While it’s easy to come across so-called gurus of IT talk about what needs to go into a great service desk. There are various models to follow, best practices to emulate, and overall hub-bub around people who act as if they cracked the code of great help desk service. Truth is, however, you’ll get the best advice on what to do and not do by the people who interact with the service desk outside of the organization. Yes, your customers can tell you a lot about what they want to see, how they want to be helped, and what’s important to them. This post by Stephen Mann is, in his own words, 90% by a customer of IT service desks. The insight is blunt and remarkable for those of us that have been limited to thinking of our service desks as something solely IT. It begins with a reflection on what the workplace used to be like when there was just “one IT guy” and he would interact with the customer directly to help fix any problem that came up. As the scope of IT changed with the business, however, the one resource became a whole team, and the interaction became distant and strained at best. Listing 12 areas where the service desk could expand its understanding and interaction with its customers, the anonymous customer starts by writing “Never put the service desk before your customers.” They go on to explain:
Don’t implement strict procedures whereby you will only deal with issues that are submitted as a ticket and confined to the service desk. Instead take in requests/incidents via every method of communication available to you and your customers; make yourself more widely accessible. It’s about helping people work not following IT-created processes.
That suggestion continues through many of the 12 areas: remember that your service desk is about helping people work, not about how well you can conform to the IT created processes that have been developed for you. At the end of the day, the service desk is rated by how well it helped the people who contacted it, how quickly it was able to resolve the issue, and how happy the customer was by the end of the interaction. Keeping this in mind can help guide a help desk to providing much better service to the customers who utilize it. There are two more areas that every service desk should focus on immediately: learn how to apologize, and don’t treat your customers like five-year-olds. There is a tendency for IT to not want to admit blame — and in all honesty it’s a human tendency moreover.
But quickly apologizing for even an inconvenience immediately sets the tone for the customer to understand that you, the service desk, aren’t inconvenienced by their call. On top of that, remember that they are an equal. Sure, the person calling might not have any idea how to fix the email problem they are having, but that doesn’t mean that they are lost in the woods. Treating all customers with the respect they deserve can make the difference when a solution is taking longer than expected. Overall, the list of areas to improve is a great reminder to service desk teams about why they are doing the work they do, and how small actions can make or break a simple call.