These days, most IT service desks are facing the pressures associated with the need for “doing more with less.” And if you want/need to tackle a growing ticket workload while still delivering an exceptional customer experience then, as well as introducing productivity enhancing capabilities such as automation and self-service, you will need your IT service desk agents to be on top of their game.
In the inevitably busy environment of the IT service desk there are a lot of factors that can affect the performance of your agents: major incidents can drive up workloads and distract staff from other responsibilities; ticket backlogs and daily complaints can demotivate; and the monotony of completing the same daily tasks over and over again can cause job dissatisfaction.
So, if your service desk agents’ performance levels are more of an ebb and flow than a constant stream of excellence, then these four tips will help you – and them – to get back on the right track.
1) Motivate Staff with Gamification
In our experience, one of the most common causes of poor agent performance is demotivation – and when staff feel demotivated it will quickly show in both their attitudes and their work.
Gamification merges elements of gaming with work and can be a great way to motivate your IT service desk agents. It introduces healthy competition and fun into the often-monotonous daily tasks of the service desk.
Instead of just answering calls, reading emails, solving issues, updating tickets, and potentially handling complaints each day to meet targets, gamification can be employed to make these tasks more fun. For instance: Who can answer the most calls? Who can resolve the most tickets during the first contact? Who can update the most tickets in a day? These are just some of the gamification challenges that you can use to get your agents engaged in healthy competition.
The rewards or prizes with gamification don’t have to be lavish either, so don’t be put off if you don’t have a big budget. And gamification not only allows your IT service desk staff to have fun with each other at work it also gives you the opportunity to understand and recognize your top team players.
The idea of gamification is to bring something new to the existing way of working, instill some excitement and healthy competition within the team, and to recognize people for their efforts and achievements.
It’s a people change though – not just the introduction of new technology – and will thus require active communication, experimentation, research, and a good degree of team spirit to get it off the ground. So, don’t just jump in at the deep end with this one.
2) Gain Respect and Commitment by Listening
Staff performance is likely to slip if employees feel that their opinions and ideas are not being heard. You should thus hold regular sessions, via both team and individual meetings, where your service desk agents can talk to you about their issues, concerns, ideas, and ambitions.
Your agents are “in the thick of it” every single day – they see firsthand what’s working and what isn’t. So it’s wise to get their feedback – on both IT service delivery and support – and to act on it where you can.
Sometimes your staff’s issues might be unjustified, but this often occurs due to a lack of communication. For example, your team might complain when you introduce a process that seems to give them even more work. Here there is a need to explain why the process is needed and how it will ultimately save time in the future. They’re more likely to be on board once they know exactly what’s going on and their concerns could highlight a potential problem (with the new way of working) that you hadn’t thought of.
Don’t set up these listening sessions without acting on them though, because this can do more harm than good. You will also want to ensure that you can follow up on highlighted points in future sessions so that your team members know that they’re being heard.
If you aren’t really listening, over time your staff will start to lose respect for you, and the “opportunity,” and they’ll simply stop bothering to speak up.
3) Keep on Performance on Track with Feedback
Feedback gives your staff direction – it shows them where they’re excelling and, when done right, it shows them where they need to improve. It’s vital that you talk about the good and the bad (and potentially the ugly) – in our experience, many IT service desk managers like to focus only on the good stuff, because these conversations are easy, but this doesn’t help anyone in the long run.
To be a true leader, you need to be able to have the difficult conversations. After all, if you don’t tell your agents where they need to improve, how can you expect their performance to get better?
These performance improvement conversations should give IT service desk agents individual goals to hit, which is the perfect way to motivate those that like to be challenged. Also, always be sure to congratulate “a job well done” too; and sometimes even celebrate the “small stuff” to ensure that your agents feel appreciated.
Ultimately, employee performance is far more likely to be at top of the range when your staff are recognized for their contributions and made to feel that you care about what they’re doing.
4) Give Your Staff Purpose
Another reason for mediocre performance, and one that is often forgotten about in my opinion, is when employees don’t understand where they fit in to the organization as a whole – i.e. they fail to see the value they’re adding (and how).
This is especially true on the IT service desk, because it’s easy to get lost in the negativity of the issue-reporting calls, customer complaints, and the repetitive work of ticket handling (particularly if your organization suffers from regularly repeating incidents).
If your agents are experiencing high ticket volumes, issues they can’t resolve, or regular severe IT outages, then it’s reasonable to expect that they will eventually get fed up and wonder why they’re bothering to come in each day. The “same old, same old” is killing their motivation.
It’s thus imperative that you show them the positive effect they have on the organization. For example, if you can, demonstrate what life in the business might look like if their roles were taken away.
Remember that day-to-day your IT service desk agents don’t see any of the good stuff – because no one is calling the desk to say that everything is working well! And once someone can see the value that their hard work adds, and where they fit in to the bigger IT picture, they’re much more likely to perform well and actively want to do a good job – they know their purpose.
Getting great levels of performance from your IT service desk team is key to ensuring that your IT organization can consistently deliver a good customer experience and survive the ever -growing workload. And keeping your team motivated to perform well in an environment that is often busy, negative, and monotonous can be a difficult task, but in our experience these four points are a great place to start.
How about you? What do you do to improve the performance of your IT service desk agents? Is there anything you would add to the above? Please let me know in the comments.