7 Steps to Improve Your Customer Service Desk

Customer service deskIs your Service Desk’s customer service seen as an asset or a liability?

‘‘Customer Service Desk’ is the default description of any support center handling customer service and support issues.

It is important to note that the term Service Desk begins with the word ‘Customer Service’ emphasizing that feature as the primary function.

The phrase ‘Service Desk’ was originally applied for IT support, however, it is now used to describe any customer support center which handles customer service issues, ranging from helping users with basic questions to solving complex issues.

Although Service Desks are utilized in many different forms, including, Local, Centralized, Virtual and Outsourced versions, their core function of providing timely and effective customer service remains the same. Consequently, how a Service Desk performs in delivering customer service can make a big difference in how it is perceived and used by customers.

When users feel that they are not getting the appropriate level of (functional/technical/information) support from the Service Desk, this function can appear to be more of a liability rather than an asset. Important reasons for this perception can include:

– Not setting proper expectations with users concerning service desk customer service functions, which in turn leads to users forming their own opinion of what the service desk does; usually this includes handling a lot more support than the service desk is officially tasked to do.

– Unclear definition of collaboration between organizational business objectives and the service desk related to customer service and support functions (who handles what function and at which tier/level)

With the right guidance, the Service Desk can transition from being seen as a liability to becoming an asset to organizations and provide top-notch customer service. However, in order for that to happen, three important components have to be in place:

I. Necessary executive support has to be obtained for the Service Desk. This involves the financial, managerial and technology support needed to facilitate the Service Desk in providing high levels of customer service.

II. Service Desk responsibilities have to be clearly communicated to customer service agents as well as to end-users. This clarifies user expectations of the level of customer service the Service Desk can provide on issues.

III. Clear end-user expectations have to be defined in alignment with business and technology goals. This is especially true for organizations engaged in ERP (SAP/Oracle/Lawson), Shared Services and Business Transformation initiatives.

Over time, the typical IT Help Desk has been challenged to change into a Service Desk, capable of providing an increasing range of customer service and support services to both internal and external stake-holders. This has in turn led to a business Return on Investment (ROI) focus rather than the IT-centric focus of previous Help Desks.

As a result, the value proposition for Service Desks has expanded to include enhanced functionality, such as, handling Shared Services tier-oriented escalation, complex change requests, service level management, metrics, basic portal navigation and post production support functions for ERP implementations.

When planned and executed properly, the following 7 steps can help both private and public sector Service Desks enhance their customer service and support functions and become assets to their organizations:

7 steps to optimize Service Desk customer service and support

1. Aligning Service Desk functions with your organization’s operational and service management goals and developing a cohesive customer service strategy. Doing so can enable Service Desks to optimize procedures and reduce costs while improving customer service metrics. This is particularly applicable to Service Desks providing customer service for ERP and Shared Services projects.

2. Training all Service Desk agents in customer service skills and empowering them to transition from a ‘customer service’ to a ‘customer advocate’ mindset. Usually agents think of themselves as serving the organizations they work for and not the actual customer they are assigned to help.

In order to enable these important customer-facing resources to make the transition from customer service representative (to their employers) to becoming Customer Champions, organizations have to change in how they are seen within the organization and how they see themselves. By doing this, the Service Desk staff is enabled to take on customer issues and navigate them through resolution.

3. Maximizing First Call Resolution (FCR) by providing initial assessment of all incidents and escalating to second-level support when required. Identifying common issues and documenting successful resolution procedures in FAQs available to agents, can improve FCR while facilitating increased employee self service, resulting in lower costs and improved customer service.

4. Defining and communicating clear and consistent escalation procedures. A large number of Service Desks operate on a multi-tier problem resolution system. Defining clear escalation procedures for problems can reduce problem resolution time; enhance inter-tier collaboration and deliver an improved customer service experience to callers. This is especially important for Service Desks handling complex support (such as SAP or Oracle ERP and Shared Services Projects).

5. Providing the strategy, tactical steps and tools for process automation and enhanced self-service. In utilizing telephone, email, portal and other related mechanisms, Service Desks can lower costs through process automation and self service while improving customer service and facilitating multi-tier cooperation.

6. Developing FAQs for different problems and posting them in a central, easily accessed location (portal, SharePoint site etc.). This can improve self-service, help in determining root causes for common incidents and build an advanced knowledge base for continuous learning. Designing maintaining and building knowledge bases for increased future self-service can also significantly expedite the transition to Centers of Excellence (COEs) while continuously improving customer service standards.

7. Integrating technologies and business processes, consolidating multiple service desks (as applicable) and providing standard reports. Integrating customer service operations, consolidation of Service Desks and alignment of organizational customer service initiatives can deliver financial savings and improve process efficiencies, since both groups require similar training, toolsets, processes and automation capabilities. In addition, providing standard reports can keep customers well informed.

Initially, the Service Desk market was primarily driven by organizations wanting to streamline their IT functions related to customer service and support for IT. After seeing the value possible from extending customer service and support benefits beyond the IT Service Desk function to include the entire enterprise, organizations are able to derive more value from their Service Desks.

Increasingly, optimized Service Desks are facilitating the adoption of enabling technologies (ERP, ITSM) and business models (Shared Services) across the enterprise and becoming assets to progressive organizations that utilize them properly.

Adopting a holistic Service Desk strategy centered on improving customer service can delight customers and end-users while enhancing process efficiency and lowering support costs. A customized evaluation of your organization’s Service Desk strategy and operations can be extremely beneficial in uncovering and taking advantages of new areas of opportunity for the future.

About the Author

Imaad Mahfooz is the Managing Principal of Chronos Consulting, an organization focused on significantly improving client’s business results in the areas of Customer Service/Support Improvement, Shared Services and Human Capital Optimization. Imaad has worked in management positions for global blue-chip companies and consultancies and has extensive experience in managing cross-functional, multicultural teams on complex Business/IT projects.

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