Focus on minimum service desk standards, and that’s what you’ll get

If systems are designed around rigid adherence to SLAs, good business outcomes aren’t achieved

Imagine this…

You’re about to pitch to an important prospect. The links stop working just as you’re getting to the demo. You log the problem with the service desk. In line with the Service Level Agreements (SLAs), they make it a “Priority 4” response – (correct procedure for a single user, single application issue). But wait… this means it’ll be addressed within four days. Even if it was a “Priority 1” emergency, (all users, all systems down) the SLA first response time might be something like 30-60 minutes.  Still no good as you stall your prospect with yet another cup of coffee.

 The potential client, the coffee and your career prospects all rapidly cooling in front of your eyes.

I’ve attended more service reviews than I can remember. But the ones that stick in my mind are when our journey through the management KPIs pale beside happy customers thanking us for coming to their rescue in a situation which is professionally important, but administratively of low priority. (Or, as the agreement would put it, ‘service outside of scope’).

This might entail someone ringing in a panic with ‘I’ve lost all my work’; (we go to temp files, locate the work, calm restored). This is obviously not a dire emergency for the business, but for a busy fee earner, in that moment, it’s a professional disaster.  Holidays are another source of stress, as people forget to upload a file or switch on their ‘out of office’ before they go.  These are simple things to help with, don’t require high levels of technical expertise and are of disproportionately great importance to the individuals concerned.

Service Level Agreements are important measures, but when systems are designed around them, good business outcomes are compromised

Without doubt, contractual obligations need to be met, but the SLAs are a poor way to manage what really matters – the customer experience.

SLAs are important, but a customer champion is the way to get the best from your service desk

Over the years I’ve honed my preferred service desk structure to ensure that each client is supported by the right number of engineers who understand them and their industry.  For every client I appoint a ‘customer champion’.  This person is the client’s own personal customer service manager.  The customer champion is backed up by two or three technical engineers who also know the client well: the type of work they do, the individuals concerned and their working environment.  The team should immediately understand the scale of the issue, the impact it’s going to have on the business and be able to swing into action accordingly. Issues like the presentation problem I described above are handled immediately by whoever is best placed to fix the problem.

Whatever the issue or incident, the customer champion is the owner, the coordinator and the communicator bringing in help or escalating a problem where necessary.

Appointing the right customer champion is based on a combination of the services we deliver to the customer and the culture of the business. Getting the fit right is essential, and more art than science.  The customer champion is there to ensure good outcomes every time, in the shortest possible time, not meet a standardised set of KPIs. Although if you want to know what a good set of KPIs should look like, look out for my next blog.

By Aaron Moore, January 2021

Aaron Moore is the Service Delivery Director at Bedroq.  He has run successful IT service desks and operations for some of the UK’s leading managed service providers for 20 years.

He has written a briefing for Finance Directors on how to solve the service desk conundrum.  If you’re interested, have a look here.  “How your seriously good service desk might be costing you seriously big money”