Process is important to any service management organization, but in an environment where staff turnover is high, with new and inexperienced staff joining the service desk regularly, it is critical that the process is clear and well documented, easy to find and easy to follow.
With a historical reliance on manning the service desk with students, higher education environments have one of the highest service desk staff turnovers, and possibly the lowest level of experience for new starters of any organization.
The key to mitigating the risk that this environment poses is quite simple. Clear and well-documented processes will make it easy for new starters to step up and play their role effectively on the service desk. Couple this with a strong focus on knowledge management and your service desk will be able to continue to provide a high level of customer satisfaction regardless of the experience of the people taking that critical first line role.
With part-time service desk operators, many of whom will have no previous IT experience, fronting the IT organization, the higher education sector is unique. I do not know of any other type of organization that will routinely rely on this type of workforce, but it seems to work. The only way that can happen is by having clear and repeatable processes.
Having good process and coupling that with a well planned and executed orientation program for new starters on the service desk is the secret to success for the higher education service desk. The rest of the ITSM industry could learn a lot from their example.
This introduction to the world of service management quite clearly works and works well. Over recent months, as I have spent time in the higher education sector, I have met many ITSM professionals who started their career journeys as part-time students on the service desk. People with degrees in horticulture, ecology, psychology, history, criminology and more, stayed in ITSM after finishing their degrees and have build satisfying and successful careers, far removed from their original aims when starting university studies.
When you have new starters coming on board frequently, you cannot afford to have a lengthy period of learning before new staff starts to deliver value to the service desk. But in reality, every organization should aim to have the same rapid time to value for their new service desk team members. Let’s look at how higher education achieves this, and take a leaf or two out of their book:
- Keep it simple – complex processes take lengthy periods of time to learn and execute reliably. Having simple and easy-to-learn processes means that time is not wasted on checking process, leaving more time available for call logging and resolving.
- Invest in a comprehensive orientation program that clearly explains process, expectations and policies and leaves your new team members with all the information they need to do their jobs effectively.
- Buddy new team members up with more experienced service desk staff – having someone to ask when you are unsure makes life a lot easier.
- Gamify some service desk aspects…where it makes sense. Our Gen Y workers understand gaming and competition. Challenges and rewards are very motivating.
- Put strong emphasis on knowledge capture and sharing. Make certain that clearly documented fixes are easily available and presented appropriately to service desk staff.
- Automate wherever possible. The more process automation you introduce, the less room there is for error or for process not to be followed.
We can learn a lot from the success of the service desk in the challenging environment of higher education, so take some time and examine their practices and see what you can transfer to your environment.