Great Customer Service Begins with a Culture of Great Internal Service

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by Bill Cushard (@BillCush)

Help desks are not just for IT any more. Many other company departments are beginning to organize themselves as services desks to improve the service provided to the rest of their organization. According to the Help Desk Institute, the top three “other” departments that are becoming service desks are human resources, facilities, and training.

It makes a lot of sense.

How many employee inquiries does your human resources, facilities, and training team field in any given month? How many of those inquiries are resolved in the promised time frame? What is the quality of the responses? What do internal customers think of the service they receive from these departments?

If you are like most organizations, you do not have answers to these questions.

Then there is the other problem: Do employees even know how to contact these departments? For example, if an employee sees that a side door to your building is not locking or that a light is out in a dark part of your parking lot, do they know how to report it and to whom? Maybe they do and maybe they don’t? Are you able to quantify the number of request types your employees are making, at a global level, so you can solve these problem?

You probably do not have answers to these questions either.

“If you put a good person against a bad system, the system wins every time.”

– Geary Rummler

We all want to provide great internal service in our organizations, but we often fall short. Not because of bad people, but because of insufficient systems and inefficient workflows. Of course, our internal customers (work colleagues) don’t care about that. All they see is a request going into an anonymous email inbox, and seeing nothing in return….confirming their belief that requests go into a blackhole never to be heard from again.

Most teams that provide service to employees use the email inbox as a means for collecting requests and replying to people. Companies are flooded with email inboxes like legal@yourcompany.com, payroll@yourcompany.com, and facilities@yourcompany.com. This is an easy approach because email systems are already in place, everyone knows how to use it, and it can be set up and communicated easily. It is not wonder this is the way everyone is doing it.

The problem with email inboxes is that there is no workflow, no accountability, and no visibility into the actual work being done. You cannot run a service organization that way. So, what if a legal team decided it wanted to organize itself like an IT help desk? What would that look like? Your legal team must take requests from many different teams in your company, so this is a good example.

How a legal team became a service desk and saved 174 attorney hours

A legal team is a great example of a department that is primarily focused on providing service to other departments. A legal team reviews contracts, statements of work, non-disclosure agreements, purchasing agreements, and any other legal agreement a company must sign. The legal team needs to do this so that other departments can move the company forward. Most legal teams probably field these requests by email. Here is where the problems begin. How do requesters know the status of requests? Most often, they don’t.

But what if they did?

The legal team at Atlassian set up a service desk to improve the service it offered the rest of Atlassian. It set up online forms that employees could fill out to request legal’s help. Forms were structured to collect the right information up front so the legal team knew exactly what needed to be done, eliminating the back-and-forth exchanges that delayed the process and led to the stressful, frantic, last-minute pushes inherent to these exchanges. The web forms were routed to specific queues where they could be picked up by the right members of the legal team and then later reported on.

During a recent reporting period, the legal team reported that as a direct result of setting up this service desk, it reduced the time spent handling requests by 50% and it saved 174 attorney hours.

How would your organization perform if it could improve service and reduce costs like this?

A service desk is for any department

The point is that help desks are not just for IT help desks any more. Any department in your organization can structure itself as a service organization to increase the value it provides your organization and help it achieve its goals. To do this requires thinking differently about internal service and the right tools and workflows in place to execute.

But it can be done.

Call for Comments

  1. What teams on your organization are structured like help desk? How are they organized?
  2. What tools do these teams use and how do they use them?
  3. How has service improved? What other benefits have you realized?
  4. What is stopping you from structuring more teams like service desks?

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Bill Cushard

Bill Cushard covers the intersection of learning, enterprise software adoption, and customer success. His experience building training departments in high-growth organizations helps him lead ServiceRocket's training services business. Bill is passionate about the "training business segment" of the learning management system (LMS) market and in helping early stage enterprise software companies build and run strategic training businesses.

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