A high performing service desk can have a hugely positive impact across any organisation; from optimising investments in technology to the productivity of the overall workforce and the competitiveness of your business. However, nowadays service desks face many new challenges such as how to supporting and the increased security threats of new and rapidly changing technologies, shadow IT, BYOD, mobility and collaboration platforms.  In this context, aligning practices across service desk teams and technology can be a challenging process, whose failure can cause operational, reputational and financial problems for the business.

What are the main factors that make Service Desks fail? To find out, we interviewed our in-house expert, Ross Mckay, Service Operations Manager at Acora. Ross has gained over 20 years of experience managing many service desks for global organisations and he was keen to reveal to us what he defined as “The three main reasons” that make a Service Desks fail. 

1. People

“We pride ourselves on getting the right people and that is probably why we have built our reputation as the UK market leader in delivering high standard service desks.”

Ross Mckay, Service Operations Manager at Acora

According to Ross, in the “Service Desk world”, everything comes down to people. Throughout his many years of experience managing Service Desks, Ross learned that what differentiates a high-performance Service Desk from a mediocre one is not the number of analysts within the team, as most managers tend to assume; it is more about their attitudes and emotional skillset, which go well beyond their ability to answer the phone.

So how does Acora manage to hire and retain the right people? At Acora, as in any other company, everything starts with recruitment.

When conducting interviews, the technical capabilities of candidates are not considered as a major factor expected to predict employees’ performance. Instead, at Acora, Service Desk Managers believe that emotional intelligence and team working skills are the core elements of an outstanding Service Desk. While technical capabilities are certainly important and should not be overlooked, they can be more easily developed through training and practice. On the other hand, attitudes and personality traits can be seen as fixed qualities that influence how well individuals fit and perform within a team.

However, as Ross highlights, having the right skill set or personality type is not enough if this is not supported by an effective onboarding process.

“I have seen it too many times. New joiners are onboarded and given a training buddy, who is too busy to spend an adequate amount of time training them. But by the end of the first week, I see them answering the phone without even understanding how the support process works.”

Ross Mckay

So, what are the benefits of investing in training programs? According to Ross, providing your Service Desk employees with ongoing training sessions can lead to tangible business benefits and ultimately a competitive advantage over competitors in the industry.

“By providing our employees with ongoing training we have seen continuous improvements in Service Level Agreement performance and First Time Fix rate, which can be an added value to any business and ultimately have a positive impact on employees’ productivity and retention rate”

Ross Mckay

2. Communication

“With over 20 years of experience working as a Service Desk Manager, I learned that an effective communication process is at the heart of any IT operation.”

Ross Mckay

Nowadays people are bombarded by emails that really their effectiveness as a reliable communication channel is reducing. Especially within the financial and legal sectors, users, quickly scan through their IT email notifications, which is making it increasingly difficult for Service Desk personnel to capture their attention. In view of this, throughout his experience as a Service Desk Manager, Ross found that without an effective communication process, there are several challenges to be faced.

For instance, the line of communication between the IT Service Desk and day-to-day operations becomes crucial when IT upgrades, changes, migrations or maintenance operations are required. This became clear to Ross when working with a Blue Chip company in the UK:

“During a period of significant systems change, business communication were sent out via e-mail. In addition to this ‘drop-in’ sessions were arranged and hosted collaboratively by those within the business who were sponsoring the change and members of the IT Team. Business Champions were identified as a means of the first contact for colleagues following the change; Floor-walkers were actively compassing the floor to ensure a smooth and successful transition during a period of substantial change”.

Ross Mckay

So, how can organisations improve the Service Desk communication process?

Technologies can certainly help to thrive in the modern world. To give an example, a growing number of organisations are starting to utilise Desk Alerts to direct pop-up notifications straight to everyone’s PC desktops. However, Ross recommends sticking to more traditional communication channels as, even in today’s fast-moving online world, face-to-face communication can be more effective than computer-mediated communication.

For instance, when it comes to system maintenance or IT updates, the Service Desk could inform a nominated delegate from within each area of the business, asking them to raise awareness of co-workers. Similarly, physical cues such as posters on an entrance door are less likely to go unnoticed than emails and effectively deliver a message.

Having said that, this does not mean that face-to-face communication should substitute computer-mediated communication. Especially in larger organisations, email communication cannot be ignored as it still represents the main used channel. In view of this, IT email notifications should be made as simple as possible by avoiding the use of technical terms and acronyms. Instead, it is important to highlight the impact of maintenance issues or IT upgrades on end-users in a simple and straightforward way, which is clear to everyone in the organization and, when possible, this should be supported by human interactions and physical cues.

3. Tools

“In the world of Service Desk, tools and technology are two separate but complementary entities. Technology to me suggests what the business operates with, not what the Service Desk needs.”

Ross Mckay

People often associate the term “tool” with “technology”. However, according to Ross, in the world of Service Desk, tools and technology are two separate entities that complement each other. Efficient service desks require tools that effectively support operational technologies and activities such as remote connections, incident logging, report building, feedback management, and any other related function.

However, often companies tend to prioritise technology advancements without thinking of how they can be supported by the Service Desk. As a result, failing to invest in Service Desk tools means that the Service Desk will not be able to provide optimal support to the business.

“My experience has shown, providing support across a number of business sectors, one thing remains consistent, without the right tools a Service Desk will not be positioned to meet the business expectations.”

Ross Mckay

For instance, if an organisation does not have in place an effective ticketing system, it can be problematic. Many companies create their own ticketing systems or even use their emails to manage and keep track of incidents and requests. However, these systems can be hard to manage and can seriously harm the business.

On the other hand, providing Service Desk analysts with reliable tools can have a positive impact on the allocation of workload and ultimately on the way IT issues are tracked and resolved.

How good is your Service Desk?

This can be a tricky question to answer. In this blog, our expert and Service Operations Manager, Ross Mckay, revealed to us “The 3 Main Reasons Why Service Desks Fail”. People, communication and tools must not be overlooked as they can cause enormous financial and operational problems to any organisation.

With this in mind, the bad news is that there isn’t a magical formula for great Service Desk performance. Each Service Desk has different service level agreements and business expectations to be met. Similarly, Service Desk performance is, of course, multi-faceted and in each case must be assessed against the needs of the host organisation’s three essential stakeholders: end-users; the IT department; and the business as an entity.

In view of this, in order to help you prevent your Service Desk from failing, Acora has built a Service Desk Diagnostic tool that enables you to assess the weaknesses of your service desk while evaluating core capabilities such as performance, capacity, business alignment and innovation.

Sound interesting, but how does it work? It’s extremely simple. 20 questions, 3 minutes of your time and our free Service Desk Diagnostic Tool will provide you with a tailored assessment with recommendations on how to improve your Service Desk. Alternatively, if you would like to discuss the performance of your Service Desk in deeper detail when we will have the opportunity to consider this in relation to your needs, please contact us.


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