Motivation and evolution of Service-Desk agents (Part 2)

By Laurent Duenas, February 4th 2014 


Previously it has been discussed reasons why Service-Desk agents has poor consideration for their own position and job. This article explores what could be done to tackle this issue by improving the vision of their role and their responsibilities.


Actions to be conducted


The company has the duty and the challenge to tackle the “serving-hatch” feeling and to wake up 1st level actors-interest for their role. It is imperative to stop this trend; it is not a fatality. To do so, several actions can be done at different levels. It is about changing part of the organization culture which basically does not consider this function at its right value. It is important to build a consistent vision between: how 1st level actors value their contribution to IT Services; how they are seen by their partners they work with; and the way management cares about them. Performance required, empowerment given, and rewards must all be in coherence accordingly to the credit and importance conceded to this function.


Raise awareness on the full picture of Service-Desk role

Set the right vision

We often see Service-Desk job as mostly a logistic skill for massive call management. We often limit the Service-Desk agents’ capabilities to relationship skills aiming at welcoming customer’s calls in a friendly and smiling manner. We also limit their technical skills to a sufficient knowledge about end-user workplace environment in order to guide end-users or to recover from basic issues. We frequently associate Service-Desk job to the notion of “vitrine” (shop window) of the IT department image. These facts all together - even if they are individually not false and a result of intentional choices - develop a feeling of contributing at a cosmetic level if there is no "true" value provided to the company. 


The actual objective is really deeper than what exposed above. Service-Desk is an industrial tool - as a steering wheel within an IT supply chain - providing services aiming at creating value to end-user’s business. It is not only a vector of effectiveness and efficiency, but it is an opportunity to provide innovative services, highly valuated by customers. Some companies could use it as customer loyalty tool. The stakes are vital.


As privileged interface with the global “Service supply chain” - what the IT department is - Service-desk is at the heart of the relationship with end-users. It has a central role for new service adoption and first steps support, then for all assistance in using IT Services.  For some companies delivering SaaS-based Services, which never meet their customers, this human interface is more than vital. It could be a distinctive advantage from competitors by providing warmer and comprehensive relationships. Representing the “voice of the customer”, struggling to keep business criticality and end-user priorities into Service Management processes, Service-Desk builds a strong confidence from its customers whom see it as "fighting on the same side". All these valuable inputs – straightly contributing to alignment of IT Services to business objective - cannot be provided from strict technical competences, even if they are the best ones. 


Share this vision

All actors of level 2 an 3 support groups must be sensitive to the actual missions of Service-Desk. If level of expertise is important to get credibility and confidence, and make customers sign, a responsive Customer Service (as the Service-Desk should be) is much important to create loyalty. Each level of the Support organization has to understand that everyone missions could be different in nature, but still be equally important, and no hierarchy do exist between them. They are just different.


Reminder of the main missions of the 3-levels-support organization (as they are generally encountered in IT departments):


►   Fist level (which includes Service-Desk, Monitoring functions, and IT operations) are focused on day-to-day delivery and have as only mission to execute operations and services, accordingly to service level agreements (SLAs). They are driven by end-users satisfaction and compliance with engagements.  They are generalist with a global (but not deep) knowledge over all technologies used within the IT infrastructure and applications areas.


►   Second level, are specialists, distributed by technology (or for some by business knowledge domain). Their activities are splitted between support and Change Management ones. They generally intervene in system, application or data administration, technical resource allocation. They are not the designers of IT Services and systems, They just ensure the right sizing of capacities, keep performance levels as required, but do not decide for technology nor functionality changes. Incidents managed by level 2 are generally those linked to administration defects either on infrastructure and application - each in its own domain of specialization - or due to resource shortage, or even to recover consequences from end-user mistakes. They intervene in all failure in the automation and all industrialization tools required in a live environment.  


►   Third level, are teams in charge of IT Service designing. They are architects, designers, and developers, work on infrastructure design or applications. Incidents they handle are mainly due to design failure or development defect (as bugs, loop, architecture under-sizing, etc.).These people are often called Experts due to their high specialization. Often people see a hierarchical level of expertise, but they are just working on a different purpose.


All opportunities to share this vision must be taken: at new employee intake, during seminar, kickoff, brainstorming or sharing workshop, in all brochure publication or role description, within the intranet or company’s blog. Management has a central role in this communication, putting in perspective activities of all within the whole IT Services supply-chain, designed to comply with business objectives. 


Esprit de corps

All stakeholders of the Support chain should admit Service-Desk as being their representative toward end-users (except cases where other customer relationship is designed for). When Service-Desk takes a commitment to end-users, it commits all the organization. When Service-Desk gives a bad image to end-users, it is all IT support organization image that is tarnished. Therefore, a solidarity within all support operations and a common desire of consistency should be established. This works if mutual respect and good communication exist between entities. With this “esprit de corps” inferiority feeling from Service-Desk agents might disappear. 


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