Monday, January 29, 2018

Communication & Planning

When something goes wrong on a large scale in your company, you need a plan to talk about it quickly and effectively. It might seem like communication is just something that should happen naturally. Why would you need best practices for talking about something?

Think about all the channels you can use to communicate. Think about how much data can get lost along the way. Think about all the different groups that need to be looped into the conversation, and what different pieces of information each of those groups needs. What tools are you going to use to keep track of decisions the responders make? What do your internal stakeholders need to know? How are you going to loop in customers, and how often?

Not so easy, is it?

Few points mention in detail below regarding how to handle downtime/outage,

Definition -  

ITIL defines an incident as an unplanned interruption to or quality reduction of an IT service

Main Goal

Any event which disrupts, or which could disrupt, a service, including those:

  • Reported directly by users
  • Reported and/or logged by technical staff
  • Reported by Third party/vendor
When something goes wrong in your company any service disruption you need a plan to talk about it quickly and effectively there are best practices that can be used as clearly explained in ITIL.

Get the Right people involved:

Supervisor/incident reporter – assign a single person or a team of   at least three people as the incident reporter to report the outage or downtime by creating a ticket with all the necessary details as required this will help to track down all the issues for future correspondence if you would like to pull up the report to see how many times are you experiencing the issue is it related to the previous one or it’s something new.

The first line of support is the people who can trigger the alarm at first instance so check with them about any downtime or service discretion reported also check the queue(calls statistics) to see if you experience any high volume than normal that can be an indication of service downtime.

Once confirmed by the outage and ticket has been created then the most important step is to communicate with your channel.

Decide what to share:

The main key points that the customers would be keen to know :

Type of Outages impacting customers :

  • Phone line failures
  • Ticketing  down time
  • Power outage
  • Avaya functionality issues
  • Vendor outages impacting customers’ ability to navigate the portal

Unplanned maintenance downtime impacting users.

  • Error message when trying to access the application
  • System down

Ticket creation for outage incidents:

  • Steps to Follow
    • Incident identification - Once identified as an incident, the agent/team lead logs the incident as a ticket  The ticket should include information, such as the user’s name and contact information, the incident description, and the date and time of the incident report.
  • Categorization
    • Low-priority incidents are those that do not interrupt users or the business and can be worked around. Services to users and customers can be maintained.
    • Medium-priority incidents affect a few staff and interrupt work to some degree. Customers may be slightly affected or inconvenienced.
    • High-priority incidents affect a large number of users or customers, interrupt business, and affect service delivery. These incidents almost always have a financial impact


Outage status reminder email/notification should be sent out to the customer within a set time frame. The key is to update customers on regular basis and provide as much update as possible.

Website updated information:

The portal should reflect the status of the outage so that customer can check the status on the website.

Phone announcement:

Placed a message on the phone system with the status of the ongoing outage if there is any specified time frame or workaround for the issue advice customer about the same.


Once the issue is resolved mention the clear directions of what has happened and steps are taken to resolve the issue. If the issue was due to any third party/vendor ask for a detail RCA (Root cause analysis) of the report to identify any potential issues going forward.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Setting up and Launching a Remote Office

In the early days of my career I was responsible for setting up an operation in a different city. It was a great opportunity for me and something that I really wanted to succeed in, however looking back on that person with the experience I now have. Well, lets just say that I was very lucky that I didn't fall completely flat on my face!

The City

As a native Torontonian (that's what people in Toronto, Canada call themselves for my International readers!), I'd visited Montreal a couple of times and had always enjoyed spending time there, so when my boss asked me to set up a new office in that city I thought it was a great idea! I mean, how hard could it be?

Well, it was 1998 or 1999, and while I was working for an Internet company, the many conveniences we've all come to expect and enjoy had yet to be invented or for that matter even thought of! Websites like Yelp! and Foursquare didn't exist and while the multiple listing service (MLS) was there, it was really only useful for residential properties and in most cases you needed a realtor to provide the information.

I didn't know how to promote my company - we were established in Toronto but no one outside of that city had heard of us. I didn't know where to open the office - downtown would be great but the rents would be a lot higher than out of town, but how much higher? I didn't know how to get new customers or even hire staff for that office.

