Three Stages of an IT Help Desk-Help Desk Institute

In 1992, according to the Help Desk Institute, help desk budgets averaged 1.25 percent of corporate IT spending. Today, that figure is nearly 3 percent. With costs going up 10 to 20 percent every two years, it is easy to see that there has been a shift in customer support. The Help Desk Institute further states that there are approximately 300 million help desk calls per year and with the average cost of a call being $20, a conservative estimate of $6 billion is spent per year on internal customer support! Also, there has been a doubling of the percentage of employees dedicated to customer support in the last six years. Here are just some of the reasons for this growth:

> The increasing complexity of new applications including the shift to client server computing.

> Shorter life cycles of hardware and software challenge the deployment and learning practices.

> As help desks have matured, they have gotten better. As they get better, employees opt to calling rather than reading instructions or trying to fix it themselves.

> IT organizations are realizing that significant efficiencies can be gained by solving customer calls the first time.

With these pressures have come changes in the way help desks do business. This is a shift from the 911-break/fix position to one of becoming proactive about meeting customer’s needs. Rather than simply respond to user problems, the strategic help desk minimizes incoming calls by anticipating and addressing user problems before they occur and when the call does occur, using tools and processes to optimize agent time.


Help desks typically evolve through three stages, as they become more strategic.

1) REACTIVE. High abandonment rates, low customer satisfaction and rampant employee turnover because of agent burnout characterize the first stage. In addition, help desks are often referred to a “Helpless Desks.” Because of a low status, cooperation with other IT departments is a major problem for the help desk.

2) TRANSITION. In the second stage, typically the help desk practices various call prevention techniques, providing users with self-help tools such as automated password resets and effective user training, and working with development groups to ensure better design and testing of new applications.

3) STRATEGIC. In the third and final stage the help desk realizes its full potential as part of the IT value chain. Customer satisfaction is high, call cycle time is low, turnover is low, and the help desk is looked upon as the “conductor” who manages the IT orchestra.

Here are some great White Papers on the topic: