DWS Service Desk Rescue Series: Reducing Call Handle Times

June 22, 2022

DWS Service Desk Rescue Series: Reducing Call Handle Times

You have a proposal to get out to a client and your email does not seem to be working. You reached out to others to see if they can send the email, but they are also having issues. You did basic troubleshooting such as restarting your computer, reseating the network cable, trying the computer on another network port, trying another email client, etc. But no luck.

You check the self-help portal and there are no messages indicating any issues. You decide to call the service desk, versus using the chat option, due to the urgency of the situation.

Imagine after waiting on the phone, for what seems like an eternity, you finally get to a service desk agent. Although very frustrated, you are also anxious to resolve your problem.

You try to impress upon the service desk agent the urgency of the matter and that there could be significant business impact if the deadline is not met.

What you hear back is the dreaded script.

The agent takes you through the standard questions to triage and understand the issue. Even though you share many of the troubleshooting steps you have done and conclusions you have made. The agent still continues to ask his questions. Throughout this time period, you find that you are repeating yourself quite often.

Once the triaging questions are concluded. You assume a solution will be provided. However, you realize that, that assumption is incorrect.

Now the agent has to place you on hold as he researches his knowledgebase. After what seems to be a few mins of being on hold, he returns and walks you through very basic and preliminary troubleshooting steps to determine the root cause.

You realize the agent missed it when you indicated in the beginning that you had already tried these steps. After repeating them again with the agent, he places you on hold once again to research.

After several more attempts at troubleshooting and being placed on hold. He informs you that, he will need to pass the ticket to the Level 2 team to further look into the issue.

By this time, you have wasted 30-45 mins.

Although you remind him of the importance of getting the proposal out in a few hours, he tells you that the level 2 team will get back to you in approximately 8 business hours. You indicate to him that his is unacceptable and remind him that nearly everyone on your floor is having the same issue.

He places you on hold once again and finally comes back to tell you that there is a global email outage and nothing can be done. Internal and External teams are working on the issue and while there is an SLA of 1 hr, there is no guarantee.

You don't realize it, but the average handle time is approximately 9 mins on the phone and 2 mins of after call work to finish documentation.

Another thing you don't realize is that, the agent did not capture all the necessary information or captured some of the information incorrectly.

Although the agent still sent the ticket to Level 2, when they finally did get to your ticket, they realized that information is missing. Normally they would have sent the ticket back to the agent to get the necessary information, as they do not call clients directly. This could have taken a few days. However, in this case, you got lucky. Because there were hundreds of other people with the same issue, the other agents did capture the necessary information in their tickets.

I just listed some key areas where the call was not handled correctly. There have been calls where many more errors were made leading to significant call handle times.

On the flip side, you might also come across situations where the agent is under pressure to get you off the phone as quickly as possible because one of the things they are measured on is the Average Call Handle Time (AHT). Having high AHT is a no-no so agents and their management do whatever they can to end the call quickly. Even if it means "accidentally" disconnecting it.

So what causes high Average Handle Times and how can you reduce it? For that, we will once again refer to our Operational Management Reference Framework.

The Objective of The Process:

The objective of the process is to improve the service desk call handling times through the implementation of the operational management reference framework. The framework will allow the service desk leadership to implement and/or strengthen the key processes that have a direct impact on the call handle times and the client experience.

Sample List of Benefits:

  • Improve Average Call Handling Times (AHT)
  • Reduce Wait Times in the Queue
  • Reduce Abandonment Rates
  • Improve Client Experience (CSAT/NPS)
  • Minimize the number of service disruptions and calls to the service desk
  • Improve Uptime and Availability of products and services
  • Improved User productivity
  • Address issues with repeat and chronic issues so repeat calls can be avoided
  • Improve Response Times and Reduce MTTR

Sample List of Observations:

Let's take a look at the Operational Management Reference Framework to see some of the elements that impact this issue:

  • OM3 - Skills/Training Management. One way to reduce Call handle Times is to ensure the service desk agents are adequately trained and skilled.
  • OM5 - Quality Management. In order to reduce Call Handle Times, you need to ensure that you have a Total Quality Management (TQM) team, what is reviewing calls and tickets to assess for quality and improve the AHT and overall client experience.
  • OM6 - Knowledge Management. One way to reduce Call Handle Times is to ensure the service desk agents have an accurate knowledge base that is regularly maintained. Having readily available knowledge will allow the agents to resolve the issues much quicker, reduce the AHT, and get the calls in the queue.
  • OM12 - Service Performance Management –Reporting & Measurements. The Reporting & Measurement Process plays a vital role in collecting data to track and trend performance so informed decisions can be made to improve call handling skills.
  • OM13 - Service Performance Management – Analytics & Optimization. The Analytics & Optimization process is designed to harvest various datasets to gain insights into the historical call handling performance. The insights are used to develop foresight about how to improve the handle times.
  • OM14 - Continual Service Improvement. The Continual Improvement process is to leverage the Reporting & Measurements, Quality Management,Knowledge Management, and Training Management processes to drive the Shift Left Strategy in the organization. The ultimate goal is to increase End User uptime and availability by driving issues towards End User Self Enablement, Automation, and Self-Healing.
  • OM18 - Queue Management. The Queue Management process is to ensure that work coming to the operations team is managed and acted upon in a timely manner so as to avoid client delays and dissatisfaction.
  • OM21 - Staff Utilization Management. The Staff Utilization Management process ensures that staff productivity is being measured and analyzed to ensure consistent performance across the organization.
  • FLM1-FLM7 - First Line Management Systems. First-line managers are critical to the well-being of an organization, as they directly manage and have significant influence over employees who perform the day-to-day operational work. If the First-line managers don't demonstrate a robust management system that focuses on both short-term and long-term operational goals, they will not be able to enable an organization to focus on Its people, stabilize its operations, and drive continual improvement. 
  • UM1-GOV4 - Upline Management & Governance Systems. The up line management and governance systems established and executed by the senior leadership team are essential in ensuring that the day-to-day operations are aligned with the organization's strategic objectives. If they are not implemented, then the senior management team will not have the right level of focus to ensure compliance with departmental and organizational goals and risks will not be identified and mitigated.
  • EE1-EE17 - Employee Engagement, Enablement, and Empowerment Systems. If Employee Experience (EX) isn't factored into any of the activities, you will not only struggle to sustain the improvements, but you may not even achieve the improvements.

Sample List of Recommendations:

  • Implement Automation
  • Implement Shift-Left Strategy
  • Understand Where the tickets are coming from: Alerts, Self-Help, Chat, Email, Web or Phone
  • Understand The volume of the tickets by time series: By Hour, By Day, By Week, By Month,By Quarter, By Year
  • Understand The types of tickets: By Client, By Location, By Department
  • Understand The types of tickets: By CSAT, By FCE/FCR, By Reassignment count, By Reopen Count
  • Understand The types of tickets: By Category, By Subcategory, By Configuration Item, By Priority, By Incident State, By Incident State Hold Reason
  • Understand The types of tickets: By Assigned To
  • Understand The types of tickets: By Assignment Group
  • Understand The types of tickets: By Ageing
  • Understand The types of tickets: By Title, By Description, By Work Notes, By Close Notes
  • Implement Total Ticket Quality Management Process
  • Conduct Skill-gap analysis

Sample List of Areas to Probe:

  • Check If Reporting & Measurements system exists
  • Check If Analytics & Optimization system exists
  • Check If CSI system exists
  • Check If TQM system exists
  • Check The currency of the knowledgebase
  • Check Response, Resolve, Reassignment, Reopen, FCE/FCR, and backlog counts
  • Check Availability of Technology and Tools
  • Conduct separate analysis for Alerts and User Reported Incidents
  • Compare the current week to the previous week and calculate % increase or decrease.  
  • Anything above +/- 5% explain the variance.
  • Compare the Top 10 Affected Users for the current week to the previous week and see if there are any significant changes. Look at Short Description field to get details on types of issues.  
  • Compare the Top 10 Business Functional Units for current week to previous week and see if there are any significant changes. Look at Short Description field to get details on types of issues.
  • Compare the Top 10 Organization for current week to previous week and see if there are any significant changes. Look at Short Description field to get details on types of issues.
  • Compare the Top 10 Location/City/Country for current week to previous week and see if there are any significant changes. Look at Short Description field to get details on types of issues.
  • Compare the Top 10 Assignment Groups for current week to previous week and see if there are any significant changes. Look at Short Description field to get details on types of issues.
  • Compare the Top 10 Category/Subcategory for current week to previous week and see if there are any significant changes. Look at Short Description field to get details on types of issues.
  • Compare the Top 10 Configuration Item for current week to previous week and see if there are any significant changes. Look at Short Description field to get details on types of issues.
  • For each of the Top areas, Slice n Dice further to gain additional insights. For example, if you have identified a chronic server, build Time Series PBAs to see if you can detect any patterns. Build Pareto, Matrix, and Compare views to see if you can make any correlations to other variables. i.e. Server X By Priority, Server X by Category/Subcategory, Server X by Short Description, etc.
  • Conduct volumetric analysis to identify if there are any emerging patterns. Look     at time series PBA views across Year/Quarter/Month/Week/Day/Hour
  • Are data points increasing, decreasing, staying flat?
  • Are there any seasonal patterns or cyclical behaviour?
  • Are there any random/non-random behaviours?
  • Are there any exceptions above or below the control limits?
  • Are there 8 reporting periods above or below the average?
  • Are there 6 consecutive reporting periods increasing or decreasing?
  • Is there any gradual trend emerging?
  • Is the increase or decrease related to alerts or user-reported volumes
  • Are there any repeat/chronic issues? (Servers, Storage, Network, Application, Databases, Middleware)
  • Are failed/unauthorized/expedited/emergency changes causing issues?
  • Is the release/deployment process causing issues?
  • Is the performance and capacity management process causing issues? Disk Space, CPU, Memory, etc.
  • Is a lack of monitoring and alerting / event management contributing to issues? Increase in alert volume due to poorly set thresholds, servers not being turned off during maintenance windows, etc.?
  • Is a lack of firmware/patch/currency management contributing to incidents? EOL systems, Unsupported systems and applications?
  • Are Resolve times being impacted due to backup and recovery issues? Are backups not available?
  • Are the issues related to Infrastructure or Applications? (Application, Middleware, Database, Server, Storage, Network).

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