A couple of blog posts discussing the future of Service Desk (or Service Desk 2.0) caught my eyes last week. I mentioned them in my weekly Fresh Links Sundae post as well. I liked the various points of view presented, and it got me thinking. Well, I guess I probably will not know what a Service Desk (SD) 2.0 looks like until it is right in front of me. The notion still sounds like a bit far down the road for me. Frankly, I am more interested in what we in IT can do to improve the Service Desk function today (5 Questions You Should Ask Your Service Desk Team). Many SD teams have endured an average reputation that in part, I think, was self-inflicted and in part was just victim of circumstance. Since there is no way to turn back so why not keep moving forward and improving.
I think it would be very cool for a typical Service Desk to do a lot more than what it is doing today. I like to envision a state where the Service Desk is the focal point of IT services provisioning, communication, and support. The Service Desk is the team that makes interacting with IT a solid experience all around. They are also the team that makes people feel productive when utilizing corporate-provided information technologies. Moreover, they can be the team that represents the gateway to the best of what IT can do for its constituents. Call it Service Desk 1.5 or whatever. I have presented a possible scenario using a pretty common Service Desk interaction these days.
If your organization is already doing that, congratulations. Moving forward, I think many Service Desk teams can and should do more to plot what they can leverage to improve the customer’s experience. A few ideas on the table are:
- The team should make building a solid working relationship with its customer base is a key success factor. It is the same for any service organization. The team also knows that it cannot be great at everything, so it should try to understand what its customers value the most and least. The team will use the feedback and prioritize what they do – over-deliver on the stuff its customers care the most and maintain, or even phase out, the stuff its customers care the least.
- In addition to better understand their constituents, the Service Desk needs to empower its customers to be more productive with the IT resources they have access to. One example is the self-service feature. The more end-users can do for themselves, the better off everyone will be. Self-service does not mean Service Desk will become a faceless entity. Self-service takes care of the simpler, more routine stuff and leaves the Service Desk team to tackle the stuff that are better handled with more interpersonal interactions.
- To support self-service and to promote productivity, the SD team should know what information the end users will find most helpful and how to make that information available with the least fuss. It is also important where every interaction the SD team has with the customers to be as transparent and predictable as possible. The customers should know what boundaries everyone is working with, what to expect, and stay sufficiently informed every step of the way. The SD team will also make the support information, and themselves, accessible and easy to find. A well-designed knowledge capturing and dissemination mechanism can only help.
To get better at what they do, the Service Desk cannot do it alone. They will need some help from IT and the organization. For example:
- A number of these monitoring and follow-up activities can be labor intensive but can also be automated to a large degree. In addition, self-service feature is only meaningful if it is supported by a well-design automation that actually improves the overall experience.
- Web 2.0 and social media technologies have greatly enabled what Seth Godin called the “Spout and Scout” interaction. The members on the Service Desk team likely have experienced this interaction themselves and use it on the daily basis. Perhaps the team can leverage the same interaction model and get closer to what their customers are doing? Unlike what the Facebook or LinkedIn needed to do in order to get people signing up and coughing up their personal information, the Service Desk already has a pretty good idea of who their customers are, where they are located, what they do, and what IT asset/resources they have access to. The customer census and the social media technologies are certainly two things the Service Desk can leverage and do more with.
Are those realistic and actionable scenarios? I think so. Given how many Service Desks are staffed, organized, and equipped these days, achieving those end states can be a formidable undertaking. Service Desks have always existed with the noble intention to help the IT customers, yet mandy SD teams I had worked really did not get the support they could use to be successful. One reason maybe that many SD teams have been stuck in this reactive question-and-answer mode of operation. We look the end-user Q&A and password reset activities as the necessary evil, stuff we have to do. As a result, many Service Desks also have a tough time justifying its importance and budget priority when competing with other IT functions.
Good service costs money and time. In most organizations, the Service Desk budget rarely looks like the uptrend curve of a growth stock. Diverting effort and fund to do what would help the customers the most will take some difficult choices. Streamlining the Service Desk’s internal working mechanism and simplifying how the Service Desk interact with its customers can also help in freeing up the needed resources. I think it is the time for many SD teams to get a crystal clear picture of what the organization and its customer base really care about. Do less of being all things to all people and do more of delighting its customers along the way.
Links to other posts of the series