Unit 1: Week 1: Promoting Professionalism and Communication in the Help Desk

Unit 1: Week 1: Promoting Professionalism and Communication in the Help Desk

Essential Questions

  • What are the best ways for our team to work together? How can we help each other become more effective as a team?
  • What does it mean to be a professional? How must I act when I’m working on the Help Desk to promote a professional and respectful attitude?
  • How can I ensure that my work follows recommended safety guidelines so I don’t harm others, myself, or the equipment and resources I am working with?

Big Ideas

IT departments, including the Help Desk, use standard documentation and procedures to ensure their work is efficient and effective. Ineffective use of time or taking too long to resolve issues can cost companies money, and very poor service will cost companies customers who may then spread the word to others.

You should be familiar with your Help Desk’s documentation, otherwise known as its knowledge base. In it you will find guidelines for keeping record of inventory, safety procedures, copies or links to installation manuals for hardware and software, network diagrams, and other materials. As you work on the Help Desk, you will be called upon to use the documentation and update it, when necessary. If you are not familiar with your Help Desk documentation, reviewing it should be one of your first action steps!

All Help Desk staff will follow guidelines and suggestions for professionalism. Following protocols and procedures, like your Help Desk documentation, is an important component of acting professionally. Another key component of being a professional is to communicate clearly and effectively. You will need to communicate with your teammates on the Help Desk, other IT staff, as well as clients who come to the Help Desk for support. Whether you are documenting your progress on a service ticket, sending an email to a colleague, or speaking with a client, you should be able to speak and write clearly and communicate with a professional and respectful attitude.

There are national and local safety guidelines for many different kinds of businesses, including IT support workshops. Your IT Department may have additional safety guidelines and procedures. Not only is it important to follow these guidelines and procedures, you are required to do so to prevent damage to equipment and harm to others or yourself.

Connection to Student Lives

Every successful business or organization will have organizational procedures. They may hire you because you have desirable skills or knowledge, like being able to set up and troubleshoot hardware and networks, but every organization will want you to work within their standard operating procedures. These may vary by job, but working on the Help Desk, maintaining documentation, and following prescribed procedures will prepare you for different work settings outside of school.

We all communicate in many different ways every day. We text and chat, possibly send email, and have conversations with people in person or on phones, web conferencing, or other ways. The setting and purpose for your communication will change the way you communicate and what you say. While you may feel comfortable sending texts or emails or talking on the phone, doing so with a professional and respectful attitude can take some practice, especially if the person with whom you are communicating is upset or frustrated.

Framing Problem

Determine and follow your Help Desk’s standard procedures, including using the Help Desk documentation (knowledge base) and following safety procedures.

Cornerstone Assessment

Team members will be given time to review the documentation and suggest ideas to help their team work better. They will document norms and new procedures in the documentation, including suggestions for maintaining a safe working environment.

DPI Standards

  • NCCTE.2020.II22.04.01 - Compare best practices associated with types of documentation.
  • NCCTE.2020.II22.04.04 - Explain common safety procedures.
  • NCCTE.2020.II22.04.07 - Use proper communication techniques and professionalism.

HDI Standards

  • 2.2.2 ​​Explain the purpose of organizational policies.
  • 2.2.3 List the importance of adhering to organizational policies.
  • 3.1.1 Define a team.
  • 3.1.2 Identify characteristics of successful teams.
  • 3.1.3 Describe the value of teamwork.
  • 3.1.4 Identify the behaviors of an effective team member.
  • 5.1.1 Define process.
  • 5.1.2 Define procedure.
  • 5.1.3 Define work instructions.
  • 5.1.4 Explain the importance of documenting processes and procedures.
  • 5.12.4 Identify ways to minimize and reduce miscommunication.
  • 5.14.1 List reasons for logging all contacts.
  • 5.14.2 Identify what information should be documented for every customer contact.
  • 5.14.3 List the benefits of using proper documentation, such as proper grammar, spelling and capturing complete thoughts
  • 5.14.4 List behaviors to avoid when documenting incidents
  • 5.14.5 Explain how to use professionalism in written communication
  • 5.14.6 Explain how to use literacy in written communication

A+ Standards

TOPIC 18 B: Create and Maintain Documentation

1002-4.1 Compare and contrast best practices associated with types of documentation.

