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Business Practices MSP Technology

Guide to a Well Organized and Effective Service Desk

We’ve all done this. We find a techie who’s a gun at solving problems; they’re fast, polite and efficient. They’re our go-to guy or gal. Whenever we have a problem, we always ask for John and Kristy.

If you’re a Service Delivery Manager (SDM) or IT Manager (ITM) with a room full of techs, this can be frustrating.

Poor John gets swamped from the kick-off while the other staff coast through their day. John is proud to be appreciated by his clients, but some days it feels like a heart attack is just waiting in the wings. It’s tough.

Meanwhile, those who’ve become accustomed to John’s magic touch refuse to deal with other techs, leading to a backlog of increasingly frustrated clients going unattended due to the long wait times.

There are two common themes with high-demand techs:

1. They provide excellent customer service.
2. They know their tech, and know it well!

Some secondary reasons compound the problem:

1. They provide consistent results.
2. They deliver on time.
3. They prioritize the work.

How do you improve service desk performance?

So as the SDM or ITM, how can you break the bottleneck and balance the workload? Typically, high performing techies are not very effective trainers nor are they great at documenting processes. So asking them to do either won’t achieve results.

If you look at the first two reasons, only one refers to the technical ability of the techie. The other relates to their personality and their work ethic – something that’s very hard to teach.

To improve the knowledge of the tech team, you can start by building decision trees for fixing common issues.

How can a decision tree be converted to a set of rules?

An excellent way to achieve this is to have your techie write down precisely what they do to resolve their most common support issues. Pass this on to a process analyst and have them translate this into a decision tree that anyone can follow.

The secondary reasons rest in two areas – following processes/procedures, and time management.

With respect to processes and procedures, building decision trees for the team to follow ensures everyone delivers consistently.

And as for time management, it comes down to ensuring the service desk software can provide this functionality – from timing and benchmarking common tasks to rostering team members efficiently.

On first blush, this might seem challenging – and it is. But it certainly needn’t be.

Start by hiring staff based on their personality and work ethic, and then implement an effective software solution like ServiceTree to bring structure, efficiency, automation and oversight to your operation.

This approach will transform your service desk and deliver a real and measurable competitive advantage.

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Business Practices Company News MSP Technology

Real-World Service Desk Automation

Are you a tech working at a service desk, or managing the tech team? Ever find yourself getting bored; nothing to do? Nope, didn’t think so. The days of a quiet service desk are long gone!

One of the reasons for this is clients’ ever-increasing dependence on technology. Most businesses expect their staff to work non-official extended business hours via their laptops, phones and tablets.

And coupled with this is an expectation that service desk support should also be available to support these users and their technology during these extended business hours.

So the question is, how do you increase the output of your service desk without succumbing to crazy long hours?

You automate.

I know automation sounds like old news, but if you’ve ever really examined a service desk, you’ll be shocked at how little automation is used in the day to day running of tickets. Most service desks are run within a very manual structure, where techs work on individual tickets from open to close, with zero automation.

It’s a little different with some of the level 3 techs. After all, they’re the king of techies – and some of these guys do automate some of their work. However, it’s normally done as an ‘it would be cool if I could get X to do Y’, rather than a deliberate decision to automate X because it would deliver better, quicker service.

There are two main reasons why service desks are not automated:

1. The business doesn’t see the benefit of service desk automation
2. The software being used by the service does not allow for automation

Still finding it hard to see how you can implement service desk automation?

A common issue in a service desk is that techs select the ticket they want to work on. So although the techs have a queue, or multiple queues to work on – unless the service desk is so quiet that there’s only one ticket in the queue, the tech can still choose the ticket they prefer.

Automating the ticket flow ensures the user can’t pick a ticket. Instead, each ticket is allocated to them automatically, one at a time, based on the priority and urgency.

And here are a couple of ways automation can help customers resolve their own issues without even calling the service desk (providing the software allows it).

A very common ticket is for a password reset. Typically, the user has forgotten their password, and they need a new one immediately.

It’s not uncommon for this to happen at say, 7 pm on a Saturday night. So why not automate it? Let the user (or their supervisor) create a ticket that will reset their password, SMS it to them and log a ticket, recording the event. Simple, right?

Another common one is for print jobs stuck in a print queue. Again, this is a common one outside of business hours. How cool would it be if they could create a ticket and have the system automatically restart the print service for them – even when they are working at home – or in a hotel on the other side of the country?

I think we can call that uber-cool. And yes, it is possible – with ServiceTree!

 

Categories
Business Practices MSP Technology

Better Service through Smarter Rostering

The early part of my career included a solid stint in the QSR (Quick Service Restaurant) industry. Today, my company has more than 17 years of QSR support under its belt, and we presently manage over 16,000 devices.

