Each year for about a decade, the volume of incidents and service requests coming to the service desk has increased in most organizations. HDI’s 2019 research1 says that 68% of organizations have seen an increase in volume, while only 10% have seen a decrease in the last year.
Service desks have done an amazing job of keeping up! Service and support organizations have learned to absorb more and more work, steadily adding channels and supported devices to serve end users and customers.
A buzz-phrase of 2019 has certainly been Digital Transformation, even though there isn’t much clarity about what that means. In most organizations, it means eliminating as many manual procedures as possible, integrating more digitally-based automation into every step of creating, producing, marketing, selling, and supporting their products and/or services. All of this means more technology to support.
Let’s look at four critical reasons why implementing modern service desk technologies is essential for the wellbeing and success of the service desk, followed by 4 steps that will help you get there.
In 2017, CIO Stephanie Stone wrote for Forbes, “Every company is a technology company, no matter what product or service it provides. The companies that embrace this fact are the ones that shape our world.” Two years later, that statement is even more true. From mobile banking to distance learning to marketing automation, companies and institutions run on technology.
Service desks and help desks were—even a short time ago—thought of as ways to keep internal computer users working and to fix the computers when they broke. Now, service desks are supporting a mobile workforce that depends on smartphones and tablets as well as laptops to access data, use custom or off-the-shelf applications, and help the organization grow and succeed. These days, when technology breaks down, critical business functions are often immediately affected. The service desk is often dealing with questions, issues, and requests from all over the enterprise, not just IT.
As if the current level of technology dependence weren’t enough, investment in such areas as Robotic Process Automation (RPA) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) is increasing. AI elements such as Natural Language Processing (NLP) and chatbots backed by Machine Learning (ML) are already becoming commonplace. These emerging technologies can be both an increased responsibility and a boon to service desks, as we’ll see.
Recent HDI research shows that 59% of organizations have either adopted or are planning to adopt the principles of service management outside IT. While this adoption can help boost productivity and employee satisfaction, it also often requires the service desk to take on additional areas of responsibility. In short, the service desk of yesterday will not suffice to fully support the new, digitally transformed organization.
The time to modernize is now, and here are four steps to get there.
Knowledge management is more important now than ever. You want to employ a chatbot? You need knowledge for it to draw upon. You want to make your service desk’s responses and solutions more consistent? You need a current, accessible knowledge base. Your organization is expanding its use of the practices, processes, and tools of service management in more lines of business? You need solid knowledge across the organization. You want to start using AI? You need data and knowledge for it to consume. Knowledge stored in people’s heads or locally on their computers is not going to feed your new technology or provide useful self-help.
The payoff for the work of knowledge management—and the investment in the right technologies to take advantage of it—comes in several forms:
Taken together, these factors reduce pressure to increase staff and save time, feeing analysts to do more proactive work.
Recent HDI research found that demand from users was the most common reason for organizations to provide self-help. People don’t want to wait in a queue to get an answer or solution; they want to keep working with as little interruption as possible.
Unfortunately, too many organizations provide this self-help in ways that are difficult for users to digest, such as long-form articles that do not take the users’ context into consideration. Users do not want to have to comb through articles for relevant information; they just want to find the answer to their specific question. If I have a question about setting up a Model XYZ VoIP phone, for example, I only want the information about that model not about VoIP phones in general, or about every model the manufacturer makes.
It should also go without saying that users need to know that self-help is available. In organizations that have built self-help portals, users may not know where to go to get the help, or may get bagged down with inadequate search capability or “clunky” tools.
Making self-help relevant, contextual, and readily available everywhere users go—not just in a portal—greatly increases the odds for success. In the 10% of organizations that saw ticket volume decrease last year, knowledge management and self-help were named as the two leading factors. Many organizations report that contact volume has fallen by 30% or more.
It is true that automation—following a series of repeatable steps without direct intervention—can save a lot of time and can also reduce human error. But it is also true that when errors are made in designing and building automated systems, things can go very wrong very fast. If you have any doubts about that, consider what happened that took Facebook down recently.
Automated processes only do what they are designed to do, and a small error in that process can lead to big trouble later. This is one of the reasons why machine learning, an application of artificial intelligence, which can improve as it works, is such an important technology now.
The most talked-about emerging technology is AI, and with good reason. It holds great promise for improving many aspects of the work we do, from the management of services to providing great customer experiences. This is why artificial intelligence in the service desk is important.
AI feeds on the knowledge and data of your organization. It can then “digest” that information and present it to the relevant parties—analysts or users—with extraordinary speed. Imagine, for example:
With these pieces in place, the ability to provide service management expertise and capabilities to the entire organization using common data pools, processes, and tool sets can become a reality, making true Enterprise Service Management an achievable goal for your organization. Start now by putting the foundation in place.
1 HDI, The State Of Ticket Management & Metrics In 2019, HDI Practices & Salary Series,
Sr. Writer/Analyst at HDI and ICMI, InformaTech. HDI's 2019 Lifetime Achievement Award honoree Roy Atkinson is one of the top influencers in the service and support industry. His blogs, presentations, research reports, white papers, keynotes, and webinars have gained him an international reputation. In his role as senior writer/analyst, he acts as HDI's in-house subject matter expert, bringing his years of experience to the community. He holds a master’s certificate in advanced management strategy from Tulane University’s Freeman School of Business, and he is a certified HDI Support Center Manager. He was inducted into the HDI Hall of Fame in 2018. Follow him on Twitter @RoyAtkinson