Best Practices & Trends / article

5 reasons why a service desk tool beats email

Your IT support team is a hardworking group of IT professionals. I can say this because it’s a universal truth of corporate IT - that there are so many issues and so little time. Your IT support team needs a way of finding more hours in the day, which is as likely as finding the time-travelling DeLorean to do this, or a way to reduce the effort required to resolve the endless stream of issues - especially repeat issues.

IT support teams need a way to “work smarter not harder.” They need fit-for-purpose help desk software to improve efficiency and outcomes while providing insight into performance.

You might think “Hey, we already have technology to help us, it’s called email” but while it helps, it doesn’t help enough. Want to know why? Take a look at my five reasons why using a service desk is better than email for IT support:

1. Provide a more modern customer experience to end-users

  • IT and business service availability will increase through the service desk resolving IT issues faster. Calls, and resolutions, will speed up thanks to automation and knowledge management for service desk agents. Immediate agent access to end user information such as role, assets, and IT support history will help here too.
  • Offer multiple access and communication channels to suit different needs and situations, from the telephone through to self-service and chat. Give end users the ability to self-check the status of an incident or a request rather than calling or emailing IT support (saving IT time too).
  • Use, and meet, service level agreements (SLAs) and agreed delivery targets. Manage expectations by making end users aware of the expected resolution or delivery time for any issue or service request. Escalate issues based on elapsed time and SLAs, change of circumstances, or end user dissatisfaction to help SLAs to be met and customer satisfaction to be maintained.
  • Prioritize workloads based on business need, using internal or best practice policies and in an automated manner, rather than working in an arbitrary method such as first-in-first-out (FIFO).

2. Make IT support staff recruitment and retention easier

  • The integrated knowledge management and automation capabilities make prior technical knowledge less important when recruiting. Plus, push-based knowledge article access speeds up ticket resolution and improves service desk agent performance.
  • Provide technology that’s easier to use, plus automation. Gamification can also be used to make work “fun.”
  • Offer self-service options to reduce the pressure on overworked IT support staff. End users can help themselves – either through knowledge-base articles or facilities such as self-service password reset.
  • Provide a more accurate view of individual and team performance with the ability to better understand who has done what in the past week, month, or year so management can recognize and reward people more appropriately.

3. Gain better insight into the IT support “demand and supply ecosystem”

  • Identify trends and repeat issues for problem management: you might find that some issues don’t relate to hardware or software faults but to a lack of end-user training.
  • Correlate issues to failed changes. By linking IT support with change management through a service desk, you will gain greater insight into whether the IT organization needs to pay more attention to getting changes right over trying to constantly fix the issues caused by poor change management.
  • Understand past and future demand for particular IT services and how this should affect contract renewals and future purchase prices.
  • Know the business costs of IT issues and failures – the estimated financial impact of IT outages plus the costs of providing IT support capabilities. Identify opportunities to improve operational performance and quality of service, and potentially to reduce costs.
  • Report metrics related to volumes and timings such as the number of tickets opened per month or the time between ticket creation, allocation, resolution, and closure.
  • Assess individual and team performance – from efficiency through to customer feedback on IT support contacts.

4. Save on time and costs through automated best practice processes

  • Use workflow, automation, and alerts to optimize operations. With automation not only replacing slower and costlier manual activities within IT support processes but also leveraging third-party orchestration solutions as needed.
  • Use templates that auto-populate certain fields to speed up your data capture. Existing tickets can be cloned to save time. Rules can be used to automatically route tickets through to the right people.
  • Global issues can be associated together such that one solution will solve them all – saving time and avoiding the duplication of effort in solving what is essentially the same issue.
  • Knowledge management capabilities mean that: service desk agents don’t need to be super-technical, previous fixes can be reused across teams to save time, and end users can help themselves via self-service.
  • Self-service capabilities will save both the service desk and end users time. Either through end user submission of issues and requests, or the use of self-help to avoid the need for IT involvement altogether. Self-service automation is another potential big win here in terms of saving time and money.

5. Make better decisions with better data

  • House all information in a single system with native reporting capabilities to get greater insights through analysis.
  • Give each ticket a unique identifier to facilitate the management of incidents from cradle to grave. No more “Please describe which of your five IT issues you're calling about so I can find it” conversations.
  • Make data fields mandatory to ensure that all relevant information is captured up front rather than requiring email ping-pong to get everything you need to resolve an issue or to deliver a request.
  • Provide a full audit trail showing who did what when.
About the author

Stephen Mann

Independent IT and IT service management consultant

Stephen Mann is an independent IT and IT service management (ITSM) content creator, and a frequent blogger, writer, and presenter on the challenges and opportunities for ITSM professionals. He has previously held positions in IT research and analysis (at IT industry analyst firms Ovum and Forrester), ITSM consultancy, enterprise IT service desk and IT product management, IT asset management, innovation and creativity facilitation, project management, finance consultancy, internal audit, and most recently SaaS ITSM tool product marketing.

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