5 Common Service Desk Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

 

People like to talk and write about the future of IT service management (ITSM). It might be because it seems cooler than the ITSM status quo. It might also be because people don't want to retread over the same ground gain - after all, blogging has been around since the start of the millennium. However, in my experience, the "back to basics"-type of blogs often get the most reads. Why? Because ITSM practitioners are often spending too much time struggling with the basics to invest time in reading about the future - they need help with the here and now. And the service desk is a great example of this.

Read on to understand five of the most common service mistakes and what you and your company can do about them. And if you're expecting responses like "failing to record incidents and service requests separately," then you need to start thinking bigger.

1. Still Supporting IT "Like it's 1999"

We are now nearing the end of the 12th year of what's termed "the consumerization of IT" and much has changed for the better with IT support. But many corporate IT organizations and their service desks still need to realize that it's not just about the need to accommodate and support employee's personal devices, apps, and personal cloud services. That instead consumerization - employees bringing their personal-life experiences and expectations into the workplace - demand a refocusing in respect of services, support, and customer service.

Look to consumer-world service and support experiences as exemplars: Service desks need to take a long, hard, and honest look at how they operate, the service/experience they provide, thoughts of end users about the service/experience, and the gap that exists between the current and future required state. For some service desks, this will require a significant reimagining of operations and an investment across people, process, and technology.

2. Supporting the Technology Not the People

IT support has never been about "supporting the IT," no matter what the operational reality has been. With IT support really about keeping the business, and its people, operational not merely fixing broken equipment. But how many service desk agents can honestly say that they employ this perspective and that the end user - yes, we still struggle to call them "customers" - is what they focus on when providing IT support.

Make support about the people: The aforementioned pincer movement of consumerization and customer experience means that not only are end users expecting more from IT support teams, they less likely tolerate substandard situations and are also more prepared to voice their discontent. Thus, service desks need to appreciate that a big factor in meeting customer-experience-related demands is viewing end users as customers - or at least consumers - plus, of course, as people. With a focus on their situations and the fact that they need assistance in becoming productive again.

3. Underinvesting in Service Desk People

IT support is all about the people, and the service desk is too - service desk agents. Yes, more and more tickets might get "deflected" using self-service and self-help, knowledge management, and automation (more and more using artificial intelligence, machine learning, and chatbots). But not everything can be dealt with without a human-to-human (H2H) interaction.

What's really important here is that:

  • The things that require an H2H approach are now the more complex issues and requests - there will be few easy issues hitting the service desk.
  • There are now fewer H2H opportunities to influence the business' perceptions of IT -traditionally the service desk has played a big part in influencing this as one of the few personal touchpoints. These fewer H2H contacts will also be more complex and time-consuming as per the first point.

Recognize the importance of service desk staff: Service desk staff recruitment and retention strategies need to be altered to firstly focus on a higher caliber of agent and secondly to ensure that what will become a rarer resource (versus script readers) will require better reward and recognition policies. Ultimately service desk agents will need to be valued more.

4. Blindly Following Process

ITIL has already helped tens of thousands of organizations around the world to improve. However, has your organization taken the right approach to its adoption? In the case of the service desk, has it blindly "implemented" incident management and service request fulfillment without fully understanding the concept of ITIL, or appreciating that there's so much more best practice within ITIL to be exploited?

Assess your organization's use of ITIL best practice: First off, recognize that the ITIL processes are merely the means to an end, not the end itself. ITIL isn't about process adoption - it's about better IT service delivery and support, and better meeting customer and business needs for IT enablement. Next, understand that you don't need to slavishly follow the diagrams in the ITIL books. Instead, adapt the ITIL best practice to suit your organizations needs and native ways of working. And finally, don't stop at the commonly adopted ITIL processes - half a dozen of the 26 included in the books - look for opportunities where additional processes can make a big difference to your IT operations. For service desk this might be problem management. Looking beyond the service desk, this might be financial, availability, and/or capacity management.

5. Struggling with an Outdated Service Desk or ITSM Tool

How many service desks are using a tool that's holding them back? It could be that the wrong tool was chosen, thanks to a poorly managed selection process, or that the tool hasn't kept up with the evolution of IT support. Of course there's the favorite blight of on-premise ITSM tools - that the tool has been customized to the point of being close to unusable. And now the financial climate is such that the justification of a new tool is very difficult.

Assess what the outdated tool is really costing your organization: Not just the ongoing support and maintenance costs or the monthly subscription for software-as-a-service (SaaS) solutions. It might be slowing operations down because it's too hard to use, placing too much reliance on manual activities, or lacking newer capabilities such as usable self-service or knowledge management capabilities. So, while a newer ITSM tool might seem to be an additional investment that would be hard to justify, the opportunity cost of staying with a tool that's holding you back might be even higher.

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