Take a brief look at the how the help desk industry was formed, with an eye at current and future trends.
- The modern-day service desk as we know it is rooted in customer service history that dates back over a couple of hundred years. Think about it. When someone needed help in a village or a town years ago, they would have to get up, go to the store, or directly to a person for service. Now it may not have been technical service, but that's where customer service started years ago. The telephone was invented in 1876 and as technology has evolved over the years, so has our ability to provide customer service.
Call centers were born in the 1960s with the ability to take incoming calls and provide information. It wasn't until about 20 years later, in the late 1980s and early 1990s that the help desk was officially born. The term help desk was coined by IBM in the 1980s, and it was born out of necessity. The personal computer, or PC, was being utilized by people working in corporations, and by home users, and they needed support.
Well, who was available and qualified to support these new customers? As a customer, you either had to call the computer manufacturer, or a vendor, or just figure it out for yourselves. Internal organizations realized that the best bet was to have their own employees help customers, versus calling a third-party vendor for support. The challenge is that the most qualified employees to assist customers were typically developers or engineers, and they lacked the customer service skills needed to help very, very low-skill customers.
Some companies started a catch and dispatch process, so that a customer would call someone, who would take the information, write it down, and then pass it on to someone more technical. In the end, both of these methods ended up being costly and inefficient. In the late 1980s, through the 1990s, companies realized the need to formalize a help desk, a group of individuals who would assist customers with technical support needs. In many organizations, these individuals didn't sit together, or really even work together.
Each individual had their own special skill set, and only assisted customers in their particular area of expertise. Why share my knowledge with someone else when I am the expert? This knowledge hoarding attitude was very prevalent during this time. Individuals didn't share knowledge. The help desk wasn't a single point of contact, it was a group of siloed individuals that ultimately became another very costly, inefficient and ineffective support model.
This led to the creation of a SPOC model, a Single Point of Contact help desk. This is where customers had a one-stop shop point of contact for assistance, versus trying to figure out who or where specifically to call for help. This centralized model required many companies to reengineer their processes, and hire the right individuals with the right skill sets to properly support their customers. In the late 1990s into the 2000s, processes and technology began to evolve rapidly.
Help desks started to implement processes to help run more efficiently, looking at metrics like customer satisfaction to determine the effectiveness of the organization, and using technology like remote tools, the web, self-service, and eventually social media to expand support channels to customers. During this same time frame, the help desk started evolving into a service desk model. The service desk model started being adopted along with ITIL. Information Technology Infrastructure Library.
A framework of processes. This service desk model included not only the ability to handle help desk issues such as basic break-fix issues, but it also expanded the scope of non-IT related requests, such as network monitoring. Today, the service desk model continues to evolve as new technologies and tools emerge, and channels for supporting customers expand. The service desk is looking at how to automate the process, providing even more self-service and even preventing incidents from occurring in the first place.
Now more than ever, the focus is on running the service desk in an efficient and effective manner. It's got to be a cost-effective part of the business, while providing the ultimate reward to its customers: value. This brief history has introduced us to the inception of help desks, and how they have evolved into fully functioning service desks. In our next video, we'll continue our evolution conversation, and review the structures and models of service desks.
- What is a service desk?
- Understanding the different service desk models
- Staffing the service desk
- Training staff
- Mentoring and coaching
- Defining processes
- Reviewing technology, including telephony and management systems
- Measuring quality
- Building relationships