Practical Tips for Help Desk Agents

A collection of best practices to help desk and customer service agents to help them be successful.

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Hiring the right people for customer service

People are the foundation of your service desk. Be thoughtful when you select your team. Your choices impact your success for growth and the reputation of your company.

Look for the following characteristics in your service team members:

  1. Communication is key
  2. The first trait that should be at the top of your list for consideration should be this one. You should be able to get a good sense of the level of communication skills a candidate has during the interview process. To better gauge the candidate communication skills in relation to your product or service, provide the candidate an example from a customer perspective and ask the candidate to explain it to you. If they can break down the subject into understandable, helpful tips this will definitely be beneficial to the customer.

  3. Understanding your company’s product or service
  4. Pay attention to whether or not a candidate appears to have customized their application materials for you in particular, or if it's so generic it feels like it could've been sent to anyone. Ideally, they should create documents specifically for you by including relevant details and connecting them to why they're a good fit for your organization.

    When reviewing candidate applications pay attention if they customized their resume to align with your business or it seems generic. When interviewing listen to the way they speak about your product. Do they mention any recent feature rollouts or product updates? The research they put in and the passion that they use when they speaking about your product and the enthusiasm for customer support will go a long way in becoming a great resource for your team and company.

  5. Strong people skills
  6. A second trait to look for in a potential customer service team should be people skills. Collaborating with team members, and having positive, professional relationships with people across your organization is an integral part of any team. Pay attention to their communication style and the questions they are asking. Are they bringing ideas to the table or sharing similar experiences from past roles and providing thoughts on have they see themselves fitting in with your company and team.

    Your customer service organization is your chance to connect with your customers and show a genuine concern for them and their problems. When you provide great customer service, people remember and that will go a long way. But to provide that kind of service your customer agents must strive for 5-star ratings.

How to earn a 5-star customer satisfaction ratings

Help desk tickets are a part of most customer service environments. Life in customer service is much easier when you’re earning 5-star reviews from your customers.

Stumped on how to achieve the best possible rating on your customer service? We’re here to help:

  1. Answer all tickets within five minutes... or faster
  2. Yes, a five minute response time can be difficult to implement when days get busy. However, showing customers that you’ve received their request and have an action plan is a key part of providing strong service.

  3. Shoot for first contact resolution
  4. Your goal should be for all tickets to be resolved within the first point of contact (i.e. the initial ticket request). To do this, empower your agents to spend up to an agreed upon amount of time to make the customer happy. For example, if a customer complains about a broken product, your team should be authorized to provide a new one for free.

  5. If you ask a question, be sure to provide a potential answer.
  6. For example, let’s say you ask, “Does your product have “Model XYZ” on the bottom?” Be sure to also say, “If your product does say “Model XYZ” you’ll need to ship it back to us. If it doesn’t, be sure to clean it once or twice and try again.” Providing potential next steps eases the customer.

  7. Avoid isolating the customer (also called black-hole syndrome)
  8. Black Hole Syndrome happens when a customer has no idea what's going on with a ticket. Keep the customer updated on next steps and tell them when you are going to get back to them. Communication is key. Instead of waiting for the customer to write in again, be proactive and keep them updated on the progress of an issue.

    For example:


    My XYZ software is broken! I need help ASAP!

    Help desk:

    Hi Sally,

    We’ve logged your issue with our XYZ Software Team. Typically they are able to help resolve all XYZ Software problems within one business day.

    Steve B.
    Linux Engineer Level 3.

    And less than hour later….

    If problem is solved, the HelpDesk should respond like this:

    Hi Sally,

    We wanted to follow up on your XYZ Software issue. We were able to fix the problem and your software should be working properly.

    As always, let us know if you have any questions or further issues.

    Steve B.
    Linux Engineer Level 3.

    If the problem was not solved, or took longer to resolve than one hour, the response should look something like this:

    Hi Sally,

    We are running into unforeseen complications. The software distribution server has been down for 60 minutes and once it will be back up we’ll be able to continue troubleshoot your issue.

    Thank you,
    Steve B.
    Linux Engineer Level 3.

  9. Say “hi and bye” the correct way - don't use fluff.
  10. Do:

    Hi Sally,

    Thank you for contacting us. We have updated your computer and everything is working properly. Please contact us at any time if you have any further questions or concerns.

    Thank you,
    Steve B.
    Linux Engineer Level 3.


    Fixed. Steve B. Linux Engineer Level 3.

    We're so glad you are a customer. Thank you for taking the time to reach out and tell us your issue.

    It's customers like you that keep our business strong.....

Recover from Customer Service Mishaps

We’ve all been there. After dealing with a customer or client on the same issue time after time - you snap.

