Near Contact. Causes behind poor Help Desk performance

mayo 30, 2023
/Nearshore IT

Causes behind poor Help Desk performance

When we start working with a new client, they often come from having an internal Help Desk or one managed by another vendor. There are many situations that drive the need for a change, but the most common is the perception by users or the business of poor service.

This perception of poor service is often accompanied by pressure on the Help Desk management team, who may be willing to resolve the issues but struggle to clearly identify the causes and address them. In this blog, we will explore the most common signs of subpar service, their usual causes, and some suggestions for focusing improvement efforts.

Poor service can be expressed in two main categories: service failure based on unmet metrics, and service failure based on perception. The former is easily defined: for some reason, the Help Desk metrics do not meet the organization’s expectations. In the second category, we mainly find low user satisfaction or a perception of lack of focus on continuous improvement or unmet expectations.

Failure to meet metrics

The Help Desk is one of the practices that has the most associated measurements in organizations, mainly due to the legacy of regular Call Center operations. Even in organizations where other practices do not have associated indicators, the Help Desk will often have them. Frequently, indicators obtained through the Help Desk are used to indirectly measure the performance of other areas through the Incident, Request, and Problem processes.

Let’s review some of the indicators commonly used to measure a Help Desk and possible reasons for not meeting the set objectives:

Abandonment rate

One of the most popular indicators for Help Desks is abandonment. This indicator tells us, through a percentage, how many users decided to hang up the call before a Help Desk analyst could answer them. Its main objective is to provide us with a reference that our Help Desk may be experiencing a demand that exceeds its capacity.

Possible causes

Excessive wait time. The first possible cause is the most obvious: the user perceives a long wait and decides to hang up. However, it does not necessarily mean that there are not enough analysts available to take the call quickly. There is a factor that is easily overlooked: the IVR menu. From a service provisioning perspective, a menu with options can provide us with interesting statistical information and channel users directly to qualified personnel specifically for their needs. However, for the user, a long menu can ruin the experience and decrease tolerance for waiting.

It is important to note that a long wait time perception can vary from user to user. Some users are comfortable waiting for a few minutes for someone to pick up while others expect an instant response. A wise Help Desk manager will analyze data to be able to understand if there is a capacity issue or just unmet expectations by integrating other metrics like average speed of answer to the analysis.

Average Handle Time

One of the main performance indicators for a Help Desk is the call average handle time. This indicator gives us a reference for how effectively the Help Desk analysts handle contacts. A low average time indicates quick incident resolution and increases the Help Desk’s capacity to handle more contacts. However, it is important to aim too low because building rapport with callers is often a critical point to achieve a high level of customer satisfaction.

Possible causes

Usually, a long average time is attributed to low analyst knowledge for incident resolution or inadequate or nonexistent documentation. However, there are also scenarios where tangential elements can affect the response time, such as slow remote collaboration due to the user’s connection or procedures and instructions that are difficult for users to follow.

It is always a good idea to constantly analyze the most common issues reported to the Help Desk and make sure solutions are properly documented and easily available to our Help Desk analysts.

First Call Resolution

First Call Resolution refers to the number of incidents that the Help Desk can resolve during the initial contact with the user and is one of the most important help desk metrics. A high FCR indicates incidents with quick solutions that minimize user impact to the greatest extent possible and thus have a controlled impact on the business.

Possible causes

A decrease in the FCR indicator is usually suspected to be due to poor performance by the Help Desk analysts, either due to lack of training, documentation, or just negligence. However, there is a cause that is often overlooked: operational variability. Over time, changes are made in the organization’s environment that can cause incidents or requests that contributed to this metric to disappear or new incidents to arise, and the Help Desk is not prepared to handle them and assigns them to tier two support. The best way to prevent this is to maintain a constant effort by the Help Desk to ensure that most user needs can be addressed online to minimize user impact times as much as possible.

Poor service perception

Despite indicators showing that the Help Desk is operating under optimal conditions, there may be factors causing the organization to have a perception of poor service. As these factors have a certain degree of subjectivity, the Help Desk may have difficulty detecting and addressing these areas of opportunity, relying primarily on technical metrics as the main reference.

Just as it is challenging to identify them, achieving increased satisfaction among the parties involved can be impossible without a clear identification of the causes. Listening to our users feedback is crucial to improve on service perception.

Low Proactivity

One expectation of high-performance businesses is to have employees who are focused on continuous improvement, seizing any opportunity to detect and resolve areas of opportunity that may be impacting the service potential.

Possible causes

When there is a strong focus on meeting technical indicators, the attention of all employees is almost exclusively concentrated on activities related to their fulfillment. Investing resources in non-measurable elements becomes a secondary priority. Consequently, there is a high risk of a perception of stagnant or even negligent service.

Conversations between the service area and the organization should focus on complementing technical metrics with other measurement schemes that can recognize and guide efforts towards continuous improvement.

Low User Satisfaction

Customer satisfaction is one of the most important metrics to measure the overall impact of the Help Desk on the organization. Once it is recognized as an important metric and results are closely tracked and understood, we can have a more comprehensive picture of the performance of the Help Desk practice.

Possible causes

Being a subjective indicator, the possible causes can be as varied as the users’ expectations. It is important to allow users to freely express their opinions in an unrestricted format, such as an open-ended question. These comments should be properly followed up, resulting in improvement plans aimed at addressing observations about aspects of the service susceptible to improvement. However, we must not lose sight of the fact that users’ opinions will always be a reference to their individual expectations of how a Help Desk should operate or how the service should be delivered.

It is always a good idea to take the lead and communicate the expectations users should have regarding the service’s capabilities and the nature of activities in our specific organization. For example, it could be beneficial to publish SLA objectives so that users can have an idea of how long it will take for an incident or request to be resolved under normal circumstances, allowing their opinion to be formed within a realistic frame of reference within the organization.


A negative perception of the service is always a reason to pay attention to the feedback received. However, improvement efforts should be focused where they can bring the best results. Not always the traditional or obvious reasons are the causes of a negative perception of the service, so it is important to maintain an open and inquisitive mindset.

Guiding a service towards continuous improvement will ensure that the delivery is always aligned with the ever-changing needs of the business. Maintaining a good balance between focus on keeping metrics within an acceptable range and efforts to proactively improve the service will yield the best results over time.

While it can be difficult to juggle the often limited resources to cover both areas, collaboration with the business and clear and constructive communication can be key to designing an strategy that can effectively cover both aspects of the service.

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