Original Date: 04/07/1997
Revision Date: 04/14/2003
Best Practice : Help Desk
The Help Desk was established to answer questions and resolve the daily problems that are encountered by users of automated applications throughout the Rock Island Complex. The role of the Help Desk has continually expanded as the number of hardware and software applications, and number of people using these applications, have steadily increased.
Several years ago, Rock Island Arsenal (RIA) established its original Help Desk with two people to help automation users with mainframe problems and lockouts. The time frame, which was characterized mainly by mainframe terminals, was followed with a proliferation of personal computers (PCs) and Commercial-Off-The-Shelf (COTS) software applications. This led to relocating the Help Desk with the COTS and PC experts, and expanding the number of people handling problem calls. The Help Desk handled the more common calls, with more extensive problems being referred to more technically experienced personnel within the office. With downsizing becoming a reality in the federal sector, more technical training was provided to Help Desk technicians, enabling them to answer more calls on initial contact. The Help Desk people became the first level of contact for all PC and COTS calls, as well as mainframe problems. Any questions which could not be resolved within the Help Desk were routed to the proper place for resolution. By 1994, the annual call volume was approximately 28,000.
With the increase in complexity and number of automation applications by 1995, the Help Desk took on increased levels of responsibility, and became the single point of entry for all sustainment issues. The goal was to make trouble reporting and resolution easier for the customers, and provide improved management visibility to systemic problems and issues. The Help Desk now handles calls on mainframes, mini computers, desktop computing (hardware, software, peripherals), e-mail services, databases, communications network, infrastructure, operating systems, and automation security. Present call volume is 50,000 annually servicing 8,500 Local Area Network (LAN) accounts, 6,000 e-mail accounts for RIA and tenants, and 3,000 remote off-post accounts using the mainframe and UNIX. With this expanded role, the Help Desk is now colocated with the PC/LAN and UNIX teams to enhance internal communications and provide better customer responsiveness.
The Help Desk team now consists of a manager and six people, and provides one-stop access by phone or e-mail for all automation problems. The staff has received both technical and personal relations skills training with the goal of being totally customer focused. Seventy percent of the calls are resolved on the initial customer contact. The customer organizations have established trained Work Group Managers to coordinate local questions before referring problems to the Help Desk. Frequent meetings are held to keep all personnel up-to-date with the latest developments. The Help Desk Expert Automation Tool (HEAT) was implemented to handle call assignments within the entire organization. A new telephone system was installed to even out the Help Desk call volume to each technician and to service customers in the order they called. HEAT also provides management visibility to generic problems and to which customers are having the most problems. This enables proactive support to other areas, preventing the occurrence of problems before they happen. The Help Desk organization also maintains a hardware and software library for lending to customers. This includes pentium multimedia notebooks, network connectivity, and automated remote briefing capabilities.
In establishing the Help Desk in its present form, RIA visited other commercial and government locations to benchmark and develop new ideas for customer service. They also became a member of the Help Desk Institute which provides specific training, networking opportunities, and information on future trends. As a result, RIA’s Help Desk has been organized to effectively support a wide variety of customers and their unique needs. It has succeeded in providing one stop for customers to get their automation problems resolved or routed to the appropriate people. It has combined local experience with ideas obtained through benchmarking, and actively stays at the front of new developments and trends in the automation field. This has resulted in good customer service. Future plans include developing the Help Desk into a self-directed team, continued benchmarking, and increasing the focus on services to off-post organizations.
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