What is the role of a service desk account manager?
The account manager serves as the client liaison and advocate and works closely with service desk management to exchange information, communicate client perceptions, relay requests for process changes, and ultimately address client concerns in order to promote satisfaction. While satisfaction and perception can both be subjective terms that are difficult to quantify, they are very much real and visceral and simply cannot be ignored.
Treat All Critical Input as Gospel
Consider the following hypothetical scenario. Dave is a frequent visitor to the complaints department. He has been known to reach out to the account manager whenever he has a concern. For example, one time he stated: “everyone at this office says it’s impossible to reach the helpdesk.” On further investigation, the account manager learned that Dave was using the wrong phone number and had overlooked internal emails that had included the proper contact information. While the account manager was relieved to trace the problem to its origin quickly, it got him thinking about the consequences of doing nothing, of writing off Dave as nothing but a crank. Organizations that ignore the Daves of the world do so at their peril because it turns potential advocates into vocal opponents. The old adage of a lie making it halfway around the world before the truth can get its boots on could just as easily apply to Dave especially if he’s the one perpetuating the rumor with “everyone at the office.” The account manager’s job is to put out that fire and communicate immediately with client management to help prevent inaccurate perception from going viral.
Worst Kept Secrets
Whether it be a people, process, or technology issue, if something is amiss at the service desk, the internal chatter must be at full steam and full disclosure. Understandably, there are egos and sometimes even jobs at stake when sub-par performance comes to the fore, but the consequences of keeping those tough conversations at a whisper will eventually turn into a scream. Ideally, it’s up to the subject matter experts at the service desk to identify problems and enact a solution rather than wait to hear it from the client. On the other hand, should the client raise their own concerns, sugarcoating or downplaying that feedback is indeed not the ideal response? Doing so not only undermines the health of the relationship but can slacken accountability and positive change if condoned by the service desk’s upper management. If the primary goal of the operations team is maintaining client satisfaction and retention, the conversation at least has to start with acknowledgment that problems exist and they must be fixed.
Don’t Push the Panic Button. Do Click the Send Button.
There’s a reason the root of the word responsibility is “response.” Client IT management teams tend to select and retain service desk vendors based on their availability to address ongoing operational issues as they arise. Communication must be consistent, decisive, and immediate especially for urgent matters. While it’s important not to panic and formulate a rational plan of attack for issues requiring remediation, that doesn’t mean holding multiple committee meetings before even acknowledging receipt of the critical email or phone call. If the service desk gauges urgency and impact on a technical issue, this process should just as well apply to a client complaint. If a CIO or helpdesk manager from the client’s team sends an email with a big red exclamation point in the subject line, it’s safe to say putting off a reply until the following business day is not the wisest policy. Keeping clients happy is an ongoing sales process so it’s no wonder that the same tactics apply: recognize the needs, evaluate the options, and resolve the concerns.
Make Room for Molehills and Mountains
Meeting Service Level Agreements is, of course, the primary indicator of measurable performance quality. It’s a game of percentages and, though it requires relentless diligence with managing staffing levels, QA, and walking a fine line between customer service skills and speed to resolution, hitting those numbers month to month is nonetheless considered a minimum standard of service excellence. What separates a good from a great service desk is often how staff give credence to clients by taking ownership for and rectifying any disconnect in operational consistency. If client IT management raises a concern about an agent who misroutes a ticket or neglects to follow up and resolve an open issue in a timely manner, the appropriate response is to research the issue, acknowledge it if there was indeed a mistake, and describe how recurring issues are to be prevented going forward. A service desk that responds to individual instances of client concerns by calling attention to the hundreds of properly handled tickets both trivializes and discourages that valuable feedback. Urging clients to put the occasional mishap into perspective is doing them a disservice. For the sake of maintaining a healthy working relationship, any critical feedback that client management sees fit to bring to the service desk’s attention, no matter how big or how small, must be taken seriously.
Invite Feedback, Build Relationships
A client satisfaction survey is an ideal tool not just as a performance metric, but as a way for engaging in a direct dialogue with the end user population, to check the pulse of service desk operations at the front lines. Good questions to ask are as follows:
- Overall, were you satisfied with the service you received from the agent?
- Was the agent friendly and courteous?
- Did the agent have the technical knowledge to understand my issue?
- Was my incident was resolved in a reasonable timeframe.
- If my issue was not resolved immediately, did the agent keep me informed of the progress of my issue?
- Would you recommend the service desk to other users at your company?
- Do you have any additional feedback regarding the agent’s service?
The final question is deliberately open-ended to invite more detailed comments that can’t be found within a score from one to ten. It is an opportunity for qualifying more than quantifying input and in a certain sense the emotional or anecdotal component of the end user’s experience. In many ways, long-form feedback is a more accurate harbinger of client satisfaction in a very human-oriented business. Letting those voices be heard, reaching out to them, and offering ongoing service improvements in response will have an immeasurable impact on the relationship going forward and ultimately it will be a relationship that lasts.