Service Desk Queue Management Program Improves Client IT Performance

A man is standing and smiling above a man sitting who is wearing a headset

When rating IT service quality, incidents left indefinitely open can be devastating.  End user perception is shaped on a case by case basis so if one support request is escalated to another team for resolution, the minutes that pass can seem like hours and hours seem like days. Needless to say, it’s important to be diligent and keep a close eye on any tickets that are pending action and prompt resolution for those currently actionable. But not all internal IT departments have the resources to manage the IT Service Management queue apart from the individual to whom that ticket is assigned. For such occasions, a service desk Queue Management program might be a worthwhile investment.

Unlike Total Contact Ownership (TCO) in which all follow-up and communication of an escalated incident are managed by the agent who handled the initial contact, Queue Management is conducted by a designated individual for all open incidents. Granted, the service desk is responsible for follow up on any open Level 1 incident through resolution, but those escalated to client IT groups (desktop and server teams) or third-party vendors are often relegated to the client’s realm of control. Aging tickets, meaning those left open for long intervals, either at Level 2 or 3 can amount to roughly 7% to 10% of monthly service desk volume. That means 7% to 10% of the end user population could be fuming while the clock is ticking on their open issue. Considering the sheer number of tickets created, clients might not have sufficient internal resources to identify the hold-up and either prompt a resolution or report on its status regularly. For example, smaller companies may have a purchasing department place an order for a hard drive replacement, but they may not necessarily have the time to track down a back ordered one or notify the technician to install it when it does arrive. In such instances, the Queue Manager makes sure nothing out of sight remains out of mind.

Though the job is more administrative than technical, most Queue Managers typically possess an ITIL foundations certification as they must be familiar with the workflow requirements for IT Service Management processes. In addition to this industry related context, many have a minimum of five years’ experience in a service desk supervisory capacity.  Common tasks handled by a Service Desk Queue Manager include the following:

  • Serve as a single point of contact for ticket escalations. This eliminates the guesswork about who to contact for the status of any open ticket. While the technician, engineer, or third-party vendor to whom the ticket is assigned bears the primary responsibility for resolution, the QM may assist. So respectively they each serve as the “R” and “A” in RACI matrix terminology.
  • Oversee all queue activity generated by the service desk and client IT staff. The QM runs a ticket aging report, sorted by the oldest to newest, and drills down into each ticket’s history to get an understanding of the root cause and why it’s remained open.
  • Ensure every ticket is being touched/updated at specified intervals(i.e. every 24 hours), often depending on the established SLAs. Most ITSM platforms or ticketing systems include automated email reminders prompting the ticket owner to resolve or update it; however, with time and frequency technicians can just as automatically dismiss or delete those prompts out of habit. It takes a conscious effort on the part of the Queue Manager to at least review the ticket and confirm whether or not anything can be done and relay pending actions to the client’s IT management.
  • Identify misrouted/mishandled tickets and re-assign to the respective group or technician. Though considerably fewer open tickets fall into this category than legitimate resolution delays, having a designated “clean-up hitter” to find and redirect ticket miscues to the appropriate team maximizes resolution in the easiest way possible.

The concept of “One IT” meaning no distinction between a client’s internal IT department and the outsourced service desk benefits end users in that all take ownership of open issues. There is no buck-passing or finger pointing between separate entities and no “us versus them” mentality. While this is great in theory, it does require a modicum of tact if the Queue Manager must reach out to client desktop and network teams regarding unresolved issues or risk harboring resentment. The goal is improved resolution rates at all levels and for all groups with the QM serving more as an additional layer of oversight and troubleshooting expertise for any open tickets that might have gone overlooked, but are easily resolvable.  So the approach should be more of a co-management liaison than a corporate enforcer.

With communication as the cornerstone of any co-management strategy, an effective Queue Manager must have daily conversations with service desk and client management teams regarding quality issues or trends. The QM must also reach out to the designated technician, engineer, or hardware/software supplier regarding their open tickets then relay ongoing challenges to both internal and external teams in order to bolster continual service improvement techniques. One dedicated IT professional regularly prompting these discussions about root cause analysis, supply chain and process streamlining is a means to this end. Even if they’re scouring the queue for low hanging fruit that is overripe and ready for resolution, the implications are enormous for the end user population and the reputation of IT no matter who’s closing the tickets.