IT Service Desks: The Importance of Offering Customers Choice

By Alan Conduct|10 September 2018

A key way to make your IT service desk more efficient and drive cost savings is to offer users – customers or employees – choice. When users have different options to access IT support downtime can be reduced, productivity increases and customer satisfaction levels also increase. 

For minor IT problems, users can access support using self-serve tools like online portals. These can provide them with the answers they need to easily solve problems (things they can fix themselves), as well as collating all the information required to raise a service ticket if necessary. Or they can use live chat, send an email, or pick up the phone and speak to a service desk analyst directly.

The option a customer or employee will choose may be down to personal preference (for example some people prefer email to using live chat) or their particular circumstances. If someone is working remotely they may find it easier to use an online portal than to make a phone call. All these factors drive the need to provide different ways to access IT support.

Can You Trust Service Desk Customers To Make The Right Choices?

But one of the problems with offering people choice is that they might not make the best choices either for themselves, or for your service desk team.

For example if an employee calls the service desk with a minor problem, one they could fix themselves, the analyst may have to log a ticket and prioritise it. Had the employee accessed self-serve tools they could resolve the issue and be back to work long before a service desk analyst picks up the ticket. By making the ‘wrong’ choice the employee experiences a longer period of downtime / loss of productivity, and the service desk team’s workload is added to.

Conversely, employees may be searching knowledge banks and using automated self-serve tools to find a solution to a problem they can’t fix for themselves. Ultimately they will have to make the ‘right’ choice and contact the service desk to raise a ticket, but a lot of time is wasted (with an impact on productivity) while they explore other options that are never going to provide a solution.

HappySignals - an employee engagement software tool for service desks - regularly reviews data from tens of thousands of users. In one survey from 2017, they reviewed five core channels for service desk customers and found the following:

  • 32% of respondents used the phone to log a problem. Lost work time: 2 hours, 22 minutes. Happiness score: +65
  • 31% used Lost work time: 3 hours, 43 minutes. Happiness score: +62
  • 15% used an online portal. Lost work time: 3 hours, 15 minutes. Happiness score: +57
  • 2% used live chat. Lost work time: 2 hours, 9 minutes. Happiness score: +68
  • 1% used a walk-in Lost work time: 1 hour, 31 minutes. Happiness score: +84

Other channels used to contact IT support include apps, texting and social media.

Interestingly, from this survey, we can see that while only a small percentage of employees prefer walk-in support, yet this resulted in the highest satisfaction rates and lowest levels of downtime.

Of course, if you’re managing a service desk the last thing you want is for everyone to walk in and ask for support face-to-face. This option is time-consuming for service desk analysts and can have a detrimental impact on other channels. While an employer is explaining their issue to the analyst, the ticket they were working on gets put on hold.

Online portals, which in this survey scored poorly for both downtime and satisfaction, have been much heralded as a way to improve service desks. In theory these channels should allow users to get the support they need in a timely way, but only if they use them for the ‘right’ kind of IT issues.

Offering choice without helping users make the right choices has negative effect on productivity, downtime, satisfaction levels and service desk workloads.

Next Gen Service Desks With AI? 

One technology that has to potential to deliver a much more intuitive customer experience is AI.

Modern AI technology, also known as intelligent self-serve bots can provide customers with more support than traditional self-service tools. AI bots can use natural language processing - similar to a voice interface when getting through to a call centre - to help a customer diagnose a problem and provide a solution. 

AI support can be delivered through Live Chat, social media, or online portal channels. Users can start inputting a problem, then the bot starts processing the issue, directing the customer either to the relevant solution (FAQ, article or video), or a ticket is opened and logged to ensure the service desk can provide timely support.

Within the context of service desk customer needs, AI can play a key supporting role. Customers want a wide range of choice, but it’s also clear that they need helping choosing the right options and ensuring that they don’t waste their time, or the service desk teams’, accessing support.

AI and self-serve tools are not the only way to improve IT service desks. As we can see from HappySignal’s survey 32% of respondents contacted their service desk using the phone. This volume of contact can be hard for an in-house service desk team to manage (as is email contact which was close behind at 31%), and can result in your service desk analysts spending large amounts of time processing tickets for very minor issues like password resets.

A cost effective solution to this problem is to outsource 1st line support to a service desk provider. They can also help you implement other improvements to your service desk, including the next gen solutions mentioned above. Key benefits of taking this approach are: 

  • 1st line resolution times are faster
  • More complex issues are escalated to the right technical team
  • Progress / live updates via a client portal increase satisfaction levels
  • In-house technical teams have more time to focus on more complex issues and strategic work
  • Access to next gen service desk technology
  • Reduced costs

For more insights into improving your service desk download our whitepaper – How to driving IT service desk efficiencies.

Further Information

How to drive IT Service Desk efficiencies

We explore how your business or organisation can streamline your IT support creating opportunities to make savings, reduce downtime and improve productivity, and focus your IT team’s resources on projects that will deliver positive ROI.


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