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Lead with the customer to build a winning service team

(Image credit: Image source: Shutterstock/Jirsak)

Service desk employees are increasingly important in determining customer satisfaction. How do you make sure you’re selecting the right people for your team?

Think about which service desk employees are receiving mostly positive feedback from your customers. They’re probably people who don’t always strictly observe the rules, and who sometimes improvise to resolve customers’ problems. They are people who dare to set the overall goal – happy customers – above policies and procedures.

The best service desk employees share their intrinsic motivation to help others. They also hope to resolve incidents quickly, but their main goal is to provide customers with real help. 

For them, meeting the processing time of key performance indicators (KPI) is of less importance. No matter the tools used, the procedures followed, or the problems faced, their main priority is helping those who use the services they provide.

Putting an end to rigid processes

Intrinsic motivation is an increasingly important factor in service desks. In Information Technology Infrastructure Library 4 (ITIL 4), for example, we see that processes should become more flexible, and simple tasks should be automated as much as possible. The goal is for your service desk team to have time to be more customer-focused.

Before ITIL 4, standardising processes were the main focus. And while that standardisation reduces the risk of human errors and enables some incidents be resolved faster, not all queries, incidents, and changes can be covered by a single process. 

Moreover, standardisation doesn’t make your service desk staff’s work any more challenging. If you empower your team to help customers, you'll see that happy employees mean happy customers.

Picking the best people

How do you make sure you’re hiring service desk employees that your customers in which they'll be enthusiastic? You want to look for the intrinsic motivation to help others, but you only have one or two interviews to evaluate candidates.

First, take note of nonverbal communication – like the gleam in someone’s eye or the smile that appears when talking about making a dissatisfied customer happy again. The way you ask questions during an interview can make all the difference. The answer to the question, “Do you want to help customers?’’ will always be “yes,” but it tells you little about the candidate’s qualities.

To get a better picture of someone’s motivation, and a better sense of how the person has acted in the past, try using the STAR method. STAR stands for situation, task, action, and result. To use the technique, you ask the job candidate behavioural questions set in situations comparable to those of the service desk job for which they are applying.

What was happening (situation)? What were the person’s duties (task)? What did the person say or do (action)? And, what was the outcome (result)?

Placing the human factor above rules

You could, for example, ask if the candidate had ever had a customer who was still on their mind when they got home at the end of the day. What was unique about that situation? What had the candidate done, and what was the result? Don’t just ask about work situations. Intrinsically motivated people behave in the same way outside their job.

Does the candidate feed the neighbour’s cat when the neighbours are away? Or do they regularly do grocery shopping for their grandma? These activities have nothing to do with working in a service desk role, but they do say something about the candidate’s fundamental drive to help others.

Another critical thing is that people who are motivated to help others can fall into a particular trap. That is, they will often go to extremes to find a solution. They may promise to solve problems that can’t be resolved, spend too much time on incidents, or agree to a solution the customer proposes despite knowing it’s not the best way to go.

Sometimes, you need to say “no,” and that can be difficult for this group to do.

The ideal service desk team member is assertive enough to continue asking questions to discover the question behind the question and can find long-term solutions that will work well for both the customer and your company. The best candidates will ask critical questions in the job interview and can clearly explain why they might advise against specific solutions.

Examining your current team

What about the people who are already part of your service team – the ones whose motivations you’re not sure about? Invite these employees to sit down for a chat. Are there rules and procedures in place that are preventing your team from adequately helping customers? Or is something lacking that would help them better do their jobs?

If conditions are right and team members know helping customers is their top priority, but you still have doubts, it’s time for another talk. Perhaps the employee’s current role is no longer a good fit. In that case, consider what else that person has to offer the company and try to find a more suitable position.

In the end, you want not only the best people on your “bus,” but also those people in the right “seats” on the “bus.” A service team that’s thriving will deliver the best customer experiences – and that's what it's all about.

Ruben Frazen, president, TOPdesk US