An experienced help desk is an invaluable aspect of technical support for an organization, both internally and externally. The help desk acts as a funnel for all technical requirements and issues; the person who runs the help desk acts as a mini-manager for everything that comes down the funnel.
Even though this article focuses on help desks for IT support, they are just as common and essential for HR, financial support, etc.; anywhere a significant amount of interaction takes place between a single department and staff. This complete job description will show you what it takes to successfully serve the help desk. Give yourself a head-start by earning your Help Desk Analyst certificate through this training course.
A General Overview
Just to be clear, help desks primarily serve the employees of an organization. This is different from customer service or support, and generally requires a more specialized skill set. If we were to say one thing about helps desks, it would be that they exist to help employees solve problems (and in more cases than not, computer problems).
It should therefore come as no surprise that when something goes wrong, the help desk receives the call. The administrator at the help desk then determines the necessary course of action; if the problem can be fixed over the phone then it usually is, but often the help desk must respond in person. These duties are synonymous with IT support 101. Looking for more information? Read this article which introduces information technology (IT) to get a better feel for the basics.
Most modern businesses have a central system, or mainframe, and those that have experience with mainframes know that things go wrong quite frequently. This is because multiple computers are linked together and running multiple programs simultaneously. The complexity of this situation necessitates a help desk, even if the company is small and must outsource the help. The complexity also necessitates that the help desk possesses legitimate experience and skill so that problems are addressed in a timely fashion.
The help desk administrator typically functions as a member of a company’s technical support team. The help desk doesn’t always get its hands dirty, however. It is very common for the help desk to receive calls and then plan a course of action, yet not take direct part in that course of action. The help desk may lay out the steps to revive mainframe stability, but ultimately remain ready to receive the next call. It depends on the size and dynamics of the technical support team.
Of course, the help desk administrator should be more than capable of fixing problems on his or her own. A fair bit of mainframe maintenance goes into the job, as is the case with most computer networks. Pick up some free advice with this blog post on the basics of networking concepts. While the tech support team is working independently, the help desk might install security fixes, update anti-virus software, refine spam filters, check for Internet threats, etc. When things are running smoothly, the help desk is usually working behind the scenes to ensure that they continue to do so.
Smaller tasks include resetting passwords, restoring settings, etc.
Duties And Responsibilities
Here is a more detailed list of help desk duties and responsibilities:
- Provide technical support and assistance for queries relating to software, hardware and general computer systems and network issues. Learn the how and what of computer networks with this computer networking course.
- Prepare daily reports and assessments on mainframe functionality and performance.
- Install, update and repair employees operating systems and applications.
- Run systematic diagnostic tests, installing necessary security updates.
- Create plans of remedy for more difficult or advanced problems. Respond in person with appropriate team members.
- Understand company protocol for addressing problems through strategic questioning.
- Respond to customer issues, as well; this will require, most commonly, a rigorous monitoring of incoming email, communicating efficiently so that these issues do not “drag on,” following up with customers to determine if the issue has been solved satisfactorily, and finally gaining and documenting valuable feedback about customer usage, improvements and trending issues.
- Consult with the technical support team to address reoccurring problems.
- Help train new employees on using computer systems, as well as new additions to the help desk and technical support staff.
- On a similar note, writing and updating training manuals as they pertain to the organizations computer systems and company-specific protocol; over the long run, this saves time and serves as a useful resource even for the help desk.
If you’re fresh out of college, you may need to obtain further experience and certification to become a hirable, let alone successful, help desk employee. Here are the essential skills.
1. Real Life Troubleshooting
A theoretical understanding is well and good, but only experience diagnosing and fixing serious malfunctions is going to allow you to solve problems within an acceptable timeframe. If you’ve been doing this your whole life, for friends and family, then you may be better prepared than you think. No doubt the interview process will examine this aspect closely.
2. Education And Certification
A bachelor’s degree is extremely helpful, but not required. Self-trained help desk staff are not uncommon. Knowledge and ability matter more than anything. But even a self-trained IT expert can increase the value of their stock by becoming certified. The most common and important certifications are A+, Network+, and Microsoft technician certifications. You can get help with the latter with this Microsoft Server certification training course.
3. Welcome To The Jungle
Arguable the most invaluable trait of a help desk employee is finding solutions to problems you have never encountered before. Again, do you have the experience and technical knowledge to literally create solutions?
Possessing an understanding of basic networking is crucial. This goes for anyone working in a technical field. DNS, LAN, WAN, TCP/IP, controller settings, etc. This should all be ancient knowledge to you by now and these problems are the ones that you should be able to fix almost instantaneously.
5. Basic IT And Programming
An understanding of basic IT goes without saying. Mapping network printers and drives, adding memory, etc. The same goes for programming. You don’t need to be a programmer, but you will probably have to write some basic scripts to help with the IT stuff; scripts for mapping and other daily or simple tasks. This can be an X-factor for an IT team that might be unaware of smaller, time-saving techniques, focusing their attention on the bigger picture.
Fortunately, if you don’t have any programming skills, you can pick them up and round out your resume with this C Programming for beginners class.
Getting involved in tech more or less requires absolute devotion. Any tech company or department is looking for people who love what they do. An implication of this is that you’re willing to work over-time as needed, no questions asked. If you’ve already accepted this fate, here are a few other personal attributes companies will be keen to acquire. These are the things that take you from “valuable employee” to “necessary team member”:
The great equalizer. Interpersonal skills can make or break an employee’s value. Working for the help desk, you will obviously be expected to help people. Being able to interact freely and confidently is going to be crucial to your success. This means knowing that you aren’t to exert your superior knowledge of computer systems. You’re there to help, to listen and to solve problems with more than a single grain of humanity.
This ties in with interpersonal skills, but communication skills, both written and verbal, are important for a number of reasons. To begin with, you need to be a professional representative of your company, which is probably most important when dealing with customers. Get advice on building collaborative relationships and improving your communication methods with this five-star communication skills course.
You also need to be able to write out detailed instructions and explanations that are concise and easy to understand. Sometimes you will have to explain complicated matters to people who know absolutely nothing about what you’re saying. Being able to do this quickly and with accuracy will save valuable time.
- Extracurricular Involvement
Whether you’re an amateur electrical/technical engineer or just involved in a tech blog, these skills and activities demonstrate more than enthusiasm for your field. IT teams are eager to pick up people who bring an assorted skill set to their team. Whether it’s writing great articles or knowing how to make random electrical things work properly, these are the variables that make you an interesting valuable employee.
Making A Decision
There are so many career options in the world of technology, and even one career can vary vastly from one market to the next, even from one company to the next. If you have an attractive skill set and aren’t sure where you would happiest and best utilized in the world of technology, check out this introductory help desk course that compares careers in technical, customer and product support.