The Marketing

Knowing what I didn't know (which is I've found the first step!), I decided that I couldn't do it all by myself. I'd need help. Local help. So I started interviewing marketing companies that could help me with two of the things on my list - promoting the company I worked for and finding new customers.

Fortunately I was able to find a small bouteque agency that was priced right and seemed to have all of the appropriate credentials. I didn't interview three different firms though or get competitive quotes (mistake #1?), but they seemed to know their stuff!

Over the course of the next 2-3 months, we were communicating back and forth about radio spots, billboards, print advertising, product pricing and other minutae relevant to launching in a new location. Again they seemed to ask all of the right questions so I thought I was onto a winner.

The Hiring and Staffing 

While the marketing piece was going on, I started looking for office space and staff to work in the office. Based on the model we had in Toronto, we'd need a local manager and customer service/technical support staff that could both resolve issues and perform administrative and billing functions in French and English. had launched and was used quite extensively in Canada around that timeframe so the interviewing process began in earnest.  Fortunately it was very buyount job market so getting some good quality candidates was fairly straightforward. The local MGR however - well that one took a while and although I ended up putting someone in place he wasn't my first choice (mistake #2).

Now vs. Then

Looking back, I think I did the best that I could with the tools I had available at the time. Money was tight so my budgets were definitely constrained. Everything was moving extremely quickly and change was happening at an ever increasing pace.

Comparing the piecemeal strategy of those years with the way I've setup two new locations over the previous 2 years is very much night and day. Part of that of course is my seniority now and my ability to talk to people and leaders that are higher up the food chain. People that can actually negotiate based on the potential upside that they can see. The other part of course is the confidence I've gained in doing this a couple of times now and knowing some of the potential pitfalls inherent in having remote staff and operations.

You see, while the Montreal operation was successful both of my mistakes ended up coming back to bite me. My manager choice - well, without local oversight, he turned out to be a bit of a dictator and was making the office environment toxic for the other staff. He had to go and I had to find someone else. My first mistake though - the marketing company - was probably the bigger one. While the comminucation and interaction had seemed positive and enthusiastic they didn't actually end up producing anything of real worth. Sadly, they actually ended up going out of business themselves before we'd launched which set us back several months.

What could I have done?

Hindsight is always 20-20 isn't it? With the tools and information available to us today, most of my requirements could have been dealt with, without even leaving my office. I would have been able to search and get reviews on other companies that had done the same things. I would have been able to pick and choose marketing companies and been able to interview them remotely only after shortlisting them based on reviews and feedback from clients. I would have been able to evaluate property prices and rental costs remotely and conducted interviews remotely. Would I have had to go to Montreal at all? Yes, probably, but for different reasons - more along the lines of ensuring things are moving smoothly vs. setting up.

Things have definitely changed in only a few short years - I'm fortuntate that the mistakes I made early in my career helped me to learn how not to do things and I've taken that knowledge and applied it. I wonder what mistakes await the next generation though? I'm sure they are going to be doozies!

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Cancellation - the final step in a long and drawn out process

Dealing with customers that want to cancel is hard. I know - I'm personally in the midst of trying to cancel my Television/Internet service & trying to keep my frustration in check is difficult to say the least! - however, this blog is not about the customer experience, but rather how to ensure that the customer does not feel the way they do!

But ... that being said, my situation does make for a great case study so lets explore exactly what happened & where we are now.

I was a happy customer with my local Television/Internet provider (Cogeco) and paying about $100/mo for their services which I though reasonable.  However this price was based on a 1 yr promotion, so when that year was up and the price jumped to $189, I thought it would be reasonable to see if they would match the prices being offered by their competitors.  In addition, the promotion for new customers now was $75 or something like that, for similar services - unfortunately they were not willing to meet anywhere close to that, and the best they could offer was a $20/mo loyalty discount, bringing my price down to $169.

Well, as you can imagine, I started to look around.  While I was happy with the service, the price was too high in comparison to other businesses.

