The help desk analyst is one of the most visible IT roles—as well as an evolving one. In fact, it’s one of the few public-facing IT jobs. But what does an average workday look like for this professional? Here’s a quick overview.
A tiered role
Help desk analysts are on the frontline of customer support. They are focused on helping to resolve technical issues end users encounter, or connecting those users with more intensive IT support, when needed. Here are the three levels of analysts:
- A Tier 1 help desk analyst typically takes the initial inquiry 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 is able to resolve more complex systems and applications problems. These help desk analysts generally decide whether or not to generate a trouble or work order ticket, or escalate the issue to the next level.
- Tier 3 analysts research and resolve 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.
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 is seeing on his or her screen and know exactly what suggestions to give, and how to word that guidance so the user can follow it.
Providing remote support can be particularly tricky during busy periods of the day when the volume of calls picks up, queues get longer and pressure mounts. The help desk analyst therefore needs to know how to keep cool and work efficiently – and it doesn't hurt to have a sense of humor, particularly when receiving requests like these. (Although laughing at end user requests while helping them is obviously not a good idea!)
Help desk requests are tracked using a ticketing system. The most efficient help desks have standards set for ticket quality, like average time to resolution and percentage of tickets that are escalated to higher levels.
These standards are used to measure the quality of service, as well as to detect trends in product quality. This is why a help desk analyst must regularly maintain tickets.
These professionals 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.
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, and inspect the ticketing system for trends to help drive improvements to the help desk as well as IT products. Devising preventive solutions is one example of how a Tier 3 help desk analyst specifically adds value to the organization.
A promising career path
If you’re looking for a technology role that will keep you on your toes and exercise your interpersonal skills, help desk analyst can be a great job. A help desk role can also be a great way to break into the technology industry. Help desk analysts are in demand and can expect to see significant increases in starting compensation this year, according to the Salary Guide from Robert Half Technology.
Starting salaries for Tier 1 support roles range from $36,000 to $51,750. Tier 2 salaries start between $46,250 and $64,000, and Tier 3 are between $61,000 and $80,500.
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Keep in mind that industry certifications are important to help desk analyst career success, and can have a direct impact on a professional’s earning capacity. Some of the most in-demand credentials are CompTIA A+, CompTIA Network+, Microsoft Certified Professional, HDI and Cisco.
This post has been updated to reflect more current information.