In a traditional IT service desk, employees often serve users at multiple customers at the same time. This makes it difficult to really get to know customers and their organization well. In addition, the help and technical support is often settled afterwards, based on tickets or an hourly rate. This is not a customer-friendly incentive: more tickets means more turnover for the service desk of the IT provider, but also: less satisfied end users.
At a traditional IT service desk, employees wait for a call or email from customers who have a question or technical problem. For users it is annoying to have to call – after all, their work is disrupted – and then there is also a bill for the help afterwards. Fortunately, it can be done more efficiently, with more focus on customer satisfaction. But for that, the paradigm of the traditional service desk will be overhauled.
A traditional service desk springs into action when something goes wrong, but then it is already too late
‐ Korwi Mooibroek
Pay based on customer satisfaction
There's another way. Proactive, with one sharp focus: the customer. By an IT service provider that does not allow itself to be paid based on eliminated service desk tickets, but on – how logical, really? – customer satisfaction, flawless service and appropriate user support. If the customer and his end users are satisfied, then you have done well. What does the service provided by such an extra customer-oriented service desk look like?
“A traditional service desk only springs into action when something goes wrong. So it's actually too late by then," says Korwi Mooibroek, manager Special Projects End User Management at Centric. “You can prevent this in part by ensuring that signals arrive earlier if a problem threatens. By organizing IT services in such a way that you are ahead of questions and technical issues as much as possible. With timely change and adoption management, before, during and after the implementation of new functionality. Or with tools that measure, for example, whether servers respond quickly enough and the CPU load does not become too high.”
Mooibroek: “If the fire brigade has to turn out, the fire has to be extinguished – at all costs. The need is great and money is not an issue. But then the damage has already been done and it costs a lot of money.” By anticipating disruptions, the service desk changes from a 'fire brigade', which acts reactively when the flames already start blazing through the roof, to a proactive 'fire prevention advisor' who helps limit the risks and prevent a fire from breaking out in the first place.
Cooperation between chain partners
According to Mooibroek, user support with effective 'fire prevention' and an extreme focus on customer satisfaction does require some adjustments to the traditional service desk model: a highly customer-oriented mindset, a well-trained service desk and – a contractual necessity – close cooperation between the customer and all parties that take care of IT for the customer.
To start with that close collaboration: IT and user support for large organizations often involves a chain of several subcontractors. For example, one company is responsible for the infrastructure, another party takes care of workplace management, a third is a network partner and there are application suppliers. And then there is the service desk, the link in the chain that is most visible to the customer's end users.
A chain with many links and many places where something could potentially go wrong. But the new-style service desk can anticipate that, says Mooibroek: “By working closely together as committed IT partners, involving each other early on in new projects, coordinating actions and constantly keeping each other informed about what you are doing.”
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I am only satisfied if we support users so well that our service desk becomes superfluous, so to speak
‐ Korwi Mooibroek
Keeping the end user in mind
According to Mooibroek, this requires that both the service desk and the suppliers of the technology and infrastructure keep the interests of the end user in mind in everything they do. “Does a technical adjustment or software update cause a major delay and therefore irritation for the end users? This intrinsic motivation to unburden the customer must be in the genes of all suppliers and partners. The common goal is: satisfied end users. And we are judged on that satisfaction.”
In the ideal user support, you will see that customer focus reflected in all levels of service, from the partner who maintains the network to the service desk employee who answers the phone – if you create a user experience together that surprises people so positively that they tell others about it. Mooibroek: “I am actually only satisfied if we support users so well that the service desk is superfluous, so to speak.”
From pay-per-ticket to fixed fee
In addition to close cooperation in the chain, the old-fashioned pay-per-ticket model is therefore being overhauled. Mooibroek: “If you abolish the ticket system and instead use a fixed price, a fixed monthly price for, for example, all workplaces and the associated user support, then all chain partners have an extra incentive to ensure that their services run smoothly and prevent issues. You don't have to put out fires that you prevent. Customer satisfied, we satisfied.”
A proactive service desk that supports the customer in collaboration with all chain partners based on a fixed fee, ensures manageable, clear costs, smoothly running IT processes and a minimal 'fire risk'. “The service desk is the 'face' to the customer, the point of contact. But it is crucial that all parties in the chain adopt the same customer-oriented mindset, with shared ownership of the service as a whole.”
Support with empathy
What about the service desk itself? Thanks to the digital transformation, developments are moving quickly and that requires a lot from user support. It is important that service desk employees know the customer well. Mooibroek: “By properly training support staff and having them go through a careful induction process beforehand, they really get to know the customer. As a result, they can respond better to changes and quickly eliminate or even be ahead of any disruptions.”
This requires thorough training, instructions and empathy. While traditional service desk employees often start working for customers within a week or two, the onboarding period for the new-style supporter takes longer. To really get to know the customer organization. Moreover, the learning process for a service desk employee does not end after that. In addition, with the emergence of data-driven processes, user support is also being expanded with 'service desk analysts' who analyze the data and make recommendations.
According to Mooibroek, these are investments that quickly pay off, in more efficient services and therefore more satisfied customers: “No matter how good the IT service is, there is always a chance of a fire. However, well-trained service desk employees can already answer many questions themselves and deal with problems. This prevents cases from being passed on to second-line support and users at the customer are helped faster.”
User Support 2.0: speech recognition chatbots
However, the modernization of user support goes much further: in the future, many service desk tasks will be automated so that they are suitable for self-service provision. Centric is already working on this in collaboration with a major customer for whom it provides user support.
Within about five years, according to Mooibroek, there will be automatic chatbots with fixed flows for standard questions and common support tasks: “End users will soon be able to find answers to their questions or resolve issues themselves. Speech recognition will also play a role in this. With such chatbots, users have the same level of service as before, but without having to make a phone call.”
According to Mooibroek, it is going too far to say that the service desk will soon disappear completely, but “if we ensure that everything runs smoothly for the customer, then they will in fact make themselves redundant.” Does that sound like something from the future? "That future is closer than you think."