Long viewed as a revolving door or entry-level position, the role of a service desk agent is far more crucial in today’s volatile and complex business environment. Today, the support experience is a differentiator that can win or lose customers or employees and the key to helping employees and customers use the tools they need to achieve business outcomes. To provide this level of IT helpdesk support, agent retention becomes critical.
The job isn’t getting any easier
At the heart of the successful service desk is the experience and expertise of its agents. The hybrid workplace, increased process automation, and new toolsets with expanded capabilities bring technical complexity that requires more significant support, increasing the need for an experienced help desk.
At the same time, whether the result of natural attrition or the post-pandemic demand for new personnel to replace aging workers, IT is in a talent war as companies battle to onboard and retain large numbers of new employees to meet increased demands. Add to that the turnover of the service desk, which is nearly 40% per year with the average IT helpdesk agent staying at a company for just 2 ½ years before moving on. Even if your turnover is only 20%, that means one out of every five support calls are being handled by an inexperienced agent.
Using metrics to stop agent turnover
To stop or reduce agent turnover, managers need to understand their agents’ general satisfaction and be aware of factors that increase stress or burnout. With measurements that provide an early warning system, you can get in front of the issue and work with agents to improve their satisfaction.
Technician job satisfaction
Job satisfaction has been an industry bellwether metric of turnover. Conceptually, happy employees don’t leave. Happy employees also go the extra mile for the customer, providing excellent customer service and making technician job satisfaction a critical KPI.
To ensure survey results are available early enough to prevent turnover, periodic in-depth surveys should be supplemented with instant-read surveys that enable managers to respond and address issues rapidly. An emoji-based one-question survey delivered at the end of the workweek can give managers that fast read and allow them to check in with staff if the results dip.
Thus, calculating technician job satisfaction needs at least two surveys to be responsive enough to prevent turnover:
- Emoji-based “how was your week?” surveys provide an instant read that tells managers when to check in with their staff. This rapid response can lead to minor adjustments that improve satisfaction immediately.
- Longer, in-depth surveys should be designed to measure satisfaction across common retention issues: stress, workload, poor management, insufficient growth opportunities, not having the right tools to do the job, etc. These provide strategic direction for longer-term improvement opportunities.
Ticket volume by agent
Workload has a substantial impact on job satisfaction. Expecting agents to resolve too many helpdesk tickets per day leads to stress and burnout, and an uneven ticket load across the team leads to general dissatisfaction with management.
As support teams move to remote-first operating models, this remains important to watch, ensuring all team members are working effectively. It’s also essential to ensure that a good benchmark is in place for this number. For example, if team members agree that they can resolve 25-35 tickets a day, if volumes rise to 50 tickets a day, more staff is needed. Delaying or running too thin for too long can lead to turnover.
Start working with this metric by calculating volume per agent over periods with a high and low turnover to determine if there is a “magic number” of tickets that caused higher turnover historically. Talk to technicians to see how they are handling current volumes. Find the number that creates a good balance.
It’s also important to take agents away from the front lines periodically, providing them with project opportunities that make the job more enjoyable. The impact of this off-line work needs to be calculated into the volume metrics to ensure that taking one person off the queue doesn’t negatively affect other agents.
More ways to stop turnover
Gathering these two metrics is only the start of reducing turnover. To truly impact satisfaction, it’s essential to talk through several factors that affect technicians’ ability to do their jobs:
- Ask for general feedback to understand what they like and do not like about the job.
- Understand the tools they use and whether they have a toolset that enhances their ability to do the job vs. struggling with tools that make it harder for them.
- Ask for improvements they’d like to see both with the job and the way it is done.
- Challenge them to make recommendations to improve support.
One thing to seriously consider is the impact of positive turnover from promotions. By providing different roles and technical support tiers within a larger, consolidated service desk, it’s possible to provide sufficient growth within the service desk to retain people for a more extended period.
Additionally, agents can be given projects to work on in addition to support, like building knowledge bases or helping to develop automated self-service tools. Use the feedback gained from discussions with staff and these two key metrics to find ways to make their job easier and more rewarding.
Are your IT tools helping you retain agents?
The tools your agents use every day play a big part in their employee experience. Check out GoTo Resolve, the all-in-one IT support platform that gives agents an easy way to respond, act, and resolve issues – all in one place.