Fast forward a couple of months and I'd moved to another company and called Cogeco to cancel my service.  I was informed that because I'd taken advantage of the $20 promotion, I'd have to pay a penalty of $70 to cancel.  Doing some quick math in my head, I figured that it would still be worth it as I'd make that back in one month with the new company.  However, the "cancellation specialist" informed me that if I waited till the end of the month, I'd be able to skip the cancellation fee which seemed like a smart move for me.

Today takes us to my 2nd call to a different "cancellation specialist" where I'm now informed that I'm still going to be stuck with that cancellation fee and I've actually ended up paying for an additional 3 weeks of service with a company that I could not even use as their equipment was literally unplugged from the wall!

At this point, I'm willing to bite the bullet with the cancellation fee just to move on, but I don't want to also have to pay for those extra weeks of service as that would have only made sense if I wasn't paying the cancellation fee!  So I've asked for an escalation to the manager (which they cannot do, but promise a 24hr call back ... stay tuned).

So long story short, lets reiterate some of the pain points and issues:

  1. Special Offers - special offers are a great tool to entice new business to an organization and the discounts to get customers on board are absolutely essential.  However, when an offer ends and the price doubles, you can expect customers to leave.  You might get some people that just ignore the increase, but not too many I suspect.  If and when customers do call in to discuss the offer, reasonable discounts should be made available to entice them to stay, perhaps even enhancements to the service - Netflix for example, or increased bandwidth or something along those lines.
  2. Hold Times - I didn't really discuss it in my scenario above, but my hold time was close to 30 - 45 minutes + the time spent discussing the issue with the individual.  This did not help my mood at all, and I expect that the reason for the extreme hold time was very much due to #1 above!
  3. Copious Notes & Details + Follow Through - I unfortunately spent too much time once I spoke to the representative repeating myself with regards to the fact that my issue was not the $70 cancellation fee, but rather the discrepancy in information between the previous representative and this one and that I was now on the hook for an additional service charge for a service that I had not been using.
  4. Unwillingness to help an existing customer - despite my previous point about special offers, there is actually a cost to the business in terms of churn.  By not making me a competitive offer, not only have they lost my business now (short term), they've also lost my potential business in terms of upsell opportunities in the longer term also.  Not to mention this post and it's potential damage overall!  It would have been far simpler and better for them if they were up front right from the start and said there was nothing they could do - sure they would have lost my revenue for a couple of months, but they might have potentially had me return in 6-12 months to take advantage of any "new" customer promotions that they might have then been offering.  

So that's the scenario, what could they have done differently to not get me to the point where I'm airing my dirty laundry in public?

  1. Allow their staff to negotiate in good faith in an effort to truly retain customers.  A 10% discount on a bill is not really any incentive when the competition is offering 50%.  Something reasonable like 25%-30% would probably ensure that customers were retained, while still helping to maintain the bottom line.
  2. If $'s are not available in terms of incentives, offer additional services that the client might not even need or use as a benefit.  It's a bit of a cheat, but increasing bandwidth is a great selling point if you know that it is not going to be utilized as then the customer believes they are getting something "better" but there is no real impact to the business.
  3. Staff your queues appropriately with staff that are trained to not only defuse irate customers, but also able to look for solutions and options.  Customer service is not just about keeping someone quiet - it's about actually helping them.
  4. Remember that your existing customers matter also ... churn hurts a business and having to reacquire customers is not only difficult and time consuming, it's expensive also!  It wastes not only the companies resources, but in this case the consumer also with the reprogramming of devices + the retraining of family members on how to use the devices!
  5. Ensure that your staff provide accurate and reliable information (I'll let you know what the supervisor says if I actually get a call back) so that the message the first time is the same message the second and third!  
  6. Staff your queues appropriately to ensure that hold times are minimized and offer high tech options to customers to get them off queues.  Tools and technologies like chat, knowledge and phone system call backs are all ways of helping to reduce wait times.
That's my 2c for today - stay tuned to see how this one ends up and lets see if they can turn me around.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Nine Commandments

Customer service is an integral part of our job and should not be seen as an extension of it. A company’s most vital asset is its customers.

Without them, we would not and could not exist in business. 

When you satisfy our customers, they not only help us grow by continuing to do business with you but recommend you to friends and associates (remember, that while it seems only complaining customers tell others, this isn't actually the case!).

