Are You Ready?

by Phyllis Drucker
Date Published January 9, 2019 - Last Updated December 17, 2019

There’s so much possible now with advancements in service desk tools, it raises questions: Why are so many service desks operating the same way they did 20 years ago? What does best practice look like in 2020?

This blog looks at some of the features that many take for granted and ways in which they can boost service desk capabilities to help modernize service, beginning with a bit of musing about what service could be like and how bad service can be. The stories are true, the names left out…

From good…

Every RSA token is configured to work just a little bit differently. Sometimes the instructions work, sometimes not so much. Ah, the life of a consultant. I was having difficulties with the instructions at a client site and as I was walking out to lunch, I saw a desk in the lobby marked “IT Operations Concierge Desk.” Ten minutes later, I had a soft token on my phone and it was fully configured and working.

Another situation I ran into was the day my Surface power button didn’t work. I went to the Microsoft help pages (via my tablet) and as I was starting to search, a chat bot asked if I needed help. I typed in the issue and was provided instructions on resetting the device. Problem solved in under a minute.

To great…

My cell phone provider should win an award for telephone-based support. When my daughter’s phone wasn’t set up properly and incoming calls were coming to both her new and old phone she called the provider and worked with a technician for a few minutes. When he could not help her, he transferred her to level 2, introduced her, and told the next technician exactly what had been done. The second level technician felt it was a phone issue, rather than a carrier service issue. Instead of telling her to call Apple, she called them, waited, and again introduced her and the issue. The vendor fixed the problem in under five minutes, with no bouncing between companies.

To ugly…

Then there was the time my ID expired between project phases and my account and virtual desktop were disabled. I called the client’s service desk, to hear an estimated wait time of 45 minutes. I hung up and called back the next day, wait times were now an hour. This time I worked while waiting and then spent 20 minutes accomplishing nothing: I was told I could only VPN into the network on a corporate PC. I indicated I was a vendor and had been using my PC to VPN into their network for months, with no change. Three calls and several hours of effort later an internal escalation to the “right” person and  I abandoned efforts to access their network.

So any of these situations can be any service desk. The service offered can go from good to horrible, depending upon the structure of the support organization, staffing level, and creativity of the team. At the end of the day, however, new tools available in many ITSM suites can help improve and optimize support by enabling the simplest questions to be handled through automation and by supporting walk-up programs, chat, and self-service.

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Pillars of Service Desk 2020

We are realizing the service desk of the future today; the technology available to many organizations has matured to a level that enables fantastic support. But sometimes it’s not used in a way that enhances support, rather it’s used in a way that makes it worse! The four pillars of support needed to realize awesome support are shown below:

service desk 


Support needs to be available 24x7, from any device, via any/all channels people might choose to use, while ensuring all channels are easy to use, provide great service, and leverage modern technology to improve success. All of the channels described below need to be considered with the other three pillars in mind.

Phone support will never be able to be eliminated. There are steps that can be taken to divert support to other, more cost-effective channels. But when people feel the need to speak with someone, they shouldn’t be frustrated by menus that do everything but land them with a person. This is particularly true when the need is as a result of an uncommon request that doesn’t align with menus.

There are companies that choose not to offer phone support at all; with fully resilient systems and monitoring plus highly sophisticated knowledge bases and chat bots, they feel they have covered their bases. This is likely true 99% of the time, but frustrating when you fall into the other 1%.

Email remains the worst way to engage a support organization because there’s never enough information provided, and while it puts the burden of contact on the provider, the provider often has trouble reaching the sender. Rather than shutting down email cold, however, the organization needs a strategy to direct people to preferred channels until email’s use is very limited and then can consider shutting it down.

Email remains the worst way to engage a support organization.
Tweet: Email remains the worst way to engage a support organization. @msitsm @ThinkHDI #ITSM #ServiceDesk

Self-service is gaining adoption across the industry. People can access a self-service site and gain information needed to resolve their issue, run an automated fix, or submit a well-structured ticket. For self-service through a service portal to be effective, several factors should be considered.

