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Creating Service Desk Success

January 26, 2016 No Comments

Featured article By Nancy Van Elsacker, president of TOPdesk US

As one of the UK’s oldest and most successful universities, St Andrews has much to be proud of. In 2015 it added to its list of commendations by becoming the first in the world to be accredited with a four-star service desk certification from the Service Desk Institute (SDI). St Andrews attributes its success to stellar communication. That’s how the university brought about change in culture, whether it involved feedback from the surveys conducted, a suggestion scheme within the university or facilitating more engagement from the second and third line teams with the end user.

The following points showcase the biggest differences made by the university and its processes, and how.

Open communication

St Andrews started its evaluation with the customer, allowing its IT team leaders to find out what they thought of the service they were providing. The reports that came back suggested that the service desk was well-regarded, but when calls went to second line or third line support, there was a lack of communication. Obviously, this proved not to be a world-class service that was needed.

Using two-stage closure (which requires the end user to confirm the call is indeed resolved) is the key to allowing organizations to measure their customer satisfaction. This enabled the university the ability to identify what the service desk had perhaps been originally missing. For example, a call might have been resolved, but no one informed the customer. IT leaders put in place processes that allowed for better, more open communications between first and second to third line responders, and through to the end user.

The goal was: no matter who picked up the phone, they had ownership of that call and could tell the caller exactly what the status of their ticket was. This prevented a caller from being passed between teams and saved the service desk time. This made a huge contribution in bringing customer satisfaction results up to between 96 and 100 percent every month.

Operational level agreements

One of the most significant changes brought in at St Andrews was an operational level agreement. This was an internal agreement between each IT team: If a call was escalated, they would respond to the customer within 48 hours. All they needed to say was, “I have your call, but it may take a few days to progress this for you; I’ll be in touch with you soon,” but it made all the difference to the caller and cut down on follow-up calls. The IT staff were actually resolving the call well within that time limit, but they needed an agreed timeframe – while allowing potential breathing space for business trips and holidays.

Presenting a unit as one department

The next step was brainstorming and collaborating about how the service desk and IT desk presented themselves as a department. The university created what was called the St Andrews Experience. As an institution, every single person who came in contact with the service desk needed to leave the interaction with the feeling that they had received the very best customer experience they could get, whether that person was a student, a member of staff, a conference visitor or a member of the public.

In the past if a customer said, “My call has not been resolved,” the service desk employees may have responded with: “It’s with the systems team.” But the university adopted a policy called “One-IT.” Thus, it no longer matters where that call is in the process because the service desk is now “one department.” So the response is now: “I’m really sorry about that, let me get an update for you.”

Now the university’s IT department works better together and has moved away from “blame games” of the past.

Team and understanding

As a new initiative, all IT staff were invited to work on the service desk at the front line. The university’s CIO was the first person to participate. Who could refuse to take part when he was getting involved? Bringing about culture change is about really understanding and bringing in a common sense approach. But it’s not just about the call resolution: it’s also about communicating with the customer to clarify their circumstances and deadlines, because maybe there’s an alternative that can be put in place temporarily. Taking the focus off their end resolution presents the opportunity for a workaround that can meet their requirements in the meantime.

Reports as proof

Flexibility also is important with the size of your team. Monthly reports showing customer satisfaction levels gave the university the ability to justify activities to senior management. These would be gauged against call volumes, which were further indexed against the academic calendar. A new intake meant September volumes could be double the average, while August might be very quiet. If they wanted to maintain customer satisfaction at a high level, it was critical that the front-line services were sufficiently staffed during the busy period.

Encouraging and targeting feedback

After a call was resolved, customers were invited to participate in an online survey to help improve services overall. Initially, the response rate was about 3 percent. A very simple change immediately more than doubled the survey response rate: Renaming the survey the “One-Minute Survey.” The real difference came, however, when the IT department actively targeted departments, asking them to complete a frontline IT services survey. Key people within service units were selected and asked for their staff to provide feedback. This took the response rate from 8 percent to an average of 40 percent, and provided a much better insight into what colleagues thought.

Highlighting positive feedback

The university also introduced a formal compliments scheme and register. If any member of IT staff received a compliment, it would be logged in this register and that person’s line manager and senior managers would be informed – and could give further praise where due.

This allowed the second and third line teams, who are so often behind the scenes, to engage with the work they were doing, right to the end of the delivery point. This spreads the encouragement. People naturally love positive comments, and this helped lead to major change to the culture within the service desk team.

Monthly customer satisfaction results would then be actively advertised on internal websites and on screens throughout the campus. Posters were positioned throughout the institution – including the IT department, publicizing feedback in the form of bar charts, but also compliments received that month.

Second and third line analysts would then see these compliments being displayed to all these colleagues, and they appreciated the support and feedback. As you might have experienced at some point in your career, IT people can fail to highlight their successes — but who doesn’t enjoy well-deserved compliments?

The route to service desk success

St Andrews’ success ended the idea, once and for all, that SDI four-star accreditation at universities couldn’t be done. A good team will work hard if they’re managed properly – and central to that idea is giving them ownership, asking them what they feel works, and above all communicating positive feedback. It’s a combination of sometimes very small differences – but the combined impact can be huge, as St Andrews’ unprecedented accreditation can attest.

Nancy Van Elsacker is president of TOPdesk US, a division of the global provider of IT service management software and services.



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