Service Desk


This two-part article is about the Service Desk. It is one of the 17 service management practices of ITIL 4 and is one practice you need to know in depth for the exam. The good thing is it's probably the one you already know the most about, because you may have dealt with a service desk either behind it or in front of it. The purpose of the service desk practice is to capture demand for incident resolution and service requests. It should also be the entry point or single point of contact for your service provider for all of its users.

Once an issue request or query is received by the service desk, they're going to acknowledge it, classify it, own it, and act upon it. This is the process and the workflow that's generally used for a service desk practice. The reason why this is your single point is because your service desk is going to be able to take in everything, whether it's a change request, a request for service, or an incident. But this isn't the way service desks were originally designed. The role of the service desk has changed. It used to be a simple help desk that was there to solve technical issues. But more recently, it has become the one-stop shop for everything between the users and the service provider. This new focus of the service desk is to provide support for the people and business, rather than simply the technical issues.


Your service desk has a major influence on the users' experience and how the users are going to perceive your organization as the service provider. It's really important that you get the service desk right. The service desk has to have a practical understanding of the entire organization and how it functions because they are the gatekeeper. Everything comes into them and then they have to route it to the right place. This service desk has to be the empathetic link between the service provider and its users. That's why a lot of times, it's not even the most technical people that work at the service desk. The service desk focuses on excellent customer service experiences with personal contact when it's needed by the user. Soft skills are really important over technical skills for service desk personnel. Your support and development teams need to work in close collaboration with your service desk by passing information to and from the service desk because the service desk is the one who's going to interact with your users. They also know the needs that they have and the demands. When the customer calls up and asks what's the current status of their ticket, they're talking to the service desk, not the technician. The technician needs to make sure they're feeding that information back to the service desk so the service desk can engage with the customer.

There are actually four main types of service desks. But these will be discussed in another article so you can pause here and wrap your head around the things discussed in this article first.


The four types of service desks are local, centralized, virtual, and follow the sun. With a local service desk, these are going to be co-located within or physically close to the users that it serves. This often is going to aid in communication, provides a very clear presence of a person there, and it can support a local language or several cultural differences if needed. But the big problem is, it's often inefficient and expensive, because you're tying up a single person to be inside this office, and they may not have enough interactions to justify 40 hours a week of work.

A centralized service desk, on the other hand, tries to avoid that. They try to put all of the service desk people in one area, and everyone calls a single toll-free number or goes to a certain website to get support. This can be very efficient and cost-effective because it allows fewer staff to deal with a much higher volume of interactions. But it might also be necessary for you to still maintain some kind of local presence, because some of the staff can't fix the problems on the other side of the world if they can't touch the desk. You try to handle anything that you can remotely through the centralized service desk, while still maybe having one or two people at a local service desk.


Because of the technology these days, particularly the internet and Voice over IP, and all the corporate support tools, it's possible to give the impression that there's a single centralized service desk, when in fact, a virtual service desk is used instead. This virtual service desk allows agents to work from multiple, geographically dispersed locations all around the world. It requires some sophisticated technology, but it allows having access from anywhere in the world. Calls can be routed to the right agent, no matter what time of the day it is, across the globe.

The fourth model is follow-the-sun. Follow-the-sun is where global corporations have to combine two or more geographically dispersed service desks to provide 24-hour follow-the-sun coverage. For example, maybe your organization has three service desks, one in London, one in New York, and one in India. By doing that, as it's daylight in London, they would take the calls. Once it's daylight in America, the New York office would take the calls. And then once it's daylight in India, they would take the calls. Regardless of where the customer is calling from, it would be whichever service desk was open at that particular time, so you can give full 24 hours of coverage using those three service desks.


To run an effective service desk, you need to have effective supporting technologies. This is especially true when you use a centralized, virtual, or follow the sun service desk model. These systems might be things like telephone systems, workflow systems, workflow management and resource planning systems, knowledge bases, call recording and remote access tools, dashboards and monitoring tools, configuration management systems, and many others.

When you're going to put a service desk together, you have to fill it with employees. When you're hiring employees for a service desk position, you should look for people who have empathy, emotional intelligence, effective communication skills, excellent customer service skills, an understanding of the business priorities and the ability to conduct incident analysis and prioritization. A service desk may be technical, but most of the time, it doesn't have to be. Most service desks are more focused around the customer support and customer service aspects. They leave the technical details to the higher level of tiered support that's going to come in when something's wrong.


How does the support desk integrate with the value chain activities? First, in improve, the service desk activities are constantly monitoring and evaluating support for continual improvement, alignment, and value creation. They're going to get feedback from users, collect that, and pass it to the continual improvement process or practice. In engage, the service desk is there as your main channel for tactical and operational engagement with users. They're the ones contacting and talking with the users on a daily basis. In design and transition, the service desk is going to provide a channel for communicating with users about new and changed services. Then you're going to get this information from design and transition and pass it out to everybody else. The service desk personnel can also participate in release planning, testing, and early live support. In obtain and build, the service desk can also be involved in acquiring service components that are used to fulfill service requests and resolve your incidents. Finally, in deliver and support this is where the service desk is really focused. The service desk is the coordination point for managing all of the incidents, problems, and service requests. So it's really important that you get it right by making sure your service desk has the right people employed and trained, and they understand how the whole organization works to get the best value for your end users.


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