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IT's New Responsibility: Employee Engagement

Employee engagement
When the team asked me to present a webinar on employee engagement with the service desk, I started to think about what that term means. To me, successful engagement with employees, clients, or consumers means that you’ve provided convenient, two-way channels for communication. It’s a comfort zone where the customer can express their needs and the service providers can provide easy solutions (or collect the data they need to find a solution). This got me thinking about the context where this applies in IT. If we think about what the employee needs from IT, the list is very, very long. In fact, most organizations rely on IT for almost everything. We had a flu shot clinic at work recently. IT had nothing to do with the event itself, but the calendar invite and the required paperwork were digital. Employees printed their temporary insurance cards from their online accounts. We take it for granted that our Google Calendars will work, that we don’t need to carry our physical insurance cards, or that we can download a form to a PDF reader (and print that form to a network-connected printer). That’s just one, simple event. There are infinitely more complex events that IT supports. Our CEO broadcasts to dozens of locations around the world over video conferencing. Without IT and the technology that IT supports, our company (and almost any company) would be paralyzed. Given this context, the importance of employee engagement with IT should be obvious. Everything they do depends on IT infrastructure and digital tools, so it’s crucial that they have an outlet to express their needs to the department that owns this technology. The IT service desk is the employee-facing unit in the IT department, so it’s the most important place for quality engagement. This begs the question: How can the service desk provide an environment for positive engagement?

Hint: It’s not email

The Harvard Business Review reports that the average employee wastes 21 minutes per day by “overchecking email.” While email remains a prevalent form of business communication, it is no longer the best option for all forms of communication. That includes the service desk. Email provides no visibility into the status of a ticket or request. It does not offer resources for self-service or forms to help employees completely describe their requests. And, most importantly, it does not put IT in a position to provide a positive experience. Employees can’t afford to waste time constantly refreshing email and waiting for a response to a ticket that may or may not have a resolution in progress. Imagine the frustration when, hours later, IT emails back, asking which version of the software the employee is currently using. That’s not a solution. That’s not a positive engagement. It makes sense to include email as an option, but it shouldn’t be the primary channel for engagement, and superior options should be encouraged. The best types of engagements put solutions into people’s hands very quickly.

Providing versatile engagement options

As IT service providers, we need to get employees onto our turf in order to maximize our ability to deliver quality service. In other words, we don’t want ad hoc requests coming from email, phone calls, and walk-ups. We want to create a place to organize the chaos, which is why I would encourage a strong portal experience paired with some adoption strategies to condition users. But here’s the key: the portal needs to provide easy access to resources, and it needs to have some flexibility for employees to engage in ways that are comfortable for them. As customers, we’re not going to do anything because it’s “more convenient for the service provider.” The mere notion is actually insulting to the customer (we’re spoiled). In order to encourage behavior, it needs to be a quality engagement for them. This can mean different things for different people. Here are some of the “types” of users who engage with the service desk, and what we can provide to create a positive experience:
User Engagement Methods
“Do-it-yourselfers” Self-service seekers need a robust knowledge base and AI-powered suggestions for articles in the search bar and within ticket creation. Help them to help themselves.
“Browsers” Provide prominent links to the service catalog and knowledge base, lists of most popular resources, and an effective search bar.
“Always Create a Ticket” Give them AI-powered suggestions within ticket creation so they have every chance to take a shortcut. If they insist on a ticket, collect important data through categories, subcategories, and dependent fields to resolve it quickly.
“It’s an Emergency!” Many employees will want to connect with IT right away. If they feel it’s that important, give them an engagement outlet through chat. From there, a technician might solve the issue quickly, provide a knowledge article or form, or even create a ticket that includes the context of the chat.
As an employee, I’ve fallen into all of these requester types at different times, so I’m a firm believer in offering versatility. There is no cookie-cutter engagement method that works for every organization, and especially not every employee. Live chat will only increase in popularity. It’s the fastest access to an expert, and it’s a conduite to all of the other resources that the service desk provides. Upon receiving a live chat message, a service agent has a number of options:
  • Resolve the issue quickly
  • Send the employee the appropriate request form or knowledge article
  • Create a ticket and escalate (while providing the employee a ticket number)
Chat creates immediate interaction (a big win right away), and after the initial hand-hold, provides the employee with either a solution or a window of visibility into the way their ticket/request is being worked.

Measuring Success

Of course, providing all of these methods for engagement takes time and resources. It might mean tier 1 service agents juggling time between the incident queue and the live chat function. Knowledge articles and service catalog forms/workflows don’t create themselves, so it takes some administration and oversight to ensure these resources are effective. No one has infinite staff or resources to manage these channels, so it’s important to budget according to the available data. The quality of engagements and the employee behavior should drive adjustments and improvements to your service design. The only way to improve is to track the ways that employees are interacting. It’s important to source every incident to an origin, including the portal, chat, email, API call, or manual entry by a technician. This can help determine if you need a push for portal adoption or perhaps a staffing increase for live chat. Trend reporting and heat mapping are terrific service desk reports for identifying days or times of increased activity. Google Analytics is also an effective measure of how employees engage once they enter the service portal. Which knowledge articles are they clicking? How many clicks does it take to find a request form or a solution to a particular issue? This can help you make decisions about portal configuration and—over time—help you model the portal experience around user behavior and preferences. So, what are the most effective engagement methods for your employees? I would always recommend offering more options, and measuring the impact of everything you offer. It sounds like a cop-out, but there really is no one-size-fits-all answer. The best advice I can give is to follow some of the industry trends and keep up with new options that are available. We’re all consumers when we’re outside of work, so we’re growing accustomed to versatility in our digital interactions. It’s IT’s duty to provide a similar experience to enable the employees who depend on technology to be successful.
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Tim Lawes
Tim Lawes serves as Manager of Solutions Engineering, ITSM at SolarWinds. ITIL 4 certified, he brings 10+ years of training and consulting experience in the…
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