Managing Your Service Desk for Quality and Efficiency


IT service desk management practices are evolving in response to a variety of technology innovations and new business requirements. As quality service at low cost becomes increasingly commonplace, top-performing organizations are seeking new and innovative ways to gain a competitive edge.

Here are the top 5 keys to optimizing service desk efficiency and value contribution:

1. Don’t just resolve incidents; manage problems. Analyze incidents and problems to identify root causes. Use this knowledge to take corrective action and drive improvement. Don’t fall into the trap of efficiently managing incidents; rather, seek to eliminate them at their source. Move beyond basic measures of incident resolution and link performance metrics to broader objectives. Clients increasingly favor a pricing mechanism where the focus shifts from quantity to quality. Be sure to integrate Service Desk measures with other parts of the IT organization and business to enable problem analysis and resolution. Use benchmarking to address three questions: What? So what? Do what?

2.  Manage contact volume. Use self-help and automation tools to reduce contact volumes and ensure that incidents are either resolved without any direct agent contact or sent to appropriate channels.  Invest in training and knowledge management databases and aim for first-contact resolution rates of 80 percent to 90 percent. For contacts involving agents, don’t just measure cost per contact; also analyze cost per resolution to assess the impact of activities outside of the Service Desk. Strike a balance between self-help tools and automation on the one hand, and the user experience on the other. Alternative contact methods, such as click to chat and video (SkypeTM) are rated highly in user experience and allow agents to manage multiple discussions in real time while leveraging contemporary social media interactions.

3. Train to retain. Use incentives and bonuses to promote “positive” turnover that moves agents up and out of the Service Desk and places them elsewhere in the organization. Avoid “negative turnover” – terminations, resignations, and poaching by other businesses. Use cross-training and “walk-a-mile” programs to build awareness of the Service Desk’s contribution. Invest in the development of industry vertical knowledge in your Service Desk staff.

4.  Get the right staffing mix. Employ a mix of veterans and new recruits. Focus on the staffing life cycle and establish strong relationships with local universities to develop a recruiting pipeline of talent. Seek staff that not only are not only highly competent in technology but can build relationships, manage conflict and develop, contribute to high client satisfaction and seek to drive continuous improvement.  Design training programs to advance people within the organization, while maintaining a supply of qualified new trainees. Incentive programs should reward both individual and team performance and involve some level of competition.

5. Strive for a balanced sourcing strategy. Seek a balance between in-house and outsourced functionality; one that achieves cost efficiency with the highest service quality. Segment contacts and direct them to appropriate channels. Route standard and simple tasks to self-help options and automated tools. Send basic inquiries to junior staff and offshore centers to further leverage cost efficiency. Complex problems and inquiries from high-value users should go directly to experienced agents and specialists. Develop consistent criteria and tightly coupled procedures with the “feet on the street” organization when a dispatch of service is required.

About the author

Jim has in-depth experience in assessing and managing complex IT Infrastructure engagements focused on helping corporations achieve their business objectives. He offers expertise in strategy assessment and development, statement of work, service level agreements, business-driven RfP development, transactions, contract negotiations and transition planning across IT Infrastructure areas and expertise in IT service management integration. Jim has worked with global enterprises in the automotive manufacturing, banking and financial services, healthcare, utilities, aerospace and retail industries, focusing on collaborative techniques with clients and service providers to achieve the desired business outcomes. He recently led the negotiation of a large infrastructure contract with a utilities company and a cloud computing transition. Included in this successful project was the development and execution of the sourcing strategy, assessment and transaction process and project management, negotiation strategy development and financial proposals and executive leadership communication. Jim is ITIL V3 Foundation certified and a thought leader on the topic of the digital workplace.