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10 Items Slowing Down Your Help Desk

03/12/2012 by: The SunView Team

At the heart of success for a Service or Help desk, perhaps even at the center of any service-focused organization, are two key components, Quality of Service and Time to Resolution. The two do a dance, that if done properly, and well coordinated, result in very happy customers - most of the time.

Barring those customers that would never be happy, even with the highest quality service provided in the shortest possible time frame, if you can get Quality and Time matched perfectly, things will run smoothly. However, looking at these two pieces objectively, Quality of Service is harder to measure, but more easily controlled. In contrast, Time to Resolution is easy to measure, but can be much more difficult to establish realistic standards.

So, let's take a look at Quality of Service first. By its nature, service is incredibly subjective. We can survey our customers until the cows come home, but we may only hear from the most vocal. In fact, what makes a customer happy can vary greatly from one to the next. Even so, there are a basic set of core values that if adhered to will provide general satisfaction and keep customers returning. Moreover, as long as we are fair and balanced, and approach each situation with genuine empathy, we are most of the way towards creating a positive experience for any customer. Just applying the simple golden rule will almost always provide the best course of action. By no means is this an easy path, it's just a bit simpler to define and work towards.

What is harder to define, or perhaps difficult to maintain control over, is Time to Resolution. This is because we tend to have customers on one end expecting things to move far quicker than they ever could, and staff on the other end working tirelessly to make sure the solution is the right one the first time through. Complicating matters worse is the ambiguity of how difficult even benign incidents can become. Plus, any number of unknown and unexpected complications may develop, making a simple incident or request into a full-fledged problem. In the end, these things happen, and any many instances aren't easily avoided. Even with a firm understanding of Murphy's Law, stuff happens.

Accepting that we can work tirelessly to meet a defined level of service, and that time is under constant attack by often unpredictable forces, the outlook might seem grim, or rather there isn't much that can be done. In actuality, that's quite untrue, and there are a number of things can be addressed proactively versus reactively. That's why we have put together a list of the Top Ten Items Slowing Your Help Desk Down.

This list below focuses on the things, given the right tools, we can control with regard to reducing and capturing as much time savings as possible. In many cases this means speeding processes up, or at least removing extraneous moving pieces that tend to "gum up the works." Many of these will need an ITSM solution that has a wide range of automation and customization features. If you find your current tool is falling a bit short, you will want to check out our Getting Started ITSM Solution Guide that offers 50 key requirements every ITSM Tool should have. Just click the banner below for the free guide.

1. Automation options are limited, or non-existent.
If you are using Outlook as your Incident Management tool that's OK. There are a lot of gains to be made. A modern ITSM solution will allow you to completely customize automations that occur as tickets are received and resolved. For example, based on information a customer enters, tickets will be routed automatically to the appropriate member of your staff.

2. Reporting is complex, and not easily customized.
It's one thing to have robust reporting out of the box. What's really important is that it can be tailored to your organization's needs, so you are not spending unnecessary time generating custom or one-off reports each week.

3. A "known error database" is external to the ITSM solution, and seldom updated.
Sometimes the distance and time between staff is much more important than the actual size. For example you may have ten team members spread across the globe, and obviously separated, more importantly, by time zone. Having an easily accessible location to disseminate resolutions or workarounds to problems will save those other teams an incredible amount of time.

4. SLAs can't be integrated, preventing automatic notification when thresholds are met.
With no reasonable way for any human to remember a robust document like an SLA, your ITSM solution can keep track of the progress of incidents and warn the appropriate individuals as time frames are threatened. Doing all this automatically, with complete control over thresholds and notifications, is paramount.

5. No options for providing customized lists for self service options / requests.
Want to see huge time savings on any Service or Help Desk, offer a Service Catalog that is available 24/7. Customers will be able to review available services, submit requests, and have access to added features like announcements and a searchable knowledge base. The less customers need to interact the more time you have to work on resolution to real, verified incidents.

6. Tasks can't easily be assigned, tracked, or evaluated.
Your management team should have the ability to control the tasks of their staff as easily, and as coordinated as Generals on the battlefield. In fact, much of that responsibility should even have transferability to automations. This means when a request comes in, tasks are automatically assigned to individuals, meaning work can start right away.

7. Mobile access via smart devices like and iPhone or iPad is just a dream.
Many Help and Service Desks, most in fact, still provide desktop support. When a staff member leaves the nest to triage an issue, mobile applications can allow modern smart phones to become an extension of the tool installed back at their desk. Checking tickets while away from the desk or reviewing assigned tasks that are in close proximity means significant time savings.

8. Workflows are static, and aren't based on a set of best practices like ITIL.
Not every organization is the same, and that means that a static workflow can cause your well-designed process to be shoehorned into what someone else felt was a most likely scenario. Customization of work-flows, with a focus on best practices, like those found with ITIL, will create results that are smooth and tailored to your organization.

9. The approval process is cumbersome, and presents communication roadblocks.
Like it or not, approvals are in place to add visibility and ensure established controls are being adhered to. However, if this is left up to the instances where everyone remembers who, when, or what needs approval, the battle for time is already lost. These are items that should be administered within the ITSM solution, routed automatically, and easily changed or overridden by those with the proper authority.

10. Compatibility with other third party ITSM tools is lacking or absent.
Every organization is going to have a number of different tools to provide the highest quality service. The right ITSM solution will integrate easily with other applications making everything appear seamless.

Image: Flickr | Alan Cleaver