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IT Support Metrics: the impact of the pandemic and an opportunity for change

May 18, 2021 4:31:51 PM

It should not come as a surprise that the pandemic has impacted all aspects of the workplace, including the service desk. But behind the data, the full story of the deterioration of most of the IT Support metrics shows that Service Desk transformation can no longer wait. 

The impact of the pandemic on the IT service desk

In most companies, the shift to remote working had to be made almost overnight when the Covid-19 pandemic was officialized. In Europe, mid-2020 almost half (48%) of employees were in remote work at least part of the time, and more than a third (34%) were working exclusively from home. A drastic change from 2018, when less than 5% of workers reported working remotely regularly and less than 10% occasionally. (source: Eurofound study “Living, Working and Covid-19” with data from the European Commission).

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Employees had to deal with a new stressful reality, with new tools to connect remotely to their applications and data (including VPN), creating new issues. Even IT experts are not immune to stress in this situation. 61% of them say their stress levels have risen since working remotely, increased by the lack of in-person collaboration (Unify Square study, December 2020).

Another survey by Blind (an anonymous workplace chat app used by 83 000 compagnies to measure employees concerns) found that 68% of tech workers feel more burned out than they did when they worked at an office. And that 54% of the workforce in major tech companies like Amazon, Microsoft, Google, and Facebook describe themselves as exhausted, in part because of unmanageable workload (details in Business Insider). 

In this stressful situation, the IT service desk is on the front line to help employees access the tools they need. Which caused an increase of ticket volumes (+35% according to a MetricNet-DeepCoding study), while the service desk agents also had to adjust to their own new environment and remote tools. This logically resulted in a Resolution Times increase, and a first contact and first Level resolution decrease (from 78.2% before the pandemic to 71.5% now). Consequently, service cost per ticket also exploded (+30%, from $20.44 to $26.51 per ticket).

The consequences on Employee satisfaction

Even with highly committed IT service desk teams, other negative consequences are measured. Technician absenteeism is now up (from 5.6% to 11.3%) and job satisfaction is down (from 76.8% to 67.1%) as well as customer/end users satisfaction (from 83.8% to 74.7%). Processes implemented in an emergency, to enable businesses to carry on “as normal”, have not improved since. 

As a result, Ticket Backlogs that where 7.2 days long before the crisis have now extended to an alarming 12.1 days. A situation that can only fuel the dissatisfaction of the service desk teams and their clients. Some companies might believe that adding more headcount to their Help Desk team will help improve their KPIs.

But the service desk teams need better processes, to avoid a dramatic burnout situation, for themselves and for the employees they assist. In fact, if IT experts quit or loose motivation, most compagnies are at risk of losing the knowledge of those employees. Up to 65% of companies admit that their groups have knowledge that can not be found in any knowledge base, according to the MetricNet - DeepCoding survey. 

IT service desks also need mature metrics to track their efficiency and value. Among those key metrics, the cost per ticket and the mean time to resolve (MTTR) are not new indicators. But many organizations lack the processes to regularly measure, record, and track those metrics, with enough data and granularity to detect underlying issues and productivity sinkholes. Advanced IT support metrics should also include customer satisfaction (CSAT and even Net Promoter Score (NPS) mechanisms) and support agent satisfaction. Because they are the foundation for user-driven approaches that maximize the adoption of new technologies and their ROI. 

An opportunity to transform the Service Desk with Automation and AI

Automation is the right approach to implement better standardized processes at the service desk level and track those KPI. Applying Artificial Intelligence and Automation to the service desk will help maximize the time and value of the human service desk agents, whose expertise remain central in a user-driven approach.

This automation is welcome and even demanded by the front-line. Those IT experts now see the interest of an “hybrid intelligence” based on the collaboration between human intelligence and artificial intelligence. Because helpdesk teams no longer fear AI and 63% of companies agree that AI powered problem detection and resolution can be the key to their transformation (MetricNet- DeepCoding study). 

AI and Machine Learning is clearly listed by 26% of those companies as the number one change they would like to make in IT Service and Support. They agree that automation will help reduce ticket volumes, decrease Resolution Times, increase first contact and first level resolution, implement mature Key Processes, and ultimately improve customer satisfaction

Among the many interesting use cases for service desk automation, we can mention automatic ticket categorization (listed by 69% of the companies as a number one change they would implement to their service desk). Other scenarios include Intelligent routing, where AI and automation are used to prequalify and route request to the human agent best fit to resolve the issue (listed by 9% of the companies).

But the benefits of AI do not stop at automating incident resolution and offering self-service help to the users. A shift left strategy brings solutions closer to the end user. But it can also give insights to the IT teams to detect patterns and determine the root cause of an issue, to address it sooner and prevent it from affecting more users.

Beyond automation, supporting digital transformation

This proactive approach to the IT service desk, fueled by automation, will generate savings on ticket costs. It will also improve the level of service for the end users. With this approach, AI is an asset to deliver unique digital user experiences, and thus support the larger digital transformation journey companies need to embark upon.

The Covid-19 crisis also boosted the deployment of AI, to improve customer experience and retention, revenue growth, and generate cost optimization. According to Gartner, 24% of organizations had increased their artificial intelligence (AI) investments in 2020, and 42% kept them unchanged since the beginning of the crisis. As companies now start to plan their post-pandemic Reset, introducing Artificial Intelligence at the IT service desk level can support this larger digital transformation strategy. By both helping end-users to adopt new digital tools and empower them to adopt new agile work habits. 

But the automation of the service desk is often blocked by 4 errors: a shift-left strategy with a limited impact, the lack of clearly identified automation use-cases, a non-efficient user’s digital journey, and no culture of data and knowledge management inside the company. That is why an automation project needs to be framed by a change management strategy. And involve the users from the start, to assure they will embrace the digital transformation.

We invite you to watch Konverso’s 20 min video masterclass to clearly identify those 4 errors that block the automation of your IT service desk. And the best practices to successfully automate your service desk and gain in productivity. 

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Bertrand Lafforgue

Written by Bertrand Lafforgue

Bertrand has co-founded Konverso where he leads strategy, sales, partnerships and business development. Konverso has developed a vertical chatbot powered by artificial intelligence to augment the Service Desk team to better support millions of employees everyday.