Why Are Workplace Help Desk Systems So Rarely Used?

When something goes wrong with the PC in your office, there's meant to be an defined process for getting things fixed — but the reality is often rather different. Even when online systems are set up to speed up the process, they frequently fail to deliver.

Picture by jameskm03

Work environments rely heavily on informal help, and I suspect many Lifehacker readers are familiar with being the go-to person on their floor for getting issues fixed. Officially working on the help desk is no picnic either, with a constant stream of angry people berating you for problems you often have no control over.

Employing support staff is a costly exercise, and many companies rely on self-help systems such as online FAQs and automated services for password resets; the latter account for up to 30% of help desk requests, according to research company Gartner. But it's one thing to have those systems in place, and another for people to use them. Gartner says that less than 5% of issues within organisations are actually resolved by self-service systems. Not everything can be solved without the IT department, of course, but that still seems a surprisingly low number.

Got a great office self-service support system, or is your workplace IT strategy anything but helpful? Let's hear about it in the comments.


    I am a sysadmin for a local government office.

    Our system is very useful, as we support 300+ computers over 5 sites, and I like to think our level of offered support is better than most.

    Then again, most of this support is offered by me, so I am a little biased.

      I agree with Grayda, I work the helpdesk at a private school managing 2 campuses. I've found that the helpdesk is mainly used for the boss to send me reminders and the odd issue involving printers not working. As far as everything else, teachers just stroll on in with problems and expect to be given highest priority when they can't plug USB cords in the right way. I would love for our helpdesk system to be used properly, since it offers me a great way to prioritize and organize jobs, but when the majority of my jobs come from teachers just strolling in, and asking me questions that I'll forget about / confuse with someone else's problem.... yeah. As much as I would *love* to show a teacher for the 50th time how to print properly, A storeroom full of iMacs that need to be set up take priority.

      ... Hmm, I rambled on there, but bottom line is that as an IT worker, it allows me to prioritize and organise jobs more effectively, than just having people stroll up and expect their shit to be fixed first ahead of anything else.

    I think some people drop in for help because they see a human face and want that social aspect. Y'know, the social aspect you MUST have when that 9,000 page report that was due 3 days before it began, needs to be done? Also, some people believe that if you drop in unannounced, you'll be given top priority. Because their "I can't make my text red" is more important than "I can't make the fire disappear"

    But at our organisation, people don't listen. I tell them once how to fix their problem ("See the switch on the left? Pull that forward. That's the wireless switch that lets you log on") and a day later, I have half a dozen children (I work at a school) in my office saying "I can't log in. Miss sent me here". Then I get bitched out because the wireless "never works".

    Ah the circle of IT. Teach, forget, blame, remedy, teach, forget, blame, remedy.

    "5% of issues within organisations"
    Is that talking about specifically IT related problems? Because, if that's talking about all organisational queries that sounds about right...

    as they say on IT Crowd, "Have you tried turning it off and on again?".

    Another issue with help desks in some larger organisations is the time that people are stuck in a phone queue waiting for somebody to answer the phone. Of course they are going to prefer the "informal help" of a go-to person over being stuck on the phone for 20mins.
    One way to reduce this issue and those people that "pop in" is to develop a Knowledge Base that is accessible to the staff and has a layman-friendly interface (ie not couched all in "IT speak"). People will use it, and for the "pop ins" you then have a resource that you can refer them to as you are too busy with your "iMac roll-out" or other higher priority job.

    Every issue at my mid-size organisation must go through helpdesk and it works brilliantly!

    Our IT Admin is in another country but without fail I get an Instant Message or Call within 5 minutes of logging an issue.

    It might have something to do with being appraised against resolution times only for logged issues?

    This is one of the reasons IT staff get such a bad rep - people decide they want to get things fixed by 'dropping by' to tell the IT people (who are likely working on more important things at the moment) that they need have a problem fixed. When they're told to go away and log an issue they get incensed because everyone has an over-inflated opinion of their own importance, and take issue prioritization as a personal insult.


    You beat me to it. Have you Turned it off

    My IT department is utterly useless. I'll come in one morning, can't open the main email. Log a job.

    Four hours later they haven't done anything. Call them, and they bitch to "log a job". Uh, I've done that, DO YOUR JOB.

    One of the girls always talks down to everyone, she asked me to do something, I did what she said, and she yelled at me for not doing what she actually wanted me to do. Forgive me for actually understanding IT speak and knowing what you're talking about.

    Pop-ins drive me especially insane now that I work across 5 schools. Systems are in place to allow me to prioritise my work before I get on site, and staff are reminded pretty regularly. But then, staff seem to fall in to three categories:

    1. Those who submit jobs through the service desk. If I'm lucky, they'll be detailed. Generally, it's "The computer's broken", though never aiding in the discovery of which computer it actually is.

    2. Those who pop-in during the limited amount of time I have at each site. If I'm lucky, they'll describe their problem and I can offer a quick suggestion or say I'll add it to my list. Generally, it's "I can't remember what it said, and I left the computer at home".

    3. Those who do nothing. It doesn't do something once, and it's then deemed broken. However it's too much effort/takes too much time to let someone know. If I'm lucky, I'll stumble upon the problem, and then be told it's been like that for months. Generally, the area has either become a storage facility that should breach enumerable OH&S standards, declared a national park due to amount of wildlife that's moved in to the machine, or both.

    People are idiots, most see IT as a necessary evil.
    Most companies spend money on drug tests numeracy and literacy tests before you start, zero to make sure you can use a PC, they assumed you can.
    They make sure you have a drivers license before you get behind the wheel of car, but don't worry about giving you $1500 PC to wreak havoc on millions of dollar's worth of computer systems.
    I'm over trying to help people, with there IT needs.
    I'm looking for something else after 10 yrs of IT.
    As some Sales & Marketing person said to me in the lift just before I left.
    Staying in IT or looking for something else? IT is more of a job not really a career.
    Says it all really.

    It s

    Last edited 18/05/13 9:21 am

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