Archive for the ‘Service Desk’ Category

The Service Desk Balancing Act

Managing a service desk is a balancing act. Keeping an eye on how effective and efficient the service is performing is critical because the perception of how well IT is
performing is often influenced by how well the service desk performs. This note will examine three sets of service level metrics related to the performance of an actual help desk and provide insight to the issues faced by service desk managers.
I propose steps that can be taken to improve the service provided by your help desk, and thereby raise the perceived value of your IT services.

Metric Set #1 – Call Volume (Including Calls Abandoned) vs Ticket Volume

One common issue faced by service desks is that customers can not get through to a representative for assistance. They call the service desk phone number, and then wait in queue for an unreasonable period of time. The caller gets disgusted, hangs up, and/or calls a support person or IT contact directly. This action represents an “abandoned call”. Many of the phone systems used by service desks will keep records of the number of abandoned calls. These statistics are useful to collect and report as one measure of the effectiveness of a help desk. It is also important to measure the call abandoned rate to provide a “before/after” snapshot of the effectiveness of a service desk implementation. Success may mean that the abandoned call rate is reduced to a very low level, say 2% versus the current levels. The abandoned call rate, total number of phone calls made by the service desk (in and out), and the total number of tickets opened by the service desk for a specified period of time can be assembled into a slide that effectively communicates the current state of the service desk.

Implementation Solution Ideas:

One key to reducing abandoned call rate issues is to reduce dependency on the telephone. As calls come in the help desk representatives should integrate with back office support using instant messenger, and email in real time. If the help desk representative needs to assign a ticket to a support team, the process should occur automatically; the representative should not have to use the telephone to manually escalate tickets to the support team. Also, when tickets that are escalated to the support teams are completed, communication back to the customer can be automated. He/She can be informed that the call has been resolved and can be instructed to contact the help desk if the problem persists. Each point in the process where human interaction is required is an opportunity to leverage automation. The people responsible for providing the service desk service have to decide on the appropriateness of automation for each step. The goal is to keep the phones available for incoming calls and reduce the outgoing calls used to contact support staff.

Service Metric #2 : Number of Tickets Opened per Time Period

Many help desk staffs will complain that they are overworked and “stressed out”. They will often be requesting additional staff to man the phones to help take calls. Help desk management is usually aware of the problem, but want to understand how pressing the need really is. Additional staffing will impact the organizations bottom line pretty quickly, and senior management will expect a lot of detailed justification. Help desk management may ask you if the additional staff is really needed.

Using metrics from the help desk software, you can prepare a chart showing tickets opened per hour. This information provides insight into the ticket throughput for the service desk, and can be used to estimate the number of tickets each representative has to process on average in any given hour. Knowing the effective throughput rate for processing calls can also help to adjust the triage processes used for incoming calls. The automation discussion from the abandoned call rate graph above also applies here, but so do some additional elements. For example, after examining several help desk implementations, we found that representative training and incentives for first call closure also impact the help desks ticket throughput. Written instructions and processes for triage and service call resolution must be followed consistently by all help desk representatives. Incentives for service desk personnel have to be carefully thought out and balanced with the skill set of the people taking the calls. Too little skill and the first time resolved rate is too low, too much skill and the representatives will try to own the tickets for too long trying to demonstrate their prowess at problem resolution.

Rewarding service desk employees for first time call resolves can be detrimental to the service desk team’s ability to effectively process calls in a timely manner – especially when available resources are taxed by incoming call volume. If the strategy to resolve every call the first time is the only strategy, you run the risk of backing up the call queues during peak hours

Service Metric #3 : Impacted Users by Call

Assessing the impact and urgency of service calls is part of an effective “triage” process which should be performed for every incoming Service Call. A primary function of the service desk is to provide communication and resolution for incidents that impact multiple users. One-on-one help from a service desk technician is the most expensive help that can be provided.

We have examined three analyses of service desk data. In each case we were able to relate metrics extracted from the service desk as key performance indicators for measuring the impact of the changes proposed. When implementing a new service desk or changing the processes that govern how services are utilized it is a good idea to take a sample of the data before and then after the changes are put into effect.

The unit cost of the ticket can make an excellent metric for estimating the ROI of some of the proposed solutions. The following discussion will explain how to utilize the service desk ticket as a unit for estimating ROI: Take the annual budget of the service desk and divide it by the number of tickets processed. The result is a dollar cost/service call. This figure can then be applied to the estimated reduction in the number of tickets opened at the service desk for any particular new project to give a
simple calculation for the value of the savings to the company.