I never want to call the service desk again. Neither should you.

It’s not because I had some terrible interaction but because the relationship between end users and the service desk is fundamentally shifting.

Early in my career, I spent a year or two working as a service desk agent. The typical transactional routine on any given day was a repeated process of handling a contact, verifying contact details, capturing the error message, troubleshooting, checking for knowledge, and trying to fix the issue or passing the ticket to the next level. Each ticket was managed through to closure, and the cycle repeated for each new incident.

There have been incremental improvements to the service desk experience since then, such as new contact channels (chat, mobile apps), better IT service management tools and self-help capabilities for end users. However, the principal role of the service desk has remained the same: providing a single point of contact and following the incident management process.

Changes Brewing 

Now, across the enterprise, users are spending less energy dealing with traditional and transactional IT support issues. Operating systems and productivity tools are more stable thanks to modern management, SaaS delivery, and robust and reliable hardware. While issues still occur, many can be avoided, self-healed or addressed through self-service.

In response, a significant shift is taking place on the service desk: Service desk agents are becoming more empowered to focus on contributing business value by proactively managing the users’ digital experience. In essence, the “service desk” is becoming the “digital experience desk.”

The mandate of the digital experience desk is to own and champion the user experience throughout the IT ecosystem by understanding different user personas and their business context, and acting according to user needs. Its role is to advocate for users, uplift the user experience and ensure business value is derived from users’ participation within the digital business.

This new digital experience desk is no longer purely focused on inbound contacts from end users or resolution SLAs. These are table stakes, and the priority now is on measuring and improving the user experience. As a result, the concept of incident management is giving way to digital experience management. 

Pivoting to Digital Experience Management

To shift toward digital experience management, organizations need to implement tools that monitor and understand every piece of the technology chain that contributes to the overall user experience. Using these tools, they can track and analyze device and application behaviors, transaction times, network traffic and response times, cloud and SaaS performance, and more.

Individually, these are all just technical metrics, but when considered holistically, they can help us quantify and baseline the user experience. We can understand what normal looks like, what can be improved, where the trends are, where investment may be best made and, fundamentally, what is constraining productivity, collaboration and innovation.

Beyond these metrics, the digital experience desk must also understand the subjective user experience through proactive engagement with end users. This can be enabled through the use of collaboration platforms such as Teams, Yammer or Slack, or by establishing social support communities within the enterprise where digital experience desk agents can actively participate. By augmenting these platforms with sentiment analytics capabilities, organizations can enable quick insights into user perceptions and generate targeted opportunities for improving the digital experience.

A New Role for Service Desk Agents

Service desk agents themselves also need to engage in reskilling. Historically, the core service desk agent skill set has been a combination of customer service, language skills, general technical skills and problem-solving capabilities. However, with the digital experience desk, agents need to be reskilled in analytics and automation so they’re prepared to work with analytics platforms to derive insights from the torrent of information being generated, and have the ability, confidence and mandate to take appropriate actions.

Agents must also work closely with machine learning-powered management platforms, and train the automation tools and conversational AI chatbots to handle much of the regular user interaction. Their mindset needs to shift from reacting and responding, to proactively supporting end users through analyzing, automating and advocating.

In a recent example, we worked with an insurer to identify network performance degradation caused by an anti-virus application. While users had not yet reported an issue, their experience was certainly impacted. Through analytics, we were able to pinpoint the root cause and worked with the software vendor to remediate and improve the user experience.

The key takeaway is the central shift from reactive to proactive support enabled by digitization. The digital user experience is not just a consequence of handling tickets successfully by the service desk but a critical measure that needs to be continuously tracked, analyzed and managed.

In the modern digital workplace, enterprise users expect an assured and proactively managed user experience rather than repeatedly contacting the service desk to report issues. To achieve this expectation, the service desk must refocus and reskill toward its new role as the digital experience desk.

Simon Walker

Simon Walker

Simon Walker is a Director in Cognizant’s Infrastructure Services Practice, focusing on working with clients and Cognizant teams across UK, Europe and... Read more