Setting up a IT Service Desk

People, Process, and Technology


Setting up a IT Service Desk People, Process, and Technology

The IT Service Desk

Setting up an IT service desk isn’t an easy task. To give you a helping hand we have outlined a few key steps to follow.

According to ITIL 4 – “The purpose of the service desk practice is to capture demand for incident resolution and service requests. It should also be the entry point and single point of contact for the service provider for all users”.


Service Desk Staffing:

When selecting service desk staff, there are a few points to consider. Ideal candidates are personable, enjoy talking on the phone with customers, want to help people, and have sufficient basic skills for the job. A service desk’s perception affects overall customer satisfaction with IT, so having the right people on the desk is essential. Here are some qualities to look for:

  • Good phone manner, customer service capabilities demonstrated in their experience.
  • Sufficient technology background to fix simple configuration/usage issues
  • Many service desks cover second-level support services such as desktop support, system administration, and access control. In these circumstances, technicians hired should have a more profound technical background than first-level analysts who may grow into these more advanced positions.

Service desk managers will most definitely play a key role in delivering service and support within the organization. They need a strong customer focus and the ability to play a vital role in ensuring other support personnel gets the job done. They will often be the person who holds other managers and directors accountable for resolving incidents on time and making sure certain requests are fulfilled within expected time frames.

IT Recruitment and Resourcing Support


When setting up your service desk, there are a few areas in the design or day-to-day running that can lead to lowered customer satisfaction or internal struggles. Some areas to consider in the design and ongoing operation are as follows:

    • Shutting down channels too soon: As new channels are added such as service portals, old inefficient channels are closed too soon. Sometimes, email is shut down when the portal goes live, but this is can actually be a mistake that can lead to lowered satisfaction levels. The best way to shut down an ineffective channel is to use great experiences and adoption programs to drive people to the preferred channel. Then, as volume decreases, begin a communication program to shut down the channel over a period of time.
    • Confusing or lengthy voice menus: When multiple-service desks or skill-based routing is used to direct calls to the right person, there’s a temptation to create complex menus to support the routing. This can be very frustrating for an end-user. Work to make menus as short as possible, no more than 3 or 4 options on a level and no more than two levels. Make certain every option is used by skill-based routing. In other words: don’t use menus unless you need them for routing, and don’t ask for more than you need to accomplish this routing.
    • Failing to focus on building knowledge: Creating a robust knowledge base is critical to service desk operation but widely overlooked. Knowledge bases not only ensure a consistent and efficient service desk experience, but they also support self-service and chatbots. Every ticket for which a knowledge article is not found should be turned into one when a workaround is determined, at either the service desk or during L2 support. This won’t happen automatically, so many organizations are turning to a program of gamification and reward to encourage technical teams to build knowledge.
    • Too much emphasis on wait times and call length: Keeping wait times down is critical to employee satisfaction, and keeping call times short is needed for cost-effective operations. While they’re both significant in service desk operations, too much focus on the measures themselves is counter-productive. People can’t be rushed off the phone just to keep average call times low or because other people are waiting. Proper staffing, use of multiple channels, strong and problem management are the key to lower overall phone volumes. Extensive knowledge bases help technicians get a workaround applied more quickly and will naturally drive the right balance on wait times and call times. Work on the qualitative areas rather than the quantitative, and the numbers will take care of themselves.
ITSM Process Support

ITSM Technology

Service desk operations are heavily reliant on tools. Vision and mission are essential, but they can’t be carried out effectively without the technology that backs them up: phones, service portals, and ticketing tools to pass incidents and requests to other teams are all critical to the operation of this service desk. In the following, we will recap some of the technology needed to run an effective service desk.

Telephone systems

One of the most common is the ACD or automated call distribution system, which can combine voice menus and skill-based routing for effective performance.

Platforms and Portals for Service Management 

The service management platform, still sometimes called a ticketing system, is second only to the ACD system in importance. Modern service management platforms will offer an incident management application. They also offer an application that interfaces to the built-in service catalog to manage the requests submitted via the service catalogs. In addition, they offer applications for problem management, so technology and application teams can manage issues that need to be permanently resolved.

Call initiation capability

Providing the ability to start a call before knowing what type of support the caller needs (incident vs. service request) or to land a screen pop integration is helpful. Generally, this temporary record type can be converted to an incident or service request during the initial interaction. In a robust system, this may even display other open tickets the caller has when they call to follow up on one of them.

