How using key performance indicators improves service desk efficiency

Developing metrics and key performance indicators and linking them to critical success factors can lead to better service desk performance.

The service desk is the single point of contact for users who need IT support. Unlike a help desk, which deals only with incident recording and resolution, the service desk faces outward and deals with processes, like service-level management or problem management.

Because the service desk is often the only contact that users have with the IT department, making sure each user has a positive experience is essential. To help maintain service quality, service desk managers should use metrics and key performance indicators, called KPIs.

When defining metrics, Windows IT managers can follow the SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, result-oriented or relevant, and time-bound) approach. SMART was developed by management consultant Peter Drucker and is one of the tools in his Management by Objectives process, which helps organizations set performance objectives. The SMART approach also has a variation: SMARTER, which incorporates E for extendable and R for recorded.

When determining a service's performance level, metrics should be specific to that service. There are many industry-recommended service desk metrics, including:

  • total incoming calls
  • average wait time before call abandonment
  • abandoned calls
  • average speed to answer
  • average calls per agent in an eight-hour shift

But metrics by themselves are only data points at a single period in time. And while they are important, business-focused performance objectives, such as increased sales, have the greatest value in an organization. To establish business-focused performance objectives, a Windows enterprise must link metrics to organizational critical success factors. Metrics that are linked to critical success factors are then called key performance indicators.

When developing key performance indicators it is important to keep it simple, focus on five to seven primary indicators and on their connection with service-level agreements (SLAs). 

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Because these types of agreements contain service performance metrics with corresponding service-level objectives -- like closing incidents within an agreed time period -- it is ultimately the KPIs in your SLA that enable the service desk to define and deliver IT services that align with business objectives.

For example, Microsoft offers several key performance indicators for Windows service desk managers to consider:

Reduce costs by enabling more efficient use of resources and technologies

The baseline key performance indicators that align with the preceding critical success factors include:

  1. Percentage reduction in average cost per call.
  2. Percentage increase of calls handled within agreed response time.
  3. Percentage increase of calls closed by the service desk without reference to other support levels.

Support optimization of IT investments through effective support of business services

The baseline key performance indicators that align with the preceding critical success factors include:

  1. Percentage increase of calls handled per service desk workstation.
  2. Percentage reduction in mean elapsed time to achieve incident resolution or circumvention by impact code.
  3. Increased percentage of calls/incidents resolved remotely, without the need for an onsite visit.

Ensure long-term customer retention and satisfaction

The baseline key performance indicator that aligns with the preceding critical success factors is the percentage increase of improvement in customer satisfaction survey responses regarding interaction with the service desk.

Managing the service desk and incident management using metrics is necessary to determine and maintain high-quality service and ensure a positive user experience. Clearly defined metrics and key performance indicators are what separate highly successful Windows service desks from the rest.

About the author:
Stuart D. Galup is an associate professor of computer information systems at Florida Atlantic University. He is a Certified Computing Professional and ITIL Service Manager. He has held a number of senior information technology positions and holds a U.S. patent. Galup has written more than 45 academic publications and two books.

This was first published in May 2008

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