When you monitor a help desk to discover the effectiveness of the services it is providing, you are undertaking what is called performance measurement. Metrics are quantitative measures of performance that are gathered from customer satisfaction surveys, problem management tracking systems, automated call distribution (ACD) systems, and call monitoring.

Service Level Agreement, or SLA

One of the most important ways to measure your help desk's performance fairly is to draw up a Service Level Agreement, or SLA. This is a written agreement between the help desk and its customers/users explaining what services are provided (ie: hardware/software, etc.), and to what extent (hours and days, as well as the depth involved), and the proper means for resolving issues. The SLA should give an average time to answer the phone, an average call time, etc. The best SLAs are developed with the help of both the help desk and users, and provide a fair definition of criteria to better evaluate the service your help desk gives.

The metrics you use should correspond with the terms laid out in the SLA. Common help desk performance metrics include the total number of calls received during a specified time period, the average time an agent takes to pick up a call, the average time a user holds while waiting for an agent or voice mail, the percent of users who end a call before reaching an agent or voice mail, the average time spent resolving an issue (keeping in mind that some questions may be far easier to answer than others), the percent of calls during which the problem is resolved with no further call-back necessary, the total time an agent spends logged into the ACD system waiting for calls, total time spent engaging in tasks unrelated to calls (such as meetings and projects), the total time spent out of the queue (not fielding other calls or currently handling one) while finishing work from a prior call, and more depending on the specific operations of the help desk.

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Once you have developed the performance measurement systems you will use, you should devise a target performance time for each aspect of a member of the help desk's job (for example, no more than 40 seconds until a call is answered). It is necessary to continually monitor and tweak these ideals as time goes on to ensure that they are always desirable, fair, and accurate goals. If the skill of your help desk increases, you may want to consider making the target times slightly harder to reach in order to keep your staff motivated.

Interpreting help desk metrics

Interpreting common help desk metrics can be a tricky, misleading task. If a help desk analyst significantly cuts down on his call time, it does not necessarily mean that he is handling cases improperly or too quickly to sufficiently resolve them – it could mean that he has improved the speed with which he successfully assists consumers. If the total number of calls to the help desk decreases, rather than being incontestably the result of poor help desk service, it could mean that consumers are solving more problems on their own.

By constantly monitoring the fairness and effectiveness of various aspects of your performance metrics standards, you should be able to efficiently run a successful help desk.

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