Dr. John Lund of The Communications Company has been quoted as saying “Don’t communicate to be understood; rather, communicate so as not to be misunderstood.” As with all organizations, good communication is crucial to success in IT service management and particularly when it comes to the Service Desk function. The recently released 2016 Digital Workplace Communications Survey carried out by the PRSA Internal Communications Section and the EMPLOYEE app revealed that nearly half (48 percent) of the respondents said that, to the extent employee engagement is important to their organizations, companies need to rethink digital workplace communications. With millennials gaining an increasing foothold in today’s corporate environment, IT’s engagement with the business must be re-engineered to address this new era.
Good communication is not just about being human or nice, although that helps particularly when it comes to a Service Desk communicating with irate users during a service outage. Good communication is about being professional, responsive, effective and efficient, ideally in an environment of and mutual respect, trust and transparency. Whether it is face to face, telephone, email, chat, web or social media, the mode of communication is critical in determining whether the message is passed across. Communication is more than simply sending and receiving messages. Communication needs a goal which usually is tied to an organization’s strategic objectives. Failure to communicate properly can ruin good plans, and can lead to waste and inefficiency through poor service delivery, out of control costs, as well as through the disruption and distraction of disagreement.
The more traditional ad-hoc IT culture is steadily yielding to a more demanding customer base that has significantly higher levels of expectation. IT users are more demanding and aware, requiring more transparency, quality and consistency from IT organizations, and little regard for who actually delivers the service. Equipped with knowledge from the now easily accessible internet, they are now turning to Shadow IT, skipping the bureaucratic approval, or even the knowledge, of corporate IT. This means that the service desk’s role in being the single point of contact has been overrun by Google, Siri, AWS or any other means by which users of IT can access the value that they desperately need. No wonder it’s becoming easier for organizations to make decisions regarding outsourcing IT or moving their applications and data to the cloud.
Any CIO worth his salt must be aware of this shift in supremacy, meaning that IT must reorient its ways if it is to remain valuable to the business. Otherwise, the CIO and his team will find themselves out of a job as the company outsources to a cloud provider or an app. The same goes for the Service Desk, as the team must recognize that today’s IT user is empowered so should not be treated like they used to be in the old days. They should be open and direct when it comes to giving information about service outages and SLAs, and invest in dashboards which the customer can self-query on the quality of service offered. Self-service through web or mobile apps has now become a “Must Have” for any modern day ITSM tool offered by a service desk to its users. A service desk analyst must be kept abreast of what is happening in the world since inquiries and escalations on Shadow IT will be directed to them, and one cannot afford to be seen as incompetent or unaware.
IT Service Management necessitates collaboration, coordination and cooperation. Any individual, function or team in an IT organization needs to work together with clear common goals. Collaboration requires strong relationships, built on trust and mutual understanding across all teams and functional areas. Good communication and relationship–building helps to break down these barriers. For the Service Desk, it means that communication channels with users, the business, internal IT teams and vendors has to be kept as open as possible. It is not just when a query arises that the Service Desk’s voice will be heard; rather the Service Desk must open engagement with these groups as often as possible from proactively checking on customer satisfaction, or pointing out workarounds that can help internal teams meet SLAs.
A lot of the problems that arise during handling of service requests or incidents originate because one IT team has escalated a ticket to another team, and assumes that to be the end of their involvement. Escalations should always be tracked and checked upon. Service Desk managers have an obligation to not only send out updates but also to pursue feedback and actions from all relevant teams, as well as checking that those involved have an accurate understanding of what is expected of them. Any interaction a user has with the Service Desk has a very high impact on their perception of the whole organization. The quality of the service desk team, and the escalated support it gets from other teams, which most times is shaped by the communication to the affected users, can determine the organization’s perceived business value to its customers.
Each and every individual or team involved in delivering or receiving a service, from a Service Desk analyst all the way to the CIO, have a responsibility to ensure that their inter-personal communication skills are as effective as possible. Communication must be taken as everyone’s responsibility, not simply left to the Service Desk or a business relationship manager. So it is important that IT organizations invest in training and equipping its members for modern day communication, particularly the Service Desk whose role is primarily driven through communication with the rest of IT and the outside world.