4 Critical KPIs for Internal Help Desks to Improve End-User Experience
by Andrew Sanders on

The internal help desk can be a very busy place for a business. IT is under pressure from users to fix any application or network problems quickly, and now also has to depend on the providers of those apps and networks to get problems solved.

So how do you measure how your help desk is performing? Figure out the metrics you’ll use to improve the help desk’s performance, and in turn you’ll improve end-user experience and IT’s reputation.

We talked recently about first call resolution (FCR), which is one of the most important KPIs to consider when running a help desk. FCR doesn’t exist in a vacuum, however. It’s very possible to have a high FCR but suffer in other ways. For example:

  • You could have a high FCR, but a low throughput. In this case, your helpdesk agents are being very thorough, ensuring that most issues get fixed on the first call, but they’re also taking a long time to do it.
  • You could have a high FCR—and a high response time. Your agents are good at solving problems, but your users are spending a long time on hold. This might mitigate the goodwill advantage of solving a user’s issue during the first interaction.
  • If you’re experiencing either of the issues above, you might also be experiencing a high cost per call. This might not be a bad thing, but if it is, how do you reduce it?

Along with FCR, there are several other KPIs that you need to keep an eye on. Here’s a list of stats to watch, and ways to boost them when they’re down.

1. Average Response Time

Waiting on hold is the worst. It’s a pretty obvious goal for help desks to minimize the time between a user dialing the support line and someone picking up the phone. In an internal help desk, response time is more important. If it’s difficult for users to reach agents who can solve their problems, then they’ll be discouraged from filing tickets. Instead, they may start requesting assistance informally, further disrupting the help desk and making it impossible to collect metrics.

Once of the most important things you can offer with regard to high response times is communication. Even something as simple as providing an acknowledgement of a ticket and an estimated response time shows the user that they’ve been heard. As long as your users know that they’re not just communicating with a blank wall, they’ll be a little more prepared to wait.

2. Average Handle Time

Not all tickets can be resolved in the first interaction, and many tickets that are resolved on the first call still take a long time. Handle time is an important factor in ensuring that all tickets are addressed in a timely manner, and also in reducing ticket churn at the end of the day.

Handle time is a broad umbrella—there are a lot of factors that may contribute. It might be that agents are having a tough time solving problems due to faults in the knowledge base. It might be an underlying problem in your product or service. The important thing here is ensure you’re recording every call in order to note the most problematic sources of longer and more difficult calls.

3. Cost per Incident

Every help desk incident has a cost associated with it, but that cost doesn’t scale in a linear fashion. A call that is resolved by Tier 1 support will have one cost. A call that is escalated will have another. A call that requires an administrator to physically visit a remote site will cost a great deal. There’s no standard metric for calculating cost per call, because it would need to factor in the pay and benefits of the agents involved, cost of equipment, transportation costs in some cases and the cost of the outage itself.

Having a high cost per call isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It could mean that you’re more willing to put more effort into solving issues than most others in your industry. There is a standard way to reduce cost per call if you are having problems, however.

In general, the higher your agent utilization, the lower your average cost per call. Research suggests that cost per call will hover around the $30 mark at 20% utilization, and that by increasing utilization to 50%, you’ll reduce costs by one-third. Be careful about increasing agent utilization too much, however—it turns out there’s a ceiling.

4. Agent Utilization

How much time should your agents be spending on the phone (or on IM or email) with customers? It’s easy to immediately say “100%—but your agents actually do need some idle time, even when they’re at work.

Here’s the widely agreed-upon formula for help desk agent utilization:

Agent utilization = (Tickets per agent per month*handle time per ticket)/(days worked per month*minutes worked per day)

Once agent utilization creeps too high, the effect starts to become terrible for morale. For example, at a utilization of 90%, your agents will only have six minutes of idle time per hour—which translates to just seconds between calls. Your agents will perceive that the phone is always ringing off the hook, that they’re always in the weeds, and the symptoms of overwork will become apparent. Expect a high turnover rate, and higher costs.

Making your KPIs shine and your end users happy doesn’t have to mean pushing your agents to the brink. Monitoring the apps and the networks they depend on will give the help desk team a lot more data up front, so they can find and fix problems faster. We’ve also seen that AppNeta Performance Manager has helped IT teams become proactive to fix problems before they get calls from unhappy users. Your best help desk success metric may very well be “problems solved before the user knows about them.”

Learn more about how AppNeta Performance Manager can lower your help desk costs—request a free trial today.

Filed Under: cloud computing, Performance Monitoring

Tags: end user experience , help desk , SaaS applications