Maybe it’s a curt email or fiery phone call conversation. Or perhaps you chose to go against our customer service training and ignore a ticket for too long - and now the customer is angry.

No matter the situation, it’s important resolve all customer service mistakes as soon as possible. Not only is conflict resolution a best practice in the customer service industry, but it’s also an essential tactic that builds your reputation in the marketplace.

Here’s how we recommend recovering from a customer service mistake:

  1. Apologize.
  2. Don’t say:

    Sorry I’ve had such a long day. You’re my 46th ticket and I can barely see straight.

    Do say:

    I apologize for the tone of my last response. In my enthusiasm to solve your issue, I believe I came off a bit tense.

  3. Then, clearly state the issue and progress at hand to regain the customer’s trust.
  4. If you mess up, your customer has a right to feel nervous about your ability to solve their problem. So it’s important to show your expertise and earn back their trust as soon as possible.

    Don’t say:

    Okay, where were we? Sorry, give me just a second to catch up.

    Do say:

    So we left off at [the last topic of discussion]. To get your issue solved quickly, I recommend that we [list next action].

    Having a set list of next steps is essential to bringing the ticket or conversation back on track.

  5. Follow up with the customer regularly.
  6. After messing up, follow up at regular intervals (without coming off as desperate). The customer should feel that they're your #1 priority - no matter what.

    Don’t say:

    Sorry again that it’s been so long between updates. It’s been a crazy day here at Headquarters.

    Do say:

    Hi Sally,

    I wanted to keep you updated on the status of your problem. The issue should be resolved within the hour, but please feel free to ask me any questions in the interim.

    Joe Helpdesk

Remember, every customer interaction is a chance to win over a customer. And every customer service mistake is a chance to grow as a professional - and as a person.

How to handle a difficult customers

Help desk support and customer service professionals are no stranger to difficult clients. From frustrated users to the ticket-writers who just do not understand anything, some customers are impossible to please.

But the most difficult client of all is the user who doesn’t yell or misunderstand simple instructions. It’s the talkative client.

Sometimes a customer who feels the need to call or write in every day. They may not have a problem or concern, but they just like to stay in touch. For help desk professionals who find themselves overwhelmed by tickets, this can be frustrating. After all, they don’t have a problem, per se, but they always seem to take up valuable time.

Here is an example of a "difficult customer" help desk ticket:

Dear Help Desk,

Hi there again, Sally here! I just wanted to write in to say hello and see when the new version of your software product would be available. I have no issues with my current software, but was just curious how version 2.0 is going. Would love to chat when you have a second.

Talk soon,
Sally Smith

Some people will write in with the same question each week, or simply want to “chat” with a member of the support team.

Are you dealing with this issue? Try handling them with the following tips:

  1. Channel their efforts.
  2. Never ignore a demanding customers, but put a process in place that allows you to give them something productive to do (besides messaging you, of course). For example, send them to a discussion group or forum where a similar conversation is going strong:

    Hi Sally,

    Thanks for writing in! As we discussed last week, the new version of our software will be available in a few months, but we have not announced a release date yet. In the meantime, I’d recommend checking out the Helpdesk 2.0 Discussion Group on LinkedIn. There’s a lively discussion happening right now that I think you would enjoy.

    Have a great day,
    Sam Johnson
    Help Desk Support Level 1

  3. Direct them to your original content.
  4. If the customer can’t be dissuaded by a message board or forum, offer them a link to your content library or blog as a productive distraction. For example:

    Hi Sally,

    We have not announced a release date for our 2.0 version yet, but be sure to stay tuned to our blog. It’s where we post all company announcements first, and it also houses our industry articles and white papers to stay “in the know.”

    Thank you,
    Sam Johnson
    Help Desk Support Level 1

  5. Confront the issue.
  6. If all else fails, don’t be afraid to politely confront a difficult customer. For example, let’s say your difficult customer has written in about a non-issue for the third time in a week. Support could say:

    Hi Sally,

    Good to hear from you! Although I enjoy our conversations each week, I want to make sure I’m addressing your concerns and not missing your request in each ticket. How are you liking the current version of our software product? As you know, version 2.0 will be released later this year, and I want to make sure we answer your concerns.

    Thank you,
    Sam Johnson
    Help Desk Level 1 Support

    difficult customer deserve attention, but they can waste valuable help desk time that could be used for more pressing issues. Try our three-step support approach to handling a difficult customer, and enjoy the extra time in your work schedule each week.

    Think of each ticket as an opportunity to build your own brand, as well as enhance the reputation of your company or team. At Mojo Helpdesk, we’re experts in providing help desk ticketing software and customer service advice to a wide range of organizations. Like this article? Be sure to share it on Facebook, Twitter or Google+.