Improving the quality of the service desk can be very simple

The Service Desk – How do you make improvements?

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In my last blog, I mentioned that if your customers or users perceive that the Service Desk provides poor service, that is their reality and that is what you need to change. Here I will give you some pointers on how to go about it.

Simplicity itself

The workings of a service desk should be simple

Involved in the Service Desk?

  1. Understand what it is that you are supposed to be doing. What do you support and what don’t you? This will be documented in the IT strategy and service catalogue. Don’t have one? Approach the governance of IT group and ask them what is expected of you. Don’t have one? Guess. You’ll soon find out whether you are right or wrong, although to be honest, you probably have a fairly good idea anyway.
  2. Understand what you are actually doing. Review current state by taking a step back and seeing whether it matches with what is expected of you.
  3. Understand where the gaps are. This gives you a good and sensible starting point.
  4. Survey your users / customers and ask them what they think of you and the service you provide. This might sound like you are about to open a can of worms that you would rather keep sealed, but if you don’t know, you can’t address it. This doesn’t have to be a large survey, it could just be two questions to all staff, or a cup of coffee conversation with some key staff (key does not necessarily mean senior) to get their input.
  5. Talk to your staff. They will have a good, if not better than you, understanding of what works and what doesn’t. However you may not have heard their input because they might not feel that they can stand up and tell you.
  6. Come up with a plan and share it with as wide a portion of the organisation as is feasible. Don’t hide it, but tell the world what needs to happen and how and when you are going to do it. People appreciate being told.

Not involved in the Service Desk?

Go and spend a day working on the Service Desk. Take calls from the users and understand exactly what goes on. You will be surprised and (hopefully) scared by the breadth and depth of knowledge that the Service Desk staff are expected to have. You will realise there are more systems and application being used than you were aware of, and probably even discover groups of users that you didn’t know existed. The Service Desk staff knew though.

Prioritise

With your plan, prioritise the issues and actions. What are the big issues? What can be done easily? Where are the value actions?

Improve

So now you understand what needs to be done, and which order, this is the exciting part. Improving.

Improve the way that the customers / users perceive the Service Desk. You may not change anything about what you do, but if you can get your users to perceive that things are better, that is a huge step forwards.

Improve the way that the Service Desk works together

Ensure that the team all works in the same way. This is where processes and procedures can be of help. Don’t remove individuality with scripts, but give clear guidelines and steps for the team to follow so that everyone provides the same level of service.

Improve the way that the whole IT department operates

Often it is not the Service Desk which makes the users believe that the service is poor, but other teams in IT. They may not respond to requests within timeframes, or may not demonstrate the requisite customer service skills, or may overcommit to requests without first seeking approval.   There are many areas where other teams in IT can ruin the customer’s perception, and all need to be reviewed and potentially addressed.

Lead and Encourage

Improvements however should be led, not driven. If you want your team(s) to improve the way they operate, lead by example. This includes steps like praising staff or perform in the required way, acting in a way that you would like them to operate, encouraging senior execs to not bypass procedures for example, and ensuring that actions that do not match the ideal are addressed there and then. No point waiting for the 6 month review.

Encourage your teams to share information. Information and knowledge needs to flow between all support teams along to encourage and enable speedier resolution of issues, or even just awareness of stuff.

Knowledge

From a Service Desk perspective, they need to:

  • Receive knowledge,
  • Be involved in projects
  • Receive face to face handovers (as well as documents) of handovers PRIOR to go live
  • Receive training for new services / hardware / software PRIOR to go live.
  • Be aware of changes
  • Sign-off on projects and changes
  • Be aware of all issues (no more level x support teams taking calls direct from users and not advising the Service Desk of issues)
  • Understand which teams (internal and external to IT and the organisation) provide which services, own services , can approve requests for services, which tools should be used to provide services and how users use the services.

Check

Once you have started with your improvements, don’t just assume that everything is improving. Check with the teams, check with your users and check with key stakeholders. It’s better to find out you are going off-track early so that you can adjust, rather than wasting time and energy and having to restart later.

Summary

  • Ensure you have a full list of services you provide (Service Catalogue)
  • Make sure you have a Governance team who can review and agree the list
  • Get managers to spend time working on the Service Desk. It will be worth it.
  • Review and refresh processes and procedures for handling calls and knowledge
  • Document and review roles and responsibilities
  • Talk to your users / customers.
  • Talk to your staff and provide them with methods to raise and suggest improvements
  • Produce an improvement plan with realistic deliverables and timeframes. Share this plan.

Keep on the right side of Receptionists and P.A.s. They are your friends.

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James is an ITIL accredited Service Management and IT Operations Management consultant with over 20 years in IT and over 10 years experience managing, mentoring and leading IT support teams in the UK, India and New Zealand, across Outsource, Utilities, Media & Broadcast, Public Health and Tertiary Education environments. Recent opportunities have allowed James to use his experience to assist organisations improve processes Service Desks and IT support teams, enabling continuous improvement whilst also delivering a stable operational environment. James is also an accomplished people manager, varying from small local teams to large multi-national teams and is experienced in strategic thinking to drive improvements and change.