The Key Commandments of Customer Service 

Know who is boss. 

You are in business to service customer needs, and you can only do that if you know what it is your customers want.
When you truly listen to your customers, they let you know what they want and how you can provide good service. Never forget that the customer pays our salary and makes your job possible. 

Be a good listener. 

Take the time to identify customer needs by asking questions and concentrating on what the customer is really saying. Listen to their words, tone of voice, body language, and most importantly, how they feel.

Beware of making assumptions - thinking you intuitively know what the customer wants. It's key here to not only listen to the question itself but also what the questions "means".  A key example is when a customer asks

What time is the 3pm parade?
At first glance, this seems like a stupid question, but when you realize that the customer actually means:
What time does the 3pm parade ARRIVE HERE (where I'm standing)
it makes a lot more sense! (nb. this example is taken from Lessons from the Mouse - a training course that teaches Disney customer service excellence).

Do you know what three things are most important to your customer?

Identify and anticipate needs. 

Customers don't buy products or services.
They buy good feelings and solutions to problems. 
Most customer needs are emotional rather than logical. The more you know your customers, the better you become at anticipating their needs.

Communicate regularly so that you are aware of problems or upcoming needs. Make customers feel important and appreciated. Treat them as individuals. Always use their name and find ways to compliment them, but be sincere. People value sincerity. It creates good feeling and trust. Think about ways to generate good feelings about doing business with you. Customers are very sensitive and know whether or not you really care about them. Thank them every time you get a chance.

Help customers understand your systems & terms. 

Stay away from jargon and industry-specific "speak".  While these terms are completely understandable to you with your years of experience - to an outsider they don't make any sense at all!  Remember, you're the expert in your field, but your customer is the expert in theirs and quite often the service you provide to them is not their core business!

Your organization may have the world's best systems for getting things done, but if customers don't understand them, they can get confused, impatient and angry. Take time to explain how your systems work and how they simplify transactions. Be careful that your systems don't reduce the human element of your organization.

Appreciate the power of "Yes". 

Always look for ways to help your customers. When they have a request (as long as it is reasonable) tell them that you can do it. Figure out how afterward. Look for ways to make doing business with you easy. Always do what you say you are going to do.

Know how to apologize. 

When something goes wrong, apologize. It's easy and customers like it. The customer may not always be right, but the customer must always win EVEN WHEN THEY ARE WRONG! Deal with problems immediately and let customers know what you have done.  When a customer makes a mistake, don't make them feel foolish, but rather treat them with dignity.  The key thing to remember here is the Golden Rule:
Treat Others, the way you Want to be Treated

Make it simple for customers to complain. 

Value their complaints. As much as we dislike it, it gives us an opportunity to improve. Even if customers are having a bad day, go out of your way to make them feel comfortable. Give more than expected. Since the future of all companies lies in keeping customers happy, think of ways to elevate yourself above the competition.

Consider the following:
  • What can you give customers that they cannot get elsewhere? 
  • What can you do to follow-up and thank people even when they don't buy? 
  • What can you give customers that is totally unexpected? 

Get regular feedback. 

Encourage and welcome suggestions about how you could improve. There are several ways in which you can find out what customers think and feel about your services - I talk about this in a bit more detail here. Listen carefully to what they say. Check back regularly to see how things are going. Provide a method that invites constructive criticism, comments and suggestions.  Whatever issues are identified need to be addressed and not ignored!

Treat employees well. 

Employees are your internal customers and need a regular dose of appreciation. Thank them and find ways to let them know how important they are. Treat your employees with respect and chances are they will have a higher regard for customers. Appreciation stems from the top. Treating customers and employees well is equally important.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

The 5 Key Requirements of a Successful Project Manager

1. Be a Leader AND A Manager: 

Leaders share and communicate a common vision (of some future state); they gain agreement and establish the forward direction. Leadership is more than just telling someone what to do - it is inspiring them and motivating them by giving real world examples and ongoing guidance  Good Leaders motivate others. Managers are results driven and focus on getting work done against agreed requirements. A good project manager will constantly switch from a leader to a manager as the situations require. .

