Training Strategies That Drive Consistent Service Desk Quality

Man helping a woman while pointing at a laptop

While learning from one’s mistakes may be the accepted path to growth and wisdom in life, it’s not the preferred method for smooth, uninterrupted service desk operations. There are real and immediate consequences at stake when the learning curve, no matter how small, is imposed on a potentially vocal end-user population in a live support context. So to ensure consistent service quality, every agent must follow a structured training program with regard to each client’s unique processes and technical environment before taking that first contact. And it shouldn’t end there. Every time a new proprietary application, operating system, or industry regulation is introduced to the scope of services, ongoing training sessions are the prerequisite to continued success.

How to resolve connectivity issues or support standard office applications are skills the agents already bring to the table and can be applied from client to client. But there can be a multitude of variables that make client specific training an essential part of the curriculum. Here are a few places to start:

Getting Priorities Straight

How are priorities defined? One agent’s P1 may be another’s P3 so having a well-defined priority matrix documented and top of mind at the service desk minimizes errors in judgment and deferred resolutions. Does the end user dictate urgency and impact or is there an element of agent discretion based on the nature of the issue? While urgency may be high from the end user’s perspective, higher priorities apply to issues that affect the entire organization if not a particular department.

Use Workflow as Directed

What is the escalation procedure for network outages? Is there a different process after core business hours? The service desk must document the order of individuals to contact and intervals until live notification receipt is confirmed assuming direct phone communication is preferred over an email. To what department or individual is the ticket routed? How are escalations to on-site desktop technicians handled? Agents must be trained on the appropriate ticket details to include such as troubleshooting steps attempted end-user call back number, screenshots, and error messages.

Communication Media

Though somewhat tied to workflow procedures, service desk agents need to be familiar with the preferred method of contact for open incidents. Some end user cultures prefer the immediacy of live agent phone support. Others, due to an ESL population forced to work within the corporate communication parameters of English only, prefer to compose their support requests more deliberately using translation software via chat or email. In a white-labeled solution, agents typically identify themselves as members of the client’s team as scripted in the ACD screen popups, they must also be familiar with the unscripted terminology.

Industry Regulation

Whether the client is in verticals such as healthcare, financial, education, or generates nuclear waste, there is likely some federal agency that oversees that regulations are enforced. The serviced desk is not absolved from compliance. What sort of industry-related compliance training (HIPAA, SOX, etc.) is required and how is the service desk informed of new sessions and timeline for completion? These expectations must be established at the launch of the service desk solution between the implementation team and client IT management so there is no room for confusion later.

Classification is in Session

When documenting incidents in the ticketing system, agents must be trained on the classifications by Category/Type/Item (CTIs) including proprietary applications and make the proper selection from the drop-down lists. Are there incidents that don’t yet have an assigned CTI? If so, Team Leads should work with client management on building out those classifications so agents can always fill in the blanks. This will go a long way towards generating meaningful reports that help analyze trends and identify root causes.

ITSM Platform

Is the client using ServiceNowRemedyTrack-ITfreshdeskFootprints, etc.? How do agents access the knowledge base (through the ITSM platform? SharePoint?). How are known errors uploaded to the database (KEDB) and who proposes or develops the documentation of workaround and problem management? Ideally, as the first point of contact, the service desk agents can serve as the first alert for recurring problems and recommend workarounds; however, depending on the client preferences, their internal IT departments and infrastructure teams may prefer to handle certain aspects of problem management and limit their role to flagging tickets for review. What sort of call avoidance instructions does client IT Management want the agents to relate? For example, is there a password reset tool end users can manage themselves? Is there an end-user self-help portal for FAQs and knowledge articles? A common approach is for the agent to resolve the incident while instructing the user of direct resolution options for future reference. If the client’s IT culture is predominantly voice contact oriented, increased costs may accompany increased Level 1 resolution as self-help capabilities will be limited. Either way, the service desk agent must be sensitive to the preferred approach when communicating with all client personnel.

Common Sense Due Diligence

Lastly, to reinforce a top of mind awareness of operational cardinal rules and avoid IT management pet peeves, team leads can compile a top 10 list of do’s and don’ts or core support issues. And while MSPs tend to manage recruiting, training, and where to assign staff without client involvement, it’s also a wise policy to coordinate new agent orientation and record initial training sessions with the client’s management team. It will ensure agent aptitude with regard to their unique systems, applications, and processes as the knowledge shared will be driven from the collective experience of key internal personnel.

At the conclusion of initial training, service desk agents must pass comprehensive exams specific to that account and be gradually eased into a support role starting with listening in on calls, then responding to emails with supervision, and eventually handling live calls with whisper coaching from the Team Lead. Just like the transition to the service desk outsourcing team at initial launch, the individual agent must complete the same rigorous training regimen and be as prepared as possible to deliver quality support on Day 1. The trial and error approach can be left to the mad scientists.