By Lou Marchesani
Since the outbreak of COVID-19, service desk teams across the globe have been quickly adapting to spikes in contact volume, market volatility, and increased uncertainty. Most workers are now working remotely, needing to troubleshoot a whole host of new IT issues while they manage their workloads. Each week, the world is changing, and companies are figuring out how to keep operations running despite the fact that nothing is “business as usual.” For many workers, this means learning and adjusting as they go, which means higher reliance on the service desk.
Even in these challenging times – maybe especially in these challenging times – the service desk is the face of IT. It sets the standard for customer experience and has a profound impact on organizational productivity. Under normal circumstances and today, high first-level resolution (FLR) is the goal. This is how we measure success – how quickly and effectively the service desk can resolve an issue on the first call. It’s in times like these that organizations need to get back to the basics and focus on improving their FLR.
Here are the top ten fundamentals:
Depending on your business, one service desk analyst should be able to support between 350-450 users or 400-450 contacts per month. These numbers are calculated using a longer “talk time” to ensure higher FLR rates. If analysts are forced to field more than 400-450 contacts a month, your service desk will become a log-and-dispatch center. Analysts won’t have time to do analysis, find the root cause, and fix users’ problems, which will drive up costs related to escalations and shadow IT. Ensuring adequate staffing allows analysts to do a good job, ask the right questions, listen to the user, and increase the likelihood of resolving the issue on the first call.
By building your service desk operations on ITIL principles, you arm analysts with an effective incident management process that allows them to resolve incidents according to service-level agreements with the goal of restoring services as quickly as possible and getting the customer back to work. ITIL principles provide the service desk guidance and best practices in incident management, change requests, streamlining communication, and continual service improvement.
Achieving a high FLR means you are not only delivering a positive customer experience, but you also are keeping costs down by resolving issues with lower-cost resources. The minute an issue must go to an escalation group – whether it be the security group, the SAP group, or the ServiceNow group – the cost associated with that contact goes up. Identify ways for the escalated support groups and the service desk analysts to understand more about the other’s work. Design avenues and systems that allow first-level analysts to establish trust with the escalated support groups and gain access to the information and knowledge they need to take on more complicated work. The escalated support groups will be happy to invest in sharing information and ideas proactively because it will inevitably ease their load.
Email and voicemail are not “best practice” standards. They simply initiate a game of “tag, you’re it” between the requestor and the analyst, often without sufficient information to help the analyst make progress. Instead, create forms that contain fields for all the required information to complete a request and make them mandatory. This will help analysts resolve the issue correctly the first time and reduce the number of times they have to call the requestor back.
Use and maintain your knowledge base tool. Create a metrics output that helps you look at, for example, the ten most frequent incident types in a given month. Often, this perspective will reveal patterns that are easily addressed with a knowledge article that can be made available to analysts. Remember that knowledge is not static, so build a knowledge-capture process into your work, keeping things relevant as technology changes. This will go a long way in making a reactive service desk into a proactive one.
When engaging with a service desk sourcing provider, include specific expectations for FLR via a service level agreement (SLA) in the sourcing contract. For internal service desks, clearly communicate the FLR SLAs and reward service desk teams when they exceed them. Publish the SLAs and make your recognition programs known. A service excellence award for account teams or analyst scorecards for individuals can serve as positive tools for mentoring and reinforcing the behaviors you’re looking for.
Whether your service desk is staffed internally or by a sourcing partner, create a schedule that can handle morning and afternoon peak times, including increased demand during off-hours or for special rollouts. Customers remember not only the quality of the interaction with the service desk but also how long they might have had to wait to reach someone. If you can predict an increase in need, plan to meet it.
Your service desk personnel need the tools and information at their fingertips to solve problems fast. Successful service desk technology platforms will include an incident tracking system, a modern knowledge base, analytics capabilities, automation, and artificial intelligence. Staying up to date with the latest technology at the service desk can pay dividends in increased productivity and employee morale.
The service desk needs to embrace three areas: technology, customer service, and efficiency of processes. Offer both formal and informal opportunities for service desk analysts to build capabilities in all three areas. Certifying ITIL foundations for analysts can encourage professional behavior and improve morale. Make sure training is ongoing and proactive so analysts can support their customers as technology changes. Prepare in advance for expected spikes in contact volume related to new software implementations or upgrades. Consider a computer-based training platform, so analysts can access it no matter where they are.
Improving service desk operations and increasing FLR is about continual improvement. Many of the most common issues and processes can be automated. Password resets, fulfillment requests, and other time-consuming requests no longer need intervention from the service desk. Automated tools and processes help service desk analysts complete calls faster, enable customer self-service, and reduce call volumes so analysts can spend more time on higher-value or more complicated tasks. Robotic process automation (RPA) reduces errors that contribute to customer frustration and chatbots reduce contacts by automatically bringing users closer to resolution. Paradoxically, as an organization automates, its FLR rate may actually go down instead of up, but the service desk of the future will measure success in new ways, and this reduction will be the harbinger of good things to come.
CAI can help you improve your FLR and build a successful service desk.