2. Be A Team Builder AND A Team Leader: 

Because projects are often cross-functional in that they use people who may not have worked together before. It is up to the project manager to set the ‘tone’ of the team and to lead them through the various team development phases to the point where they perform as a team. Often, the team individuals have their own line manager, and so the PM has no implied authority – yet still needs to motivate the individual. This is particularly true in a ‘Matrix’ organization.

3. Be A Problem Solver: 

This is a skill that can be learned – it just needs a little ‘detective’ work up-front! You will want to first identify the possible ’causes’ that lead to the problem ‘symptom’. I talk a lot about the difference between Incidents and Problems here, but the key thing to remember is that causes can come from a variety of sources. The next step having found the root causes is to analyze possible options and alternatives, and determine the best course of action to take. Take care to agree what ‘best’ really means here!

4. Be A Negotiator AND Influencer: 

Negotiation is working together with other people with the intention of coming to a joint agreement. It doesn’t have to be the eye-ball-to-eye-ball power struggle you may be thinking of! For example getting one of the team to work late to meet a deadline when they would prefer to go to the Ball Game. And for all these, you need to have some influencing skills. Influencing is getting events to happen by convincing the other person that your way is the better way – even if it’s not what they want. Influencing power is the ability to get people to do things they would not do otherwise.

5. Be An Excellent Communicator: 

Being a communicator means recognizing that it’s a two-way street. Information comes into the project and information goes out of the project. A good way of summarizing this is that all communications on your project should be clear and complete. As a project manager, you will have to deal with both written and oral communications. Some examples are documents, meetings, reviews, reports, and assessments. A good mental guideline is “who needs this information, who gathers and delivers it, when or how often do they need it, and in what form will I give it to them”.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

CSI & Benchmarking

As an IT professional, it is incumbent upon you to continue developing your skills and knowledge as that is the only way to ensure that you are current with what is considered "best practice".

After all - while you might think of your skills at work as being similar to Wolverine's, you'll realize that he didn't get that way without continuous and ongoing training in the Danger Room to ensure that he was able to meet and surpass any situation!

Now you might wonder about why I've gone into this tangent about comic book hero's and their struggles, but I assure it will all make sense.  In my own personal life I'm currently working on my ITIL Intermediate set of certifications so that I can eventually have an ITIL Expert designation.  

The one that I'm currently on which I'd like to share with you is called CSI (Continual Service Improvement) and while some people might consider that acronym to refer to Crime Scene Investigations and the host of shows that have followed that theme, in reality, it's not about looking at a problem after it's happened (the crime) but rather proactive planning and organizing to ensure that the problem never happens in the first place!

CSI: Crime Scene Investigation (pinball)

CSI is a very large and complicated subject - in all honesty, so far its the one I've had the most difficulty with in my ITIL Expert journey - and it has quite a few different elements.  

As an IT Professional, ITIL generally makes a lot of sense to me and in most cases, I've implemented or worked on quite a few areas that are covered in the ITIL guides.  

In fact without boasting, many times I find that the ITIL books seem to be quoting something I've said!

One part of ITIL that I've not really explored or covered in my career, however, is that of benchmarking.  

Simply put - 

Benchmarking is a comparison of a specific element or process in your organization with that of other external companies/parties that have similar processes and products. 

Comparing your support responsiveness for example (Average Speed of Answer) if you're a manufacturing company versus a bank doesn't really work.  You need to (as much as possible) compare apples-to-apples.

How to Benchmark - some ideas!

