IT Helpdesk - The phone is not dead

As IT professionals, it is easy for us to get carried away with new technologies that promise time and cost-saving customer service channels, but what happened to the human touch? Does the phone offer something that chat boxes and self-service portals can’t? We certainly think so and here’s why.

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13-Mar-2018 11:42:00 | Pete Canavan | End user support


With so many options for users to communicate with your helpdesk, it is easy to overlook one of the most effective tools in the service desk’s armoury. The telephone might not be the newest piece of technology, but as a support channel, it hasn’t gone out of style yet. In fact, it remains one of the best methods for improved customer satisfaction and resolution time. Here’s why I want to remind you all that the phone is not dead.

The top 4 advantages of telephone support

1. Instant support: When a user needs a fast fix, most will still prefer to pick up the telephone than to try and type an explanation for the problem they are encountering. Many users simply don’t have the language or knowledge to know how to describe the problem and need guidance. Rather than being confronted by a set of drop-down lists and radio buttons that they don’t understand, an analyst on the other end of the line can ask questions in a variety of ways that are more digestible to the layperson. This approach is naturally going to make life easier for the user who might already be frustrated by their IT problem.

2. Reliable contact method: The telephone is one of the most stable pieces of communication infrastructure a business has at its disposal. When a user has a hardware issue with their laptop or can’t login via their VPN, the phone is probably their only option.

3. The human touch: In a world where users are increasingly met by chatbots and self-service portals, nothing matches the human touch. In the case of requests, a self-service portal might be all the user wants or needs, but when they have an issue that is hindering their work, the frustration levels are better attended by a human being on the end of the phone.

4. Giving full attention: When a user contacts the service desk via a chatbox, they are all too often aware that the analyst is working on simultaneous tickets. Having an analyst give 100% of their attention speeds up the interaction and therefore improves the fix-time per ticket.

Avoiding telephone support pitfalls

Despite our love for telephone support here at Plan-Net, using the phone alone is not enough to guarantee user satisfaction. It’s not just the tools you use, but how you use them that counts. Here are a few of the pitfalls to avoid to ensure your IT service desk maintains phone support excellence.

Immediacy: The reason why a user chose the telephone is that they expect a faster response time. If the phone is still ringing after 15 or 20 seconds, you won’t be winning any brownie points. Ensure you have the resources to pick up the phone within a reasonable time.

Communication: Analysts needs to keep the communication flowing even if only to say they will be quiet for a few minutes while they concentrate on the fix. If the analyst needs to access the user’s device remotely, make sure to:

  • Ask for permission first
  • Advise whether the user can continue to work
  • If they would need to wait
  • Suggest a waiting time

If the user needn’t be there and it will take longer than 5-7 minutes, they may opt to leave their desk rather than hang around. Give the user the option and keep them informed.

Telephone Manner: We carefully screen all of our analysts via telephone as a part of our hiring process. Make sure your IT support analysts have the right customer service skills and a clear telephone voice before you let them loose on your customers - if they don’t, make time for training or be ready to organise your team so that the right people take the calls.

It’s easy as IT professionals to get over-excited about machine-based communication channels, self-service tools and automated chatbots. In our eagerness for technical solutions, we must remember to stay customer-focused and listen to what the customer wants and need from a service desk. Before you rush out to replace phone support with other channels, check your service desk stats, survey your users and listen to their feedback.

Believe in the power of the phone!

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About the author

Pete Canavan

Pete Canavan is Support Services Director at Plan-Net. An accredited ITIL Service Manager, he has a proven track record in IT with special expertise in the Legal & Financial Services industries.

With two decades in the IT field, Pete has acquired extensive experience in business relationship development, service transformation, project and people management, training and client/supplier relations.

Pete's other passions, besides Plan-Net of course, are his family and football.

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