The Future Is Smart Service Desks


by Andrea Kis
December 27, 2016

The need for service desks to drastically change their current modes of operation, to evolve, to become fresh and new, is a topic which has returned time and again in various shapes and forms over the past several years.

There are those who believe that the future of the service desk is the genius bar (following the Apple Store model), but while I’m a fan of the Service Desk 2.0 concept, I firmly believe that changing how we see service desks in the present and using our existing assets (best practices, processes, tools, skillsets of the team) better is the key to achieve long-lasting change, starting now. To achieve this future state in the present, we also need to change how we look at what we do with the incredible amount of information available to us. There are terabytes of data imprisoned in the ITSM tools used by the service desk. From system alerts to incident reporting, all deserve the attention of intelligent (smarter) analytics and innovative analysis.

The core of predictive analytics relies on capturing relationships between variables and past occurrences, and exploiting that information to predict future outcomes.

Intelligent and predictive analytics, combined with business relationship management, is how we can arrive at the service desk of the future today.

Why the Smart Service Desk?

I recently attended a seminar on Smart Cities, where companies like IBM provided insight into the future of urban living. The concept goes something like this:

Smarter cities of all sizes are capitalizing on new technologies and insights to transform their systems, operations, and service delivery…Forward-thinking leaders recognize that although tight budgets, scarce resources, and legacy systems frequently challenge their goals, new and innovative technologies can help turn challenges into opportunities. These leaders see transformative possibilities in using big data and analytics for deeper insights. Mobile to gather data and address problems directly at the source. Social technologies for better engagement with citizens. Being smarter can change the way their cities work and help deliver on their potential as never before.

There are clear parallels between smart cities and service desks: Service desks also have tight budgets, scarce resources, and the challenge of working with legacy systems. These challenges often result in firefighting, requiring a concentrated effort to continue to provide high-quality services.

Because of the fast-paced nature of many support environments, few teams have the luxury of stopping operations and reorganizing into genius bars. However, better customer engagement, better insights, and better analytics don’t require a drastic change.

It’s time for the service desk to become smart.

How Can a Service Desk Become Smart?

The vision of the Service Desk 2.0 is the anytime, anywhere, any platform support team. This means multichannel support and communication (like video calling and social media), meaningful metrics, and a commitment to customer centricity.

Any service desk can achieve this by utilizing their available tools and adopting new behaviours and practices, which aren’t dependent on bigger budgets or new tools. Teams can start by setting simple goals:

  1. Communicate with customers in nontraditional ways (i.e., not phone or email). Is there a self-service portal? Is there an online communication tool, like internal chat? What are the unused capabilities of the ITSM tool? Maybe the team can share messages, polls, or interactive FAQs with their customers via the most frequently used tools and platforms. If they’re an internal team, they could hold open houses where their customers can visit them and spend time with them. They could schedule in-office visits where they visit their customers on a rotation, making themselves visible and available. If the team is external, send a newsletter celebrating achievements, welcoming new employees, and praising top performers.
  2. Nobody knows a company’s customers better than the service desk team. Once additional communication channels have been identified, agreed upon, and made available, the team can decide what messages are going to be shared, as well as how they plan to listen, interpret, and respond to their customers’ needs and demands. It’s important that the team decides together, with guidance and leadership by the service desk manager. This is why a commitment to customer centricity is essential. Correctly recorded and swiftly closed tickets just aren’t enough to ensure a superior customer experience.
  3. Take advantage of the incredible amount of information and data available in the ITSM tool. Not long ago, I delivered a presentation on smart service desks during which I asked the audience—mainly service desk managers and support leaders—how many of them were using predictive analytics on the service desk. Not one hand went up. However, when I asked how many of them were confident that by using some form of analytics they would be able to forecast call volumes, creating a well-staffed service desk rota for the team, hands shot up. Most service desk managers and their teams don’t realize how they’re already, sometimes on a daily basis, working with predictions and analytics. What information is being shared, how is it being visualized, and why? What purpose and benefits does it serve for the team, for their managers, and for their customers? Quantity doesn’t always mean quality. Produce fewer reports, but make them more meaningful by showcasing easy-to-understand customer-centric information. A report on average time to answer calls or close tickets isn’t as meaningful as a report on a customer’s perception of how easy it is to reach the service desk via the available channels. An incident closure report isn’t as meaningful as setting customer expectations and reporting on deviations from fulfillment of those expectations.

Becoming a smart service desk means a conscious awakening to good practices, which involves the adoption of intelligent and predictive analytics.

What Are Intelligent and Predictive Analytics?

According to a recent Forrester report, “IT [technology] monitoring tools present us with the raw data, and lots of it, but sufficient insight into the actual meaning buried in all that data is still remarkably scarce.” IT analytics is an often automated process where the primary goal is the analysis of complex technical data. However, it lacks something essential: the human element. The human element turns IT analytics into intelligent analytics.

The core of predictive analytics relies on capturing relationships between variables and past occurrences, and exploiting that information to predict future outcomes.

A service desk team using common sense, emotional intelligence, and in-depth understanding of their customers, their issues, the systems, and the applications they use, will be able to provide meaningful analysis, which paves the way for the use of predictive analytics. This, in turn, will help the service desk innovate and improve.

The core of predictive analytics relies on capturing relationships between variables and past occurrences, and exploiting that information to predict future outcomes. By providing new insights into the data that’s already being collected, it can make service desk reporting more dynamic, allowing the service desk to anticipate and act upon customer demands.

Smart Service Desk Cycle

I recently worked with a team that maintained an extremely detailed and fascinating report on customer satisfaction. The team was fully aware that every six months, they could expect to see a surge in negative customer survey responses because of a particular accounts extension process that locked contractors out of all systems. Without consciously realizing it, the team was predicting customer demands and preparing themselves for the backlash. After bringing attention to the problem, the organization launched an initiative to fix the flawed process and avoid recurrence of the negative customer satisfaction spike.

This is just one example of how easy it can be to use predictive analytics on the service desk and make the shift from reactive to proactive service support.

Changing how we see service desks and using our existing assets better is the key to long-lasting transformation.
Tweet: Changing how we see service desks & using existing assets better is the key to long-lasting transformation. @ThinkHDI http://ubm.io/1Istb2U

The Smart Service Desk: An Achievable Goal

Every journey starts with that first step. For most service desk teams, regardless of their level of maturity, activities like report creation, analysis, and customer communication are already woven into the fabric of their daily lives.

To become a smart service desk, support organizations must take a fresh look at their analytics and reporting practices, set new targets, and find new ways to use their existing tools and knowledge.


Andrea Kis started her IT career in 2002, working on a multilingual IT help desk in Budapest. She is an ITIL-, PRINCE2-, and Green IT-qualified service integration and management consultant with a passion for service management and business relationship management. Before joining TCS, Andrea worked in internal and outsourced roles across a range of industries, working with the likes of EDS, BBC, Deutsche Bank, and Macmillan Cancer Support.


This article first appeared in the March/April 2015 must-read issue of SupportWorld.
Tag(s): business intelligence, business value, desktop support, service desk, support center, metrics and measurements, supportworld

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