In the not-so-distant past, I was with an organization reevaluating how it was managing its staff. This applied to every team in the company. They really wanted you to look at your team and identify where some improvements could be made. In many cases, they were looking to see if we could avoid hiring someone new in favor of automation; in other areas, we were looking at reducing headcount. As part of the service desk, there was really no concern of the need for efficiency, apart from the person who was the VIP technician.
First, let’s define VIP support. If you were to ask people in support organizations, the typical response about what this is would revolve around those in the executive level: C-suite, VPs, presidents, and any executive assistants that work directly with those people. In some cases, you might even have a dedicated VIP support technician(s) to deal with this group.
The challenge here was that despite getting rave reviews from VIP types, our VIP technician’s volume of work was impeded by the fact that most of her work was related to "white glove" activities, and she frequently had to stop “regular” work to run up to a boardroom to correct a speaker or turn on a desktop to start a meeting.
I captured the pros and cons regarding executive level support with the service desk team directly, and the list looked like this:
- Executives call the service desk VIP person and do not go through regular process
- Executives do not use the self-serve portal to correct their own issues
- We (service desk) need to ensure we always have someone available for VIP support when the regular person takes holiday.
- Having a dedicated person for VIP meant that we, as a team, must do a higher number of the requests rather than splitting up amongst everyone.
- Some VIPs have no boundaries and call on weekends for non-critical things.
- In some cases, since we are focusing on executives, we let work that might impact business activities slip.
The cons seriously outweighed the pros. When I asked if there weren’t any other pros to consider, the current executive support person said, “I’m not even sure that the executives realize that this is a thing.”
“Good point,” I added.
As a team, we knew that we could all equally support VIPs, and that having someone dedicated in this way was more effort than it really needed to be. As a team we felt we could be better suited to provide equal levels of support across the organization.
With this list in hand, we put forward the plan to remove the VIP function and return that analyst back into the pool, so to speak. In addition to the list, we also spoke to the fact that the cost per contact was significantly higher for executive support, and that we expected to reduce the duration in which requests and incidents were dealt with as a result of having the VIP person back in the queue.
To get approval, we had to explain how this would still provide good service. Since we had staff available on site to already cover the VIP support role as well as any afterhours escalations, we really needed to reinforce that the executives and their assistants were familiar with the support escalation process. Since they previously relied on a flag in the system to route their work or a direct call to the technician, they now needed to understand that there was a single number to call, one place to email and a self-service portal to use.
Sometimes you need to look at the overall support model and decide what is truly best for your service delivery experience.
Within a week or so of putting the idea forward, one of the operations vice presidents wanted to attend our weekly team meeting. It was there that she confirmed what our VIP technician already believed - that they just thought everyone was getting the same level of service.
They approved the plan. While the first few weeks required some coaching on how to properly escalate items, by the end of the quarter we were already seeing benefits of not having the dedicated support. The team was able to reduce the average incident resolution times in their team by 28%, and was able to reduce request fulfillment times by 33%. This all without altering staffing levels on the team.
While this example was effective, the key takeaway here is that in some cases you need to look at the overall support model and decide what is truly best for your service delivery experience.
Getting your organization to move away from the VIP support system is going to require a bit of a culture shift. The organization I was at was going through such a change, so we seized the opportunity to make the improvements we needed to make.
Ryan Ogilvie has been working in the service management space since 2006. A keen student of the service management ecosystem, he first started blogging after feeling a responsibility to share what he’d learned to a wider community. While his professional focus is IT service management, his experience has taught him that leveraging a variety of frameworks and communication styles will enable your business to meet its business outcomes. Follow him on Twitter @ryanrogilvie.