7 Tips to Get Your Service Desk to the Next Level

One of the challenges of managing a service desk is seeing past the volume of work to improve service delivery. While good intentions exist, they won’t be enough to make the lasting improvements that your business might be looking for. To continually add value, focus on a three key areas: business focus, analytics, and communication.

Think about your current challenges today, and jot a few of them down. Take a closer look at each. Focus less on what the issue is and start thinking about why it is an issue. In many cases you will find the roadblocks that exist as a result of your inability to understand, communicate, and measure your interactions with the business.

Business Focus

If you take away nothing else from the discussion on business focus, remember that we have to shift our thinking on how we support the business. Businesses in our current economic climate must be nimble and scalable to be competitive. As service providers, we too need to think in terms of business deliverables rather than in IT objectives. To do that, we need to provide service in a way that lines up to business objectives of the businesses we serve.

Realization 1: Focus on the Service Desk as a Capability not a Team

Many IT organizations view the service desk as a Tier 1function. In my opinion this dated thinking limits what the service desk is capable of because IT ends up staffing with a Tier 1 mindset, which means low value activities that could be better served with automation. IT needs to think in a more service oriented way to be relevant with the business it serves.

Take into account that the service desk deals with all manner of issues, enhancements, and questions every day. If we thought of our service desk as a capability to provide service rather than a Tier 1 function for tracking tickets, IT would be better positioned improve our relationship with the business moving toward a partnership that adds value.

If you think about this role from a big picture perspective the skills required to be technically savvy with a high degree of customer service skill is far from an entry-level function

Realization 2: Stop Thinking Like IT and Think Like the Business

A key challenge for the service desk when it comes to business focus is understanding the business objectives and having enough business acumen to understand how to prioritize work and effectively help the business reach those objectives. Begin by starting a real dialogue with the business on what they do from day to day. What applications are important? What functions or times of the year are critical? This type of conversation lets the business know that you really have an interest in helping them be successful. Frankly, when your business wins, you win, too.

In many cases the business simply wants high-quality service as fast as possible. This is where you need to take another look at how you provide service. Are you centralized? Global? Do you have a self-service capability?

The business is developing expectations around service automation to ensure that service can be provided quicker and more accurately for low-impact and low-urgency requests. To be able to accommodate that mindset, the service desk requires a level of service awareness so that activities can be prioritized appropriately and actioned by the service desk. Streamlining processes, automation, and self-service will be crucial activities in this regard. Your service desk is positioned perfectly to identify what requests can be automated and what content is fit for purpose from knowledge management, but only if they have this awareness.

Realization 3: No Win Is Too Small

This all sounds great but what about a real-world example. An organization I was with was expending an enormous amount of time on granting people in the business access to Microsoft Visio and Project. Since cost was associated with this access, a requester was required to outline a detailed business case, submit it to their manager, create a service request that required approval from an application owner, and then either Visio or Project was provisioned to the requestor. Sounds pretty complicated. In general discussions with the business around how well application procurement was going, this very topic came up several times as an issue. We decided that since we had the capability to monitor usage, and that almost every business case would be approved, having four or more people look at each request was simply not providing any value and was overly time consuming. To streamline this process, the approval and installation was automated. If the application was not used, a monthly report would identify those people, and the application would be uninstalled.


You have probably heard “You can’t manage what you don’t measure.” The trick is to decide what needs to be measured. Just because you can measure something doesn’t mean you need to. Deciding on what you need to improve is paramount. From there, to make continuous improvements, you need to leverage the data to be able to make informed decisions on next steps.

Realization 4: Quantify Your Customer Experience

When you look at the challenges that you jotted down before, think about how you are able to measure what is happening around those improvement initiatives. Do you have too much data or not enough data? The first step in achieving success in this area is to right size your analytics.

The first step in this journey is to understand why you are measuring in the first place. Think about where you want to end up, but also keep this simple if you want to achieve your goals. Have an honest look at where you are right now to determine where you want to be. Don’t judge or try to explain where you are; just come to terms with that reality. The next step is to pick three KPIs to support your business objective and measure them. If you are waiting for perfection, the time will never arrive. Make sure you are agile in your approach so that you can adapt and overcome as required through this process. Remember that this is a marathon rather than a race and that you will need to have some perspective on what your analytics produce. In some cases, it will look worse before it looks better, but understanding this and communicating it to your stakeholders effectively is critical in the improvement initiative.

Looking back at my example, the organization I was with focused on three KPIs that would support our service delivery expectations from the business. We chose volume of requests and incidents, assignment by group, and mean time to resolution. By identifying the baseline metrics, we built a roadmap to improvement based on where we were and where we wanted to be. Part of making this successful was to ensure that the service desk was intimate with the KPIs. To do this, we established scorecards that would be reviewed monthly. Additionally, we ensured that the business goals and KPIs became part of the team’s annual goals and part of performance reviews.

It was also made clear that this was not a goal that would ever be achieved; the needle is always moving. The improvement cycle would be reviewed quarterly to ensure continual service improvements were made.


Many people immediately assume that communication only accounts for the delivery of information, but communication is a two-way street. The best place to start improving communication is by becoming a better listener. When getting information from the business, repeat what they are saying back to them for clarity. Understanding what they are saying will allow you to properly capture the information. The dialog with the business will ensure that you aren’t capturing details how you think they should be.

Realization 5: Not All Conversations Will Be Easy

In any customer centric role, you will have people who are simply not happy with the service. Shying away from this reality will not help. Get this out in the open, and outline a plan to correct it or prevent it from happening again.

Realization 6: People Like to Be Treated LikePeople

Whenever you can, take some time to ask the people you are supporting how things are going. You will likely find out valuable information that might not otherwise be shared with support resources. When people feel you are genuinely interested in them and not simply attempting to push some IT factoid on them, they are more likely to share information.

Realization 7: Don’t Forget to Communicate Internally

While most improvement initiatives focus on improving communication with the business, don’t forget to communicate internally with your own support teams. Silos exist or develop in the absence of good collaborative climates, so be the champion for that area. This will help to further streamline support as well as improve other service management capabilities that require the collaborative work of all support teams.

When I began with this organization, I knew full well that there were issues in service delivery (the IT team told me so). To quantify the issues and to ensure that I was getting the full picture from the source, I interviewed 100 people from the business to ask them what worked well and what did not.

Unfortunately, far more was wrong than right. But that was ok. I knew where we needed to start and what initiatives needed to be established.

Many of the issues had to do with the fact that there were people on the service desk who did not understand the business activities, who to escalate issues to, or what priority some requests and incidents had. The first step was to re-educate those on the service desk team who needed that help to reduce or eliminate any of those unknowns. Once we got a handle on working better with the business, we implemented a survey. We kept it simple with four or five questions. Each week we would follow up with all participants to let them know that their feedback was appreciated and that we were addressing issues that came up.

Continuous Improvement Is Key

Many of the three improvement streams intersect. The important take away is that we always take the time to look back so that we can move forward to make a lasting improvement. The key is to make small iterative improvements and communicate the successes. Having these discussions allows for transparency and opens dialogue for continued improvement.

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