9 Foolproof IT Service Desk Tips – Part 1

IT service desk essentials

Many of us in IT service management (ITSM) talk about the IT service desk as if we already have it all perfect (or as close to perfect as it needs to be). After all, the service desk, or at least its operation, is just common sense. It’s easy, right? But if you ask someone who spends much of their time “auditing” service desks, then you’ll probably hear a different story. For instance, one of the highest-profile Service Desk Institute auditors, Barclay Rae, will openly state that:

“People are still struggling with the service desk basics.”

Hence, there’s still more work to be done for the average IT service desk. So, to help, I’ve put together this two-part blog series offering nine tips guaranteed to bring improvement.

Tip 1: Be Easy to Reach

One of the golden rules of ITSM is to “always make it easy for people to use your service.” So, make it easy for your user base to engage with your service desk. Not just via one channel, but via a number of channels as is now expected by employees buoyed by their consumer-world experiences.

The reality is, we’re all different – it’s probably why we are called individuals. Some customers/end users will want to call the service desk, some will want to log everything in an email or online via a self-service portal, and some will prefer to do it via social media or an online chat. The key point is that we need to recognize that not everyone works in the same way and to ensure that your service desk is set up to be easily accessible to as many customers as possible – whether it’s Steve from Finance who wants to call from the office or Jane from Sales who wants to start a chat while continuing to work on a customer proposal. BTW, have you paid my expenses yet, Steve?

Tip 2: Make Your Customer Experience Consistent

It shouldn’t matter if a customer comes through to Dave, who’s been working on the service desk for years (and is considered part of the furniture), or if their call is handled by Tom who’s a brand-new service desk employee. The experience should be the same, and by “the same” I mean excellent!

Training is key here, as is having standards. Of course, some companies go down the route of scripting everything and while this does mean consistency, be warned that it can be very, very restrictive for the service desk analyst handling the call and frustrating for the customer. So be careful not to be consistently… frustrating.

Ideally, there’s a happy medium to be found. Script the troubleshooting stuff so that you have many of the bases covered – the common issues – but allow some wiggle room for common sense to play a part. After all, your service desk is the front line, or face, of IT – the first point of contact between IT and business colleagues, one of the few human-to-human contacts between them, and thus a big influence on the overall perception of IT performance. Isn’t it time we started trusting the people working on it? 

Tip 3: Make It Easier for Your Service Desk Analysts to Work

I don’t think knowledge management is an ITSM process, or capability, that gets the recognition it deserves. It’s the ability to share perspectives, ideas, experience, and information, with these available in the right place and at the right time. (Check out this webinar by @knowledgebird who explains it all perfectly.)

Done well, it can reduce call fix times, reduce incidents, and empower your service desk people. If you have a tool for this, then great! You can start to capture the information that’s stuck inside people’s heads and then share it with the rest of the team. Don’t have a tool? You can still start small and get the basics right. For instance, you can start with your most business-critical system, the one that’s the stuff of nightmares if it goes down. Get all the possible support information available and organize it by support level tier (first line, second line, and so on) such that everyone called upon to support it has everything they need for the tickets that will come their way.

Another thing you can do is invite members of other support teams to the service desk team meeting, and then ask for their top ten tips. Network services will be able to give you the quickest ways to check for network connectivity; and application support will be able to give you all the little-known tricks for corporate applications, such as customer features or being able to run things in compatibility mode. The key point is: do something (but please keep it work related). Start capturing and sharing knowledge and over time, you’ll be able to provide service desk analysts with a helpful source of handy knowledge that can only make their job easier.

Tip 4: Respond to All Contacts, and Keep Them Updated

There’s nothing, and I mean nothing, more frustrating than logging a call with the service desk and to hear nothing back.

And, in my experience, so much service desk traffic is actually generated by customers having to call up/email again to either check that their ticket is progressing or hasn’t been lost forever in the black hole of IT support. If possible, automate this such that your ITSM tool emails the person who logged the call every time the ticket is updated. If you don’t have a formal ITSM tool, or if it has limited functionality, create a bank of template emails you can send to the customer to acknowledge their request for help and reassure them that their ticket is being prioritized and worked on.

Responding to all contacts in a professional way reassures people and sets a positive tone for their next interaction with IT. No one likes it when things go wrong but if you handle their support in the right way, you can make a significant change in customer satisfaction levels.

Tip 5: Write Good Call Notes

“Empty” incident records are harmful to service desks. There’s little worse for a customer than radio silence, or for another service desk analyst seeking to find out how a similar issue was resolved. So, make sure that you update incident records regularly and share the updates with customers when appropriate.

Write clear, easy-to-understand updates when working on a ticket so that: (1) the customer will understand what’s happening if they call in and you aren’t available to help and (2) if someone else has to take over the issue, for whatever reason, then they’re not starting from the beginning thanks to a history of what has already been done in trying to fix the issue.

So, that’s the first five of my service desk tips. Come back soon for the second part of this blog when I’ll share four more.

What do you think so far? Please let me know in the comments!