It’s fair to say, then, that we know the industry pretty well.

So what does the QSR industry have to do with an IT service provider? Not much to be honest…

But the learnings from the QSR industry have been very powerful in building a rostering system within ServiceTree, to ensure that a Service Delivery Manager (SDM) is able to focus on the team, rather than tickets.

But why should you consider the use of rosters for your tech team? The reason is service delivery. With the aid of rosters, an SDM can allocate work to individual techs based not just on their skill set but different activity types, too.

With the aid of rosters, the SDM can ensure they don’t get mired in the day-to-day running of the service desk. They can deliver better service to their clients.

Here are some ways a roster can help a busy service desk plough through tickets and keep customers happy:

  • It’s easier to manage a fast-paced and constantly changing workload.
  • The team effectively multi-tasks, while techs work on individual tickets.
  • Team members respond based on a combination of criterion rather than simply ticket urgency.
  • It ensures work activities are balanced out, and that all activities are completed. Remember, techs will never do what they don’t want to do, but if you drip-feed the work to them, they remain focused on the one task that’s right in front of them.
  • You can allocate your tech support resources more effectively in advance
  • Generate reports and push that data straight into payroll
  • Restrict a team member’s working times

If it all sounds great, but the idea of rostering your team sounds daunting, it might be time to look at ServiceTree.

Categories
Business Practices MSP Technology

PSA Software & the Service Delivery Manager

Anyone who’s worked for an MSP knows what a high-pressure environment really feels like. Sometimes the feeling is chaos, sometimes its just fast – but I doubt anyone would say its boring. However, without effective PSA software, it’s borderline impossible.

That’s the thing about working at a busy service desk – no two tickets are the same, and no two days are ever the same.

The role of a Service Delivery Manager is a bit like leading an orchestra.

Managing customers’ expectations while keeping the team focused and motivated can be a huge challenge. And if your team is spread across multiple physical locations, it’s like running blindfolded.

Our company, This Solution, is spread across eight locations in three countries, running 24 x 7 x 365. Everything we face is multiplied by these factors. Without our PSA software, ServiceTree, we’d be an absolute mess.

When I think of the life as an SDM, there’s life with ServiceTree and then there’s life without ServiceTree. The gap between those two is a mile wide and ten miles deep.

You see, ServiceTree was designed so that an SDM can better use their time looking at the data, analysing trends and managing their team, which is fundamentally different to an SDM using any other PSA software.

Before

We recently hired an experienced SDM who has worked on a well-established ticketing system, so it was interesting to note the differences in his day to day activities right away.

At company X, a typical SDM would :

  • Take stock of all the incoming requests.
  • Ensure tickets are being dispatched to the right techs – usually via a manual dispatcher or a semi-automatic one, but with human intervention.
  • If an urgent issue/outage is reported, the entire deck is reshuffled.
  • Customer SLAs need to be reworked manually (in most cases).
  • Paperwork, sticky notes, emails and messaging systems form the backbone of how the tickets are allocated and monitored.
  • Draw end-of-day reports analysing post facto data.
  • Create data trends/reports in Excel or Powerpoint to present at customer meetings.
  • If 24×7 support is required, there are multiple SDMs working in shifts, adding to the overhead.

After

At This Solution, using ServiceTree, our SDM:

  • Does not spend his time managing tickets (ticket priorities are determined automatically and auto-triaged)
  • Spends his time managing and coaching the team
  • Is able to view real-time data on ticket flow and team utilisation
  • Can roster the team dynamically based on workload
  • Can efficiently manage customer expectations, resulting in fewer grumpy customers
  • Doesn’t require another SDM, as he can take a hands-off management approach with the after-hours team

The world is embracing automation, and doing things the old way just doesn’t cut it anymore. Most PSA software remains stuck in the old paradigm.

The paradox is, as we weave additional automation into our work practices, it frees us to work on the things where we can really make a difference – like coaching our team, refining our growth strategy, delivering outstanding customer service and so on.

We’ve courted automation for years, and in doing so, eliminated a lot of mundane activities which consume so much time and provide so little value.

The game has moved on – ServiceTree has redefined what PSA software can do. Learn more about our professional service automation software.

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Company News MSP Technology

How the Best MSP Software Got Its Name

When we were developing ServiceTree I was adamant that the product name would be more than just a name. I felt the name needed to have a relationship with the DNA of the product and everything it stood for. It wasn’t just MSP software – it was much more than that.

