As we rapidly career towards the end of 2016, you may find yourself indulging in daydreams about relaxing on the couch while consuming generous helpings of your mother’s famous Christmas pudding. Don’t haul out the tinsel and paper crowns just yet. For service desk managers, there remains an important task to tick off before putting your feet up and enjoying your well-deserved break.

Now is the time to assess your IT service desk’s performance over the past year and develop an improvement strategy to implement in 2017. Will your service desk team be on Santa’s good list this year?

Even if it is, it can still follow these six steps to become a more efficient Service Desk in 2017.

1. It’s time for some honest assessment

Take the time to assess your service desk’s strengths and weaknesses. What do you do well? What aspects of your service delivery strategy could use a little fine tuning?

Popular metrics such as time to resolution, SLA compliance, and calls closed on first contact will most likely be invaluable when measuring the efficiency of your service desk. However, it is equally important to consider more qualitative indicators of success, such as customer satisfaction, the overall business value of your department, and team morale.

Your first call resolution rates may be speedy enough to impress the Flash himself, but are your team members left feeling overworked and overwhelmed by the pressure to perform? Are you really ensuring that customers feel heard or are you merely chivvying them along to move onto the next in line more quickly?

Ultimately it’s important to have a balanced basket of service desk metrics that reflect what’s important to your company. So don’t just pick measures that are considered to be “best practice” metrics. Instead look to how different metrics will allow your service desk to both assess its overall performance (in line with business expectations) and to drive forward improvement activity. Finally, the assessment should also look at the value of existing metrics – so what are they used for? If the answer is very little then it’s probably time to employ different metrics.

2. Listen

Pay attention to end user/customer feedback. End user responses can provide valuable data that can be used to develop best practices and improve your service delivery process. There are many ways to tune in to your customers’ experiences, needs, and expectations:
  • Conduct quarterly or annual surveys (and be sure to follow up on the results)
  • Gather data at the point of service delivery for real-time customer feedback – you might find this to be completely different to data gathered at the point of IT “creation”
  • Establish an online customer feedback forum
  • Don’t underestimate the power of social media.
Complaints and compliments do not always come through traditional channels. Complaints should be addressed as swiftly as possible, so make sure that you have proper escalation and feedback processes in place.

3. Tech training is not enough

While it’s crucial that all levels of your support team are well-trained and possess the required technical knowledge to resolve issues swiftly, it’s easy to overlook the need for developing customer service skills. Instilling soft skills such as telephone (or email) etiquette and traits like friendliness, patience, and empathy can make a huge difference in terms of customer satisfaction. Aim to strike a balance between calculated efficiency and a little understanding for the needs and fears of your end users/customers.

Most importantly, be consistent in your approach to customer service. You may be having an exceptionally bad day, but nobody wants to deal with Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.

4. Streamline your Knowledge Base

The importance of encouraging knowledge base submissions has been stressed many times over in other best practice advice. We know that an efficient knowledge base can reduce call volumes, improve resolution times and, ultimately, reduce costs.

It’s tempting to pad your knowledge base with generic knowledge, especially if other documented information with specific detail is not readily available. In this instance, however, bigger is not always better. A more streamlined approach to the knowledge base may prove more effective.

Home organization experts will tell you that the key to banishing clutter from your home is by using the ‘three box’ system and choosing what to bin, donate or store. Follow the same principle when streamlining your knowledge base. Categorize submissions into three groups: Good, Review and Remove. Ask yourself: Is this genuinely useful to end users or team members? Is this still relevant? Is the information accurate?

Even good knowledge base articles can have an expiration date, so be sure to revisit your decluttering process regularly.

5. Invest in the proper tools for the job

Da Vinci didn’t create the Mona Lisa with a finger painting set – we all need to have the right tools to deliver what we need to deliver. For your service desk to optimize performance across efficiency, service delivery, and the customer experience, you will need a service desk tool that best suits your specific needs. This might be a simple help desk or an IT service management (ITSM) tool that offers more capabilities and flexible configuration options that allow you to match the system to your own requirements.

If you do need a new ITSM tool, it’s important to do your homework. Industry trade shows are greatplaces to get to know vendors, take in some demonstrations, and compare what is on offer. You can also network with other attendees to hear their experiences with different vendors and tools.

Look for available information on the Internet – this might be downloadable industry analyst reports, comparison websites, or just searching for mentions of the vendors and tools on social networks such as Twitter.

6. Strive for continuous improvement

There’s always room for a little improvement. Cultivating a culture of continuous improvement means committing to an ongoing effort to improve services and processes. While there are many formalized approaches to continuous improvement, such as the Kaizen or Agile/Lean methodologies, you may also choose to implement a more informal approach to continuous service improvement.

Typically, the continuous improvement lifecycle includes the following steps:
  • Identify opportunities
  • Plan by setting specific, attainable goals
  • Execute changes
  • Review the changes, and assess whether or not they were successful
There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to continuous improvement, so experiment with a few different methods to discover the best fit for your management style and organizational needs. 

So that’s my six tips for improving your service desk, what else would you have included? Feel free to add your suggestions in the comments section below.

Hopefully this blog has got you thinking, and you are now eager to create a service desk improvement strategy for 2017. Both Alemba and ITSM.tools wish you all the best for the holiday season and the new year. 

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