D'Arcy Gue

Poster Download: One Step to a Customer-Friendly Hospital Service Desk

March 6, 2017

IT Service Desk 4 Minute Read

According to the infamous Urban Dictionary, a user may be defined as “the word computer professionals use when they mean “idiot.” While I won’t speak for hospital IT department staff, I definitely can attest to feeling treated as an idiot by many help desk professionals across many industries. Sometimes, in desperation, I even play my “I’m-an-IT-professional” card just so I can level up the conversation from Grade 1 to Grade 6. Do service desks need to establish a special KPI just to make sure users are treated respectfully? Restated for the hospital environment, how can service desks make sure that their agents don’t treat the doctors, nurses and others who depend on them as clueless keyboard punchers?

Easy. Get rid of the word “user” and replace it with “best customer.” You can start with our special downloadable poster. (See below.)


Is this much ado about nothing? No. Those people we used to disparagingly call nerds have deservedly evolved into a valued, huge subculture of devoted computer-savvy comrades. They have their own language, and one beloved term is “user.” Take that to the next step and note how many generic terms there are about you and me: “usernames,” “user experience,” “user support,” “user login” and many more.

So what? Well, like similar labels such as “consumer” or “current resident,” “user” represents a major abstraction away from individual people with important real-life problems. This detachment can have a broad reach and negative impacts, especially on the people IT departments serve.  When a service desk agent thinks of each caller as one of many rings on the phone, he may feel bored or annoyed with the stressed physician or nurse who can’t take a next crucial step in providing care to a patient. He may not listen well. He may be less cordial and accommodating than he realizes. He may do less than his best work, which in turn may be an ongoing impediment to mutual respect between the entire IT department and the rest of the hospital — a common problem. As is often said, the service desk is the face of the IT department. We’ve conducted enough hospital service desk assessments to see how ugly that face can appear.

Are your users literally your “best customers?” You bet. Every time they must contact the IT service desk they are paying with their precious time, possible stress, and their patients’ time and access to proper care. And like customers in a bank or retail store, they are expecting value for their interaction with service desk agents: a fair, speedy, even generous return for the time and effort they’ve invested in their inquiry. It works the other way too: like bank tellers or sales people, service desk agents wouldn’t have jobs without these caregiver customers. And, to clarify, are these “best customers” in fact tech dummies?  Of course not; medical schools now work with EHRs, and most hospitals have relied on large IT systems for years.

I’m hardly the first to recommend a customer-focused culture in service desks. But the issue continues to proliferate. The single biggest reason why some hospitals outsource their service desk is to restore the confidence of the hospital in that function — and of course to eliminate slow or poor handling of tickets.

Taking another view, the job of a service desk agent has big negatives: waiting, sitting continuously, irate callers, technology emergencies, off-hour schedules, and often insufficient staff. This is not an especially well-paid job, either. A program of integrated management efforts, including proper hiring, training, mentoring, reinforcement, KPIs and performance rewards by a qualified and caring leader can make all the difference between happy customers  and queued “users,” and between happy agents and disgruntled employees.

Quotes from extraordinary service providers abound because service is so important in every industry. I’ve gathered a few of the best into a poster for your service desk bulletin board — or even a wall (it’s sized to print up to 24″ X 36″). Here’s a copy, and the downloadable file is available at the bottom of the page.

Service is often defined as ‚Äútaking action to create value for someone else.” If your service is not all about the customer, it’s time to transform it. Next step: Download your poster!

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