For CIOs and executives looking to elevate their service desk, hiring people with the right skills is crucial to the overall success of the team and the relationship between IT and other departments.
When end users are satisfied with service desk effectiveness, they tend to have a better perception of other IT processes, according to an Info-Tech Research Group survey.
This can go a long way for adoption rates when CIOs and tech teams implement new tools and modernize processes. Emphasizing customer experience benefits all aspects of business operations.
“The service desk is kind of the epicenter of grassroots efforts to improve customer experience, customer support, even to improve bottom line things that executives care about,” said Greg Sanker, director of IT support at home builder Taylor Morrison. “If we fix people's problems faster, they're back to work more productive. Happier employees make happier customers and all that sort of stuff.”
More often than not, the IT service desk only receives calls when something goes wrong for a business employee. In addition to having technical skills, it is vital for service desk employees to have the soft skills needed to address issues with end users with empathy and patience.
George Moussa, IT help desk support at IT services company Texas InfoTech, said having an open mind and patience is a key component of the job.
Normally, the companies Moussa works for have manuals used to guide technicians on the job. The guides, however, are not always useful. Moussa said this is when having an open mind is critical.
Empathy is another necessary skill for service desk employees, according to Vawns Murphy, senior consultant at i3Works Ltd.
Murphy found that during the pandemic, she was sometimes the first person that an end user had spoken to that day.
“I just think that ability to listen, to have empathy, to treat the person as an actual human being as opposed to just a ticket or a number in the queue is really important,” she said.
Leaders can teach technical skills, but they can’t teach someone how to relate to other people, Murphy said.
Managing the influx
While emotional intelligence is key, there are times when IT service desk employees become overwhelmed.
“If you've had like 30 calls that day and every single person has been very highly stressed, you absorb that,” Murphy said.
Having spaces where IT employees can blow off steam, catch up or joke is helpful for the mental health of employees. One way CIOs can execute this is by implementing a buddy system in which employees benefit from talking to each other and lending an understanding ear, according to Murphy.
“Your people are the most important thing,” Murphy said. “If you don’t look after the minds of your people, they’re going to get burned out and struggle.”
Outdated metrics can also bring down the spirit of IT service desk teams. For instance, evaluating first call completion rates can muddy the actual success of teams.
When IT service desks get similar calls or requests regarding a simple issue, they could install a guide to inform end users on the best way to fix it themselves. However, that can lower first call completion rates, a metric signaling a resolved issue within the first call, because now business employees call for more complex issues, according to Sanker.
“So we're actually resolving less things on first contact, and we might have a longer time to resolution. But we're creating the experience that customers want,” Sanker said. “So you got to be careful when you're measuring because it may not be the thing that matters to the experience that you're trying to create.”
Implementing service level agreements, instead, can provide a more holistic approach to measuring the success of the service and the customer experience.
“[A SLA] takes into account the end-to-end holistic service, the customer journey. It's more of a softer kind of measure,” Murphy said. “And there are lots of different things that you can measure. So how knowledgeable was the service desk agent, like what was the customer satisfaction, how confident did the person feel their issue was being addressed?”
There is a delicate middle ground between gathering insights from metrics and providing context.
“It's about having a balance,” Murphy said. “I think it's by not necessarily having loads and loads of metrics, but it's about having a targeted few that really demonstrate value.