When Friends in the Company Ask for Help

Q. Dear Help Desk Coach:

I’m an IT specialist and I support internal users. My problem is I have a lot of friends in the company, and when I’m at lunch or they see me in the hallway (or believe it or not even in the restroom), they ask me to stop by their cube and help them. Its hard to say “no” because they’re my friends and I know they need help, but my boss keeps telling us we’re only supposed to help people who’ve filled out a ticket and when that ticket is assigned to us. Now people I don’t know very well are asking me to help them because my friends say I’ll be faster than the “system.”

A. Dear Paul Popular:

Your boss is right. It’s really difficult to assess help desk productivity (and build a case for increased staffing) if support is undocumented. In workshops I ask agents how much of their time is spent supporting undocumented issues. The average is 10 – 20%. This means 10 – 20% of help desk activities is invisible. The support you offer to your friends (and their friends) if not entered on a ticket, does not count toward your productivity or the productivity of the help desk. Your helpful nature is a great asset in delivering great technical support and assuring user satisfaction, however you should get credit for the work you perform. My recommendation is you continue helping your colleagues, however ask them to first fill out a ticket. You can say, “I want to help and I have several tickets already waiting. Do me a favor, fill out a ticket so I don’t forget, and I’ll make sure I help you as soon as possible.” It’ll feel awkward at first, but if you keep telling them you want to help after they’ve generated a ticket, they’ll get the message. You might explain that when you help them without generating a ticket, it dings your productivity stats.

Entering Tickets After the Fact

Q. Dear Help Desk Coach:

My supervisor just reprimanded me for generating tickets after I’ve provided IT support for co-workers. Usually the problem was simple and didn’t require much time to fix, and my co-worker would have been inconvenienced by waiting a lot longer by starting a ticket. Since I filled out a ticket for them, my supervisor wrote me up.

A. Dear Helpful in New Jersey:

Please review my response to Paul Popular. This is a scenario common with internal help desks. Well meaning agents have inadvertently “trained” co-workers to circumvent the system. By entering the ticket after the fact, you’ve at least documented the issue and your activities. However the ticket never enters the queue, and other users wait longer than is fair. It is time to turn over a new leaf. When friends ask for your help, tell them you’re complimented they keep coming to you, however they need to initiate a ticket from now on. Tell them your supervisor has reminded you about this policy, and is expecting you to comply.

Preventing Repeat Calls

Q. Dear Help Desk Coach:

Some of our end users call back repeatedly for the same information. It’s hard to have sympathy if they don’t remember or don’t write down the solution. I asked one guy why he called me back all the time for the same thing, and he just said “isn’t that what you’re there for?” I thought I’d be problem solving more in this job and not just reminding people what they should have learned the first time.

A. Dear Frustrated:

You didn’t mention whether you work for an internal help desk or support external customers. If you work for an internal help desk, you could suggest to your manager that internal users would benefit from a training class on the basics. Or if your company has an internal website and could post FAQs, that will cut down on the calls. Even with the training option and published self-help, some people will always pick up the phone and call the help desk. When these customers call again, let them know you’re happy to help. Politely ask if they have something to write with because you’d like them to have helpful information at hand for the future. If your company does provide some form of self-help, direct them toward that source. Remind them the self-help is always there, and can be more time efficient. Follow up with an email answer to their question, and if self-help is available, include the URL.