Incident Management application

Not all incident management applications are alike. In order to be useful in today’s complex environment, the following capabilities should be provided, along with the ability to capture appropriate information about the caller or service recipient and the incident itself. Look for:

  • Ability to categorise the call at a high level for trend reporting
  • Ability to classify the configuration item about which the user is calling. This may not be the one at fault, but a truly good design will have a place to store the configuration item that caused the issue as well.
  • A built-in interface to the knowledge management system that displays potential solutions to your L1 technician.
  • Ability to assign tickets automatically based on the configuration item, categorization and/or a set of simple rules, along with the ability to post the issue to a feed that’s used to manage support delivered by swarming.
  • Escalation and special management workflows for managing major incidents, along with integration to an automated notification capability that enables key support personnel to be notified and join a conference bridge and/or the ability to manage on-call rotations and notify the appropriate personnel
  • Dashboards that assist in managing critical incidents: critical/high priority, incidents that are nearing their SLA breach point, breached SLA’s etc.

Knowledge Base

Most service management platforms have a knowledge base application included within them. This should provide support for a Knowledge-Centered Support or KCS practice in the organization. There are several basic processes in KCS support that the platform should support:

  • The solve-evolve loop is supported by the ability to convert an incident into a draft knowledge article
  • The ability to display draft knowledge to the service desk for just-in-time use as new known errors are identified (with workarounds)
  • The evolve-portion of the loop is supported by the user’s ability to flag knowledge as it is used, and to provide feedback and ratings to help evolve the knowledge
  • The knowledge base should enable both streamlined approval and instant publication of knowledge.
  • Bonus points if the platform alows the use of commercially available knowledge bases to supplement the internally created knowledge base articles. The incident deflection process should let end users see appropriate articles when they log a support ticket through the portal.

Problem Management

When the root cause of an incident is not known, the system should provide the ability to escalate it to problem management. From there, it can be assigned and managed outside of the service desk, ultimately leading to the creation of knowledge articles with workarounds that may be used until it is fully resolved.

Request Fulfillment Application

Since requests are separately managed from incidents, many products interface their service catalog to a back-end request fulfillment application. This holds the request “ticket” and utilizes workflows to manage the fulfillment of the item. The workflows should include interfaces that enable the following:

  • Collection of appropriate approvals
  • Ability to provision any hardware/software needed from an asset management viewpoint (or to procure the item needed)
  • Ability to indicate a requested item is on backorder, along with the ability to display when it is expected in the service catalog or to notify the requester
  • Cost tracking for chargebacks, when used
  • Ability to open tasks to multiple fulfillment teams and/or providers in sequence or in parallel, depending on the item’s fulfillment process
  • Tracking against service levels for the fulfillment of the request

Service Catalog

The front-end, customer visible portion of request fulfillment is the Service Catalog. Service management platforms vary widely in the quality of their service catalog, with some key capabilities including:

  • The ability to categorize the items contained in the catalog, offering both incidents and service requests through a structure that doesn’t require the user to know which they are logging
  • Robust design capabilities to manage complex requests, including the ability to ask questions conditionally, depending on the response to a previous question
  • The ability for the end-user to return and see the status of their ticket
  • Notifications and ability to add notes to a ticket
  • Integration with a service portal for a full self-service experience
  • Integration with knowledge bases for tickets that generate incidents: when a question or description is entered, knowledge should display automatically

Service Portal

Tied closely to the service catalog, the service portal is the customer’s entry point to obtain information and support. The more robust the portal experience, the higher adoption will be for the portal, end-user knowledge, and the service catalog. The portal should offer access to the following capabilities:

  • Information about current system issues, helpful information like holiday schedules, company announcements, etc.
  • Integration to the phone system and walk-up center queues to show current wait times
  • Ability to sign up for a spot at the walk-up center, then receive a notification shortly before the user’s turn is reached
  • Access to knowledge bases through search capabilities or browsing
  • Access to the service catalog
  • Chat capabilities for direct support
  • Ability to post a question or need to a social media style application and thus engage in the support provided via swarming

Chat, Chatbots

While listed under the portal as well, the platform’s mechanism for providing chat, integration to virtual personal assistants like Cortana, Siri, etc., and ability to scale support through the use of chatbots should be considered.

Walk up center support

Establishing a walk-up center requires technology that has become more common in service management platforms. There are several aspects to establishing a walk-up center:

  • Support for signing in from the service portal
  • Support for signing in via a tablet/kiosk at the walk-up center
  • Ability to see the queue/place inline
  • Agent’s ability to pull the ticket and manage the queue

Integration support

Even the best service management tool will not work well unless it can interact with other applications within the platform as well as external systems. Consider the ability to interface with the following capabilities, either within or external to the platform:

  • Asset Management and provisioning software
  • Configuration Management data and discovery tools
  • Monitoring systems
  • External display boards: showing call stats, current major incident information, and more
  • Notification and texting systems for on-call rotation and major incidents
  • Ability to automatically import emails
  • Predictive analytics
ITSM Tool Selection Support

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Kate Hamblin

Senior ITSM Consultant +44 0118 324 0620

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