In order to be part of any help desk outsourcing team, an excellent technical background and the ability to communicate and transfer knowledge to a client’s end users is the price of admission. For this reason, seasoned IT professionals must not only have industry related certifications and credentials, but must be able to make practical use of those skills in complex, fast-paced, and diverse support scenarios.  In addition, they are expected to undergo a rigorous training program that involves unique, client-specific processes and technology training including use of their preferred ticketing system. At the end of each phase in training, agents must demonstrate their competence before being released into the operational wild. They need to think on their feet so an effective post-training assessment is best conducted in a live Q & A format versus an unsupervised written test. Ticketing system training and being able to effectively perform incident management tasks within the platform is just one of those phases and demands its own exam.

Questions that prompt specific answers are preferred so there’s no room for ambiguity or hedging bets with a vague answer. When working within a structured incident management process with all data points captured within an ITSM platform and funneled through rigidly defined workflows, there should rarely be room for interpretation. In fact, a strong line of questioning revolves around “how to” activities within the ticketing system. To that end, agents must have a clear concise answer for such questions as:

  • How do you link your incident to a problem ticket?
  • How do you convert an incident to a service request?
  • Where do you have to go to view incidents and/or service requests that you own?
  • How do you resolve a ticket?
  • How do you assign a ticket to yourself or reassign it to another support group?
  • Why do some of the fields appear in red?

These incident management basics should come as second nature to the agent before being placed in a live support situation. Although technical acumen is a given for any agent, knowing how to swiftly navigate through a ticketing system and accurately document all support activities contributes to a shorter handle time. For client management, the accuracy translates to more comprehensive reporting and the opportunity for more informed root cause analysis. For the agents, faster handle times mean faster speed of answer for the next inbound contact in their queue. At the same time, a valuable ticketing system minimizes the chance of human error by enforcing crucial data fields be completed. Anything short of that leads to a page error should an agent attempt to update, close, or escalate an incomplete ticket. Anyone who has filled out a web form in recent years should be aware of required fields, but asking agents to explain why they are marked in red encourages them to consider the logic behind such built-in fail-safes. Making that part of the assessment dialogue also serves as a useful mnemonic device because the relevant questions will be top of mind when gathering info from the caller.

In a help desk outsourcing context, accurate reporting is a vital component of accurate billing especially in a usage-based per ticket or per incident pricing model. In such instances, the monthly invoice must reflect the exact total of unique incidents handled including supporting documentation. Unlike a per contact or per call model, users may call back about the same issue so in the likelihood that they will reach a different agent, the agent is instructed to ask the user if they already have a ticket open.  Even if the end user forgets or neglects to mention a previously opened ticket, the agents have multiple data points to cross-reference in the ticketing system (username, device type, configuration item, etc.) to identify a duplicate. Worst case scenario, part of the training curriculum includes the all-important lesson of how to close a ticket as a duplicate. During the final assessment, the agent must describe or demonstrate the method for doing so to ensure those ethical business practices will be upheld.

Some questions are terminology based and assess the agent’s ability to understand which applies to the ticket. A good sample question is “What’s the difference between an affected user and a reported by user?” Depending on the administrative makeup of an organization, some may designate staff members to report incidents for others or submit support requests on behalf of their department. So knowing whom to select in the drop-down list and for which fields provides more meaningful data for follow up, problem management, and root cause analysis. Abbreviations and acronyms are in frequent use for the sake of ticket expediency or to standardize industry language, so agents are quizzed on each definition to ensure the terms are appropriately applied in the ticket. And there should, of course, be common sense access and functionality questions that address the remote support capabilities:

  • How can you access the ticketing system and what browsers are supported?
  • Can you re-open a ticket?
  • Can you add attachments into rich text editor fields?
  • Do end users have the same access or portal views to submit incidents and service requests or check on the status of an open ticket?

In addition to knowing how to navigate within the ITSM platform, agents must be able to provide verbal navigation assistance to end users when remotely accessing their desktop is not an option. The last question gauges agent awareness of what the end user sees in their portal. The premise being if they are able to visualize the user’s portal, they can more easily direct them to next steps for web submits, FAQ access, etc. Also, knowing their way around attachments also enables agents to include screenshots or error messages to incorporate with a knowledge base article for a new issue and resolution process. An agent that knows if and where those attachments can be included in the ticket will have that task top of mind when compiling resolution procedures and contribute to the knowledge base for future reference. As with all other features and functions of the ticketing system in question, an agent must confirm how to leverage them properly in the verbal Q & A assessment before taking that first call. At which point end-user satisfaction may be the only thing that is without question.

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