It goes without saying that a lot needs to be considered when organizations are planning a major event, such as an upgrade or implementation. But one thing that can’t be overlooked is the help desk and, specifically, its capacity to put out fires while also managing day-to-day requests.
“A lot of encounters happen through the service desk. They’re the face of IS when it comes to fixing issues,” said Raymond Hall, Technology Manager at Covenant Health, one of the panelists in a recent webinar (The Help Desk and Beyond: Keys to Creating a Service-Obsessed Culture). And although he believes CIOs recognize its importance, it can be easy to take the service desk for granted, particularly when resources are limited. “The danger is in being stretched too thin” in an area that’s heavily relied upon by users.
So the question becomes, how can leaders make sure they’re not “giving away the farm” when taking on initiatives that are critical to the organization’s future? Like every task, it starts with good planning, and a keen understanding of the challenges that exist, according to Hall, who presented along with Mike Martz, CIO at Mount Nittany Health, and Andrew Graf, Chief Product Strategist at TeamDynamix.
Below are some of the highlights from the discussion (which is available in an archived format as well).
- Choose a goal. Before planning can begin, leaders need to identify the ultimate goal of the service desk. Contrary to what some believe, it’s not just about resolving issues. “We need to make sure we’re addressing an actual need, and not just providing a solution so we can close the ticket,” noted Martz. “We need to respond quickly, we need to be transparent, and we need to able to manage expectations accurately.”
- Be clear. Not only do customers want answers quickly, but they want them articulated “in a way that makes sense and doesn’t involve IT lingo,” said Graf. “We need to make sure what we do is very clearly stated in terms that are easy to understand.”
- Drive to the solution. Service desk representatives need to be empowered to make decisions on whether a piece of equipment needs to be replaced, or if the vendor needs to be contacted, said Hall. “Make sure they have the tools they need to be able to drive to the solution, and not just push it to someone else. They need to be able to take ownership and see it through.”
- Manage handoffs. In a perfect world, every call would be handled by the first point of contact. But in the real world, calls are often routed to another individual or department with a deeper knowledge of the issue. When this happens, “we have to make sure the total time to resolution is as fast as possible,” noted Martz, and “doesn’t result in an unnecessary delay.”
- Provide a contact. A closed ticket doesn’t always mean the problem is solved, according to Hall, which is why helpdesk users at Covenant always receive a message notifying them that the ticket has been closed, and providing a contact person in case they run into future issues. This way, he said, “People know where to go with escalated tickets,” which has proven to be a satisfier. He also suggests instructing helpdesk representatives to ask right away whether the caller is referencing a new or existing ticket. This way, “we have some context, and customers don’t have to repeat the whole history.”
- Track open tickets. By utilizing metrics, Hall’s team was able to establish a correlation between the number of open tickets and the amount of calls from managers and directors. They also determined that a higher rate of abandoned calls results in more tickets. Not only has this helped improve transparency, but they were also able to set more specific goals, Hall noted.
- Get feedback. Although metrics are useful, what’s just as beneficial is hearing directly from users. At Mount Nittany Health, that has meant “taking a step back from the transaction itself” and distributing satisfaction surveys to other support teams as well, including human resources, security, and facilities, to ascertain what the overall experience has been with IS. The survey, which goes out quarterly, also includes a comments section, which “tends to be more high-level and thoughtful about IS in general,” and has resulted in “very valuable feedback in terms of how well we’re satisfying the needs of the organization,” said Martz. In addition to the questionnaire, his team relies on informal feedback gleaned from meetings with physicians and board members.
- Make it a team effort. Providing quality service requires a true team effort — which means “the entire IS team has to function well,” and not just the help desk, said Graf. And that means ensuring that not only are the right processes in place, but the right culture has been established.
And while the service desk hasn’t always been thought of as a C-level priority, perhaps it’s time that changed. As organizations move toward value-based care, the “operational blocking and tackling” will become increasingly vital, said Martz. Included in that, of course, is the ability to support technology — and those who use it. “We see it as table stakes that have to be done well before we can move on to anything else.”
Once that foundation is in place, CIOs can turn their focus where it should be: “on strategic goals.”
To view the archive of the webinar — The Help Desk & Beyond: Keys to Creating a Service-Obsessed Culture (Sponsored by TeamDynamix) — click here.