The Service Desk


In a modern service delivery model, a customer or user's first point of contact with an IT Organization is the service desk. The service desk both resolves problems, and fulfills service requests. The extent to which they do each is based on the organization's focus on servicing customers at their first point of contact and call.

The Routing and Escalation Centric Model

In such a model, experienced staff is promoted out of the service desk to a dispatchable group. This dispatchable group performs problem resolution, but does so by traveling to the user's location.

The service desk performs only the lowest level of support and mainly functions as a call routing center, escalating the majority of problems to dispatch or project staff.

The Service Desk Centric Model

In a Service Desk Centric model, the organization is heavily invested in solving problems at the service desk. It is populated by knowledgeable staff who have the tools and experience to solve user issues and deliver services on the customer's first call.

When a technician is required to install or fetch equipment, a junior staff member is dispatched who needs little training or expertise beyond simple physical repairs or execution of warranty returns.

The Problem with Routing and Escalation

While the service desk has two primary roles; resolving issues and fulfilling service requests,  in a Routing and Escalation model they do little of either and perform only the lowest level of support, functioning mainly as a call routing center. This is the most expensive way to deliver service.

Issue Escalation Centricity 

Because the service desk is escalation centric, they do not attempt to solve difficult issues. Instead, problems are escalated to the field dispatchable group, which conducts field visits to resolve problems. This incurs a large overhead in terms of travel time to user locations, and in the customer experience as they wait for call backs and delays in communication. 

The inability to solve difficult issues becomes self-reinforcing as experienced staff is promoted out of the service desk to a dispatchable group, and the customer's first contact is with the people least able to help or deliver service.

Routing Focus And Lack of Delegation

Because the service desk is routing based, and does not have access to the tools to deliver access to services, they route requests to the people that can. Frequently these are project people who's ability to contribute to new services are diminished by the constant need to fulfill service requests and directly resolve customer issues.

The customer must wait on someone to call them back, and discover even if they have been routed properly. Arranging call-backs is difficult when staff members may spend the majority of their time at conferences or research, outside their office. This leads to missed calls and customer dissatisfaction.

A Better Approach is a Service Desk Centric Model

In this approach, the organization is heavily invested in solving problems and delivering services at the service desk. It is populated by knowledgeable staff who have the tools and experience to solve user issues with the customer's first call.

Issue Resolution At The Service Desk

Rather than escalate problems to other groups, we focus on creating staff that are specialized at problem resolution. Because they are solely focused and specialized at resolving customer issues, they can resolve issues faster than other units who are not.

Because customers call the service desk, rather than directly calling the programmer or product specialist, the service desk sees all the issues of the organization. This allows them to correlate and extrapolate, identifying root causes faster than multiple independent groups all trying to identify a problem from small parts of the puzzle. 

We will accomplish this by staffing the service desk with our most knowledgeable and experienced staff, investing in them with training and equipping them them with the most advanced tools, we can expect to resolve issues at the service desk.

When a technician is required to install or fetch equipment, a junior staff member is dispatched who needs little training or expertise beyond simple physical repairs or execution of warranty returns. This means your most experienced staff stay at the service desk resolving issues, rather than spending time in transit.

Importantly, issue resolution depends heavily on the service desk having the delegated authority and ability to grant access to resources, as detailed below.

Delegated Access To Deliver Services Without Routing

The other key area of the service desk is service fulfillment. This is the delivery of IT services to customers. An example is a member of IT granting network printer access to a staff member that has recently changed location.

In this new model, a customer calls the service desk and is immediately granted access to this network printer, and the ability to print is verified. This is both immediate and timely, delivering the service to the customer when they need it

Importantly, this actually reduces the amount of time IT spends delivering the service as well. Rather than have two IT members involved in first taking the call, documenting and routing it, then reading it and arranging call back, only one IT staff member is involved and they spend less time routing and arranging call back. This saves time for both the customer and IT.

To accomplish this, the organization will adopt the split-administrative model. This is were the responsibilities for a delivering a service are divided between a Service owner, who administrates the service itself, and a Data owner, who operates the service and is responsible for maintaining the information stored in it, and delivering the service to the end user. This is also known as the split-IT or the delegated model.

In the print server example, the print server project team specifies the print service infrastructure, the system team deploys it and makes it available to the service desk, who operate and administrate it, adding printers and granting access to it as needed. 

General operation and administration of the service, such as the clearing of print queues, the addition of new printers and drivers and clearing of error conditions, is performed at the service desk. The infrastructure under the service, such as the replacement of hardware or the application of operating system updates, is performed by the system administration group. The project team goes onto the next project.

Issues with delivering the service are handled at the service desk, who know both the service, and specialize in resolving issues. If they do escalate a problem to the system administration team, it is almost always with the root cause identified as an environmental issue. If is an engineering issue, the project team is reassembled to issue a patch or redesign the system. In all cases though, the service desk drives the identification and resolution of the issue.

Technologies that enable delegated administration, such as Active Directory and LDAP groups for Access Control, must be deployed whenever possible. When a choice exists to use an internal verss an external solution for authentication and access control, the external choice must be made. The benefits of centralizing such control pays large dividends when management of that control is centralized as well.

Adopting of the Service Desk Centric Model

The Organization must change it's service desk model to focus on resolving issues and delivering services if it desires to improve customer service and decrease overall costs.

This means the organization must invest both in the service desk, and throughout  the overall organization. The service desk must have training and the staff required to perform the operations needed. As well, the overall organization must design it's solutions with delegation, rather than with the expectation of administrating the service after they design it.

The result will be project staff that can focus on projects, system staff that can focus on systems, and service staff that can focus on service. This translates into better performance and better service.