How to make sure VIPs do not wait when calling the Service Desk

By ITIL® from Experience ©

When the president of an organization, an executive or any other person considered a Very Important Person (VIP) calls the service desk and waits in the queue for the next available agent, the CIO may get a complaint.

Several options are available to void VIPs from waiting:

  • PINs can be provided however, they tend to be inconvenient for users (see What is another term for User);
  • A separate menu choice can be given: “If you are a VIP, press 1.” Then the non-VIP user may resent their subordinate treatment or may decide to press “1” because they have an emergency;
  • A VIP telephone number can be setup to avoid them from waiting in the queue. Essentially, it’s giving VIPs a different support process and moves away from what ITIL® refers as a Single Point of Contact1 (see Do we need an SLA for VIPs).

The challenge with these options is that VIPs eventually tell their assistant to call this number for faster service. Sooner or later, they tell two friends, who tells two friends and, as the word gets around, more and more people start to call this "special" number and VIPs may experience wait time.

A technology option to address the problem is to configure2 the service desk’s telephony system (e.g. ACD3 , IVR4 ) to prioritize calls received from VIPs by using ANI routing5 so that they are placed at the front of the queue.

The advantage of this approach is that it is transparent to the VIP. Even though they follow the standard support process by calling the service desk's usual number, their call is answered in priority. Another advantage of ANI-routing is that it enables critical telephone numbers to be placed in priority for the service desk. In a hospital for example, phone calls from the emergency room nurse station can be a priority. Likewise, calls made from the president's boardroom phone can be answered as a priority as there is likely a problem with the audio-visual equipment for a presentation. Additionally, some phone systems have skill-based routing that can assign the call to a service desk agent who knows that VIP’s particular technology and setup.

The challenge with ANI routing is that the priority numbers need to be maintained in the telephone system. A manual or an automated process should be implemented to keep the numbers up to date. Manually, the process can be triggered when a new staff is assigned or promoted or systemically every week or month. An automated process of course is preferable. However, a few interfaces may be required if the organization has both desk and mobile phones unless the data is centrally available in Active Directory or an Identity Management system. Of course, an organization that allows staff to Bring-Your-Own-Device (BYOD) is another consideration.

It is important to realize that non-VIP users may notice the impact of prioritizing calls based on ANI-routing if “time in queue” is announced to people waiting. For example, if the non-VIP user in the queue is told that the wait time is 2 minutes, and then, that the wait time is 5 minutes - because a VIP called - may leave users with a poor client experience6 .

Some may find that loading and maintaining VIP phone numbers in the telephone system is overly complex and does not completely address VIP needs since they may call from a hotel or their cottage. However, giving them PINs, a menu option or a separate telephone number, will result in wait time once the number is widely known. Lastly, giving VIP's their "own" telephone number is like a gold credit card. Once everyone has one, a platinum card is needed.

In closing, giving priority to VIPs is serving them to a different SLA which leads us to the question: Do we need a VIP SLA?

Published on: 2019-11-13

“As I often tell people, Steve Jobs used to call the regular Apple support line when he had a question or problem.” Roy Atkinson, HDI

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ITIL Process > Service Level Management (SLM)

1 Single point of contact: (ITIL® Service Operation) Providing a single consistent way to communicate with an organization or business unit. For example, a single point of contact for an IT service provider is usually called a service desk. Source: https://www.axelos.com/Corporate/media/Files/Glossaries/ITIL_2011_Glossary_GB-v1-0.pdf
2 Not all telephony systems have this functionality. In some cases a script needs to be developed.
6 This occurrence should be rare since VIP calls should be few.


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