TOPIC 18F: Professionalism and Communication

1002-4.7 Given a scenario, use proper communication techniques and professionalism.

TOPIC 2A: Use Appropriate Safety Procedures

1002-4.4 Explain common safety procedures.


  • The three golden rules that can be applied to good customer service:
    • Be positive–project confidence, be in control, and drive the issue towards resolution.
    • Be clear, concise, and direct.
    • Be consistent, fair, and respectful.
  • The art of communication is impacted by
    • The words you use
    • Listening effectively
    • Giving feedback
  • How to use clear language that is free from jargon, slang, abbreviations, acronyms, and technical jargon
  • When to use open vs. closed questions
  • Mental maps for common troubleshooting topics
  • How to track and audit support requests using a call system or trouble-ticket application by
    • Logging incidents or tickets professionally and completely
    • Knowing when to escalate an incident or ticket
    • How to log a problem as closed, record the solution, and send verification to the customer
  • When it’s okay to tell a customer, “no”
  • How to demonstrate respect for customers, property, and others you work with
  • Practice cultural sensitivity during interactions with others
  • Strategies for maintaining a positive attitude when working with customers and others
  • Guidelines for communicating with customers
  • How assets are managed and the type of information included in inventory entries
  • How to read network topology diagrams
  • Where to find and how to use reference documentation, such as manuals and training materials in any format
  • Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) for their Help Desk program
  • Guidelines for creating and maintaining documentation
  • Compliance and government regulations that impact how you maintain a safe working environment including:
    • Health and safety laws
    • Building codes
    • Environmental regulations
  • Guidelines for working safely with electrical systems
  • Guidelines for working safely among environmental hazards
  • Guidelines for protecting components from ESD damage


When given a scenario, students should be able to use proper communication techniques and professionalism by:

  • Use proper language and avoid jargon, acronyms, and slang, when applicable
  • Maintain a positive attitude/ project confidence
  • Actively listen (taking notes) and avoid interrupting the customer
  • Be culturally sensitive
  • Use appropriate professional titles, when applicable
  • Be on time (if late, contact the customer)
  • Avoid distractions
  • Personal calls
  • Texting/social media sites
  • Talking to coworkers while interacting with customers
  • Personal interruptions
  • Dealing with difficult customers or situations
  • Do not argue with customers and/or be defensive
  • Avoid dismissing customer problems
  • Avoid being judgmental
  • Clarify customer statements (ask open-ended questions to narrow the scope of the problem, restate the issue, or question to verify understanding)
  • Do not disclose experiences via social media outlets
  • Set and meet expectations/timeline and communicate status with the customer
  • Offer different repair/replacement options, if applicable
  • Provide proper documentation on the services provided
  • Follow up with customer/user at a later date to verify satisfaction
  • Deal appropriately with customers’ confidential and private materials
  • Located on a computer, desktop, printer, etc.

Students should be able to compare and contrast best practices associated the the following types of documentation:

  • Network topology diagrams
  • Knowledge base/articles
  • Incident documentation
  • Regulatory and compliance policy
  • Acceptable use policy
  • Password policy
  • Inventory management
    • Asset tags
    • Barcodes

Students should know and be able to explain and follow national, state, and local safety guidelines when working in the Help Desk workspace, including those related to:

  • Equipment grounding
  • Proper component handling and storage
    • Antistatic bags
    • ESD straps
    • ESD mats
    • Self-grounding
  • Toxic waste handling
    • Batteries
    • Toner
    • CRT
    • Cell phones
    • Tablets
  • Personal safety
    • Disconnect power before repairing PC
    • Remove jewelry
    • Lifting techniques
    • Weight limitations
    • Electrical fire safety
    • Cable management
    • Safety goggles
    • Air filter mask
  • Compliance with government regulations


Professionalism and Communication

  • Customer
  • Jargon (and how to avoid it)
  • Abbreviations
  • Acronyms
  • Technical language
  • Slang
  • Active listening
  • Open vs. closed questions (and when to use them)
  • Mental map
  • Professionalism
  • Proper documentation

