Next Stop Quality

5 Steps to Increase Service Desk Effectiveness

So you’ve overcome the obstacles of poor ASA and high call abandon rates. As a matter of fact, you have a great team that promptly responds to customers and is professional, courteous, and customer-service oriented. This is where many service desk managers find themselves, with a great team, but without many of the skills or knowledge needed to successfully resolve customer issues.

If this is your predicament and you want to improve the quality of the service your team provides, make note of these suggestions to improve the effectiveness of your service.

Step #1: Measure and Assess

First, use surveys to assess the quality of your team’s performance. You can use surveys from your ITSM system. Keep the surveys shortI suggest one to two questionsand provide an optional area for comments. You can also set up surveys at the end of your service desk calls.

To keep surveys short and sweet, ask one question about the analyst’s customer service and one question about the analyst’s technical ability.

Second, use your metrics to determine the types of calls that your analysts receive. This is important because it will determine areas for training.  Additionally, track the amount of calls that are escalated as opposed to calls that are resolved on first contact.

Third, ask your stakeholders for feedback. Hold regular meetings with customers and stakeholders to receive feedback on your team’s performance and areas for improvement. Stakeholders should include other teams that interact with the service desk to provide services to your organization.

Between your surveys, metrics, and direct feedback, you should have a good idea of where your service desk team is lacking in providing quality support.

Step #2: Tailor a Training Plan

Once you’ve determined areas for improvement in quality, the first thing you’ll need to do is tailor a training plan. Some common areas that service desk teams often need continual training in include requests for IT services, basic organizational knowledge (particularly the technology organization), and of course, advanced or even intermediate technical training. You might uncover other areas as well where improvement is needed based on your surveys and stakeholder feedback.

Lack of knowledge and understanding of how to request basic IT services is one of the biggest frustrations of the average end user. You would be surprised at how many service desk technicians I’ve run across and even managed who don’t know how to assist a customer with requesting predefined, readily available IT services. Granted, your company, like many others might have an extensive service catalog; however, it is important that your team be intimately acquainted with the services provided and have the ability to point customers in the right direction.

Another point of frustration is when service desk analysts don’t have a basic knowledge of who is responsible for what (that is, what tasks other teams in your technology organization are responsible for). There is nothing more frustrating for a customer and a technical team than for a service desk analyst to continually assign tickets to the wrong queue. These types of mistakes account for countless hours of wasted time, money, and resources.

Lastly, everyone knows that service desk staff need constant technical training to resolve issues as well as keep up with the pace of technology. You can prepare a simple or extensive training program that covers some of these basics:

  • A comprehensive set of instructions for requesting services
  • An organizational directory of teams and functions (e.g., requests for issues with Outlook distribution lists go to Data Center Operations)
  • Technical how-to documents (troubleshooting basics for printers, network accounts, etc., that analysts can perform to cut down on escalations)
  • A Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for incident management
  • Other areas that need improvement based on your surveys and feedback

Don’t feel you have to be responsible for putting all of this together. If there is a request fulfillment and/or incident manager in your organization, have them help you produce documentation on requesting services and incident management. If you don’t have these roles within your organization, work with your team leads or senior analysts to prepare SOPs for requesting services and incident management.

Additionally, work with managers from other teams to outline what each team is responsible for. These teams will be more than happy to provide this information, as this will result in more accurate ticket escalations from the service desk.

Lastly, solicit help from those same teams in areas of technical training/troubleshooting for basic issues. I’ve found that other teams, such as desktop support and network operations are usually happy to assist with hands-on training or producing documentation that will arm service desk staff with the ability to troubleshoot problems before escalating them. This is a huge win-win! If your team gets a good grasp on troubleshooting issues, it will increase First Contact Resolution (FCR), and even when calls are escalated, they will have performed better troubleshooting, which will make resolution easier for the tier 2 teams.

Yes, with a little help from your colleagues, you can put together a comprehensive training program that will equip your team with the knowledge and skills needed to improve service.

Note: this training will need to be updated, and refresher trainings will need to be conducted periodically.

Step #3: Leverage Knowledge

So once you have this abundance of knowledge, ensuring that your team uses it is another important step. With the how-to documentation for submitting requests and the where-to documentation for ticket assignments, you can keep these documents handy in your knowledge library, SharePoint sites, in printed documents, and any other place that analysts can easily access them to assist customers. When it comes to your troubleshooting documentation, and common support issues, you need to make sure that these are kept in an organized and regularly updated knowledge library. Once your knowledge library is in place with the tools needed to successfully troubleshoot issues, you should enforce policies to ensure that your analysts actually use it.

Step #4: Enforce Policies

There are several ways you can enforce policies to increase knowledge base usage. One way is to include a mandatory question on your incident form as to whether a knowledge article was used to resolve an issue, a field to include the article number, as well as an option to select if no knowledge exists for the issue. Additionally, you can have your tier 2 or tier 1.5 analysts make note of and reassign tickets back to the original analyst if a ticket for which a knowledge article exists is escalated.

In addition to enforcing the use of knowledge articles for troubleshooting, you should also be enforcing the use of SOPs for incident management. When managers or supervisors perform weekly one-on-one meetings, ticket audits should always be a part of the discussion. If analysts are regularly escalating tickets for which knowledge exists or are not working their tickets according to your incident management SOPs, these issues should be discussed and handled accordingly.

Step #5: Measure and Assess Again and Again

Since improvement is continual, once you have put these measures in place, you should continually measure and assess. You should begin to see a significant improvement in customer satisfaction as you continue to improve the quality of your service desk.


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