  1. Focus on your key business drivers. These are the processes that underpin the success of your firm and will vary from sector to sector and business to business. If you provide a service, customer care is likely to be a key business driver; if you are a high-volume manufacturer, production-line speed will be a key business driver.
  2. Decide who to benchmark against. Your local Business Link or trade association should be able to suggest benchmarking partners. Pick firms of a similar size and with similar objectives to help work out industry yardsticks, but also compare with firms outside your sector who excel in areas you want to measure - importing their approach could help you leapfrog competitors.
  3. Assess the efficiency of your processes. Look at the mechanics of your business - the production techniques, quality controls, stock management and so on. How effective are they? How well are you using your technology? Are other businesses benefiting from new ways of doing things?
  4. Analyze your allocation of resources. Are you putting resources into the same areas as your benchmarking partners? Do they have more employees or fewer? In which parts of the business? Have they invested more in IT and other equipment? Are they spending more on marketing?
  5. Calculate sales per employee. This will provide a straightforward measure of productivity and efficiency. If your sales are comparatively low, investigate the reasons; you might find the problem is not with your sales staff but your product, or that you are pitching to the wrong market.
  6. Measure your customer service standards. Customer service is a key battleground for businesses with similar products or services. Working out the proportion of sales accounted for by returning customers will give you a picture of your service levels, as will the number of complaints you receive and the time it takes to fulfill an order.
Now is benchmarking always a hallmark of success?  Stay tuned for a subsequent post discussing why you shouldn't benchmark!

Tuesday, July 21, 2015


What is it?

In its simplest form, a helpdesk is a group of people assigned to assist customers in solving their problems.  There are many different types of helpdesks and they are called by a variety of different names depending on the function that they serve, however the main point to make clear is that their purpose is to resolve a specific issue for a paying customer.

Types of Help Desks

At its simplest you could break down Help Desks into two main types. There are definitely sub categorizations within each type and quite often they are called different things, but from an end users point of view there are really only two different types:
  • Contact/Customer Service - this type of helpdesk is generally more administrative in function and scope. They would provide customers with account information and perhaps act in a sales capacity with regards to new services and other offerings that might suit the clients needs.
  • Support & Technical Operations - break/fix or tech support or network operations or the NOC. The names are many and varied for this type of team, but their primary purpose is to resolve a specific incident or problem and restore the customers service in as timely a manner as possible. Frequently this team is considered 2nd level and is senior to the Customer Service team but this is not always the case.

Customer Service Helpdesks

 Often referred to as a Contact Centre, these types of teams are more administrative in function and responsibility.  They are frequently called upon to provide customers with account information or deal with billing concerns.  While they may arrange visits with or escalate issues to the technical team, these individuals do not generally have the skills in-house to troubleshoot and resolve customer "problems".
Quite often you will find that companies outsource this function to other companies and even other countries as it is more of a generic job then Technical and Operational Support.  However in recent years this trend has been reversing as regardless of the cost, companies are striving to present customers with a more intelligent and higher quality of service.  Please note, outsourcing is not inherently bad by any means - if done properly, customers will receive a faster reponse time and all the information that they require to resolve their account issue.  However - to provide this level of support, companies need to provide the outsourcer with a significant level of access into their own internal systems and customer records.  In addition to this, the training that the outsourcer provides to their own staff is generally at a lower level than that provided internally - hence the quality of the answers provided are generally not at the same level.
In addition to the quality issues mentioned above, companies are actually using the fact that they provide service "in house" as a selling point, hoping in some cases to garner more customers simply based on "national pride".

Incident & Problem Management

As mentioned previously, these teams are known by a variety of different names, but probably the most accurate name for them is the Service Desk. Based on the ITIL (Information Technology Infrastructure Library) framework, the Service Desk is a component of the Incident Management team and they are responsible for resolving Incident's and escalating Problems.

What is an Incident?

Simply put, an Incident is anything related to a customer contact (Incidents are also reported by automatic means via monitoring toolsand I will discuss those types of incidents in greater depth in later posts).
Please note - Incidents are not restricted to technical teams, but can be something that a Customer Service team deals with also.
Incidents related to customers can be anything really – Information requests, Account Updates, Issue reporting are all examples of Incidents.
Incidents can also be reported through a variety of different methods – this could include the phone (probably the most common), email (a close 2nd) and even chat. As mentioned previously, automated monitoring tools can also generate incidents.
All of these different Incidents coming from/through different sources would get routed to your Incident Management tool. For smaller teams this could be something as simple as a spreadsheet but in larger organizations either in-house customer built applications or enterprise level tools prevail.

