Top Three Issues For The Service Desk

help_desk2 Poor knowledge of customers; pressure to handle increased call volumes, faster, across multiple departments; and managing complexity of change are major headaches for service desk staff today.

The top three issues for today’s service desk have been revealed by Hornbill Systems, a leading provider of service management software with the ‘human touch’. Visitors to Hornbill’s stand at the recent Service Desk & IT Support Show in London were asked to disclose their major challenges in running a successful service desk.

The poll of more than 150 respondents, representing a broad range of organizations in both the commercial and public sector, found that the most significant obstacles to delivering excellent customer service and supporting the overall business or organization are:

  1. Having no or poor knowledge of customers
  2. Managing the complexity of change
  3. The pressure to handle increased call volumes, faster, across multiple departments in different time zones.

Highlights from the poll include:

  • One third of respondents cited reporting and management information as the crucial problem area. Specifically, poor knowledge of the customer’s history can limit the effectiveness of the interaction between service desk staff and users so diminishing the overall customer experience. In addition, lack of analysis of past incidents often leads to recurring problems with the service desk forced into a reactive rather than a proactive mode. Similarly, difficulty in extracting meaningful, actionable information from the service desk solution prevents staff from reporting on service desk activity against business metrics, and ultimately limits the strategic value that the service desk function can bring to an organization.
  • One quarter of respondents stated that change management is a challenge. In particular, the increasing number of Configuration Items (CIs) and the rate and complexity of change are exacerbated by having neither a change process nor a repository for storing and managing change data such as a Configuration Management Database (CMDB) in place.
  • One fifth of respondents claimed that basic incident logging and reporting remain a hurdle. Some service desk managers continue to work in a manual environment where they have no real visibility of incidents or the ability to track incidents across multiple departments. Even in automated environments with sophisticated technology, increased call volumes combined with the pressure to improve response times and first time fix rates with the same number of staff are critical stress factors for service desk managers.

A significant proportion of respondents mentioned the definition and management of Service Level Agreements (SLAs) and Operational Level Agreements (OLAs) as another challenge, particularly in global organizations where the support of diverse SLAs in different countries, languages and across multiple time zones is crucial to maintaining excellent levels of customer satisfaction.

The issue of globalization re-emerged especially in UK-based companies whose service desk staff work within a traditional 9-5 framework but where the business environment requires them to operate on a 24/7 basis often in small teams and in fire-fighting mode. Lack of resource is further complicated by the fact that many service desk managers claim it is difficult to find the right quality of staff to operate in today’s service desk environment.

Gerry Sweeney, CEO of Hornbill Systems commented: “Our visitors highlighted some interesting priorities: whilst processes and best practice frameworks such as ITIL, and technology designed to help users help themselves like self-service, come relatively low down on their list of issues, being able to capture and share customer information is more important. Getting closer to customers’ needs and wants is pivotal to creating an enhanced customer experience. This is what Hornbill calls the ‘human touch’ – putting customers at the core of everything we do and developing technology that can be used to drive excellence and prevent process stagnation.”

Hornbill has published a research paper, in conjunction with the Service Desk Institute (SDI), entitled “Computer Says No!” which demonstrates that process aligned with the ‘human touch’ is widely regarded as the best way to provide service excellence, and is driving the interaction between the service desk and users. To download a copy of Hornbill’s latest white paper, please go to