[unisog] Systems support staff on HelpDesk rotation?

Russell Fulton r.fulton at auckland.ac.nz
Wed Mar 8 21:19:40 GMT 2006

Robin Anderson wrote:
> Our management is considering rotating all technical/systems support staff
> through the HelpDesk on some sort of preset schedule.  The stated goal is
> to expose the staff to a direct customer service and support environment,
> making them more sensitive to the customer's needs and the HelpDesk's
> position as intermediary.  Management's premise is that a lot of other
> schools do this, and that it will be beneficial to all involved.

This idea has admirable aims but is, I believe, fundamentally flawed.  I
know of no institution that does this.

I think the flaw lies in the assumption that you can change peoples
(SAs) attitudes by making them do something they will hate.  This will
lead to a hardening of attitudes if anything.

I do think that exposing system administrators and other techs to the
service desk coal face is a good idea but let it be a one off
occurrence.   I.e. they get to spend a day at the service desk to see
how things work, spend a couple of hours answering day to day queries
(under supervision ;),  spend some time going though all the procedure
documentation, talk to the crisis coordinators...  Hopefully they will
come away with a better appreciation of the problems that the help desk
face and be more accommodating as the consequence.

In my experience the hardest thing to get through to techs who are
fixing problems is that they *must* let someone know what is happening.
 In most organisations that 'someone' is the helpdesk.  I personally
believe that each tech group should have a person who is the designated
helpdesk liaison bod.  If there is a crisis it is their job to find out
from the techs what is happening, when a fix is expected etc. and then
they communicate with the  helpdesk  and higher management (in many
cases this could be the first level management).

The same goes for service desk staff, they could gain some insight from
spending a day or so visiting the various groups that the front for.

We had a scheme similar to this but the visits were just for an hour or
 so and tended to end up with the visitors getting a more or less
prepared spiel and I'm not sure how useful it was.  The practice quietly
died -- I think that say it all.

One simple thing that can help here is to make sure the techies and the
helpdesk staff have a chance to meet in person reasonably regularly.
It's much easier to be rude to someone you have never (or rarely) met
and who works in another building on the other side of the campus.

Cheers, Russell

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