Help Desk Commissions

In the past, we used tech peers to help mitigate tier 1 help desk requests. These employees were paid a stipend for their extra effort but when there was not enough work to justify the expense, the program was dropped.

I’m wondering about bringing the tech peers back but pay them a commission based on the number of tickets completed. Does anyone use a consignment model for tier 1 help desk support?

You may want to check with a nonprofit HR specialist, and see if paying commissions is legal.

So, if they are paid for the time spent working on help desk tickets instead of per ticket completed it would become hourly pay and not commission. Our help desk system can track either method.

Interesting point. I’ll certainly check with HR.

I guess another side to my question is the merit to a team of part time help desk responders as opposed to one or two dedicated employees.

Ben Biddle

If your support needs can be accommodated by, and the overall quality of support is sufficient, then I don’t guess there’s a real problem using such a scheme. But, it’s an extremely uncommon arrangement and I’m sure that’s for a reason.

What’s the actual problem you’re solving for? If it’s just to provide tier 1 support at the lowest possible cost, you should look at some of the offshore vendors.

My advice as a managed service provider to churches is that you have a couple of approaches here:

  1. When you are paying that way you are probably dealing with a “contractor” and so technically the rules for oversight of their work is very different from an employee. You aren’t actually supposed to supervise or manage a contractor it’s more of a “I need this end result and I don’t care how you do it per se as long as it fits within best practice” kind of scenario.

  2. You may want to approach an MSP in your area and see what rates they would charge per user per month to provide tier 1 (conversely sometimes they will be willing to budge quite a bit on price if they are only handling management of the network infrastructure/servers and tier 2 escalations for support and you have a basic technician employee handling tier 1). There are also NOCs and other providers that offer tier 1 helpdesk, they will all negotiate price somewhat. I would not go offshore for that support, the quality of the IT personnel is usually very low and has become an issue for places like India recently as organizations have discovered en masse that it was cheaper overall to hire in-region service providers utilizing fewer highly skilled IT professionals.

  3. Don’t go straight to labor as a way to deal with helpdesk volume, that is almost always a band-aid for the real problem and will only become worse as an organization grows. Instead, seek to use automation, remoting, and training to reduce time spent for service calls. This might mean employing an RMM (I would lean toward Pulseway for the internal IT situation) at which point you are probably looking at around 2.50 per endpoint to do monitoring, remote desktop (especially handy for remote work), scripts, AV, etc. If you have 25 computers and a server you are probably well under 70 bucks per month and your tier 1 volume should drop through the floor as you develop your processes (I support multiple churches and maybe get a couple tier 1 support calls a week if any at all, my RMM is from Ninja though which is geared more toward the MSP). You can also cut back those tier 1 calls by doing smart hardware refresh cycles: standardize on vendor/model, have on-site same day warranty, etc. It sounds expensive but it’s usually a drop in the bucket compared to staffing costs resulting from being cheap with hardware at the onset.

Our church is in the multi-site planning stage plus we have a K-8 school. The school wants a full time, always on site, immediate fix all my issues tech help. The church wants to use a pool of volunteers as a way to negate cost and promote community. Right now, it’s just me and two part time guys (college kid and retiree) and I still teach classes at the school. So I’m exploring what sort of arrangements we had in the past and creative ways to meet everyone’s expectations.

All the issues brought up here are valid but I’m going to point out another important issue. In managing a help desk there are lots of different ways to track metrics. The worst possible one is quantity of tickets closed. You need to track based on effectiveness, customer satisfaction, lack of repeat issues, etc. If you track purely based on number of tickets closed you end up with the type of support desk that rushed you to an answer and closes your issue even if you’re not resolved, then opens a fresh ticket next time. That undermines the entire point of quality support. Focus more on time to real resolution and the satisfaction of the end user at the closure of a ticket.

