In this edition of Good to Great, I will discuss several tips that will help any service desk go from one of those places where users love to hate, to a fully functioning department that any organisation will value. You may not work at a service desk, but this info is still useful if you are part of the IT services team.
A lot of the information below has been put together through experience and research over the years, as well as from the IT manager’s best friend, the IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL). For those who might not be familiar with the ITIL, it is a framework of best practices for service delivery.
ITIL: the IT service delivery bible
I have had experience with and qualifications in both V2 and V3 editions of ITIL, and in my opinion, while V3 focuses on continual service improvement which is a very functional model, I think the V2 framework was easier for an IT manager to implement at the foundation level, as each area was compartmentalised. For example, you could deploy systems in silos, such as incident management and problem management, while working on SLAs, etc. The new system looks at each system depending on the next in a cyclical model. For those of you who are on the front line of IT service delivery, I would recommend the foundations certificate. It gives you such a good understanding of how to do things in an efficient manner.
Throw open the doors
Another great way to 'win friends and influence people' is to endear yourself with those people you interface with on a daily basis. It may be a shock to you that people who ring the service desk for assistance are scared and/or apprehensive to do so. The reason for this can range from the fact that they are technophobes to those who don’t want to admit that they don’t know 'something'. Others will ring up all hot-headed looking for a fight. One way to combat this is to throw open the doors in an inviting way. Put in a Coke fridge or coffee machine, hold morning teas, or put a cake on and hold informal lunch-and-learn events on new and emerging technologies. Any way to show the users that you are approachable and not the grumpy propeller heads of the service desk of yesteryear.
You are NOT the fount of all knowledge
How good is it when you hear the phrase: "I don't know? But hold on, I will try to find out for you..." Whether it is when you are out buying a new TV and the sales person isn’t quite sure about a specific feature or you are asking a waitress about the daily special. If you have been on the receiving end of such a response I bet you never thought to yourself, "Gee this bloke knows nothing!" Rather you would have been filled with warm and fuzzies about how much they care about you and are willing to go the extra mile for you. You CAN'T know everything! It is impossible in an industry that changes by the minute. Use the phrase as much as you can. You will be amazed with the results.
OK, so you have been assigned to the service desk phone for the day (or this is your job altogether). Indulge me for a second and think of a time when you had a pleasant and positive phone conversation experience. Was it with a friend of loved one? The reason for this was because you genuinely liked the other person and felt comfortable speaking with them. I don’t profess to be an expert on this. People make a living on helping people/companies improve phone manner. Here's a couple of tips when talking with someone on the service desk phone.
- Speak with a smile: You don’t need to cheese it up too much, but if you speak with a smile on the face the rest of the body follows. Your voice changes and you sound like you genuinely care.
- Be patient: A wise man once said, "Try to understand before trying to be understood". If you can listen to them carefully and try not to listen with intent to answer, you will be on the way to a happy conversation. After all, you are there to help them, so give them the opportunity to explain things in their terms before correcting them, which may be little them which will be counterproductive to a meaningful conversation.
- The last tip is to close with a specific question. This is another one of those tips people make a living off. Have you ever spoken to your bank on the phone and just before the end of the conversation, even when you know the thing you rang about has been resolved, they ask: “Is there anything else I can help you with”? 99 times out of 100 you will respond: “No thanks. Have a great day.” Immediately it puts you in the frame of mind that this person genuinely cares about my needs. Try it some time. You will find that you will almost never have someone respond with anything else, and I will buy you a can of drink if they weren’t going to ring you up about it eventually anyway. It doesn’t generate any more work for you, but will leave the other party with that warm and fuzzy feeling we have been talking about.
Take a note
So you are walking the halls from one site call to another, or you are coming back from lunch and some random asks you aside to ask a question or to show you an issue they are having. Yes, at this point in time it “sucks to be you”, but here is a surefire way to get them off your back and leave them happy in the notion that you really do care. Carry around a notepad with you and respond with something along these lines: “I am sorry, but I actually can’t stop and assist you right this moment, but if you let me know the issue, I will get someone to get back to you as soon as possible”.
Even if you don’t have a notepad on you it is important to jot down a note. Making a mental note won’t be as effective. Grab a bit of paper and a pen and make a token effort. This method will work almost all the time, except where this person is the CEO, the payroll officer or your direct line manager. It’s probably a good look to keep these people happy by giving them immediate service. Most service desks have a ‘VIP’ list with these people on it that will take priority over other users.
Go from good to great
As mentioned above, there are people who make a living teaching people the above tactics and will impart much better knowledge than I can in a short blog post, but I hope some of the tips above will help you go from good to great.
Please let me know if you have success with any of the above tips.
Edited by Elly Hart, 12.39am, August 14, 2010.
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