From PCs and laptops to cloud computing and smart devices in everyone’s pocket, it’s impossible to imagine any successful organisation running smoothly without technology.
Unfortunately, without a strong, reliable IT service desk, you’re likely to consume a lot of vital resources just to maintain your IT operations at their current level (let alone improve efficiency in this respect). However, when run effectively and with clear objectives in mind, IT support desks can help budget-conscious organisations such as housing providers make huge cost savings by improving productivity, scaling and managing IT costs, and streamlining processes.
The role of the service desk
The IT service desk helps end-users with technical problems and other service requests. It is the customer-facing arm of the company’s IT department, designed to keep things running smoothly.
Service desks usually handle individual technical problems, providing at least first- and second-line support to end-users.
- First-line support refers to everyday support issues. These are common difficulties most employees encounter when they’re working. Such issues are generally time sensitive (it can be frustrating to wait in line to resolve simple IT queries and FAQs) and so first-line support aims to solve problems fast, at the first point of contact.
- Second-line support is for end-user problems that are too time-consuming, uncommon or technical for first-line support and, as such, second-line agents usually have more specialised, in-depth knowledge. Some service-desk providers also offer second-line support at the first point of contact to increase ‘first-time fix’ rates, user productivity and the user experience.
- Third-line support personnel will typically work beyond the service desk as expert technicians. They will be able to understand the cause of complex problems or issues that second-line support can’t address (e.g. a certified network specialist or server engineer). If third-line support can’t fix the issue remotely, they may visit onsite or send a representative to examine further.
More than technical support, though, the IT service desk is a strategic and meaningful window into your employees’ world. It allows organisational leaders to see, through the eyes of their end-users, how their systems perform and how they measure up against the organisation’s long-term goals – one of which is likely to be cost control.
Below are five ways an efficient service desk can help add value to housing providers and reduce costs.
Training and expertise
Often overlooked, one huge benefit of a strong IT service desk is the user education and awareness training on offer. Service-desk engineers are used to coaching end-users, helping them become proficient in certain applications (and therefore more knowledgeable and productive), and they will also reinforce the importance of reporting errors or security concerns.
Remember, a single report from an employee could save your organisation a lot of money and operational upheaval. So, the training employees receive from IT support is, in fact, incredibly valuable when it comes to the longevity and regulatory responsibility of housing providers. For example, reporting security concerns to the service desk will allow them to log the incident with the right team to investigate and resolve, mitigating further risk and potential breaches.
It’s also an advantage that most outsourced IT service-desk engineers provide support across multiple business sectors, not just housing providers, so they can bring extensive shared knowledge about IT best practices to the table. Furthermore, outsourced IT service-desks often assign individuals to an organisation who are well-versed in its sector-specific challenges, meaning they can draw from their experiences with other clients and offer solutions that work best in certain situations.
Inefficient service desks that provide poor responsiveness can hold up crucial processes, resulting in a lack of user productivity, lost revenues and customers left in need. Slow resolution speeds can also damage your organisation’s reputation, leaving customers dissatisfied with their service and causing employees to feel frustrated and demoralised.
Conversely, an effective service desk will be able to implement many automated features that work invisibly and proactively in the background to streamline processes and integrate different systems, ultimately reducing costs. Naturally, this means that employees can get their jobs done faster and with greater ease, boosting productivity as well as morale (which can also mean less employee churn and reduced recruitment costs).
It also stands to reason that, when end-users can do their work without running into recurring IT issues and snags such as freezing, crashing or losing their work, then productivity increases and the workforce feels more satisfied overall.
Anywhere & anytime support
Ever since the lockdowns in 2020, we’ve seen the benefits that technology can deliver for the new, hybrid and/or remote workforces. However, the pandemic also highlighted the need to provide technical support to home workers in all aspects of their computing and communication systems.
Remote working relies heavily on technology and requires additional cyber-security measures. If the IT service desk isn’t easily accessible to remote workers or is slow to respond to any connectivity issues, this can spell bad news for the organisation’s overall output and information security.
On the other hand, an efficient service desk can enable remote workers to work and communicate very effectively, meaning end-users can be agile with their time and continue to be productive for the organisation even from a distance (which makes recruitment much easier).
Additionally, being able to seamlessly access cloud-based software, collaboration tools and video conferencing software is as much a cultural necessity as it is a productivity one, and a strong service desk will provide many communication methods (such as phone, live chat and self-service portals) and be available for employees 24/7/365.
Service desks can contribute hugely to the quality of service that housing providers give their customers. The service desk is, after all, working at the heart of all operations – often in close collaboration with employees.
Indeed, consistent monitoring and proactive detection of issues can help an efficient service desk to keep housing providers ahead of the curve by responding to events and irregularities before they become too problematic or expensive. IT teams also keep historical logs of various issues that affect the organisation, providing reports to show recurring problems and the consequent financial and operational effect on the company.
The service desk will also work in collaboration with infrastructure support teams to identify problems within the organisation’s IT infrastructure and suggest appropriate solutions that funnel resources where they will be best spent or most utilised. Introducing scalability and cost management is one of the best benefits of an efficient service desk, ensuring money isn’t wasted on unused resources by appropriately forecasting future needs.
Improved process efficiency
It’s the goal of every housing provider to operate smoothly and efficiently, with every component doing its part well. The good news is that an efficient service desk enhances an organisation’s ability to operate efficiently because a strong service desk is built on consistent processes, proven solutions and accurate prioritisation of issues.
Serving as a central location for all end-users, the IT service desk helps housing providers to pinpoint issues, standardise processes and instil coherence between different departments (such as software versions, security tools and other infrastructure components). Indeed, many service desks can create automated rules that trigger certain actions if a specific event happens (e.g. notifying a suitable resolution team in the event of a particular issue), and consistency across the board allows service-desk agents to constantly refine and improve their overall service.
Using integrated software will simplify and lower the cost of support, once all employees are using the same tools collaboration is also improved.
Littlefish is an award-winning managed IT and cyber services provider working with many housing providers and public-sector clients to deliver collaborative IT solutions, enhanced user experiences and improved customer satisfaction.
Matt Baker is a services consultant at Littlefish.