advice

Who is your service desk there to serve? It’s time for a rethink

By Glenn Drawbridge, - Advice

For a number of years now IT decision-makers have prioritized one thing above all others when it comes to the service desk: cutting costs.

One of the most popular ways to try and reduce spend has been the increasing move towards self-service – enabling users to fix their own problems without contacting the service desk.

But in many cases this hasn’t worked for one simple reason: the user experience hasn’t been good enough.

As a result, people are still choosing to contact the service desk via the telephone because, well, it’s their best and sometimes only option.

As an industry, we’ve ended up in this position because the service desk function is so often seen as nothing but an overhead – a cost to be brought down, even if it’s at the expense of the end-user experience.

Often the self-service tool chosen is the cheapest available or is bundled in for free with the ITSM tool the service desk agents use, leaving the users with a jack of all trades IT tool built for IT-minded people and not the best one for the job.

So here’s the theory: if you invest in something that your users will love, something they prefer to use over picking up the telephone, and that enables them to be more productive, you can actually save money. Fewer calls to the service desk (as a result of more people adopting self-service) means less undue pressure on the desk, and the ability to run a more efficient operation as a result.

Not only that, but your staff will be happier and more likely to stick around in the long run – it makes sense that an employee empowered by the tools they’re working with be happier while using them, and happy people are more likely to stick around. What’s more, you might even find they’re quicker to evangelize for the company if they feel they’re being given what they want.

Bold claims, perhaps, but hear me out…

Bridge the gap between consumer and corporate IT

Today’s workers expect an interconnected user experience when it comes to technology – one that is intuitive and consistent across all their devices.

These expectations have spilled over into their working lives, meaning they want the same quality of experience when they come to the office.

But those expectations aren’t being met.

Imagine an average working day as an employee: you wake up in the morning, check your phone, use a couple of your favorite apps, perhaps share a link or picture with a friend. And the whole experience is seamless. Then you’re listening to music on the bus – again through a user-friendly app.

But suddenly you get to work and everything changes – it’s like you walk through a time warp and all of a sudden the technology is completely at odds with your experience up to that point.

Therein the problem lies. CIOs have historically been pressured to reduce costs, but increasingly they’re also being asked to help improve user productivity and deliver business value through IT.

The contradiction comes when their attempt to reduce costs harms the user experience, which in turn breeds frustration and therefore has a negative impact on those other metrics.

Worse still: the experience is so poor it encourages business units to bypass approved IT and buy direct from their own suppliers, resulting in less control and heightened security risks.

Make self-service more appealing than picking up the phone

Low adoption of self-service IT can be traced back to the cost-led approach that I mentioned earlier – the historic attitude that every IT decision should be made with price in mind before anything else.

This approach has led many user interfaces to become disjointed – a mishmash of different portals with multiple passwords, which inevitably results in a poor user experience.

To make self-service seem a better option than a good old-fashioned call to the service desk, you need to build those tools with the end user in mind.

But when service desks are seen as little more than cost centers it can be difficult to get that message across when seeking investment. Spending more than necessary on the service desk is effectively seen as pouring money down the drain.

It’s this attitude that needs to change if we’re ever to meet users’ expectations – otherwise people will continue turning to the old ways over a newer and more cost-effective approach. Service desk agents don’t want to spend 30% of their working day resetting user passwords or other level 1 tickets so this truly is an everybody wins scenario. By making service desks ‘value centers’ where agents can focus on more proactive and preventative support – instead of simply scrambling to put out fires – there’s an opportunity to provide end users with a service which will make them even more productive, directly impacting your organization’s bottom line.

Don’t aim for short-term gains

Taking a cost-led approach to the service desk creates the illusion of efficiency.

Put it this way: an agent-handled ticket will always cost more than a ticket resolved through self-service or automation. If your service desk technology fails to encourage users to self-serve it’s a no-brainer: your costs will be higher.

Sure, you might make short-term savings by choosing the cheapest products available (and your finance director might even thank you for it). But if those tools don’t align to your user and business needs they’ll end up costing you much more in the long run – and this is an expense measured not just in financial terms, but in the happiness (and retention) of your staff.

You may have noticed a recent trend on LinkedIn of new starters sharing photos of their devices, services and other experiences they received during their first day. This is exactly the type of enabled and productive evangelists any organization can breed through the power of focusing on their end users.

The secret to cost reduction is paradoxically not just about spending less. It’s about earning higher levels of self-service adoption through being truly user-centric.

That’s where efficiency lies.

Check out our Next-Generation Service Desk infographic to learn more about how you could improve your user experience, and head over here to find out more about our Next Generation Service Desk – Social Command Center offering.

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