How to benchmark your service desk

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1 How to benchmark your service desk Internal benchmarking is an incredibly powerful tool and combined with elements of selective quantitative external benchmarking and qualitative work - can provide a true picture of your service desk and its performance. Service Desk Institute Sponsored by Published March 2014

2 Introduction As Head of Research at the Service Desk Institute the questions I m asked most often are not how do I motivate or retain staff? or How can I improve my service desk s processes? The questions I m asked most often are What are the industry average call answering times? How many incidents will 1000 end users log every month? How do I know if our 10% call abandon rate is above or below the industry average? In a way, perhaps it is not surprising that I am asked this question so often. Inherent within in all of us is a desire to understand how good we are, for all of us compare and contrast ourselves with others and organisations. The craving to compare and contrast is not unique to the IT support industry, but I feel that the desire burns even stronger within IT support organisations because sometimes they can feel isolated and siloed, and lack way markers and indicators to guide and assure them that they are indeed doing a good job (one that is at least comparable to other organisations within the same sector). Another reason for the burning desire to compare and contrast performance is that service desks attract and collect huge volumes of data. Every interaction is recorded and this creates masses of data therefore the desire to utilise this data to better understand your service desk s performance is completely logical. The data is all there to be used, so why not use it to see how good your service desk really is? Unfortunately, direct comparisons between service desks and support organisations are virtually impossible, for numerous reasons that I will extrapolate below. However, that is not to say that benchmarking is a futile exercise, but it is one that should be used with caution and a high degree of hesitancy. An alternative solution, and one that can really help to drive and improve your service desk s performance, is to track and trend your own service desk s metrics over a period of time (I refer to this as internal benchmarking comparing benchmarks with other service desks is external benchmarking). Internal benchmarking is an incredibly powerful tool and - combined with elements of selective quantitative external benchmarking and qualitative work - can provide a true picture of your service desk and its performance.

3 2 Why % of statistics are wrong The above figure is completely facetious, but it does demonstrate an important point about the emphasis and credibility we place on statistics. Whilst it is not my intention to start a debate on how statistics should be measured, recorded and utilised, it is important to understand that in the IT support sphere when comparing statistics, you will most likely be comparing apples to oranges. This means that it is dangerous to invoke direct comparisons with other service desks based on metrics alone. I ll use this real-life example (I was asked this exact question very recently) to demonstrate what I mean. The question directed to me was What s the industry average for how many calls should we expect for 1000 end users on a weekly and monthly basis? This appears to be a quite a reasonable question, indeed I m sure many service desks would love to know the answer to this as it would aid immeasurably in their planning and resource allocation (amongst others). Being able to plan in advance would be a definite boon for Service Desk Managers and Team Leaders and additionally it would let you know how busy your service desk is compared to others in the industry. Unfortunately an industry average measure for calls received does not exist; some of the reasons for this are: Organisations have end users with different technical skills (consider the fallacy of comparing data from a company involved in technology and one where it s been struggle to stop people using pen and paper). The better end users technical knowledge and skills, the less likely they are to log calls. Service desks might not be as well regarded by some organisations as others if end users don t like contacting the service desk then this organisation will have a lower support call volume. Hardware and software is likely to be very different across organisations it is fair to compare the call volumes for an organisation with brand new tools and technology to one that is working on 10 year-old PCs? And if so, should we take this into consideration in our calculations? And lots and lots of others including: staff turnover rate are there lots of new starters, does this generate high call volumes? Is it easy to contact the service desk? Are calls logged in the same way, or do we differentiate between support calls and calls for contact details? What about the complexity of the calls are they taking a long time to fix hence your lines are always engaged?

4 These are just a few examples of why direct comparisons of metrics and KPIs are dangerous, as it is very likely that we re not comparing apples with apples. Taken as gospel, any industry average for the number of support calls could be very damaging. You might see it as a good sign that you receive fewer calls than other service desks, but what if the reason for this is because your end users had such a low opinion of your service that they saw you as a last resort? On the other hand, perhaps your calls are much higher than the average does this mean you need to provide end users with extra training or implement a self-help solution? The answers to these questions could be true, but they should not be prompted by incorrect information, the type that is created by industry benchmarks the true source of improvement lies within ourselves and our support organisation. That being said, industry benchmarks do still have their place in the support industry. For anyone who is starting to get to grips with measurement they provide a useful indicator of what you should be measuring and provide some ballpark figures. Knowing what metrics other service desks are utilising can point you towards some important measures that you had not hitherto considered. Used with caution and with careful consideration afforded to the fallibility of industry averages, industry benchmarks have their value and their place but are not a sound basis for decision making or improvement initiatives. For those, we need to look a little closer to home.

