How to get the service desk to provide the right answers – The Structure

By ITIL® from Experience ©

The perpetual challenge of any Service Desk is to give the right answer immediately to every user question. The Service Desk structure may be preventing people from developing their expertise so that customers get the right answer the first time they call.

ITIL® version 2 provides some guidance about the Service Desk Structure1 . However, it limits itself at providing a definition of the local, central and virtual service desk structures. ITIL® version 3 expands slightly on this guidance by mentioning Specialized Service Desk Groups2 . Thus, readers are left to seek guidance from the Help Desk Institute the Service Desk Institute, the Call Center industry or from telecom providers to get insights for their service desk structure and organizational design.

Generalist Model

Many Service Desks are structured as a generalist model. Every Service Desk Agent is expected to know everything about every product and service. This structure makes it easier for managers to schedule call centre staff to minimize caller wait time. Unfortunately, the result is that agents know a lot of products and services but not in depth (i.e. breath vs. depth). In this model, when an expert is hired, their skills deteriorate over time (see How to make people stop providing services IT does not offer).

Levels / Tiers

A generalist model naturally needs tiers or levels to get the expertise required to solve more difficult user issues (see What is another term for User). However, tiers bring challenges like increased cycle-time and the draining of knowledge and experience from the front line.

In Operations Management3 <I>cycle-time</I> means “the total time from the beginning to the end of your process4 .” Thus, every time there is a Functional Escalation5 or a hand over to someone else, time is wasted as the ticket waits to be picked up. Another form of waste is the <I>setup cost</I>6 which is the time the technical specialist needs to read and familiarize themselves with the ticket before they can start working on it (see How much detail should people put in tickets). Therefore, reducing levels and hand-offs improves efficiency and helps the organization meet its SLA. Moreover, Lean7 provides guidance on reducing such waste8 .

The second problem with tiers is that it naturally drains knowledge and experience from the front line. Typically, with tiers, a culture develops whereby service desk staff aspires to higher tier jobs or elsewhere in IT soon after they served their tour of duty on the front lines. Many times, it is because the organization classified these jobs as entry level or that the individual wants to get back to their expertise, do what they love or to progress their careers. Often it is also because they are tired and stressed of trying to stay on top of so many products / services and to continually gives excuses to clients for their lack of knowledge (nobody likes to feel incompetent!). The result is a perpetual drain of experience and expertise from the front line and increased staff turnover9 10 .

Specialist Model

A different approach is to transform the Service Desk into a specialist model to build expertise at the front lines. This expertise can be structured around product lines and/or services. For example, when a user calls, the telephone system can pres''ent a menu such as:

  • For ERP{DEFINITION} questions and issues press (1);
  • For connectivity and remote access issues press (2); and
  • For all other enquiries press 3 or remain on the line for the next available agent.''

Another option is to structure it by service. For example:

  • ''For Technical Support including password resets press (1);
  • For all other enquiries press (2) or remain on the line for the next available agent''

Note: Web forms such as Service Catalogues and chat bots can also provide a similar form of routing.

Some organizations structure their Service Desk around Service Requests and Incidents. A word of caution is in order. Clients don't care if their issue is an incident or a service request! This is "IT speak"; they just want service. Moreover, animosity may develop between the Service Request and Incident teams with a "it's not my job" attitude like "We don't deal with service requests. We are better technical support."

A specialized model enables larger Service Desks to change their hiring profile and skills requirement as well as align their agent’s training to a specialized model (see Do people need training if the ITSM tool is easy to learn). Alternatively, smaller Service Desks may want to rotate staff between teams to keep technical skills current (rotation should be long enough to allow people to build some familiarity and expertise for instance a month or two).

Finally, you’ll know that the structure works in providing expert advice by measuring the customer satisfaction and the percentage of calls resolved at the First Point of Contact (FPOC) also known as First Contact Resolution Rate (FCRR). If the calls are answered between 61 and 70% on first contact, you are within the industry average 11
– however, the FPOC measure needs to be balanced with the number of re-opens to ensure that people are not closing calls prematurely (see Should the incident be reopened or a new one logged and Should a service request be reopened or a new one logged)

Published on: 2018-05-15

The right Service Desk structure is the creative combination of people, process and technology within the constraints of the organization and the market to provide the best customer service it can afford to meet client needs. D. Matte

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From Around the Web:
• IT Help Desk Support Structure http://bloghdi.typepad.com/files/hdi-research-corner_help-desk-structure-report_feb09.pdf

Implementation > People
ITIL Process > Service Desk


Copyright 2018 - ITIL® from Experience - D.Matte