Something strange happening with your brand-new laptop? Trying and failing to log in to your company’s new cloud-based messaging platform? Who you gonna call?
Probably the help-desk analyst.
These professionals deal with dozens of such inquiries every day, making the role one of the most important and visible in IT. It’s an excellent starting point for tech-savvy people with strong interpersonal skills and a foundation for further steps in building an IT career.
But what does a help-desk analyst’s average workday look like? Here’s a quick overview.
A tiered role for help-desk analysts
Help desk analysts are on the frontline of customer support. If they can, they resolve users’ technical issues themselves. If they can’t, they connect users with more experienced colleagues. Here are the three levels of analysts:
- A Tier 1 help desk analyst typically takes the initial customer inquiry (usually submitted as a ticket via a self-service portal) and manages relatively simple hardware, software or network issues. If they can’t address the problem, they escalate it to a Tier 2 analyst.
- A Tier 2 analyst can resolve more complex systems and applications problems. In addition, these middle-tier analysts often maintain the company’s IT ticketing system (see Ticket maintenance below). Tier 2 analysts can assign or re-assign a ticket to a Tier 3 analyst when confronted with a problem they can’t solve.
- A Tier 3 analyst researches and resolves the most complex issues that other help desk levels have been unable to fix. They also identify trends in issue reporting and come up with preventative solutions.
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Types of remote assistance
A help desk analyst spends the majority of the day performing remote support. This can take a number of forms:
- Over-the-phone support
- Screen sharing or remote control
- Live chat support
- Email support
Performing any kind of technical support is challenging enough, but remote support can require even more skill.
If screen sharing or remote-control tools aren’t available, help desk analysts must depend on users to be their eyes and hands when trying to resolve a problem. The help desk analyst must visualize what the user sees on their screen and know exactly what suggestions to give and how to word that guidance so the user can follow it.
Help desk analysts are more important than ever in an age of remote working. If you’re hoping to be a help-desk analyst, you may find that you are offering support to people who can’t do their jobs without your help. This means it can be a high-pressure role at times, requiring patience and empathy. A little warmth and humor can also help ensure that people have a positive experience while you talk them through their tech issues.
Help desk requests are tracked using a ticketing system. Analysts typically spend a portion of the workday reviewing existing tickets and looking for cases that should be closed, following up with users where appropriate, and setting reminders for future action.
Help desk analysts who deal with especially time-sensitive issues will spend a larger share of their day on ticket maintenance and following up on reminders to make sure their tickets are on track for a speedy resolution.
The most efficient help desks track key performance indicators (KPIs) such as average time to resolution and the percentage of escalated tickets to higher levels.
Training, coaching and advising
A more experienced help desk analyst, such as a Tier 3 technician, will likely spend time training and coaching others in addition to solving more complex IT issues.
Tier 3 professionals are also expected to maintain documentation such as knowledge base articles or FAQs. They use KPIs to assess the help desk’s performance and look for ways to improve it. Also, they report user feedback to IT technicians and development teams, who can use this data to improve products and services.
Credentials and certifications
If you want to excel as a help desk analyst, don’t assume you can learn everything on the job. Having the right industry certifications improves your chances of moving quickly up the ranks and negotiating a better salary. Some of the most in-demand credentials are CompTIA A+, CompTIA Network+, Microsoft 365 Certified: Modern Desktop Administrator Associate, HDI and Cisco.
A promising career path
For people with strong communication and problem-solving skills, an entry-level help desk position can also be a great way to build a technology career. Help-desk analysts are in demand, and you can check out median starting salaries in the Robert Half Salary Guide.