Service Management Blog

How to Improve Service Desk Performance

4 minute read
Joseph Mathenge

As IT has evolved, the service desk has remained the primary point of contact for users (and potential users) is the service desk. Despite advances in chatbots and digital assistants, the service desk continues to be essential, pivoting from dealing with technical problems to focusing on people and business issues.

Because the service desk is integral to the success of an organization’s business strategy, its performance is an indicator of the overall health of business technology service provision. It is said that a good service desk can actually mask poor IT services.

Let’s look at how to improve service desk performance relative to the four pillars of ITIL®:

  • Organization and people
  • Information and technology
  • Partners and suppliers
  • Value streams and processes

Organization and People

The service desk primarily deals with people. Therefore, it’s imperative that any service desk improvement starts with the heart of the workplace—the company culture. The most successful service cultures make the customers feel and believe that your company is committed to addressing customer needs. To do this, you must consider the actions and behaviors of people in the service desk environment, which support the overall functionality of the service desk.

If your service desk environment doesn’t support a success service desk, you’ll have to make changes. Models like Lewin’s change model or John Kotter’s 8-Step Process can help the organization address poor service culture by training staff not only on technical skills but also on empathy, emotional intelligence, team culture, and servant leadership.

Another opportunity for service desk improvement: the organizational structure of the service desk specifically and IT more generally. While the traditional hierarchical structure has been the framework mainstay for escalating requests and incidents, you can improve and modernize your service desk by introducing more agile structures like product-based, matrix, or flat. These can allow greater flexibility, more collaboration, and quicker focus on the customer’s priority.

To measure the success of these personnel and organizational improvement initiatives, look at:

  • Customer satisfaction
  • Employee engagement

Information and Technology

Data is the lifeblood of any organization—perhaps the same can be said of the service desk. The service desk is the main beneficiary of ITSM technology solutions, like ticketing and workflow systems. Improving the service desk can results in better efficiencies, clear service priorities, reduced impact of service downtime/degradation, and increased strategy alignment. When these business needs are met, the ultimate outcome is customer satisfaction.

To make improvements along these lines, consider the right solutions or new modules which can better facilitate the following activities:

  • Routing and escalating requests and incidents to relevant teams speedily
  • Workforce planning and resource management of service desk personnel
  • Knowledge management including regular and faster updates on service offerings and troubleshooting guides
  • Monitoring and reporting including dashboards and data analytics
  • Asset and configuration management including mobile device management solutions
  • Deploying self-service, robotic process automation, and AI solutions to handle low-level repeatable (algorithmic) tasks

To measure service desk improvement related to information and technology, look at:

Partners and Suppliers

No man is an island, and the service desk isn’t either. Even if your service desk is fully stacked and capable with the right people and technology, a service desk won’t be successful without good collaboration.

Service desks necessarily collaborate with players within and beyond the IT department: business partners, external suppliers, customers, and other entities that support the service lifecycle. Increasingly, the service desk is expected to partner closely and seamlessly with other organizational units to provide the impression to users that they are dealing with one cohesive body—not a dysfunctional conglomerate of uncoordinated parts.

If others don’t play well with your service desk, consider initiatives that brings together your service desk agents and other personnel:

  • Team building exercises
  • Collaboration initiatives
  • Embedding service desk agents to other units or vice versa
  • Frequent review of targeted actions for service desk and other stakeholders

To measure successful partner and supplier relationships, look for:

  • Improved MTTR
  • Smoother collaboration
  • Increased employee satisfaction/engagement scores

Value Streams and Processes

The customer journey includes all interactions with the service desk, from a user’s initial reporting of an issue to the handing-off to a specialist. It includes various touchpoints and perhaps more than one moment of truth. Understanding this customer journey provides a wealth of opportunities for improvement initiatives.

Navigate the customer journey yourself by conducting a mapping exercise. Using a template like the one below, service desk staff can easily visualize CX/UX pain points, choke-points, and dropped balls that negatively effect value streams and processes. Armed with this information, your service desk can develop the necessary corrective and preventative actions that will improve efficiency and effectiveness—and ultimately customer perception.

Customer Actions Step 1 Step 2 Step 3
Interface/interaction points/systems
Service desk agent actions
Support staff/partner actions
Customer perceptions/pain points
Service desk behaviors
Improvement actions (Corrective/ preventive)
Figure 1: Sample template for customer journey mapping

Another opportunity for improvement of value streams and processes can come from benchmarking with international best practices and standards. The service desk, together with the rest of your organization, can reference frameworks that identify processes and key improvement areas. Well-known frameworks include:

To measure success in value and processes, look for increased achievement of business and customer needs. Remember that benchmarking and organizational activities are not themselves goals—they are there to support the larger goals.

Success is holistic improvement

A holistic approach to improvement is the only way for the service desk to comprehensively enhance its role in the service value system. Neglecting or focusing too heavily on a single pillar creates an imbalance, ultimately resulting in shortcomings in full-value realization and achieving business and customer outcomes.

A Plan-Do-Check-Act approach with an emphasis on innovation and continuous improvement will go a long way in making the service desk a positive contributor towards customers’ perception of your company.


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These postings are my own and do not necessarily represent BMC's position, strategies, or opinion.

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About the author

Joseph Mathenge

Joseph is a global best practice trainer and consultant with over 14 years corporate experience. His passion is partnering with organizations around the world through training, development, adaptation, streamlining and benchmarking their strategic and operational policies and processes in line with best practice frameworks and international standards. His specialties are IT Service Management, Business Process Reengineering, Cyber Resilience and Project Management.