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5 Tips for Better Help Desk Reporting and Monitoring

Performance reporting is an essential part of everything IT does, and the help desk is no different. But help desk reporting and metrics are particular to each organization. Ticket volume and incident types often depend on the nature of the business, and IT help desk managers must select a set of reporting criteria that helps monitor the unique value that their team provides. As this post will cover, there are some universal truths in help desk reporting. Even for factors that vary from one help desk to another, there are best practices that any IT team can follow in choosing metrics, automating reports, and ultimately, using that data to provide better service. Let’s dive in.

Set Goals for Service Delivery

One of the most common mistakes in is that they are not built to drive performance. There are few things worse than “reporting for the sake of reporting.” In order to improve service delivery, reports must address the goals that IT would like to achieve. For example, every help desk should set a goal for customer satisfaction (the ultimate goal is 100%). Perhaps there’s an initiative for self-service in the organization. Maybe a particular application has been slowing employees down, and IT has been tasked with resolving these issues faster. Sometimes, the goal might be as simple as removing the backlog and reducing the volume of active incidents. Whatever the case, it’s important to identify these goals. Establish them with leadership. If the help desk staff is large or divided by specialty, set goals for those individuals and teams. In some cases, perhaps a service level agreement (SLA) is appropriate for certain types of tickets. If so, use it in relation to a performance goal. Establishing goals will help guide the next area for successful help desk reporting: identifying key metrics.

Identify Key Reporting Metrics

Not every help desk will measure the same metrics, which is why it’s so important to begin by setting goals. Those help desk performance goals will guide the metrics that measure your success. What are some of the most common and effective metrics?
  • Ticket closure—How many tickets is the help desk closing over a period of time?
  • Time-to-resolution—How long, on average, does it take to resolve a ticket?
  • Incidents by category—Where are teams spending the most time? What types of incidents are slowing down employee productivity?
  • SLA compliance—How often is the help desk breaching targets for individual tickets?
  • Customer satisfaction (CSAT)—Did the service live up to expectations for the end user?
Consider this your help desk metric "starter kit." In all likelihood, this group of metrics will measure progress toward some of the goals you set. The more specific the goal, the more customized the metric might be. From the example above concerning ticket volume for an application, that team might report monthly on time-to-resolution specifically for tickets in the "applications-Salesforce" category. By elevating priority of those tickets or creating more knowledge base articles, the help desk can improve that metric, indicating progress toward that goal for the business.

Measure and Respond to Customer Satisfaction (CSAT)

Yes, we did mention CSAT as a key reporting metric already, but it demands a bit more detail. IT service management will always be about providing value to the customer and to the organization. When an employee submits a ticket to the help desk, the ultimate measure of success is whether that employee is satisfied in a timely manner. With that in mind, there are two important things to consider about your CSAT surveys. First, promote a high response rate. Simplify the survey. Yes or no. Thumbs up or thumbs down. Make it as easy as possible for the end user to provide feedback. Second, take action. If there’s a negative response, follow up, identify the breakdown, and if necessary, change policies around the service. 100% customer satisfaction should be the ultimate goal of every help desk. Track this metric over time—daily, if possible.

Create Actionable Help Desk SLAs

Service level agreements (SLAs), when implemented correctly, will promote accountability and more timely service delivery. Clearly defining SLAs, using them to drive action, and monitoring compliance are common struggles for help desks—but these SLA best practices can help. Simple and clearly-defined SLAs will help automate actions, such as escalating the priority or assigning to a different group of technicians after a certain amount of time has passed without a comment or resolution. For now, let’s cover the reporting aspect of SLAs and what it means to the help desk. At any given time, the help desk dashboard should capture any active SLA breaches. Managers and supervisors should check this metric regularly. Though SLAs are created to take automated actions, a spike in SLA breaches might require manual intervention, or at least a few follow-up questions from the help desk manager. The reason the SLA should be "actionable" is that an SLA breach should automate actions to resolve the issue more quickly. And though that action does, in many cases, help resolve the issue, it’s important to revisit the causes of SLA breaches, which is where additional reporting comes in. SLA breaches over time, by category, and individual/group compliance can all indicate areas for improvement. Moving closer to full compliance in all of these areas is a strong indicator that help desk performance is improving.

Automate Help Desk Report Distribution

Here’s the easy one. Based on those goals and key metrics that you’ve already outlined, leverage your to send reports to key stakeholders on a regular basis. If the help desk operation is large enough to be broken into specialties, schedule a metrics report for applications team members on the incidents that they’re responsible for. Do the same for the desktop support group, and so on. If leadership has a stake in help desk goals (they probably do), tag them on recurring reports—especially high level activity such as CSAT, closure rate, and time-to-resolution. At some point, you’ll need leadership buy-in on budget and staffing decisions, and this help desk reporting data is your best evidence for decision making. Finally, customize your dashboard, and use it! If you’re a technician responsible for specific types of incidents, track the metrics pertaining to those incidents on your dashboard. Measure your performance on tickets assigned to you. If you’re a help desk manager, use your dashboard to monitor the big ticket performance metrics as soon as you sign on for the day. Know the goals that you’re driving toward and be confident that your help desk reporting is keeping the team on track.
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Tim Lawes
Tim Lawes serves as Manager of Solutions Engineering, ITSM at SolarWinds. ITIL 4 certified, he brings 10+ years of training and consulting experience in the…
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