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More Than Putting Out Fires: Four Ways to Upgrade Your Service Desk


This isn't your grandfather's help desk. Here's how Fortune 500 companies can boost modern service desk productivity by as much as 20%, including higher employee satisfaction, faster fixes, better service and reduced costs.

This isn't your grandfather's help desk. Here's how Fortune 500 companies can boost modern service desk productivity by as much as 20%, including higher employee satisfaction, faster fixes, better service and reduced costs.

Today's workers—particularly millennials and geek fluent gen-xers—don't want to wait on a service desk to resolve technical difficulties. They want to do it themselves. They use a record number of devices, machines, apps and software platforms for both work and play. And they expect instant resolution when their technology misbehaves, regardless of the situation, even to the point of resolving it themselves.

Which is why IT self-service is more important than ever. And why omni-channel support, reskilled help desks and results-based pricing should be a top priority for CIOs hoping to do more than just keeping the lights on.

Having implemented numerous IT service strategies for Fortune 500 clients in the consumer-driven mobile age, we've recently discovered several material breakthroughs.

For example, we built a service desk analytics system for a large life insurance company that improved first-call resolutions by more than 20% and staff productivity by 15%. For another notable insurer, we staffed, trained and automated the metrics of its support team to improve satisfaction ratings by 15% within six months.

Similarly, we standardized a leading news publisher's service desk to boost worker productivity by 15% while reducing IT costs by 20%. And we completely overhauled a Fortune 500 investment bank's service desk to better prioritize demands, improve user satisfaction, reduce turnaround times by 15% and improve application management times by 12%.

How so? First, we ate our own dog food. We started by enabling self-service IT for our 170,000-plus employees, allowing them to plan benefits, manage e-mail lists and reset passwords from a unified login, which decreased service requests by 10,000 calls per month. In turn, this freed our service desk talent to focus on more critical activities, improvements to the experience and more value to the business.

Figure 1

Next, we did our homework, a lot of tinkering and identified four repeatable best practices to reimagine, redesign and rewire the service desk for the modern era. They are as follows:

Anticipate support desk requests.

This is accomplished with self-service tools, service catalogs and by assigning business value to all requests before prioritizing them. For instance, you can automate routine activities such as compensation planning, password resets and even power cycles—basically anything that securely empowers your workforce. Next, create a pre-defined list of services in a menu or catalog that can be ordered by users from a unique location. When supported with rule-based workflow triggers, these requests can be routed to the appropriate expert, increasing the speed and efficiency of service intake. Lastly, it's important to involve financial executives in validating and assigning value to specific service requests to they can be prioritized in a meaningful way. Doing so can also eliminate redundant requests and improve visibility of ongoing analysis and resolution. But more than anything, it's the start to improving user satisfaction, request queues, turnaround times and your support desk's sanity so it can focus on more productive undertakings.

Apply omni-channel support with analytics.

This begins by adding modern touchpoints such as chat, video calls, apps, virtual device hand-offs and Twitter to existing e-mail, call and in-person interactions. When properly streamlined, this alone can improve satisfaction levels. Once omni-channel support is in place, you can then begin to analyze and mine the combined data to create smarter resolution strategies, decrease redundancy and speed workflows and fulfillment. When empowered with analytics, your service desk will also be able to identify trending issues before they get out of hand and even forecast problems. Additionally, when armed with a real-time service management dashboard, in-context video support such as Amazon's Mayday, or voice-mail to text conversions to speed resolutions, the service desk is again in a better position to innovate and increase value rather than just "firefight."

Retrain your service desk to innovate beyond quick-fixes.

With reduced time demands afforded by the above, the goal here isn't to cut support staff. It's to add value. To do that, you'll need to reskill your support team to better understand the context of customer needs. The starts with the realization that the support experience starts with the initial request but only ends after the user recommends the rendered service to coworkers. In other words, interactions at every point in the lifecycle must be managed effectively. To do this, it is important to measure customer experience across three considerations: comfort during interaction, simplicity of the resolution process and relevance of resolution. Creating a customer satisfaction score to measure these can help, especially when it comes to continuous improvement, more referrals/better promotion and persona-driven service (i.e., user categories based on aspects such as request frequency, engagement disposition, business area and designation).

Apply results-based pricing and integrated service intake.

As IT service management becomes increasingly commoditized, motivating and empowering support vendors with risk-reward-based contracts is the best way to maximize the support process. To accomplish this, ticket-based pricing must be used. In addition to reducing the cost per ticket of support—thanks to productivity gains, economies of scale and strategic sourcing — this increases the level of care and service. Before switching to this model, however — which has become the new norm for IT service contracts — a courting period or phased approach should be used to assess a vending partner's credentials and compatibility. With the above in place, your support team can then begin to integrate its entire service desk intake across all departments to create even more efficiencies.

For more information, read the full white paper, Driving Business Excellence through Innovative IT Service Management or visit our consulting practice.

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