Incident Management (in a nutshell)

Your helpdesk is responsible for reviewing the information in each of these incidents and checking if there is an appropriate solution already available to the customer.
For those instances for example where the customer wishes to update their Account Information, the helpdesk would look at the Incident, obtain the correct new information (& assuming that all appropriate security questions had been reviewed) log into the customers account and update the information. Once the information had been updated, they would inform the customer and then close the Incident. This is probably one of the simpler examples of an Incident from start to finish.
If the customer is reporting a problem or an issue, the Helpdesk staff are responsible for updating the Incident with all the relevant details as supplied by the customer. If the customers issue matches a known fix they are able to inform or supply that fix to the customer, however, if that is not the case they would need to escalate the issue to the Problem Management team. The simplest way to think of the Incident Management (Helpdesk/Tier1) team and the issues they resolve is that if a "band-aid" exists they can apply it. If more drastic attention is required they will need to call the Doctor!

Problem Management

Problem Management is where the interesting work really happens. Incident Management due to its repetitive nature can get tedious and is definitely a drain on the more skilled staff in your organization ... if you have people like that, think about moving them into Problem Management if you have such a team or create one if you don't!
Problem Management is more in-depth. It's where more often than not a single Problem is the cause of multiple Incident's from multiple customers ... as such you want your best people at this level. Generally you would consider this Tier 2 or Tier 3 from an escalation and staffing perspective and dependent on your product or service you would have some very technically oriented people there.
Their goal is not to just provide a band-aid, but rather to find out why the problem happened in the first place and fix it. Ideally they should be looking at ways to fix it in such a way as to ensure that it doesn't happen again!!

KPI's & Metrics

Regardless of the type of Help Desk you are running or dealing with there must be specific requirements in place to ensure that they are performing to peak efficiency and that they are resolving customer enquiries in a timely manner. A common industry term for these metrics is KPI - Key Performance Indicator and there are hundreds of different ones depending on the product and service you provide as well as what you want to measure and what is most importatn to your business.

Now each of these teams would have different metrics in place. However some that are common to both Customer Service and Technical Teams are as follows:
Response Time - Obviously your team (Incident Management/Customer Service/Helpdesk) needs to get back to the customer in a timely manner. Their goal as already mentioned is to fix it, fix it fast and move on. A band-aid will not always reattach the finger though, so it's up to the Tier2 team to ensure that the surgery goes smoothly which obviously takes a lot more time as you don't want the surgeon doing a shoddy job!

So with that analogy in mind ... you want to have an aggressive goal set for your Helpdesk – try to work with the 80/20 rule (The Pareto principle) ... 80% of incidents responded to in 20 seconds (If you have the resources, otherwise maybe 20 minutes? Or 20 hours (that's less than 1 day so might still be good – especially if you're doing email support)? Or 20 days ... well that's probably not really worthwhile) but hopefully you get the point? You want to set a specific goal for measuring how quickly your customers are getting a response.

Resolve Time – notice that I have separated these out. As much as you'd like to be able to resolve 100% of issues at that first contact, its not always going to be possible. However you can have another measurement in place that tracks this which is the Resolve Time (sometimes called MTTR (Mean Time to Repair)).

The Goal here is also to get that band-aid on as quickly as possible so you need to ensure that your Incident Management system has some sort of a knowledge base which helps your staff find the solution to commonly placed issues/questions. If they have the answer every time, then a 100% resolution at 1st contact is achievable! If not however ... it gets a bit more complicated because all of a sudden your Incident Management team becomes the customer and the team they go to is the Problem Management team. Guess what? They have a different measurement for Response Time and Resolve Time too!

Problem Management Response Time – now as previously mentioned these are generally your more senior staff and as much as you'd like them to be available 24/7 unless you have an extremely large organization this is probably fairly unlikely. So you are going to have build or determine some relevant response times based on their availability.

In addition, as these escalated issues are generally issues that cannot easily be resolved, your resolution time is going to be extended also. Pick some appropriate intervals that meet your customers SLAs.
Your main goal for this team (in addition to resolving the problem of course) is communication, communication, communication!!! They must inform your customer facing agents what the issue is, what they are doing to resolve it and when they expect to have it resolved. If they cannot provide an estimated resolution time, they MUST provide your Tier1 team with an estimated update time.

Communication & Planning

When something goes wrong on a large scale in your company, you need a plan to talk about it quickly and effectively. It might seem like co...