Onsite IT Customer Service Proximity Can Divide Unity

A Universal Challenge to Outstanding Centralized IT Customer Service

CIOs – picture it. After much assessment you have decided to use a centralized well-tooled service desk (formerly known as help desk) to more efficiently solve technical support problems at a reasonable cost. Your onsite Level 2 deskside support and other infrastructure teams are to handle what the front line does not solve.

This plan has been implemented in corporations for many years. It has also struggled over the years with one universal challenge — onsite support teams’ quiet resistance to the model.

In truth, onsite support teams’ proximity to the customers can divide the unity of this model and block the teamwork between them and the centralized service desk.

The good news is that there are ways to overcome resistance and create unity and cross teamwork.

CIOs Onsite Support Teams Challenge Unity of IT Customer Service Image by:quapan

Creating Cross Teamwork for Outstanding IT Customer Service

  • Redirection Training. If your onsite (deskside) support teams have been working at the sites prior to the creation of the centralized service desk, they struggle with asking the customers to call the centralized service desk.
  • Why? Because they experience an identity crisis with the new centralized model.

    Consider that onsite IT customer service teams:

    1. Enjoy the close relationships with the customers through their proximity
    2. Savor a connection to the customers — often deeper than what they feel for IT peers
    3. Love the gratitude received directly from customers
    4. Thrive on the feeling of being indispensable

    I have taken many IT organizations over the mountain of this challenge with sessions specifically designed to take onsite team members from individual identity to an IT organizational culture of service excellence. Workshops where they practice how to redirect the customers to the front line service desk without giving in to the OK but next time trap are critical.

  • Leadership Connection. Have the entire IT customer service and support organization report into the same high level leader. You take one giant step toward the unity needed to deliver outstanding internal customer service and much closer to the positive effect on the business.

    Because onsite teams often have project duties in addition to break/fix problem solving, CIOs are tempted to shift these groups to a different high level leader. The priorities often shift away from support. The centralized front line and the customers are left hanging and begging for help.

    The negative impact to employee customer productivity is tremendous and the finger pointing that ensues doesn’t help.

  • Engagement and Professional Development. Before you introduce a centralized IT customer service model, engage the current onsite support teams in discussions about opportunities for them in the new approach.

    What new learning opportunities will they have as their break/fix time is reduced? What untapped talents do you see in them that you now want to tap? Will have have a choice to work on the front line service desk instead of onsite? They may not all have the skills to do front line work yet discussing the possibilities helps them work through the identity crisis.

  • Shared service levels and a teamwork KPI. Priorities are critical to effective IT customer service. The customers pressure the front line for immediate service on anything that is escalated to other IT teams. If all of IT does not have shared service levels based on well defined priorities, you neuter the front line. Customers begin to see them merely as message takers and ticket makers. They call and say “Just give me a ticket number.” Not only does it demoralize the front line, it is a very expensive IT mistake!

    Advice: Hold a service level summit with the support director and all IT support managers, supervisors, and team leads. Engage them to work through workloads, obstacles, and barriers and produce priority definitions and shared service levels for outstanding IT customer service and support.

    Go one step further and write a teamwork KPI into every IT support team member’s performance guidelines so they truly understand what you expect in teamwork based customer service.

Centralizing IT customer service is far more than a financial move and a reorganization. It is a big change in culture for both the customers and the IT teams. Clear leadership vision, unity of purpose, and cross teamwork are essential to its success.

Otherwise it is an expensive exercise that the customers undo through end runs around the front line to the teams they have always used.

I’m here to help. I welcome your questions about this process through email, phone, or the comments section below.

From my professional experience to your success,
Kate Nasser, The People-Skills Coach™

Related Post: CIOS, Are Your IT Teams Truly Customer Focused?

©2012 Kate Nasser, CAS, Inc. Somerville, NJ. If you want to re-post or republish this post, please email info@katenasser.com. Thank you for respecting intellectual capital. +1 908.595.1515.

Kate Nasser, The People-Skills Coach™, delivers coaching, consulting, training, and keynotes on leading change, employee engagement, teamwork, and delivering the ultimate customer service. She turns interaction obstacles into interpersonal success. See this site for workshop outlines, keynote footage, and customer results.

3 Responses to “Onsite IT Customer Service Proximity Can Divide Unity”

  1. Khalid says:

    Wow! Kate… Excellent post which directly reflects my IT work environment!

    Our IT help desk is well established and we do have good on-site support who always (my perception at least) direct end users to call help desk for incidents (or their Business Analyst for daily IT requests).

    I took over my supervisor role temporarily and I felt the friction between the on-site support (we call them end user support) and the help desk staff. I’ve seen incidents records (through our central help desk system – BMC) going back and forth between both teams arguing about responsibilites. I can see your point in having both reports to the same supervisor (which is going to happen in the near future as I heard) but i don’t think this is the real problem in our case.

    Our problems are as follows:
    1) Lack of teamwork
    2) Focus of management on pending incidents more than the quality of the resolution
    3) Lack of proper communication between the three teams (Infrastructure, onsite support & help desk) upon changes. Now changes are done by Infrastructure are not communicated properly to other teams.
    4) Lack of solid procedures of solving incidents (e.g. resolution of incidents should be agreed format-wise)
    5) Lack of technical documentation and knowledge base (as this will put help desk in a better position to solve users problems without refering to other teams

    As a supervisor, i’m faced with lots of pressure trying to resolving the existing problems and I hope your posts will guide me to do so 🙂


  2. Larry Josefowski says:

    One thing that jumped out at me was the relationship that desktop support (and service desk personnel, to only a slightly less extent) has with the business is exactly as described in the article…the personnel relate to these people much closer than they do with other IT people within their company. I came from a server background, and felt a kinship with the rest of the IT community that does not exist in the desktop support world.

    An advantage alluded to, perhaps, is that an approach detailed here, with getting high level IT management on-board with such a plan, may help bring the desktop support and the service desk back into the IT fold, which would help increase their job satisfaction and provide additional career opportunities for them.

    • Kate Nasser says:

      Hi Larry,
      Many thanks for your comment. Ideally I think a tight IT organization that truly bonds with the other business units it serves and supports creates the best results. I didn’t mean to allude that a kinship with customers is a bad thing. Only that IT must also feel this kinship.

      Both instead of either/or. In the end, all working for the same company.

      Regards and thanks,

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