Service Desk Run-Around

In many cases our only contact with companies is via a help desk – be that a phone call or an online chat facility. To some extent this is also true of the relationship between the IT team and the rest of a company’s employees, depending on the size and geographic reach of the company.

Irritatingly, my email has bombed on me. I can’t get into it on any device – so I assume it has been hit by some hacking activity and my provider (who shall remain nameless) have frozen it until I contact them to unlock it.

But how?

Based on past experience, it’s pointless trying to ring them. Firstly, it will take me an inordinate length of time to find the right number to call. Secondly, if I’m successful and get through after waiting an hour in the queue, they’ll probably direct me to their website.

So, I look on the website. There’s a password reset option. Excellent. However, it informs me that they will email my new password to my email address. Yes, exactly! The email address I can’t get into because it’s frozen.

I really enjoyed reading Catch 22 when I was younger but that doesn’t mean I want to live the conundrum. So my thoughts turn to switching supplier.

If you’re running an internal facing IT Help Desk (or Service Desk), your users don’t have that option. They can, however, give you a lot of bad press inside your own company.

With that in mind, this week’s blog presents some cornerstones to getting your IT Help Desk satisfaction ratings heading in the right direction.

#1 – Process

Yes, we’ve heard it all before. But it’s true. The process flow is your backbone and it is worth spending quality time to map it out thoroughly and clearly. It will be complicated enough, so make sure you keep it as simple as possible and resist the temptations to add greater complexity.

What are your entry points? The phone is a primary route in, though you should promote its use for high priority issues that are having an immediate impact on the business user(s). Where possible, provide a self-service option on your intranet and encourage everybody to use that for their medium and lower priority incidents. It reduces the heat on the phones and gives you more management control.

Make sure that you have crystal clear delineation between incidents (something’s broken) and service requests (moves, adds, changes). We recommend you treat them very separately and deal with priorities and response time targets differently.

At some point in the process flow, incidents will be passed over from the first line Service Desk to a second line team, and possibly to third line. Factor into your process how the ownership will work as tickets move through your organisation – it can be difficult persuading some third line specialists to communicate with the end user directly and they will insist on feeding everything back via the first or second line. This can become an awkward overhead and tickets will bounce around. Obtaining real management “buy-in” is a must.

Don’t set unrealistic expectations. Responsiveness targets must be acceptable for the user community whilst not killing your Help Desk team. When you get the process working well, you can look at increasing the targets.

#2 – People

The process won’t run without people. You will need people with a great service attitude and good bedside manner. People who are methodical problem solvers and can handle the task-switching nature of Help Desk work. You don’t want someone who is at home with long duration project work, or a blue-skies architect. You want someone who finds dealing with lots of smaller activities stimulating and rewarding.

Ideally you want bright individuals who can pick things up quickly. The Help Desk is a great entry point to an organisation as it exposes you to the breadth of IT systems that make the business tick.

Sometimes it can be a stressful place, so you want people who can remain calm and cope.

#3 – Product

Even in the smallest of companies it’s impossible to run a Help Desk without some form of tooling. There are plenty of products out there and, because everybody’s process will be subtly different, they’re usually very configurable. It is very easy to get carried away with the customisation capability, but this is where item #1 above may come back to haunt you. If you did a good job of mapping your process, it will provide a strong basis for how you want the tool to work for you.

Automated ticketing and email interfaces are an example. Good features but if implemented badly they can leave your incident history looking cluttered and you will have trouble seeing the wood for the trees.

Make sure the tool’s flexibility allows you to timestamp at the necessary points in the process flow, so that you can get good performance information and metrics. Once again, this goes back to doing a good job in item #1.


In a later blog we will look at recommended KPI measures for the Help Desk. In the meantime, if you’d like to discuss IT best practices, or if you have an IT service Desk issue you’d like some help with, drop us an email or pick up the phone and call us.

Brian Lancaster

07470 002019  /  0114 398 4344