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Research: Top Technology Service Desk Challenges, Opportunities

Help Desk

As a former member of the service desk workforce, I am always extremely interested in the latest ticket handling solutions, and trends affecting service desks. I've seen technician challenges firsthand, and it is fascinating for me to explore how to make service desks better.

So, I was excited to dig into a report released by Freshservice, a cloud-based IT service desk and IT service management platform, called the State of the Service Desk.  The report is generated from data, insight, and interviews from over 12,000 service desks around the world that currently use Freshservice.

High ticket volume causes burnout

One of the main challenges today's service desks face is a high volume of tickets being handled by a short-staffed service desk. According to the report the average service desk employs 15 agents for every 1,500 employees they serve. These technicians operate at a ratio of 120 tickets per tech. The report also claims that the average ticket takes 10 hours to resolve.

The ticket volume technicians are required to handle is leading to quick burnout. The average tenure for a support agent is 11 months, according to the report. This high turnover leads to higher operating costs as they need to continue to train new staff. Keeping current technicians happy can definitely help companies save money.

How are service desks keeping up?

The SOSD (State of the Service Desk) report says the service desk role is now:

  • Predictable - Technicians need to monitor the network to proactively look for degradation of service to prevent issues from arising
  • Scaleable - Through cloud tools technicians can collaborate with more users to process through more tickets quickly. One technician can serve more users through cloud services and tools.
  • Routine - Self-service and automation can assist agents by processing easier tickets before they even reach the service desk.

Service Desks aren't as proactive as they would like

If technicians are given the time and ability to proactively monitor the network, they will be able to create tickets based on degradation of service instead of failures to prevent service interruptions. This can lead to a reduction in the volume of tickets flowing into the helpdesk, and yet many companies still aren't taking time to make proactivity a priority.

In another joint research project with SDI, Freshservice found that 69 percent of service desk professionals spent most of their time fire-fighting due to heavy workload and inefficient problem management processes. When you are constantly putting out fires, it is difficult to find the time to proactively prevent issues from happening in the first place, putting you in an endless loop you can't seem to escape.

Flipping the switch and dedicating some time to preventive measures can help ticket volume in the long run, but the short term service desk may suffer during the change in priority. However, it is worth it to the bottom line of the company.

Ryan Ogilvie, of Inter Pipeline states in the report, "In reality, incident management generates the least value as this is something we do in a reactive way to manage shortcomings on the way we deliver services to our business."

Proactive processes that can help tip the scales

As business owners evaluate their current service delivery methods, the report had some ideas on processes that could help improve the service desks ability to be proactive.

Service desks should be able to:

  • Identify incident patterns through their root cause
  • Analyze incidents based on the types and the affected business unit
  • Ensure routine documentation and follow-ups
  • Map recurring incidents as problems and formulate efficient resolutions
  • Minimize turnaround time and negative business impact

How the cloud is helping scale the service desk

Collaboration tools like Dropbox, remote access, Slack, Hangouts, and other chat based programs that include video calling are all making it easier for service desks to get the access and information they need to service tickets quickly. However, as many service desks start providing new ways to access help, like through Slack, most users are still preferring to submit tickets through email.

Automation improves service desk efficiency

One way to improve employee satisfaction is to bring the ticket ratio down or help the agents process the tickets quickly to reduce their stress. Many service desks are turning to automation and self-service solutions to help accomplish this. The report states that using automation is boosting the efficiency of the service desks by 25 percent.

Through chatbots and knowledgebase articles, users are able to find the answer to their simple problems quickly, and resolve it on their own. Some chatbots can be so good the user might not even know they are speaking with an AI bot as they unknowingly resolve their issue themselves.

How is IT evolving and impacting the company?

The report also analyzed new IT practices, and specifically named Lean IT framework, to help reduce unnecessary or redundant practices and activities, and Agile, to allow IT departments to release incremental changes quickly over more slowly releasing bulky updates. These practices are making their way into many different departments within a company, including IT. The end result is a more cohesive company with integrated processes to keep everyone working closely together.

To directly quote the report, "The IT landscape today is more business outcome-driven than ever. This evolution, triggered by a fundamental need to deliver a consistent level of service, is driving IT departments to focus and integrate itself deeply in all areas of the business - engineering, product development, developer operations, marketing automation, human resources, financial operations, customer support, etc."