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On a recent Between the Bytes podcast, we spoke with Kody Ogden, Director of Technical Operations here at Executech, about two challenges – building an IT department from scratch and how to work with IT support effectively.
Kody has been at Executech for about five and a half years. Originally hired to do basic help desk tasks for internal employees, he took on more advanced technical and then management responsibilities before being charged with taking over and developing our 24/7 customer service desk about three years ago. Today, he manages an entire division of 14 individuals, some of whom are overseas, ensuring that client and employee satisfaction is high and that our teams have the evolving resources and continuing education they need to do their jobs.
“The biggest thing that makes us stand out is our people-first mentality. It’s been that way ever since I joined five and a half years ago. People first, no matter what – that’s the employees, the end users, and the clients that we’re taking care of. We always make sure that we have good people around us,” he notes. “There’s also a mentality that if you don’t know something, asking questions is totally okay. We have 300 individuals here at Executech who are very technical and willing to help you out and vice versa. If somebody reaches out to you and asks for your help, you’re there to help them.”
Open communication and focus on teamwork ensure that clients’ issues are resolved. It builds confidence in the IT support team because clients understand we are willing to direct the necessary resources toward accomplishing their goals. At the end of the day, that builds trust and confidence and encourages clients to reach out to our helpdesk when they have any issues.
Skill levels defined
Building an IT support team from scratch requires a mix of different skills and knowledge, but what exactly are those varied skills? Kody explains that there are some gray areas in the typical scale of Tier 1, Tier 2, and Tier 3 technicians. Here’s how he describes them:
Tier 1 Technicians handle basic technical issues, such as assisting employees who have forgotten passwords and are locked out of systems. They are the people to reach out to when you need a new user or email created. They can handle basic troubleshooting, such as when a computer just has a blue screen. They are also adept and handling upgrades such as adding RAM or a graphics card.
Tier 2 Technicians occupy much of the gray area in between. Yes, they can easily handle the basic stuff that Tier 1 techs do, but they are also dabbing in the more advanced security and networking features and learning as they go.
Tier 3 Technicians are more advanced and handle security and networking tasks. Networking is a huge part of what they do, whether adding virtual machines on a physical server, site-to-site VPNs, or making an Azure environment talk with multiple offices across the nation. They also handle the security behind VPN connections and the advanced networking features essential to make it all work together, including networks for phone systems and more.
While certifications, where an individual has worked in the past, and previous job descriptions are a guide to where a technician falls on this spectrum, it is a gradient rather than a solid scale.
Building an IT Helpdesk department
Setting boundaries about what your team does and does not do is critical to building an effective IT department. By saying yes to everything, your internal IT team will often be overtaxed and not deliver on the things they are supposed to be executing.
Kody’s management philosophy begins with asking employees whether they are getting their job done and meeting or exceeding expectations and requirements.
“We encourage people to exceed their minimums with incentives and other types of encouragement. At the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter what you do as long as you are doing your job and clients are happy.”
He strives to ensure that his people understand that failure is okay. He believes that failure is the best teacher. When he started, he logged into a firewall, accidentally removed every single access rule, and the whole business went down. It was, as he describes, a stupid mistake on his part, but he learned from that what not to do. He believes that employees have to accept mistakes and learn from them, and managers have to build a team around people who are there to teach them when they fail. He encourages his team to step out of their comfort zone and take on tickets that might seem challenging. With his challenge of the week, he’ll pick a challenging ticket and reward whoever comes up with the best solution with lunch.
Feedback is essential
Kody gives each ticket a customer satisfaction score. He emails the end user a simple scale with a green smiley face, a moderate yellow face, and a red frowny face. The survey also allows them to write about the tech, whether negative or positive. Kody is very transparent and shouts out all the positive feedback to the entire team. If Kody and his leadership team see a poor review, they will reach out to the client to determine what happened and use it as a teaching tool to get the IT technician in question to where they need to be.
Another feedback tool is Park. This is an internal program that states the problem and every single action that a tech took to fix the issue – whether that was three things or 150 things – then clearly states the resolution. Each tech reaches out to the end user for confirmation that the fix is working. Documenting the process is essential because it can simplify future tasks and makes the team more efficient. The documents allow them to revisit past successes when future clients have the same issue.
How well do these systems work? Kody’s department has had 2947 reviews for 2022 and has a 99% customer satisfaction rating.
Kody also notes that a considerable part of customer satisfaction is client education. Your internal help desk team and the users they work with need to engage with each other effectively that works for both parties. Here are his lists of dos and don’ts for clients.
What does a helpdesk team do – and what do they not do?
When many clients think about a helpdesk team, they assume they will do everything, but that’s not necessarily the case. Kody notes that his team at Executech is exclusively remote, meaning that if something needs to be done on-site, someone else within the company but not on the help desk will be the person to show up at a client’s physical front door.
Help desks like Executech’s are also primarily reactive as opposed to proactive. Many clients assume that help desks do everything – like updating software at night when no one is working or updating the firmware on the firewall, and that’s not what a helpdesk does. When things happen quickly, and clients need immediate assistance, that’s what a help desk is there for – they put out fires. On the other hand, IT Consultants take a more long-term, proactive look at your systems and will handle or delegate those maintenance tasks.
“I tell clients we are the first line of defense for anything technology-related,” Kody notes. “That could mean they call us because Susan is locked out of her machine, or they need someone to run some new network cables in offices or someone to mount a TV. We encourage our folks to reach out to the service desk first and foremost. That allows us to get a grasp of the issue and the resolution, and then internally; we can get the right people involved. For example, we have a full networking team. If one of our businesses reaches out and says, ‘hey, we need someone to come out and run cabling.’ if they take it to the service desk first, we then direct it to the right team.”
The Dos and Don’ts of Working With Help Desk
- Provide as much information as possible. If you are getting an error, screenshot it and send it to your IT team.
- Communicate as much as possible. Kody prefers overcommunication to no communication. If something has been an issue for a long time, please communicate it and communicate throughout the process.
- Have you tried to troubleshoot the problem on your own? If so, tell your help desk what you tried so they are not doing double the work.
- Tell your IT team who the issue is impacting. Is it just you, or are others having the problem, too? Ask around and see. If no one can access a particular program, it becomes a more significant problem that gets kicked up the priority list.
- Be patient with IT. There may be 15 ways to fix a problem, and they are trying all 15 on your issue – and it might be the 16th thing they try that works.
- If you are down and it is a dire emergency, don’t just submit a ticket and expect the help desk to call you back immediately. “Pick up the phone and call us,” Kody says. “If we don’t answer, call us again.”
- If you have a question about anything technical, call and ask your help desk.
- Don’t be vague.
- Don’t assume anything.
- Don’t ghost your tech team.
- Don’t be rude. Be patient and be nice – our help desk is there to help you.
- If you are not technical, please don’t touch it. Reach out to the pros before you make something worse. They are there to help.
- If you want the help desk to remote into your computer, don’t touch your mouse or keyboard. “We can’t do our job if you are simultaneously trying to do your job,” Kody notes.
- Don’t click on a link you don’t know is secure. You can prevent so many cybersecurity incidents if you look at the from address and make certain it’s from a legitimate source. If you do mistakenly click on something you shouldn’t, call your help desk and ask that question.
Do you need to bring a higher level of professionalism to your helpdesk? Reach out to us and learn more about putting our team to work for you.