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5 Ways To Build An Efficient Service Desk




If you’re like most of us, your job is difficult enough without the added trouble of a cumbersome service desk. And if your end-users are like mine, they’ll agree.

Nevertheless, it’s not uncommon for support departments to fail when connecting

the functions of their help desk with the delivery of support, making their service

desk a headache both for themselves and their user community.


Making things worse is the fact that the culprits behind such failings are as

commonplace as they are diverse. A service desk may lack the necessary features

for a business or boast many features but lack cohesion between them. Its

strengths and the needs it fulfills may be mismatched, the product having been

designed for an industry far removed from its environment, or it’s missing the

flexibility to be rightly adjusted and applied. Maybe it’s perfect in every

functional way, but its implementation is bungled by someone lacking a proper grasp

of their business needs, their support department’s processes, or their user

community’s tendencies.


On and on the list goes, but with results painfully familiar: an implementation

that sacrifices efficiency and ease of use for waste and frustration. Inevitably this

begs the question, 'What can we do to fix this?'


Given the vast differences in businesses and support structures it should surprise no one that a simple answer to this question does not exist. Further complicating things is the fact that this is as much a management issue as it is a technical one.

All that said, good practices will are always a good place to start, and here I

give you five which are tried and true when it comes to improving the efficiency

of your service desk for everyone involved.


Dynamic Forms

Unless you’re still accepting tickets by email or phone (or walk-ups), forms are

the first thing your users will see when making contact. As such they have the

potential to set the tone for the entire interaction between the support group and

the customer. You must think of them as more than just a series of fields: They’re

your customer service front end, and the experience they provide is a

representation of your organization’s approach to customer care itself.


So what makes a good form? It must be simple to navigate, yet powerful

enough to accommodate a wide variety of requests. It must be flexible, but

restrictive with options and firm when it comes to required information.

This is a big ask for what is essentially a one-size-fits-all information-gathering

front end. It’s also somewhat self-contradictory: Simple forms may lack the

complexities required of in-depth requests while complicated forms can

overwhelm users looking to submit simple tickets. This is no more apparent than

when dealing with static forms, as you’re generally limited to one approach and

one only.


Enter dynamic forms. These forms react and branch according to

the information the end user provides. They can start out very simple to

accommodate simple requests, but grow increasingly complex as specific options

are selected, or specific values are entered.


A good example would be a request for software: Microsoft Office.

An initial field may allow the user to select the nature of their ticket. They select

‘Software Request’. This spawns a field listing approved software applications,

and they select ‘Microsoft Office’. Yet again this generates a new field that gives

them options for Home & Business, Professional, 365, and more. They select

again.


This is a very simple example, but it demonstrates how dynamic forms can

react to user input and present follow-up fields as needed: fields that can be

required before the form can be submitted. The result is a clean experience that

grows only as complex as needed and yet can also accommodate extremely

specific requests.


If your service desk doesn’t support dynamic forms I encourage you to seek out one that does, as they can streamline your end-user experience from the very start.

Intelligent Automation

So a user submits a ticket and is awaiting action. At this point we shift our

focus from user to administrator, asking some basic questions along the way.

Must they open, review, and assign the ticket to a team or technician? Must they

compose supplemental notes, or add other users as watchers? Or must they reach

out to the requester’s manager before doing anything at all in order to get

approval before moving things along?


The more actions you can automate, the more efficient your

service desk becomes for your support staff. Not to be overlooked, a secondary

benefit is a consistent end-user experience, with tickets being less prone to

changes in handling based on who is processing the request.


Returning to the example above, a software request could result in the system

automatically sending an authorization request to the end user's manager, then

waiting for a reply before moving on to the next step. Only then will the ticket

enter the next phase. This may involve the assignment to a specific support group

or technician, the posting of comments to the ticket, adding other users as

watchers, or — assuming the manager never provided authorization in the first

place and a predefined timeout period elapsed — the ticket is closed

automatically.


Focusing on BOSSDesk™ for a moment, you also have the option to create one or

more tasks to divide up a ticket into several sub-elements, each of which can be

automatically assigned to different technicians, and each firing off only when the

the previous task is completed.


However, you use them, intelligent automation of system actions based on

ticket details can be a major way to alleviate support staff pressure while

improving efficiency and delivering standardized results every time.




A Living Knowledgebase

If there’s anything with the potential to save you countless wasted hours

reinventing processes or troubleshooting known problems it’s a proper

knowledgebase. As a technical writer and someone who forgets things

easily, I’ve found good documentation worth its weight in gold.


But simply documentation isn’t enough. It must be maintained, or else it falls out

of relevance. There’s nothing like searching a knowledgebase for a specific install

the procedure only to find it was written for a product six versions out of date and

left to gather cobwebs instead of being updated in parallel with the application

itself.


Building a knowledgebase is a great way to invest in your department’s

efficiency down the road, but every article that isn’t kept up to date depreciates

daily. I encourage you to keep your knowledgebase always current, making it a living resource that will never lose its value.


Training & Feedback

Training and feedback: two topics that are surprisingly easy to overlook

when rolling out and administering a service desk. Why is this?


For one thing, we as the service desk administrators are in the system more, in

deeper, gaining familiarity and adjusting to quirks until we’re operating on

autopilot. Our users’ time in the system will only be a fraction of our own,

resulting in a slower learning process and an overall looser grasp on the

fundamentals.


We also understand why the system works the way it does. We design the

forms and the processes, with many elements birthed from our own way of

thinking. But what feels natural to us may strike our users as completely foreign.

Finally, we have visibility into the system's back end in ways our users do

not. So at times, they may feel as if they’re operating with blinders on, not seeing

the whole picture. And they’re right.


All these points to training as a vital cornerstone of efficient system usage. But

just as important is the gathering of regular feedback from users, be it through

ticket surveys or old-fashioned emails. Keeping your finger on the pulse of what

works and what doesn’t in your environment is key to building and maintaining a

a service desk that works for everyone.


Service Evolution

Rounding out this list is an item that rides on the coattails of the previous

entry: a willingness to grow and adapt your solution according to the evolving

needs of your business.


One of the greatest downfalls of turnkey service desks is their lack of

flexibility. They’re designed to work one way and one way only, with little wiggle

room when it comes to customization. However, even highly flexible service desks

can suffer stagnation if those managing it adopt an unyielding approach to its

implementation.


Never let changes within your department, company, and user community — or

feature changes within your service desk — go unaddressed. If a department’s processes change, factor that into your automated processes. If surveys indicate that users struggle with any aspect of your support site, take corrective action.


And if something you designed — no matter how hard you worked on it — becomes an impediment to your ability to deliver customer support, get rid of it. There are many more items we could add to this list. Perhaps you’re thinking of some right now. But I hope these five help point you in the right direction, and allow you to enhance the efficiency of your support operation.



Bob Gruett

Network Administrator





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