What is a help desk?
A help desk is a software tool or team of human agents that enable a company to support its customers in real time. The help desk serves two primary functions:
- It answers questions customers may have about products or services.
- It assists customers with technical support and solutions to problems.
A help desk system streamlines support requests within a single interface. It includes automation and categorization features to organize customer issues and prevent escalation. This enables help desk agents to cross-reference multiple engagements to quickly provide the best possible solutions to end users.
Benefits of a help desk
A help desk significantly enhances the user experience (UX) for support teams and the users they serve. Specifically, it boosts IT support productivity to improve solutions and customer satisfaction. Here are five aspects of a help desk that benefit support agents as well as their customers:
- Knowledge base: Educates customers about their inquiries via relative documentation. Modern knowledge bases include automation that guides customers to the solutions they need before having to speak to a live agent.
- Tagging and analytics: Creates insights that help agents better detect and resolve service requests. This reveals critical information about customer needs, which can lead to fresh product offerings and documentation as well as new IT service protocols.
- Multichannel support: Enables agents to unify multiple channels (e.g. phone, video, email, chat) in one interface to better support customers. This sequences engagement to prevent support tickets from being “bounced around” different channels or getting “lost in the shuffle” of information technology and resources.
- Support automation: Enables agents to quicken their response and resolution workflow by automating repetitive tasks (e.g. tagging, help desk ticket management).
- Performance monitoring: Enables help desk managers to track and report customer engagement quality and quantity. This helps them measure department success and establish benchmark metrics for the future.
Top help desk use cases
As digital transformation continues to rise, help desks are becoming critical to large and small business operations. Therefore, a service desk ecosystem must be both agile and adaptable. Here are three scenarios in which the modern help desk is most useful¹:
- Customer self-service: Enables AI-powered automated help desk support via web, mobile and voice channels. This may include a chatbot that can respond to customer questions, find answers within knowledge bases and FAQs or route customers to human agents as needed.
- Employee self-service: Enables AI-powered automated internal support that quickly answers human resources (HR) and IT inquiries around the clock. An automated self-service portal enables employees to complete their tasks faster, which helps enhance their productivity.
- Collaborative assistance: Integrates chatbot and human assistance to resolve complex customer inquiries faster and more thoroughly. This type of help desk solution may use a chatbot as the primary point of contact before routing an issue to a human support agent.
Best practices for help desks
As a help desk evolves, support agents and teams must expand their capabilities to remain efficient. This may require enhancing internal collaboration as well as expanding the scope of external communications. Here are two ways to round out your customer support team for departmental and organizational growth²:
- Cross-team collaboration: Some help desks may require larger teams or collaboration between multiple teams and tiers. In these scenarios, team roles, rules and procedures must be well-defined and executed with clarity.
- Specialized training: Cultural sensitivity and diction training enable distributed help desk team members to better collaborate and understand one another. In addition, industry-specific training helps agents better support a diverse clientele.
Help desk myths
As help desks continue to grow in prominence within today’s business ecosystems, many misconceptions have emerged. Here are four help desk myths that you should dismiss before beginning your customer support journey:
- Self-help does not work: Sometimes you can save time by rolling up your sleeves and doing it yourself. According to Programming Insider (link resides outside IBM), up to 25% of help desk tickets can be self-resolved if customers look up the error code, switch browsers or reboot the device.
- Help desk tickets aren’t required: A ticket should be created for any request for support—no matter how small or large the issue may be. It helps help desk agents track their work as well as store resolutions for future tickets that may be similar to yours.
- Issue descriptions aren’t required: A generic description is not enough. Most incident forms include a space for you to specify your problem. It is important to thoroughly explain your issue to eliminate “back and forth” communication and quicken resolution.
- All help desk agents are experts: Many help desk agents only have a basic knowledge of IT functionality. However, their real value is demonstrated in the ability to provide a quality customer service experience, which can come with routing you to the best solution possible.
The future of help desks
Chatbots, with their advanced language capabilities like native natural language processing (NLP) and natural language understanding (NLU) are driving the future of help desk systems. In fact, a recent survey revealed that 58% of IT decision-makers (ITDMs) have adopted chatbots or are in the process of doing so.³
Emerging tools like virtual agents, chatbot toolboxes, automation aggregators and platform-specific chatbots provide perpetual service desk coverage and faster issue resolution. As a matter of fact, chatbots reduce Average Handle Time (AHT) by 10%, which reduces costs associated with IT service management (ITSM).¹
IBM and help desks
IBM is at the forefront of the help desk software revolution with its AI chatbot technology Watson Assistant. This virtual agent provides fast and accurate answers to customer questions on any app, channel, desktop or mobile device. In addition to IBM Cloud, it can be hosted on other major cloud platforms like AWS and Microsoft Azure, or in an on-premises environment.
Using AI and natural language processing, Watson Assistant learns from conversations in real time. This improves its ability to resolve issues the first time while removing the frustration of long wait times, tedious searches and unhelpful chatbots. In addition, its robust integrations, visual chatbot builder, and advanced analytics help companies scale their overall operations. In fact, IBM recently reported that Watson enabled companies to garner USD 23.9 million in benefits over three years versus costs of USD 5.5 million for a net present value (NPV) of USD 18.4 million and an ROI of 337%.
If Watson sounds like it's right for you, click here to get started. The future of help desk is in your hands and IBM is here to help you facilitate it.
² IDC, Effective Practices for Leading a Multilocation and Multicultural IT Help Desk Function (link resides outside IBM). Sep 2019
³ Forrester, Best Practices For Help Desk Chatbot Success (link resides outside IBM). 29 Mar 2021