It seems an obvious question with an obvious answer: service desks should quickly fix IT and offer technical advice. Or so prevalent wisdom says. Eric Wright of Richmond Systems urges you to think about the services you deliver to see if you’re offering value – or wasting time and money.
Richmond has been delivering IT support software for many years, to a large number of customers from a wide-range of industries. This means we regularly see exactly how businesses deliver IT support and there’s one certainly which can be gleaned from this observation: everyone does it differently.
Certainly, there are common denominators. Every organisation uses a process familiar to anyone with knowledge of the ITIL books. After all, it’s just common sense which service desks arrive at from various starting points. Yet once past this point of familiarity, the changes become apparent. Some helpdesk offer support across multiple channels, some still only support one channel (email or phone typically). One desk may do all it can to encourage ‘hands off’ support via a customers portal, while another insists that all incidents are logged over the phone. The processes begin to alter too, the approach to dealing with customers varies massively, and the closing and follow up procedures are similarly diverse.
Why such a disparity? Sometimes it’s because the function has been built in a piecemeal way, with various processes and approaches adapted at various junctions. But often the variation is caused by necessity – a specific demand of the customer.
Take this example from WRS Systems, an EPOS maintenance business specialising in coffee shops. If WRS was to blindly follow current trends, it would be encouraging its customers to use a self-service portal to troubleshoot problems with their till. Not only is self-service cost effective for the support provider, the culture of help is shifting away from phone/email towards customer portals. Therefore this IT support strategy appears to make sense for service supplier and recipient.
However, if WRS did take this approach, its customer satisfaction would plummet. Its customers, busy as they are serving coffees and pastries, don’t have the time for self-service. Mindful of this, WRS offers a support option on the EPOS itself. The incident can be logged directly from the till point, allowing the barista/owner to carry on serving, safe in the knowledge that the call is in process with the helpdesk. (You can read the full case study here.)
This is a great example of understanding your customers and delivering an appropriate service. It’s vital that all IT support delivered with the same guiding principle: what IT support does the business really want.
How can you establish what services are needed and what can be ditched? There are many ways, but there are two areas that apply to all IT support operations.
1) Look at the stats. Assuming you have a service catalogue or some other way of tracking usage, study what services are in demand. Ideally, assign a cost to each service. Once you understand the usage and the cost, you can begin to see where waste occurs. You may find that you run an expensive and scarcely used service which you could switch off with minimal impact. Similarly, you may discover a popular service that could get even better with some investment of time or resources.
2) Talk to people. Service desks regularly conduct feedback exercises. Unfortunately, these often show little more than a surface understanding of customer satisfaction: e.g. was the service we provided acceptable. These surveys may be good for the ego of those involved but tell you very little about the real service usage or customer IT support experience.
Instead, talk to the customers about the services they use. Did the service work well? Was the approach sufficient or long-winded? Is there an easier way to reach the same resolution?
Customers we’ve worked with to understand service usage have often been amazed by how much wasted effort they are putting into redundant service. Even something relatively contemporary, such as supporting user-owned devices, can prove to be futile. A service desk embracing BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) support can be applauded for their progressive approach. However, they may find that trying to match or better the support offered by the consumer-giants supplying the technology is impossible. Therefore, the only support needed is helping customers connect their phone or tablet to the wifi – a much cheaper and less labour intensive proposition.
It’s difficult while in the midst of delivering a service in a busy environment to question the value of that service. But IT support leaders willing to take the time can unearth significant cost savings, as well as gaining much-needed understanding of what customers need.