Rob Longden, head of service delivery at CT, explains why customer service is critical to managing a successful service desk
The service desk, in most cases, is the interface between a customer’s business and its IT team.
It is the focal point for end-users wishing to request IT services or have an IT problem resolved.
In many cases, the person manning the desk will be the only IT representative that an end-user will come into contact with, especially if the organisation has only a small IT team, or a fully outsourced IT service desk.
Unfortunately, all too often the relationship between end-user and Service Desk can be one of frustration and uncertainty, with end-users complaining when a problem is not resolved in a timely manner, or to their expectation, and service desk agents complaining that end-users have not responded to initial queries, or are repeating the same technical mistakes.
Critical to any successful organisation is getting the Service Desk right. To do this, Service Management plays a key role in ensuring a successful Service Desk delivery.
It’s all about customer satisfaction
There are many ways CT measures the performance its Service Desk provides and the various functions it performs.
Some performance measures are contractually driven by our customers, while others have been introduced for internal governance purposes.
But how does CT know when the Service Desk is performing well?
There are a number of ways.
On a purely technical level, it is it when the recently updated service level agreement (SLA) implemented shows green (demonstrating there are no SLA breaches), or when the incident dashboard management information screen shows a decline in the number of critical incidents.
SLAs, whilst incredibly important, are invariably contractual measures aligned to the services that may not match customer expectations.
It’s not uncommon for SLAs to be satisfied, while Service or Account Managers receive complaints directly from the customer about ongoing issues of poor performance or perceived poor performance.
While CT’s customer SLAs are necessary performance measures for governance purposes, ultimately it is customer satisfaction that will determine the relative success or failure of the CT service desk and continued partnerships with its customers.
These measures are captured by CT via an end-user survey, and as we all know, customers tend to be satisfied when their expectations are met.
CT focuses on understanding the end-users’ expectations during the onboarding phase and continually measures expectations by tracking not only its customer satisfaction initiatives but all service-related initiatives, through continuous service improvement.
The level of experience that CT has recently introduced will ensure we continue to deliver services that lead to satisfied customers.
What we want to avoid is a situation where the relationship between a Service Desk and its end-users is one of ‘Us and Them’ – where the end-user feels like they are misunderstood and that reaching out for IT support is a difficult experience.
Ultimately, all that matters to the end-user is that IT works well enough for them to do their job, and when it doesn’t, that they can contact the Service Desk quickly and easily to have the issue resolved.
This can prove challenging at times and often requires the participation of end-users.
In order for the CT service desk to be in a position to understand, manage or meet these expectations, there are certain essential elements that are being continuously reviewed.
Essential elements of a well-functioning Service Desk
There are many characteristics, such as the size or complexity of IT environments and the technical resourcing strategy, that CT continuously reviews to influence the make-up of the service desk. Of course, these characteristics will vary between IT businesses, but CT has aligned these to its long-term strategic business development plan to make sure they are effective.
The fundamental areas key to the CT Service Desk function, in order to not only meet end-user expectations but consistently exceed these expectations, are:
Good customer service requires the right competence. Not everyone is cut out for a service desk (customer service) role. CT ensures that soft skills are also seen as a qualification for the role, like patience, being a good listener, politeness, customer service skills, telephone techniques. And, of course, IT technical knowledge is essential for the service desk. The levels of expectation vary depending on the role and development is paramount to success through CT’s employee training plan reviews.
Communication is essential within CT and should flow freely among service desk employees, users, and management. It should be clear and transparent, especially when implementing changes that affect the end-user. CT has also introduced common escalation processes with four levels and effective posting of notifications throughout the business using electronic media facilities.
The recent review and introduction to enhance our reporting capability to customers continues to be a success, allowing our service managers to follow-up on key performance indicators (KPIs) and SLAs. The introduction of an automatic reporting toolset ensures efficient production of customer reports, in-line with the CT’s governance policy.
Continuous Service Imrpovement
Although the idea of continually improving is commonly understood and expected, CT has introduced a centrally-managed process for capturing, analysing trends across customers by its service managers and implementing and measuring these improvements on a continual basis. CT uses data from not only its customers, internal survey results and feedback service desk personnel, but also proactive improvement initiatives identified by its service managers to identify patterns and areas of improvement.
Motivated and Positive People
That have a clear and well-communicated definition of their role. Open and positive culture, self-awareness, regular development reviews and improvement opportunities. For example, improving first line resolution capability by transferring knowledge up from second line support, not only reduces cost but can also stimulate the service desk. This is a key focus within CT.
The Right Toolset
A well-functioning service desk like CT’s utilises an ITSM toolset that provides the necessary support for all underlying service desk processes, aligned to the ITIL methodology, such as incident management, problem management, service request fulfilment and change management to name only a few.
Well-defined Processes & Procedures
In order for the CT service desk and business to function effectively, CT has developed well-defined policies, processes and procedures with clearly defined roles and responsibilities. CT continues to review all processes and procedures to ensure they continue to be effective and efficient. In the absence of this, there will be confusion, delays in handling incidents or service request and invariably mistakes.