Ask the Coach

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.