Responding to requests ‒ Sensible Service Management Part 3
Welcome to our third post in the IT Skeptic’s (a.k.a. Rob England) Sensible Service Management Series. In previous blog posts, Rob advised IT pros to focus on what is simple, practical, useful and worthwhile. Now in upcoming posts Rob will focus on the core processes that deliver on our goals of successful daily operations, growing the business, controlling costs, and keeping customers happy. We start today with what is the core of servicing customers: managing Requests.
Remember this picture from our last post?
We are looking now at the Respond part: when you are providing services to your customers, it is essential that you respond when their users contact you (Contacts) and when something happens in your environment that needs to be dealt with (Events).
In GoToAssist Service Desk, everything we respond to is called an Incident. Some incidents are requests from users, some incidents are internal events. We are looking today at requests.
When you are first starting out, dealing with requests can be simple. In smaller enterprises, you may never need to make it any more complex. Here is a good initial approach to managing requests. Implement these three capabilities one at a time:
Provide a single point of contact (one or more people acting as a service desk) with multiple channels to access it. Discourage users from contacting specific people. Steer them towards the service desk, and reward them for using it by giving them good enough service that they will use it again. Recognize support work only if recorded by the service desk: that will motivate staff to steer users there.
Make sure you keep a record of all requests as Incidents in Service Desk . Track all your responses and record what you did about them and close them off (tell the user!). You need to manage staff to make sure they do this consistently.
Record all interactions with your users – whether by phone, email, Twitter or accosted in the hallway – as comments against the related incident record in Service Desk. They may call several times about the same thing. It is important to people that you remember the last time they contacted you.
Once you have good records of the requests you are dealing with, start getting smart about how you handle them:
- Make sure someone owns every request (and only one person) and you can tell who that is.
- Match request to other request to see what works and to recognize patterns
- Build up recorded information on the services and systems. Give responding staff access to information and training, which is kept in the Service Desk knowledgebase.
- Use external information: use search engines, get training, get involved in communities and consult experts.
- Provide models or scripts for how to deal with common requests.
- Use Service Desk to pass requests to someone else. That someone might be a specialist in dealing with it or a boss because it is happening too slowly. The specialist might be in another organization, which usually means email as the way of passing it to them, which has a risk of requests getting lost, so have crosschecks and follow-up. Better still, persuade them to use your Service Desk system to manage and record what they are doing for you so everybody can see it in one place.
- Regularly monitor how long requests are taking and chase up the slow ones.
Try applying a little psychology to your interactions with users. These principles have proven to be effective. (They come from “Using Behavioral Science to Improve the Customer Experience,” J DeVine and K Gilson, McKinsey Quarterly 2010.) Train your staff in them:
- Get bad experiences over with early: talk about the difficult parts first.
- Break up pleasure and combine pain: bring all the unpleasant bits together. Sprinkle the good news throughout the discussion.
- Finish strongly: have a positive (scripted?) finish, emphasizing the benefits to the consumer.
- Give consumers choice: allow them to be in control as much as possible. Steer them but give them their rights.
- Let consumers stick to their habits. Don’t force change unless absolutely necessary. If the old way is good enough, leave it alone. When they must change, ease them across gradually.
All those request records stop you from dropping the ball. They help keep you organized and prioritized.
But the other big payoff is analyzing the data to look for trends. What areas generate the most questions (training may be required), which users complain the most, which services have been flakiest, which staff are extra efficient (learn from them) or not so efficient (help them improve): there is great value there to help you enhance your service.
There you go: three simple phases to setting up your request process on Service Desk:
- First get staff to record every request
- Then get organized at managing the response to the requests
- Finally start using the data to improve