With more people than ever working remotely, companies of all shapes and sizes are finding themselves adapting to and supporting situations they have never encountered before. The ITSM models we have come to love worked in an on-site, synchronous environment. But now work from home is a rule, not an exception. How can we continue to deliver high-quality service management in this new normal?
Now that work from home is a rule, not an exception, how can we deliver high-quality service management?
(Service) Level Expectations
In this new way of life, time can start to lose value, days of the weeks might blend together, and the time between an email to the service desk and their response could feel like a decade. To help manage expectations, service level agreements (SLAs) and appropriately defined service level targets (SLTs) can help increase transparency and improve both the employee and customer experience.
A service level helps you define how long it might take to provide a given service, or components of that service. For many companies, this can include targets like time to respond to a request and time to fulfill a request. For your customers, this information can be provided to set expectations on timelines. For your employees, this can remove the feeling of being overwhelmed by “do it now” syndrome where they feel responsible for doing all tickets in the queue as soon as they come in.
If SLAs are new to you, they can be a great way to manage this timing. But if you already have established SLAs, consider how you might want to modify them to accommodate increasing workloads or increase in average ticket resolution times due to asynchronous support.
Double Down on Self-Service
Shifting left doesn’t stop just because the halls are empty. This time away from our usual day-to-day is a great opportunity to harden off our self-service capabilities by listening to our users. There may be new issues that come up that we don’t normally encounter simply because people are doing work differently. Previously, we may have had fewer remote employees, and we had more time to prepare them with training and advanced planning. As these repeat issues arise, start to take note on what needs to be to be added to your knowledge base.
With remote operations, start considering what information you might be able to share. Do you offer terminal servers or remote desktops for your users to remotely access software? Maybe share information to your portal about which servers offer which software or how your end users can remotely access different resources.
Automate What You Can, and Sharpen your Axe
Is there a task you find yourself repeating over and over? Perhaps your users are all now requesting access to the VPN or to have their voicemail go to their email? Tasks like this where you are fulfilling the same requests in large volume are ripe for automation. Automation doesn’t need to mean a Skynet powered AI that processes requests for you, or even a chatbot. But if you can’t enable these items for self-service, you can at least lower the complexity of the manual work for your service desk by using tools to automate the repeatable.
You may see this as impossible in panic mode. With hundreds of requests coming in, how could you ever find the time? This is what we like to refer to as an “axe sharpening moment.” Right now, you’re hitting a tree with a dull axe. Every repeat ticket you fulfill is another few swings. You’re making progress, but slowly. if you take a moment to sharpen your axe, by automating some steps, you can put in less labor and still get the same result, just more efficiently!
Stay Open to New Ideas
We do things the way we do them, sometimes because it’s the way we’ve always done them. In this new and ever-changing environment, we need to be open to adaptation. If we start with a no, we might miss an opportunity to improve a process. When we had users in the same building, or on the same campus, we knew how to respond and react. We had ideas of how everything should work and even some policies that made sense in that environment.
With the change in environment, we too must consider, and be open to change. Did we have a policy in place that prevented users from installing software? Maybe we should consider loosening that restriction where we can’t remote desktop or physically access those machines. Our users come to us with issues or requests and we are usually great about finding solutions. But for this period, we should be open to re-evaluating “because I said so” situations and focus on maintaining or restoring the services we provide.
In times of social distancing, voluntary isolation, and even quarantine, we can feel very alone and isolated from the real world. The world still exists outside of your office, and it’s important to remember that there is a person on the other side of that support ticket. Every ticket you get is a person who is likely in a new situation, making the best of an upheaval of their normal day-to-day. It can be frustrating to work on the 500th request for VPN access when you know that there is a great self-service article that shows the users how to get the tool. Remember that people may be stressed, or uncertain, or worried and not fully exploring all options as they try hard to maintain productivity or a situation where they were safe, comfortable, and familiar with.
Finally, you, too, are human. Despite living your life in video conferences all day and feeling like an electronically modulated voice on the other end of a computer screen, you matter! So, what does that mean for you? Try and find time to stay social, use webcam or voice features when possible to talk with colleagues, or if your company supports it, do support calls via video conference. Keep that human aspect of the job alive and well. Also, remember that because your office and your living room may be the same place, or your home computer is now your work computer, you may still want to unplug. When end of business rolls around, force quit those chat apps, and exit email. Let quitting time be quitting time, and try not to let your normal workday extend to being a 24-hour marathon.
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Chris Chagnon is an ITSM application and web developer who designs, develops, and maintains award-winning experiences for managing and carrying out the ITSM process. Chris has a Master of Science in Information Technology, and a bachelor’s degree in Visual Communications. In addition, Chris is a PhD Candidate studying Information Systems with a focus on user and service experience. As one of HDI’s Top 25 Thought Leaders, Chris speaks nationally about the future of ITSM, practical applications of artificial intelligence and machine learning, gamification, continual service improvement, and customer service/experience. Follow Chris on Twitter