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The Service Desk: Standard Processes, Metrics Improve Client Satisfaction And Retention

A well-designed, well-implemented service desk based on ITIL helps MSPs provide better service and support to clients while improving cost control and opening the door to future business opportunities.

One of the best investments a service provider can make is in a service desk, a move which not only can help keep clients happy but one that can lead to future follow-on business and even new service bundles to sell.  

A key to successful development of a service desk is getting certified with ITIL, or Information Technology Infrastructure Library, and then applying ITIL to develop the right processes and service level agreements, said Len DiCostanzo, a consultant with MSP Toolkit.  

DiCostanzo, speaking Sunday before an audience of MSPs at the XChange 2019 conference, held this week in Las Vegas, defined ITIL as "a means of enabling value co-creation by facilitating outcomes that customers want to achieve, without the customer having to manage specific costs and risks."  

[Related: Keys To MSP Profits: Understanding Costs And The Power Of Bundling]  

ITIL offers a five-step, best practices approach to services, DiCostanzo said. The steps include a service strategy based on planning services that meet business objectives, designing the services and targeting service objectives, rolling the services into production, managing the services to ensure that objectives are met, and continual evaluation and improvement of the services.  

MSPs that get certified in ITIL will be able to build a service desk that becomes a process-driven gateway point for an MSP's technical teams to escalate and solve incidents, DiCostanzo said.  

A successful service desk is driven by SLAs (service level agreements) or some other metrics, DiCostanzo said. These could include things like first-line resolution rate with or without escalation; average time to respond, plan, resolve, or escalate; number of calls by date, time, or staffing; average call times; average costs vs. the number of calls; or percentage of user updates within target times.  

MSPs have to carefully consider on what they base their SLAs, DiCostanzo said. They could be based on how long before the MSP responds to a customer request for service, how long before a resolution plan is offered or how long before an issue is resolved. "You have to promise a response time," he said. "It's kind of hard to promise the other two."  

MSPs also have to decide whether to build or outsource their service desks, DiCostanzo said. Building their own service desk provides more direct touch with users and the development of a range of product knowledge, but entails hiring and retaining engineers, getting people trained and certified, and more risk, he said.  

Outsourced service desks give MSPs the ability to focus their resources on core competencies and the ability to scale, all with fixed costs and processes, but provide less direct touch with users, he said.  

It is important to realize that the service desk is a key point of contact with clients, DiCostanzo said.  

"You don't want your users calling all over your company. … And this is a pretty important place to strive for 100-percent customer satisfaction. You don't want users saying they can't get help."  

Using the ITIL framework as the base on which to implement a service desk takes advantage of a set of standard processes that ensures everyone involved "speaks the same language," DiCostanzo said.  

ITIL also ensures that people, products, and process meet SLAs no matter how big the service desk staff is, he said. And developing SLAs with ITIL in mind is an opportunity for an MSP to make more money. "If customers want a two-hour response, you charge X," he said. "If they want a 15-minute response, you charge Y."  

DiCostanzo also said a well-designed, well-run service desk provides a seat at the customer table when it comes to talking about future opportunities to work with that customer. "It keeps you there. … Get up into that seat where you are the business technology [provider] of your clients," he said.  

MSPs who attended DiCostanzo's presentation told CRN that they see ways to improve what they are already doing with ITIL and their service desks.  

Matthew Humphries, managing partner at Allied Technology Group, a Little Rock, Ark.-based MSP, said his company already follows ITIL in a modified way.  

Humphries said his company is currently looking at outsourcing its service desk, particularly as a way to better provide services on a 24X7 basis instead of keeping engineers on call in case of emergencies.  

"We've been piloting with an outsourced organization," he said. "I see that as a big factor in our support costs. As customers want more support, it drives up costs."  

DiCostanzo offers a nice refresher on ITIL, said Blake Schwank, CEO of Colorado Computer Support, a Colorado Springs, Colo.-based solution provider.  

CCS already has around six of its 35 people trained in ITIL, Schwank said. "It's important to dial into the expectations of technicians," he said. "Everybody needs to know how to measure how they're doing."

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