During the Great War, a number of people in business cottoned on to the fact that German sounding products were going to retreat to the back of the shelves. To counteract this retreat, a PR campaign was launched to re-brand many of these items. Examples included: the German Shepherd renamed to the Alsatian, the Dachshund renamed to the Sausage Dog and, perhaps most famously, the descendants of Queen Elizabeth II changing their name from Battenburg to Mountbatten at the request of King George V.
A similar exercise is now taking place in the world of helpdesks. The term ‘helpdesk’ is often met with disdain across industry. Everyone understands the need. Many have been burnt by the solution. The future is bright, the future is currently revolving around the ‘servicedesk’.
As you may have gathered, servicedesks are helpdesks with a new wig, set of glasses and comedy nose. Incidentally, I don’t blame organisations for going down this path, it makes absolute sense from a PR perspective. I just think that in 10 years we may be sat here heralding a toast to the world of the ‘problemsolvingdesk’.
As an industry and in the sectors where helpdesks are utilised, there needs to be an acceptance that the industry is in this mess due to a lack of empathy from those employing helpdesk services. There is also a lack of understanding from the helpdesk provider of the client’s business and a general acceptance that you get what you pay for.
At Propertyserve, we only operate within the property management sector and therefore my comments can only relate as such. Due to the administrative burdens placed upon property management, everyone in the sector is searching for more efficient ways to streamline their services and free up time to become more proactive, (and to ease the financial burden of employing excess labour). This has led to centralisation of services wherever possible and employment of third parties to ease the strain on directly employed staff. This is where the helpdesk comes in.
The industry recognises that utilising a third party to field calls from tenants, chase contractors and generally pick up the donkey work would generate the time required for property managers to take a strategic overview of a portfolio without being dragged into time-consuming day-to-day tasks. This bridge is – quite rightly – approached with trepidation, as it involves putting your valued tenants in someone else’s hands. When it comes to taking the leap of faith and taking on a helpdesk, cost is always the key factor in selecting the ‘right’ contractor. The third party will be responsible for managing your organisation’s reputation in a crisis. I’d therefore argue that quality of service should always be considered over cost. It is essential that weight should be given to service delivery, expertise and quality of the people on the end of the phone.
Part of the reason for the bad name associated with helpdesks is the fact that many are trying to cut too many corners and offer a service that can never live up to expectations due to a heavily price-driven marketplace.
I’d argue that there is also a lack of interest and understanding from helpdesks towards their clients’ business and services. In our sector, helpdesks should realise the way in which a service charge functions, what a standard landlord/tenant demise comprises of whilst also appreciating that this can differ from lease to lease. This is why we specialise in the property sector. Helpdesks should have the knowledge to ask searching questions in order to identify the difference between a leaking roof or a burst pipe from the floor above. These are the areas of added value that have been overlooked and have resulted on the industry finding itself in this state.
Although I appreciate why others are changing, Propertyserve will remain a helpdesk. It is our ongoing ambition to stand out from the rest and ensure the added value we offer to our clients. It makes us what all helpdesks should be….helpful.
Ian Robertson, Director at Propertyserve UK