Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Help Desk or Hell Desk Part 1: The problem with Help Desks

Help or Hell

Every time I have to call my mobile phone company for any kind of assistance, I am on the phone with them for a minimum of 30 minutes.  That is 30 minutes out of my day that I'm not productive, but stuck on hold waiting for their Help Desk Jockey's to verify my information 5 times before they can do anything.  Then if it isn't in their script, forget it.  You are just out of luck.

My pet peeve is the automated Help Desk.  I could just scream.  It's bad enough dealing with these corporate help desks, that follow a script only to tell you they can't help you.  But the automated Help Desk is just pathetic.  As a customer, these companies are telling me, just buy the product, we don't care if you can use it or not and we don't have to be cause we have your money now.   

New Rating Scale

I have my own rating scale for Customer Service.  It scales from "Customer Service Professional" to "Help Desk Jockey".  I figure they reap what they sow.  Just riding the desk... gets them the ranking of "Help Desk Monkey".  Where as if they are great, they get to be a "Customer Service Professional".   

The worst automated help desk is a Michigan based insurance company.  When calling that number on your insurance card, you navigate through a ton of options that many have NO CLUE (myself included) as to what the heck they are talking about, because they have some internal branding of their products they have done, but haven't advised their customers.  They waste a good ten minutes of your time pushing you through their automated system, to leave you on hold for a 1/2 hour to talk to someone who can't solve your issue anyway.


Before you hang up they want you to rate their customer service representative (aka.  Help Desk Jockey).  These companies set up their Help Desk folks for failure.  They don't empower them to help you, and then want you to be satisfied with them when they didn't help you.  

These companies are just inconsiderate and rude.  They don't care about you, the customer or your valuable time.  Nor do they care about solving your problem.    The Help Desk numbers are a joke.

Barometer for Company

The help desk is an excellent barometer of the long term outlook for the company.  You know the saying happy employees are productive employees.  Look at this article from 2009 ranking Customer Services from various companies. Note that the very very worst:  Circuit City is no longer in business.  Personally I believe Hewlett Packard is next, followed by Sprint/Nextel and Hughes Net ranks up there too. Here is's Customer Service Hall of Shame: .

This ranking from Money.Msn confirms my personal findings:

The Worst

Some bad experiences and all of these rank as Help Desk Jockey or lower:
  • Hewlett Packard Help Desk:  When my dial-up modem wasn't working (dial-up was the only option for me at the time) told me I should "Upgrade" and get DSL.  
  • Hughes Net sells me their satellite service then it would not work.  But they made me do all their trouble shooting to fix it.  We had issues with them when they wouldn't send an invoice.  Several times I had to escalate issues with in their Help Desk.  And upon escalation, I got a supervisor in India, who wouldn't tell me his superior's name in the USA.  Today, you can ask for a US Help Desk Consultant and they must comply.
  • SPRINT had connectivity issues and wanted me to solve it.  They gave me their engineer's number and told me to call the engineer and work with the engineer to fix their service problem.  I couldn't believe the audacity!  Asking their customers to fix their own service problems?  Like we all have lots of extra time to do their jobs for them.  I don't know about you, but I pay for a service to be up and functional, not to have to go fix it myself. 
  • Although Apple, Inc. has a great service desk rating, I had a warranty issue with an iPod and just wanted to mail the device in.  They don't have a mail in warranty program.  They wanted me to make an appointment and they were all filled up on Saturday, so it would have to be at their next open appointment (middle of the working day or next week)  with a specific Help Desk Jockey to re-diagnose the issue (waste more of my time) and then drop off the device.   They would not accept mail-in, or walk-in and drop off.  I was totally offended that they sell me a faulty device, and then make me go out of my way and spend my time to convince them to fix it.

The Best

My best customer service experience all these companies rank up there as Customer Service Professionals (and I don't give this lightly):
  •  Meade Lexus of Lakeside:  Kudos to you.  You are the best.  .
  • CSB Bank of Armada,  Kudos to Jamie, Armada Branch Manager, for building a great customer oriented team there.  They remember you and they treat you with respect.
  • - They designed customer service to be a good experience.  Amazon is an example of a big company that does customer service right. 
I have successfully implemented 2 wonderful corporate IT Customer Services.  In my next blog, I'll describe how to use PMI- Project Management and LEAN manufacturing concepts to do a help desk the right way.  Including the ROI and why you need to do this for your company.

Do share your best and worst customer service/help desk.

Friday, May 11, 2012

It's All in the Plannning - Managing Large Initiatives

Successful multi-million dollar initiatives don't just happen by accident. They do require enormous planning effort. Here are the pointers to making them successful.

The Vision
What is the goal or objective of the project? You have to have a clearly defined objective. when working on high budget projects, these visions cannot be vague. Several iterations may be necessary to refine the vision before you have the objectives detailed enough to work from.  Take the time and do it right.

When you read text books about project management the examples provided tend to be overly simplistic. This is not reflective of the real world. As the PM, you need dig deeper.

For example, you need to develop a new process to immunize the nation against a new flu. This simple statement is not enough of a goal or objective. It needs to be refined even before you start on requirements. Is the goal to immunize everybody? Citizens? Children? What about double immunization? Is there a vision for reporting? Is reporting required? Is it mandatory or optional? Is there a vision for delivery of the immunizations?

Many times when you are approached with a large scale project, you will have to help the sponsors flesh out their vision. Be prepared to do so and prepare your team to help.

The Team
Ensure that you have established your leadership team for the program/project. Most small companies in the US gross under $2M annually.  So if you have a project with a budget in excess of even $1M, you should think of the project as a small company.  Then you are the president, your sponsor is your board of directors and your core leaders for your team are your vice presidents. 

Do not try to do it all yourself. Large projects, require that you be a great delegator.  Empower your VPs to do their jobs.  You have a team for a reason.  And your leads have their teams for a reason.  Let them do their jobs.   If you try to micro-manage or do their jobs for them, you will fail.

The Plan
Spend your time here with your leadership team and this will insure smooth sailing.  I inherit the troubled projects.  And it is usually the same issue, poor planning, they miss one step or another.  If you know your PMBOK and you adequately cover the areas in your planning processes, when it comes to the execution phase, you should be able to take a vacation.   Good project managers spend the majority of their time planning. 

What do you think?   Please share your thoughts.


Armada Business Consulting, Inc.

Need help getting from strategy to execution?  I can help.  For more information contact Trish at