Create and Maintain Documentation

  • Assets or inventory; asset management
  • Methods for managing tangible assets, such as a barcode label or Radio Frequency ID (RFID) tag
  • Network topology and network topology diagrams
  • Schematic block diagram; physical network topology, logical structure of a network
  • Knowledge base (KB)
  • Incident management
  • Policy
  • Standard
  • Procedure or Standard Operating Procedure (SOP)
  • Guidelines
  • Password policy
  • Acceptable Use Policy (AUP); Fair Use Policy

Professionalism and Communication (continued)

  • Problem management
  • Incident or ticket
  • Respect
  • Cultural sensitivity

Use Appropriate Safety Procedures

  • Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)
  • Portable appliance testing (PAT)
  • Fuse
  • Grounded
  • Trip hazard
  • ESD (electrostatic discharge)
  • Self-grounding
  • Anti-ESD wrist or leg strap
  • Anti-ESD service mat
  • Field replaceable units (FRUs)
  • Antistatic bag and bag types: Anti-ESD Shielding, Dissipative Packaging

Weekly Map


Introduction to problem: working as a team, communicating effectively, and following safety guidelines

Identify where to find Knowledge Base, Procedural Manuals, Safety Procedures

Norm setting

Team meetings to develop project plan and goals related to communication, documentation, and safety procedures


Review norms

Begin content resources with whole group about Professionalism and Communication.

Review content about Create and Maintain Documentation using the Help Desk Knowledge Base

Activity 18-2: Discussing Documentation Creation and Maintenance

Contribute to team project


Review norms

Hands-on exploration on topics related to the Knowledge Base

Activity 18-8: Discussing Customer Service and Communications Skills

Team progress check with supervisor (using project plan)


Review norms

Hands-on exploration related to safety procedures

Small group and independent exploration of resources related to safety procedures

Activity 2-1: Implementing an Anti-ESD Service Kit

Contribute to team project


Team progress check with supervisor or sharing of progress with whole group especially on using norms and any questions about documentation or other standard operating procedures

Teams share their contributions to the Knowledge Base or other projects completed during the week

Lesson Ideas

Because this is the second course in a series, it is likely that there will already be some supporting documents to help the student teams come together as a team and to better understand how they are supposed to collaborate and communicate. The Help Desk should have access to a Knowledge Base or manual that describes standard operational procedures, including things like documenting issues and communicating effectively, and especially safety procedures. This week gives students time to review those, update those to the needs of the current team, or begin creating those, if necessary.

It can be helpful to have students, interview or collaborate with local IT professionals who can explain the procedures they go through to manage their work, including roles and norms for participation, trouble-ticket systems, and their use of a Knowledge Base.

There are many team building and communications resources listed in Week 1 in the IT Fundamentals+ course.

Potential Resources

The Official CompTIA A+ Core 1 & Core 2 Instructor Guide for Exams 220-1001 and 220-1002

  • Topic 18F: Professionalism and Communication (pp. 1048-1051)
  • Topic 18B: Create and Maintain Documentation (pp. 1004-1028)
    • Activity 18-2: Discussing Documentation Creation and Maintenance (pp. 1013-1014)
  • Topic 18F: Professionalism and Communication CONTINUED (pp. 1051-1060)
    • Activity 18-8: Discussing Customer Service and Communications Skills (pp. 1059-1060
  • Topic 2A: Using Appropriate Safety Procedures (pp. 104-114)
    • Activity 2-1: Implementing an Anti-ESD Service Kit (pp. 113-114)

CompTIA also offers videos for purchase through their website or on ITPro.TV.

Professor Messer at and YouTube offers numerous free videos of various lengths for many of the topics for the CompTIA 220-1001 A+ Exam. They are easy to understand, narrated videos with visuals. If you are teaching a CompTIA course, the site notes “You’re welcome to use them as much as you’d like, provided you embed the videos with the associated YouTube link or link directly to my site. Please click the “Contact Us” link at the top of our web page and let me know how you’re using them.”

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