track. The time it takes for your techs to resolve IT issues can have a dramatic effect on customer satisfaction. Data-driven insights like this can lead to continuous improvement of your team and help expose gaps or inefficiencies in your workflows.
Additional KPIs to monitor include:
- Average first response time
- Open/closed ticket ratio
- Resource/agent utilization rate
There are countless other metrics that you could watch out for. Ultimately, the KPIs you monitor depend on the service level agreement (SLA) that you have with your specific client. If you unearth inefficiencies, tracking relevant KPIs can lead you to the source and solution of your problems.
Delivering effective customer service requires healthy internal and external communication, and your help desk will often be the face of this. It does not matter how efficient your operations are if your team lacks clear and concise communication.
Communicating across support roles and functions can be challenging, especially if the team lacks defined processes and standardized workflows. Your help desk may have support requests coming in from a variety of sources—email, phone, or chat—and proper documentation is critical to making sure you have line of sight into each customer touchpoint. Implement a process for tracking support requests and make sure all team members have access to check on the status or update a ticket with follow-ups.
It is also important to make sure your team has an established process for prioritization and escalation. When your techs know how to handle a customer emergency, they will be better equipped to handle the issue without delay.
Customers today expect to get instant support when and where they need it. Giving clients multiple ways to contact you can provide a better and more consistent service experience, whether they submit by email, phone, chat, or directly via ticketing software. Centralizing these communications into a single platform can help provide support across touchpoints and multiple techs, if needed.
An excellent way to gauge the quality of your help desk support after delivery is to follow up directly, either automated or intentionally. In fact, customer service feedback tools, such as SmileBack, are designed specifically for MSPs to help create this feedback loop and build customer loyalty.
Using automation to manage issues and procedures
Solutions to complex issues begin within your help desk team, and automation allows your team to manage more issues at a quicker pace. Implementing automation in your help desk management workflows can quickly expose gaps in service and help enforce tech accountability and productivity. AI can take this to the next level by helping implement hyperautomation. By using robotic process automation, (RPA) MSPs can automate actions that typically require human action. This can range from button clicks to file path updates to filling text boxes.
Optimizing your help desk efficiency
Face it: Leveraging modern tools and technology can make your technicians’ jobs infinitely easier. And techs that are better equipped and more empowered to do their jobs will deliver superior customer service on behalf of your MSP.
A practical solution for MSPs looking to streamline their help desk management is implementing professional services automation (PSA) software. Below are some of the ways automating ticketing and project management workflows via PSA software can be a game changer for help desk productivity.
Streamlined ticket management
A ticketing system is critical for organizing incoming service requests, prioritizing tickets, tracking progress, and documenting the resolution. The help desk features in PSA support automated ticket generation by which the system automatically creates a ticket when a customer issue is submitted via email. Defined workflows make sure tickets are directed to the right person, and all customer requests and interactions can be documented in a single place.
Automated dispatch strategy
Without automation, techs must rely on a system of self-dispatch to assign tickets. This fragmented process results in improper allocation which can hurt resource utilization and limit visibility across the broader team. And without a consistent and streamlined way to dispatch tickets, your company could lose time and money.
With service management automation, you can centralize your dispatch system and enable ticket assignment based on technician skills, certifications, and availability. Having real-time visibility into the scheduled tickets for the entire team can also help reinforce tech accountability and response speed. Hyperautomation also helps with response speed by lowering the amount of tasks that require human input.
Time entry management
Without effective time tracking, how can you measure tech productivity? What about billability? These metrics are critical in gaining an understanding of the time your team is spending on issue resolution and identifying any gaps in productivity.
Using a project management tool or PSA software to track your billable hours provides a bird’s eye view into tech output and productivity. With this data, you can more effectively allocate resources to maximize your utilization and optimize your labor costs by aligning staffing needs with ticket volume. More effective resource utilization can allow you to take on more business and become more profitable without the need for additional headcount.
For more tips on unlocking the efficiency of your IT support help desk team, check out our eBook, IT Support Management: 6 Tips to Increase the Efficiency of Your IT Team.
Empower your help desk with the right software solutions
The benefits of automation are clear, and increasing tech productivity is easy with the right processes and workflows in place. Software solutions like ConnectWise PSA are tailor-made for MSPs looking to streamline business operations and drive business outcomes.
Watch a demo of ConnectWise PSA today to see our help features in action and take the first step toward connecting your business in a single tool.