  • Knowledge. A powerful knowledge base is the foundation for lowering phone and email volumes, by providing a place people can go to find information. The broader the knowledge base (extended beyond IT), the better it will be received. Sometimes people won’t search knowledge, so serving it up while they are logging a ticket or via automated chat sessions improves usage.
  • Virtual agents. When chat bots are available in a portal tool, they can be used to replace human interaction. There are several keys to doing this effectively, but the first is to give them a name and personality so they seem to be a first line agent working via chat. The second is to take time to develop the scripts that enable them to present knowledge in a friendlier fashion than a knowledge base, then escalate the chat to a “more experienced technician (or agent)” when the need goes beyond the knowledge base or script. Use of predictive analytics can help. If the chat bot has access to similar tickets and predictive analytics can determine a potential answer based on tickets logged and worked by agents, it’s possible to improve results.
  • Chat. With the world moving to texting and IM, chat is a great way to enable people to engage support. Where chat bots are used, they become the second-line agent and most tools enable the agent to open a ticket from the chat session when first level resolution is not possible.

Walk up desks. The concept of walk up support is growing and should be considered in buildings or campuses with central locations. If demand gets too high for this service, build appointment capabilities and allow people to pre-register via the portal.

Other automation. Programmable “buttons” and IoT devices can be combined to assist people in logging trouble tickets from the site of an issue. Consider the possibility of hitting a button on a device to log an issue or equipping a coffee station with a “supplies” button. Tools like Alexa or Google Home can also be integrated to ticketing systems to enable people to open tickets via voice when they are away from their desk where a peripheral is used.


The key with all of the support channels mentioned is to make them intuitive and easy to use. A button at a peripheral is way easier than returning to a desk only to find out you need information that’s on the device. Virtual agents powered by chat bots make it less intimidating to search knowledge and transition easily to higher levels of support as needed. Simpler menus on a phone system make it easier to get to the right person quickly. The key here is to design them well, pilot the design with a small focus group of people who use technology differently, and keep working on it until customer feedback agrees the channels are easy to access and use.

Great Service

The goal of expansion to new technologies should not be to lower costs, but rather to improve the quality of support offered. Operating cost-effectively is a different topic and should be approached by reducing the need to contact support (proactive problem management, monitoring and automated repair, etc.). But in this context, tools and automation are an opportunity to provide better service by offering the customer a choice of how to contact the support organization and ensuring that each option is well designed, supported by a strong knowledge initiative, and constantly being improved based on feedback.


Technology and tools take investment in time and resources, but supporting a multi-channel support environment, combined with a shift-left initiative, can improve support while enabling more cost-effective operations. As workers have become more computer literate, they look to websites and automation to do things themselves as often as possible. While not everyone will use a portal to get software via an “app store” experience, most will. It’s critical that the service desk make the tools that are commonly available to people at home available at work. The service portal provides a great resource for this, enabling access to information, FAQs, and alerts about system issue, while also enabling people to log requests, order things, and log trouble tickets. It also provides the access to virtual agents and internal chat capabilities (as well as internal social networks) that round out an organization’s ability to provide great support.

Looking Ahead

It’s a place consumers can go to get the support they need, the way they need it. While considering this, also consider the providers available through the service desk. Expanding outside of IT and providing a unified, central service desk experience that offers consistent levels of support outside of the technology organization really takes the Service Desk 2020 to the next level. While each provider may have specialized staff supporting a central service desk experience, having a single phone number, single portal, and single concierge desk experience, provides the consumer with one place to go to for support, along with the expectation of a consistent support experience when they get there.

Phyllis Drucker is an ITIL® certified consultant and information leader at Linium, a Ness Digital Engineering Company. Phyllis has more than 20 years of experience in the disciplines and frameworks of IT service management, as both a practitioner and consultant. She has served HDI since 1997 and itSMF USA since 2004 in a variety of capacities including speaker, writer, local group leader, board member, and operations director. Since 1997, Phyllis has helped to advance the profession of ITSM leaders and practitioners worldwide by providing her experience and insight on a wide variety of ITSM topics through presentations, whitepapers, and articles and now her new book on the service request catalog, Online Service Management: Creating a Successful Service Request Catalogue (International Best Practice). Follow Phyllis on Twitter @msitsm.
Tag(s): supportworld, service management, technology, ITSM, IT service management


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