Running an IT help desk? Need some help? We’re here for you with a roundup of tips and tricks designed to make your life easier and more efficient. Not-incidentally, we’ll make your customers happier too. With the hiring process taking an average of five weeks, you need to minimize the time wastage and maximize the return on your investment in the process. 1) Hire smart, and train. It’s great when a MENSA-credentialed genius who is also expert with your product shows up wanting a job. All pipe dreams are great. In reality you’re often stuck choosing between bright people who know little about what you actually do and uh, other kinds of people who know the software. It may go against the grain, but we advise you to choose the noob over the seasoned user. Smart people can be trained, and can be far more creative at sussing out solutions where there appear to be none. Even better: they can be promoted. 2) Hire polite. It doesn’t matter what kind of brains, work ethic, or skill set they bring to the table (or cubicle) if they say things like, “Well, that was stupid of you” to your customers. It may well be an accurate statement, but it is not a helpful one. A good test here is to ask the receptionist, if you have one, how the applicant interacted with her. Being high-handed or dismissive with the receptionist is always a bad sign. Check references of course, and always ask about the applicant’s manners under pressure. 3) If all other things are equal, hire specialists. That means that while HR departments famously like to look at GPA, you should be more interested in someone’s computer science scores than their average. Who cares what they got in Ancient Greek Philosophers in Translation? Nobody’s calling your help desk trying to figure out whether Heraclitus or Democritus of Athens said something about the only constant being change. It was Heraclitus, by the way. I didn’t take computer science. 4) Open communication channels. If your help desk is an island, it can’t be as helpful as if it’s an integrated part of your whole operation. Include help deskers in company meetings, even if just via Skype. Have a channel for them to suggest fixes and workarounds, and most critically, to highlight bugs directly to the engineers. Help desk staffers have a lot of information that can be critical to bug hunters, and the easier you make it for them to communicate, the faster the problems get solved and the happier your customers will be. 5) If you have a big problem, like server outage, put a statement about it on the front page of your website. It can just be a button with “Having ‘disappearing image’ problems? Click here” but it needs to be in a high visibility situation on your site to prevent a flood of frustrated customers hitting your help desk. There will still be a flood hitting it, but they will have been winnowed down to “those who do not read buttons”. 6) Make sure your help desk employees know they are supported by the company. According to an article in Psychology Today, help deskers are subjected to up to 10 bullying encounters a day including actual threats. If you have a benefits plan, add in some extra supports like call-in counseling on an as-needed basis. 7) Commit to ongoing training for the help desk staff. Bring in experts to teach skills like active listening, cultural awareness, and so on. Not only will it improve their skill set, but it will also increase their loyalty to the company and their ability to solve your customers’ problems.