Employee Training Strategies: How to Reduce Internal Helpdesk Calls
In many corporate work environments, a call to the help desk is still the default method of invoking help with software. More and more companies are determined to eradicate this practice, mainly because of the inflated expense it entails. The “have you tried turning it off and on again” cliche is proving to be a metaphor for an outdated support practice that perpetuates technophobia and resistance to change.
Executives expect their employees’ to be technologically proficient, or at least resourceful enough to seek solutions by themselves. In industries where support analysts’s time is valuable and costly, customer success teams are finding inventive and more affordable ways to take the load off the internal help desk.
Internal helpdesk calls always consume more resources. Moss from “The IT Crowd” hard at work
In order to take the weight off helpdesk representatives, we must try to find alternatives that will satisfy the user-base (employees in enterprise organizations) and actively educate users to seek other help solutions.
The Support Strata System
One of the reasons helpdesk support is so popular, is because it is the easiest and most accessible for employees. When it’s simply a matter of picking up the phone and connecting to a help source – of course many employees would default to that. Especially when the alternative was long, unintelligible PDF help documentation files you had to spend hours poring over just to find a menu item.
The way to tackle that is to start by providing several alternative support options, all of which should be accessible, inviting and easy to use. The idea is to provide several layers of support options that range between completely self-sufficient (knowledge bases), to more interactive (support bot) to more personal (support chat with live representative). This way you can cater to a variety of user-types, including the less secure and less patient ones, in a support structure that still manages to avoid phone calls.
Offer alternatives that are just as helpful
When designed carefully, the idea is to level the user’s way up to personal support after they’ve exhausted all the other options. This is also an educational process, that will gradually condition users to leaning less on helpdesk support, and eventually turn to other support channels by default. The most important aspect in this is to offer helpful alternatives. This may mean investing in your knowledgebase or in other forms of online help. We will have achieves exactly nothing if employees feel abandoned and helpless, as that leads to misuse of software, not to mention loss of motivation.
As an example, I’ve chosen Microsoft’s online help website, because it shows how Microsoft, a huge software provider with multiple products that require support, managed to create a friendly, un-intimidating support environment.
Here’s how they did it:
- Invite users to search the knowledge base with a welcoming, personal approach – the call to action is conversational and communicates a desire to help (“what can we help you with?”)
- Visual search options that help narrow down the product and focus the user on what s/he needs. In Microsoft’s case, this is exceptionally helpful, given the amount of products that need support.
- Chat bot – the virtual agent is not a live one, but the interactivity can help put certain users at ease, and tends to be more immediate – a great plus for impatient users.
Present the Phone-Call as the less-obvious option
Once you provide viable, constructive support alternatives, it’s time to start the educational process of discouraging phone calls to the helpdesk. There’s no single right way to do this – different brands and enterprise companies choose different ways. In some cases, phone numbers are taken down from the help section and knowledgebase access is installed, instead. Other places use discouraging language. Some companies create complex call pipelines that turn the helpdesk from the most accessible help solution – into the lease accessible. I’ve even seen some companies hide the helpdesk number in the most unlikely places in the internal phone book.
Here, too, It’s important to keep in mind that this can only work if the users don’t feel like they’ve had the rug pulled from under their feet. Much of the helpdesk culture is based on the corporate mood that the company has your back, and taking that away without providing a safety net leaves a void that is often filled by insecurity and apprehension.
Trello, whose support team I imagine also deal with a massive amount of support requests, deal with this quite elegantly. They create a vague sense of discomfort around the option of contacting them directly about support. With simple language tools, they make it absolutely clear to the user that s/he needs to be more self-sufficient, and that contacting their support needs to be a final option, when all else has failed, not the first one. I like this approach, because it communicates a potentially explosive idea very neutrally: our time and resources are very valuable to us. Please don’t waste them over trifles.
Promote self-help and an independent problem solving culture
The missing piece in this puzzle is the actual content you need to provide, as an alternative to internal helpdesk calls. No one expects employees who have depended on the company’s support team for years to simply adapt and “become” technologically proficient in one day. A few suggestions to improve your online support channels:
1. Make help centers and knowledgebases a place where users would want to visit. Improve support content. Invest in a modern help center – in searchability, user interface, terminology. Write really good help articles.
2. Invest in chat bots. NanoRep and other up and coming tools are gaining popularity, not only as marketing solutions, but as another support layer.
3. Live chat support – research the world of chat support agents. ZenDesk Chat (formerly Zopim) is a good place to start. Learn how much time support representatives can save when they toggle several chats at the same time, depend on screenshots rather than lengthy issue descriptions and can send links to knowledgebase articles instantly.
4. Bring your knowledgebase articles inside the product, so that users can search for help without interrupting productivity. This way, help content seems like an organic part of the software usage.