Best practices for effective service desk operations during Covid-19 Pandemic
Corona virus has impacted the world drastically. Most of the workforce including the support staff globally is forced to go remote. Employees have changed their working habits quickly with little time for preparation. In the rush to self-isolate as the pandemic spread, some employees are using their own laptops. IT service desk staff is also working from home, leaving the traditional phone-based support channels unmanned in some cases.
Our service desk has been supporting US customers 24×7. The surge of tickets and remote work compelled us to take a few important steps to manage the situation. We have been successfully managing our service desk operations without affecting customer experience or SLAs. Based on our experience and Gartner recommendations we have come up with a few best practices to follow during this pandemic to manage service desk operations efficiently.
The best practices are divided into 4 major areas such as:
Support staff preparedness, ITSM Systems, Service Desk operation tools and self-service & automation.
Support Staff Preparedness
Service desk personnel are the most important assets of any service desk operation. You need to make sure they are safe and working effectively from their homes.
Here are a few immediate steps, you can take in this pandemic situation:
Ensure, the remote support staff is equipped with laptops, alternate ways to connect to the internet if the primary connection at home is down.
Shift more resources on customer time-zone due to surge in ticket volumes.
Ensure support staff has adequate calling means to support international customers.
Setup new SLA’s with your customers (internal or external) due to pandemic situation and remote working of the support staff.
Finally, frequent encouragement and appreciation of support staff’s hard work is important.
Newly developed skills and experiences acquired during the COVID-19 lockdown will certainly help transform your IT service desk from an old, human centric model to a new intelligent service desk model.
These days, most ITSM tools are SaaS-based and can be accessed from any internet connection or through a properly secured VPN.
Modern ITSM tools run on HTML5 web browsers, and many have adaptable UIs that scale for handheld or tablet devices.
Organizations running on premise ITSM systems need to provide the client software and open up remote access.
In the long run, it is advisable to switch to SaaS based tools with careful consideration of transition costs, foundation and transactional data migration, user training and workflow configuration.
Service Desk Operation Tools
Using the right tools for remote operations is an important parameter in running service desk operations effectively. Here are few recommendations regarding these tools:
Leverage the existing collaboration tools especially those that business consumers are using frequently.
Use collaboration tools with proper security options (e.g. Google-Meet, Microsoft Teams, Skype, etc.) to communicate with the customers as well as with internal teams.
Ensure your collaboration tools can handle the sudden load of remote sessions.
Ensure all end-point (desktops) management and diagnostic tools work properly in remote mode. These tools help support staff to run remote control session, install software, apply patches, updates and change configuration settings.
Since some of the employees may use their home computers, ensure their computers have been properly patched and have anti-virus software installed to avoid any security breaches.
Self-Service and Automation
Self-service and automation play a critical role in the overall service desk operation. Manual, live chat-based support could be provided till virtual chat-bots are made available.
Level 1 phone-based contact channels could be substituted by providing alternative contact methods such as live chat or email for lower-priority issues. These are easier to access remotely than telephone queues and can keep phone lines available for urgent issues. This can also reduce phone call costs for the remote employee when VoIP or Skype is not available.
Some ITSM tools do offer integrated live chat capabilities. However, the tool needs to be configured to work with UI available to your end-customers. In the long term, explore and implement NLU based chatbots for better end-user experience.
Quickly enable self-service options (e.g. Knowledge base, FAQs, etc.) for end-users to avoid waiting in long phone queues.
Pressure on the IT service desk can be relieved through the use of Level 0 support using “Self-Service” option. Using shift-left principle, calls for L1 could be deflected to L0.
Invest in RPA platform to handle repetitive tasks to reduce the burden on the support staff.
These days, RPA platforms are mature enough to handle repetitive tasks such as: password resets, share folder access, distribution list additions etc.
Many such platforms like AutomationEdge are AI-based which can also auto-classify service desk tickets to appropriate support groups which saves time of service desk staff to manually categorize tickets.
The auto fulfillment capabilities of the automation platform help in reducing manual errors as well as TAT significantly.
As you can see some of the best practices could be implemented quickly while few (e.g Chatbots, RPA automation, SaaS based ITSM systems) are for longer term and need more planning.
We have been managing Service Desks like BMC Remedy, Remedyforce, ServiceNow, Cherwell and Manage Engine for over 15 years and have helped customers to run their service desks successfully. We have also helped customers in end-to-end process of selecting the right IT service management tools, its implementation, customization and support. Our automation team has helped customers with Chatbots as well as RPA platform integration and implementation.
We have been managing our service desk successfully in this pandemic due to our innovative operating model (www.servicerize.com)of creative combination of bots (virtual agents) and human staff. The model helps you to expand easily if there is a surge in ticket volume which is the case in the present situation. Besides easy expansion, you have benefits such as reduced TAT, enhancing customer experience, reduced cost of operations etc.
Prashant heads global delivery of Vyom Labs consisting of various practice units such as BMC and ServiceRize. Prashant has illustrious career over thirty years in information technology and has served at senior executive levels with global companies such as: IBM, BMC, Veritas and Citibank. Prashant has built, scaled and managed various IT, professional services & product development/support organizations. His technical expertise is in IT infrastructure management, automation and managed services. He is passionate about business transformation using cognitive technologies such as AI and machine learning.