An important interface for your internal customers is through your IT service desk. Unfortunately, in many situations the service desk (or help desk) does not use up-to-date practices and can be a backwater of capability. This can result in a very poor reputation for IT because the service desk is the primary customer interface with the IT organization. I recall starting at a company tasked with turning around the IT organization. When I asked about the IT help desk, the customer turned to me and said ‘ You mean the IT helpless desk?’ With a reputation that poor with our customers, I immediately set out to turnaround our service desk and supporting areas.
The IT Service Desk may seem quite straightforward to address — maybe the thought is that all you really need to do is have one number, staff it, be courteous and try hard. This isn’t the case and there are some clear best practice techniques and approaches that will enable you to deliver consistent, positive interactions with your customers as well as enable greater productivity and lower cost for the broader IT team.
For our discussion, I have two esteemed former colleagues who have run top notch service desks that will be authoring material on best practices and how to deliver an outstanding customer experience through this critical interface. Both Steve Wignall and Bob Barnes have run world class service desks at large financial services companies. And I think you will find the guidance and techniques they provide here today and in subsequent posts to be a surefire manner to transforming your ‘helpless’ desk to a best in class service desk.
First, let’s recap why the service desk is such an important area for IT:
- the service desk is the starting point for many key processes and services for IT
- well-constructed, the service desk can handle much of the routine work of IT, enabling engineering and other teams to do higher value work
- it is your primary interface with the customer, where you can gauge the pulse of your users, and make the biggest daily impact on your reputation
- with the right data and tools, the service desk identify and correct problem outbreaks early, thereby reducing customer impacts and lowering overall support costs.
And yet, despite its importance to IT, too often Service Desks are chronic under-performers due to the following issues:
- poor processes or widespread lack of adherence to them
- the absence, or low quality application, of a scientific and metric based management approach
- lousy handoffs and poor delivery by the rest of IT
- inadequate resources and recruiting, worsened by weak staff development and team-building
- weak sponsorship by senior IT leaders
- ineffective service desk leadership
Before we get into the detailed posts on service desk best practices, here are a few items to identify where your team is, and a few things to get started on:
1. What is your first call resolution rate? If it is below 70% then there is work to do. If it is above 70% but primarily because of password reset, then put in decent self serve password reset and re-evaluate.
2. What is the experience of your customers? Are you doing a monthly or quarterly survey to track satisfaction with the service? If not, get going and implement. I recommend a 7 point scale and hold yourself to the same customer satisfaction bar your company is driving for with its external customers.
3. What are the primary drivers of calls? Are they systems issues? Are they due to user training or system complexity issues? Workstation problems? Are calls being made to report a surplus of availability or general systems performance issues? If you know clearly (e.g., via Pareto analysis) what is driving your calls, then we have the metrics in place (if not, get the metrics – and process if necessary — in place). Once you have the metrics you can begin to sort out the causes and tackle them in turn. What is your team doing with the metrics? Are they being used to identify the cause of calls to then go about eliminating the call in the first place?
For example, if leading drivers of calls are training and complexity, is your team reworking the system so it is more intuitive or improving the training material? If the drivers are workstation issues, do you know what component and what model and are now figuring out what proactive repair or replacement program will reduce these calls? Remember, each call you eliminate probably saves your company at least $40 (mostly in eliminating the downtime of the caller).
4. Do you and your senior staff meet with the service desk team regularly and review their performance and metrics? Do senior IT leaders sponsor major efforts to eliminate the source of calls? Does the service desk feature in your report to customers?
5. If it is a third party provider, have you visited their site lately? Does your service area have the look and feel and knowledge of your company so they can convey your brand? And hold them to the same high performance bar as you would your own team.
Use these five items for a quick triage of your service desk and our next posts will cover the best practices and techniques to build a world-class service desk. Later this week, Bob and Steve will cover the structure and key elements of a world-class service desk and how to go about transforming your current desk or building a great one from scratch. Steve will also cover the customer charter and its importance to maintaining strong performance and meeting expectations.
I look forward to your thoughts and experiences in this area. And perhaps you have a service desk that could use some help to turn around IT’s and your reputation.