5 4 Internal Benchmarking The best way to benchmark your service desk is to benchmark internally. It may appear that this seems like a worthless endeavour how can you know how good you are if you are only competing against yourself? The answer is that you compete against your previous performance, pushing and driving to improve results month on month and year on year. To do this, take a picture of all of your metrics and KPIs (call waiting, resolution times etc.) and write them down as an average for the last month. Then do the same next month, the month after and so on. Very soon you ll have data that is trending, and after a year will have some pretty comprehensive results. Now look at these measures and compare them to a year ago and they will tell you in what direction your desk is heading, and you are now in a position to set goals and targets and ensure that the data is trending towards the goal. The very best service desks have been doing this for a long time and it has aided immeasurably in their ability to identify improvements, ensure that they have sufficient resources, and build business cases for additional expenditure. On the subject of internal benchmarking, it is essential that service desks include qualitative measures to complement the quantitative measures. Useful qualitative work includes interviewing customers to gauge their thoughts and opinions concerning the service desk; going out into the organisation s end user population (floor-walking is a good way to do this) and understand more about IT is used what are end users concerns or complaints? How could IT be improved? Are there any identifiable ways that the service desk can use its knowledge to improve the way that people work? When qualitative work is combined with internal benchmarking it creates a very solid foundation for continual service improvement initiatives (CSI) to help push the service desk to the next level. Great, so how do we start? The best way to benchmark your service desk is to benchmark internally. It may appear that this seems like a worthless endeavour how can you know how good you are if you are only competing against yourself? The answer is that you compete against your previous performance, pushing and driving to improve results month on month and year on year. To do this, take a picture of all of your metrics and KPIs (call waiting, resolution times etc.) and write them down as an average for the last month. Then do the same next month, the month after and so on. Very soon you ll have data that is trending, and after a year will have some pretty comprehensive results. Now look at these measures and compare them to a year ago and they will tell you in what direction your desk is heading, and you are now in a position to set goals and targets and ensure that the data is trending towards the goal. The very best service desks have been doing this for a long time and it has aided immeasurably in their ability to identify improvements, ensure that they have sufficient resources, and build business cases for additional expenditure.

6 On the subject of internal benchmarking, it is essential that service desks include qualitative measures to complement the quantitative measures. Useful qualitative work includes interviewing customers to gauge their thoughts and opinions concerning the service desk; going out into the organisation s end user population (floor-walking is a good way to do this) and understand more about IT is used what are end users concerns or complaints? How could IT be improved? Are there any identifiable ways that the service desk can use its knowledge to improve the way that people work? When qualitative work is combined with internal benchmarking it creates a very solid foundation for continual service improvement initiatives (CSI) to help push the service desk to the next level. Great, so how do we start? Since their very genesis, service desks have sought ways to understand their performance and set targets. Today, the story of metrics is one of reporting on a wide-range of performance measures, each designed to demonstrate that the service desk is delivering value and quality to their organisation. Metrics also provide management with the quantitative data they need to make accurate and reasoned decisions there is widespread adherence to the mantra that you can t manage what you can t measure. However, in the IT world of today it is more than just the ability to manage, it is increasingly about value and providing metrics to substantiate this to your organisation. To benchmark you need to measure performance, thus you need to decide the metrics that you will use to help you gauge how your service desk is performing. There are literally hundreds of metrics that you could measure, and the problem is exacerbated somewhat by the huge volumes of data that service desks collect. Lots of debate exists around the most important service desk measures and of course, these vary depending on a service desk s structure, goals and the types of organisation and users supported. However, the industry advocates that there are 28 metrics that should be measured (see the appendix at the back of this guide), but this may be too many or not enough for what you want to demonstrate. Rather than getting too hung up on what metrics the industry tells you to measure, be confident that you know your service desk better than anyone and are thus best placed to decide what information you need to analyse. Start with the basics (incoming call and volumes) and work through the natural progression of incidents (average speed to answer, first contact resolution etc.) until you hit upon the metrics that will be meaningful to you. Never measure for measurement s sake as this is a sure-fire way to increase your workload without seeing any appreciable benefits. Concentrate on the value and trend and track your performance measures over time. Look out for troughs and peaks and do some analysis to understand why they have occurred. Be cognizant of changes to infrastructure, staffing, training, development, new approaches and methodologies and look to identify if these changes have impacted on your performance in a positive or negative way.

