Making the Service Desk Count

Here at Sysop, we have spent a great deal of time in and around Service Desks of many shapes, sizes, skills and geographic dispersions. Distilling all of the feedback, It seems to me that creating a good Service Desk is all about understanding what the business needs from the desk and creating a function to support that need.

A Service Desk can be shaped to provide any type of service the business wants,  but it’s this very level of detail we need to be clear about and there are some vital steps that will help us to create the type of service our users expect.

We know that front line support is largely a thankless task. It takes a special kind of person to really do it justice. Resilience is certainly a vital quality, and something that most support people internalise and continue to develop of as a consequence of the day to day experiences of being in the front line. Resilience though is but one vital quality.

There are a number of very important factors that will help us in our pursuit of great staff and ultimately an acclaimed Service Desk. When we recruit and select Service Desk staff we must surely choose them because they demonstrated an appropriate level of skill, common sense and probably because we quite liked them. Yes, Likeability is an essential quality! So what else is needed?

Commitment—the Key

As either a stakeholder or user of Service Desk, we tend to expect a lot and give very little. I know the old adage “it’s better to give than to receive”, but the poor old Service Desk would have to be superhuman to have any sort of chance of be getting it right in many organisations.

The key is commitment – commitment from senior management, and commitment and passion from the line managers most closely involved

Heard it all before? Probably, but, let’s face it: if you don’t choose the right people; pay them the right salary; give them appropriate training; provide them with the correct tools for the job; and, most importantly, give them the autonomy they need; how can they ever provide the kind of service our users expect?

Walk the Walk

By management commitment I mean more than funding the desk. After the initial investment, it is imperative that senior managers continue to ‘walk the walk not just talk the talk’ on behalf of the Service Desk function. They need to: support the Service Desk; understand and respect their remit; back their decisions; extol their achievements; and conform to due process like all other users.

The Service Desk will fail to be successful if senior managers (and their PA’s!) don’t respect its position. The Service Desk should have: a defined remit and agreements to conform to; priorities to commit to; and a host of activities to complete to keep the wheels in motion. Senior managers must not be allowed to ‘jump the queue’ for non-critical requests.

It is essential in developing and maintaining a good desk that they too commit to and support the agreements that govern the Service Desk. If the Service Desk is delivering service in accordance with well thought-out SLA’s then they should be meeting the needs of all parties, even the senior management team.

Gaining the buy-in and commitment is probably the most exacting challenge facing IT service managers. It’s certainly the most common weakness we come across when helping customers improve their services. It helps when a third-party advocate makes the case to senior management. It’s easier for a Sysop consultant to challenge senior management attitudes and behaviours than it is for an in-house manager. Give us a call, we can almost certainly help.

Stuart Sawle

Thanks to Michelle Major Goldsmith for her contribution to this blog

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