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I’d be inclined here to have the school pay out of their budget for a tier 1 helpdesk person to be on-site and at immediate beck and call given school fees are intended to cover the resources needed for student education. I’d just cover tier 2 and all the church ministry staff needs myself assuming my salary is being derived from donation/tithe. Unfortunately, IT volunteers tend to look good on paper, but can cost more in the long run… they’re sneaky like that. :money_mouth_face:

Great! I’ve actually helped with this in the past. Tier 1 support can often be handled by volunteers as long as there’s someone available to escalate to and you have reliable volunteers. It’s important to have someone on-staff who coordinates and fills-in for any volunteers who can’t make it. @steinersupport used to coordinate for one of the other local churches and can probably provide some good feedback.

If the school wants an always-on-site person, then they should definitely contribute to the cost of that. Staffing that role through an MSP may not be cost-effective unless you also want them to manage the servers & network. That said, as you go multi-site you may find the network’s complexity becomes something that you’d like to be handled by a team rather than relying on any single person so I wouldn’t rule-out looking at local providers.

Honestly, though, outside of projects & changes if you’re having a significant amount of tier one requests for your normal staff (Student 1:1 programs and check-in kiosks break all the time), you may want to look at your request history and see if there’s a trend there you could buck (be it formal training, different security practices, better hardware, etc) because dealing with problems systematically are much more cost effective than dealing with them symptomatically.

As a school we’re looking at ways to reduce our staff workload on supporting student & classroom hardware, but I think ultimately the answer will end up being more staff. Those devices just get used hard and are going to break / wear out, and even with warranties someone has to collect & ship them and deal with spares, etc. but that’s all part of forming our “sustainable technology plan” moving forward.

Like @codatory said, I have managed volunteers in the past. There were benefits, but I don’t think our volunteers did much to negate our labor costs, even though it was something that our comms director was always pushing for.

First, you have to have a strategy for getting volunteers. The church I was at considered volunteering to be part of their DNA, people were always being called upon to volunteer, and once a year, time was even set aside during services to sign up. If you already have people who want to volunteer for IT, great! However, if you don’t, I wouldn’t plan around having volunteers yet.

In addition, you need to place your volunteers well into your department. Before they volunteer, I would encourage you to get coffee with them, and gain a better understanding of their skill level and how trustworthy they are.

Finally, from my experience it is important to realize that just like you need to spend a lot of time training a new person who works for you, you will also need to do this with volunteers. You need to acclimate them to your setup, in some cases provide some training and reinforce best practices. You also won’t see them as much as employees, and they will be more likely to call it off if there is something else that comes up. In some cases, you should probably have a way to keep an eye on what they are doing; where I was at, we would usually have them connect their computer to a screen in my office, so I could see what they were doing for training. However, another purpose for that was if I was letting them make administrative changes, I needed to keep an eye on what they were doing (this helped me avoid some “oopsies”) There are exceptions, but volunteers are generally not a good source of solid long term labor. You can easily spend at least as much time showing them the ropes during the beginning of their time with you, as you would spend doing things yourself. If they are college students or people trying to stay busy while looking for a job (which was really common for us) then there might be a limited amount of time when they can be mostly self-sufficient, while volunteering for you. So you might not get a high payoff in time. That being said, working with volunteers was a great way to build community, and my team of volunteers is something I really miss now that I’ve moved to work at a different church.

There are some relatively rare exceptions. My predecessor at the church I am at now was essentially a volunteer. He made a fortune by coming up with a piece of software with two other guys that keeps getting sold from one company to another and doesn’t need to work anymore, so for a while he was working for a dollar a year. However even though he was undoubtedly brilliant, he still didn’t know everything that he probably should have about how to set up and run a church/school environment well. There were some basic things that were missed. And when the school made an administrative change he disagreed with two years ago, he resigned, and left them scrambling to figure out what to do next.

Sorry for the book but essentially what it comes to IMO is I wouldn’t lean too hard on volunteers until you already have a good reliable team in place. Until then, I would focus on building a good community of volunteers (I’ve always felt community is part of what is different about IT Ministries as opposed to IT Departments). When you have a good reliable team that could be used to help negate cost or increase capacity, I would plan for what happens when they leave. For most people, the way volunteers view their post will likely be different from the way paid employees view their post.