7 6 For every metric trend follow this process: Trend data over at least a 12 month period Present it in a clear and concise form Performing analysis to understand any unusual or unexpected results Provide commentary to graphs to articulate your understanding Invite others to offer suggestions on why the trend looks the way that it does Build your data trends and then perform month on month and year on year analysis the more data you have, the more confident you can be in your predictions Understand what these trends tell you: is service improving? What s your definition of improvement? Are the results as you would have expected? How does this information help you plan moving forward? What do the team and the business make of the results? Create service improvements plans based on the empirical data provide by the performance measures, discussions with the service desk team and the business, an acute awareness of budget and time constraints, and a clear understanding of the business strategy and mission moving forward Performing this process ensures that you can benchmark successfully and drive improvements in your ability to deliver an outstanding service.

8 Improving service delivery Service improvement is the goal for any service desk. Service can always be improved, but many desks are unsure of how they can achieve improvements or where they should direct their energies and resources. A crucial way in which you can identify where improvements should be made is by using metrics and adopting the internal benchmarking approach. Trending your data will identify if improvements and where they are occurring. For example, if call duration times are increasing is this because a new system has just been installed that users are unfamiliar with? Conversely, has the successful implementation of a self service portal led to a fall in call volumes, and if so by how much? By measuring these metrics you can see the effect of improvements or key areas that are deserving of attention. This approach takes a much more holistic approach to service improvement. It is vital that you understand the impact of one metric on another as the effects will not always be positive. A bad self service portal might actually increase call volumes and duration as users call to complain that there is bad information on the portal that might have actually made the problem worse.

9 8 Conclusion Benchmarking is a vital part of service delivery, but it is important that it is used in the right way. Benchmarking against industry standards has value, but much greater returns will be experienced when benchmarking against your own standards. If you have recently implemented a new change management process then you will be able to see whether this has improved service by examining your metrics and looking at the trend of your data. If metrics have improved as a result of the processes you have implemented then celebrate these achievements with your organisation it s the only way they ll truly know that you are committed to improving service for their employees and increasing productivity. Service desks can, and should, be benchmarked, but we must avoid the temptation to benchmark based on industry data alone. Taking steps to organise internal benchmarking activities right now will put you in a good position to identify areas that could require improvement. Benchmarking is an on-going process, with improvements identified and implemented as the service desk matures.

10 Appendix The 30 performance measures of service desk certification 1. Reporting activities 2. Business related metrics 3. Number of incidents and service requests 4. Average time to respond 5. Abandon Rate 6. Average time taken to resolve incidents or fulfil service requests 7. First Contact Resolution Rate (FCR) 8. First Level Resolution Rate 9. Re-opened incident rate 10. Backlog Management 11. Hierarchic escalations (management) 12. Functional escalations (re-assignment) 13. Average resolution time by priority 14. Average resolution time by incident category and service request type 15. Comparison of overall service level goals to actual results 16. Remote control monitoring measured against goals 17. Self-logging monitoring measured against goals 18. Self-help monitoring measured against goals 19. Knowledge Usage 20. Quality of knowledge and its effectiveness 21. Monitoring incidents caused by failed changes measured against goals 22. Total cost of service delivery 23. Average cost per incident and service request (cost per contact) 24. Average cost per incident and service request by channel 25. People satisfaction feedback 26. Staff turnover 27. Unplanned absence days 28. Periodic customer satisfaction measurement 29. Event-based customer satisfaction measurement 30. Complaints, suggestions and compliments

11 About SDI Founded in 1988, the Service Desk Institute (SDI) is the leading authority on service desk and IT support related issues, providing specialist information and research about the technologies, tools and trends of the industry. It is Europe s only support network for IT service desk professionals, and its 5,000 professional members span numerous industries. Service Desk Institute Acting as an independent adviser, SDI captures and disseminates creative and innovative ideas for tomorrow s service desk and support operation. SDI sets the best practice standards for the IT support industry and is the conduit for delivering knowledge and career enhancing skills to the professional community, through membership, training, conferences, events and industry awards. It also offers the opportunity for international recognition of the support centre operation through its globally recognised Service Desk Certification audit programme. To find out more about the Service Desk Institute, please visit or call About Citrix Citrix GoToAssist delivers simple but powerful tools that provide fantastic support experiences for your users - no matter where they are or what device they re on. Use Remote Support to assist PC, Mac and mobile device users; Service Desk to log and track incidents, enable end-user self-service and manage configurations; and Monitoring to manage and inventory IT networks, servers and services. Elevate the support experience for your users and out-support the competition. To learn more about GoToAssist and the power of remote service delivery, please visit or call

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