David Peltzman, SVP, Business Development, Alphanumeric Systems
When it comes to the service desk, smart organizations truly can have it all. The old thought that a service desk can be any two of three options—cheap, good, and fast— is over. New technology and innovative approaches have allowed service desks to become better, faster, and less expensive.
Many companies operate under the assumption that the service desk is purely a cost center; they’ll look to drive down that cost, maybe by outsourcing. Others see the value of insourcing but may not get the full value of their service desk. There’s a better way. Growing from a single-function help desk (e.g., IT support) to a full-service business center, readying the desk for the “Internet of Things,” using the desk as a transformation change agent, and investing in first-tier support capabilities all derive greater value from a help desk. At the same time, these initiatives, by eliminating redundant work, reducing escalation points, and improving end-user satisfaction, all aid a cost-reduction effort, too.
Ultimately, your goal should be to increase value. You can improve quality and capabilities, you can reduce costs, or – ideally – you can do both.
Transform the Service Desk from Simple IT Support to a Robust Business Services Hub
An IT help desk can and should offer more than basic IT support. A well-trained and equipped help desk can manage and perform any IT or business process. Most business functions engage IT already, whether it’s for HR applications or an ERP. Service desk agents already have the knowledge and experience supporting apps for a variety of business functions; they can easily be trained to support business processes, as well.
Expanding the role of the service desk contributes value to the overall solution by providing support for knowledge sharing, training, recruitment, and development. This positions the service desks as a hub for a wide variety of business functions, from funneling procurement requests or dispatching facility maintenance personnel to customer service requests and sales support functions. As business functions become increasingly interconnected, your service desk should be a robust hub for services and support.
A well run service desk can take on any topic. The practices are the same, even if the content varies. And there is value in forming a business service hub. It is actually easier to teach new content to a good service agent, than it is to teach a content expert how to provide excellent customer service. It’s less expensive, too.
Leverage the Service Desk in Transformational Change
When the service desk becomes an active hub for any number of business processes, it’s able to facilitate better change management initiatives, as well. As all managers know, managing change and setting expectations drives better transitions. But it’s often easier said than done.
The service desk has a wealth of knowledge about how your customers behave, their likes and dislikes, and how they interact with your products and services. Many companies fail to exploit the fact that their service desk can be a very important market research engine. Service desk managers need to do a better job of promoting this aspect of their service and push to participate in business functions that may seem foreign to them.
A sales contact center will take the opportunity by talking to a customer to try to upsell other products or services. But even an internal IT Help Desk can help explain changes, garner feedback about how IT is performing and be more proactive in easing the changes.
Change is emotional; it triggers defense mechanisms at both personal and institutional levels. Your service desk staff is already trained to deal with emotionally charged situations (e.g., angry customers). Your service desk should be a key vehicle to support stakeholders and customers through a transition
Prepare the Service Desk for the “Internet of Things”
Especially in the world of technology, change is constant and inevitable. The rise of the so-called “Internet of Things” is a prime example. The increasingly networked environment of physical objects which enable the collection and sharing of data creates new opportunities for efficiency and ease of use. But, as with any new technology, it will require smart planning for support and security; otherwise, the opportunity threatens chaos.
A proactive service desk should be prepared for what’s coming. Managing the environment – knowing what you have on your network, maintaining updates, and leveraging high quality tools, practices, process, and people – is a core principal of security best practices.
As new advances, such as the Internet of Things become part of daily business, the need for high quality support and security increases by an order of magnitude. Your service desk should be ready for the next big thing, whatever it might be.
Look For Value Not Just Cost When Evaluating the Service Desk
There are a few common reasons for outsourcing – cost reduction, resource reallocation, consolidation, and shifts in business focus are the chief ones among them. And each has its merits. But no matter why you’re looking to outsource, it’s crucial to understand the value of quality service. As the saying goes, you get what you pay for.
Poor service quality leads to redundant work, low resolution rates, hidden costs, and low end-user satisfaction. We know customers expect increasingly high service quality, and for your service desk to be successful, it must instill trust and confidence in the end-user. Mobility, cloud computing, the Internet of Things and healthcare IT are driving up the demand for quality IT and services. The service desk will only evolve to play a bigger role in helping build trust among end-users.
The best way to encourage confidence in the service desk is to focus on problem elimination and first-call resolution. Invest in the first levels of support to reduce the number of touch points required to solve a problem. If quality is embedded in every process, with incident resolution providing a top-priority performance metric, the service desk will accomplish more, quicker, at a lower total cost.
Tactics for achieving greater incident resolution include implementing effective training and knowledge sharing programs for service agents, as well as generating self-service tools for end-users. This shift puts more capabilities in the hands of front-line agents, and lessens the burden of work (and the cost) on high-end resources at the end of the escalation process. We also need new tools that support the greater number of devices being used by your employees and customers.
In the real world, these strategies will improve the value of your service desk by improving customer satisfaction, eliminating redundant costs, and improving your brand. And these benefits aren’t limited to the service desk itself. Your service desk should deliver real value to your whole business. And with a few key improvements, it will.