Appropriate and effective training is an important part of ensuring that IT service desk agents are up to the challenges of delivering IT support and meeting the expectations of the people they serve. But how well is IT service desk training matching the current and evolving needs of IT support? This blog takes an in-depth view of current service desk training practices.
IT, IT service management (ITSM), and IT support have always been about people helping people. And, even with the greater adoption of self-service capabilities, automation, and then artificial intelligence (AI) – it will still be people helping people. Even if there are potentially fewer people involved in scenarios that span:
I’m surprised that someone, probably a consultant or an industry analyst, hasn’t created a visual-quadrant depicting this yet!
But how well are organizations training their IT service desk staff to deal with the changing IT support and business environments?
The IT-support environment is changing – or should be changing – to reflect changes within the wider IT organization and business. For example:
As a result of these (and other change drivers), we should expect a change in IT service desk training patterns to be emerging, i.e. a change in the focus of training for new and existing staff.
But is this the case?
The SDI research shows that new service desk agents are, on average, receiving more training:
“There has been an overall increase in the hours of training that new service desk analysts receive, which has manifested itself in a wider scope of training offered by a higher proportion of service desks.”
This is great news of course. But is it the right type of training? From the basics of support to dealing with the impact of the changing IT support environment outlined above?
Again, there’s more good news – customer service training has increased between the 2015 and latest surveys – from 44% to 54% of service desks (albeit with 2015 experiencing a significant dip relative to 2013).
There’s also a significant increase in telephone-skills training after a similar dip in 2015 – from 46% to 67% – maybe due to the early promise of IT self-service (back then) making it seem a less-valuable skill?
Plus, the increase in service desk procedure training is great too – as long as it’s not offered without any training related to how the procedures are best actioned in an optimal, perhaps customer-centric, way. For instance, the aforementioned customer service and telephone training.
As an aside, it’s also great to see the level of security-based training for service desk agents in the latest survey. Whereas it looks like social media never made it as a popular/legitimate IT service desk access and communication channel!
Training related to problem-solving skills has dropped marginally, having stayed somewhat static for the previous decade.
This is definitely heading in the wrong direction – and staying static should also be considered bad – because the issues and requests received by the IT service desk will definitely become more complex over time (due the reasons already mentioned).
It’s the evolution of what Rob England, the IT Skeptic, covers in his “Standard + Case” approach –which differentiates between two types of support scenario:
But this is just new-starter training, what about ongoing training for existing service desk staff?
SDI also asked the same question related to the training provided to existing staff:
Some of the lower scores are to be expected, for instance service desk procedures – where this might only apply to scenarios where practices have changed or if existing processes are not being sufficiently followed in the real world. And the significant increase in telephone-skills training is mirrored here too.
But there are two obvious areas for concern:
One could, of course, argue that there are reasons for this – that existing staff are suitably equipped with customer-service and problem-solving skills. But would this really be the case in a sample that shows 80% of service desks needing to provide ongoing training for service desk procedures, or 68% for products/services information?
The SDI data is great (and I can’t wait for the next version of the report in late 2019), but it looks at the “here and now.”
Businesses are changing, as are the available technologies and services plus the expectations of support. So, how does service desk agent training (and their skills) need to change to reflect this?
To help, last year my colleagues at SysAid created an eBook containing the views of 20 ITSM-industry influencers related to the “Skills and Capabilities Required of a 2020 ITSM Professional.” These include:
While these relate to a wide spectrum of ITSM roles, I’d still like to see many of these skills/capabilities as requirements for service desk agents and thus high on their training agendas. It might be wishful thinking but if service desk agents don’t stay relevant in how they work, then how will the IT service desk stay relevant as a whole.
Without additional information to correlate the training provision data to, such as customer satisfaction scores, we will never definitively know if current service-desk training focus-areas are missing the mark. But surely, it’s time to question whether your service desk agents are being adequately supported in meeting the demands that customers, and evolving performance management metrics, will place on them? IT support is evolving, and this also has to apply to your people.