In the early development stages, ServiceTree was known as Project Leonard – named after one of the characters of the hit Sitcom – Big Bang Theory. For those that don’t know me, I love the show – and many have said I have a lot in common with Sheldon. I sometimes question if that’s a good thing or not…

The systems we’d developed at our company, This Solution, were always named after other characters – such as Sheldon – which was our original information repository. We also have Penny – but more about Penny in a future post.

I had the idea early on that the word ‘Service’ should make up part of the name, as the product is all about service delivery. Traditional MSP software – that’s every other system on the market right now –  is little more than a management tool; it lacks the critical service delivery element.

I personally believe ServiceTree is the only tool to ensure that QoSD (Quality of Service Delivery) is achieved in an IT support business. This is unprecedented.

I played with many ideas, but one stuck in the back of my mind from the beginning – ServiceTree. The more I thought about the name the more I realized that it was perfect for the product.

The roots of a tree are strong, deep and hidden – yet they make the tree withstand the elements for hundreds of years. Similarly, the architecture and the design that makes ServiceTree such a powerful tool is never seen by the user.

It’s all in the Decision Trees

Decisions trees form a key element of ServiceTree. While the similarity with the product’s name is obvious, so too is its role in the way ServiceTree works.

The trunk of the tree is the core that holds all the elements of the tree together. Likewise, the decision trees in ServiceTree are what every technician uses to work on support tickets.

The branches of a tree are the links between the leaves and the trunk – giving the overall shape of the tree. In ServiceTree we see our activity queues giving us this same connection – automatically feeding the tickets into groups based on the activities that need to be completed.

Then there’s the final element – the leaves. There are hundreds, if not thousands of them. They’re what fill the tree with life and provides its shape.

The job tickets are the lifeline of every IT support business. The more active tickets a support team has, the more hustle and energy there is in the team.

Looking at it this way, we couldn’t possibly have named ServiceTree anything else. It really is the best MSP software out there today.

You can learn more about how ServiceTree PSA software can help your IT support team reach the next level, or reach out to me for more details or a demonstration via the contact page.

Categories
Business Practices Company News MSP Technology

ServiceTree – the Holy Grail of Helpdesk Automation

I remember the day, a few years ago, when I was thinking to myself, “There has to be a better way to manage tickets!”

At that time we were using a ticketing system called CSR, which we’d developed for our own internal use. And the issue wasn’t that it was no good – after all we’d created CSR because there was nothing in the market that could handle our requirements.

But I believed we could do better.

Before we started developing ServiceTree, we researched the market comprehensively – hoping we’d find a helpdesk automation tool that could take us to the next level. We shouted into the void and all we heard back were crickets… Everything we found was designed around old platforms, or worse, old ideologies.

Also, my belief is that a ticketing system must be built around the requirements of the technicians – after all, they’re at the coalface of every successful ITSP, making stuff happen.

I spent many days at cafés and other vertical businesses, looking at how they managed customer orders. Although a cafe serves food (and an ITSP serves technology) – there are underlying similarities.

The customer wants to be served quickly – and their order delivered correctly and as efficiently as possible.

While both a cafe and an IT support team needs to balance many different (and often competing) elements to ensure they’re serving the customers as efficiently and effectively as possible, they also need to profitable.

I also spent time analyzing QSR – quick service (fast food) restaurants – and how they’ve adapted to technology. What I was able to clearly identify was that the only way an ITSP system could ensure tickets were done in the right order – was to build the system so that technicians didn’t have to pick which ticket they should work on next.

This was the key to the design, and what is now built into the core of our helpdesk automation system, ServiceTree. We call it Open Next™.

The Sunday that Changed Everything

I recall sitting at my desk at 8 am on a Sunday, tinkering with this idea and playing with the numbers; trying to figure out what felt like a simple thing but really wasn’t. I was so absorbed in it – number crunching and reworking the formulas that when I next noticed the clock, it was 7 pm!

But I’d hit the right note. I’d devised a set of formulas that would deliver the right ticket to the right tech at the right time. It was a Eureka moment – the purest expression of helpdesk automation!

Once Open Next™ was fine-tuned, I felt we had discovered the holy grail of service delivery for ITSPs. The new techs we hired who were used to the standard ticketing systems said: “This so simple, it’s awesome!”

The positive feedback we received from everyone associated with it encouraged us to file a patent and finally open the doors and offer it to others, too.

As I write this we have clocked around 39,000 tickets already; all of them triaged using Open Next™ logic. Over the course of a year, we saw a paradigm shift from managing and dispatching tickets to efficiently managing teams. We had blazed a completely new trail.

I now invite you to try it for yourself. Learn more about ServiceTree’s PSA software features or reach out to me for more details or a demonstration via the contact page.