October 17, 2018
Given the information technology revolution within hospitals today, how your Service Desk analysts handle physicians and other users is more critical than ever. Disruptive trends such as ever more sophisticated EHRs, widespread use of devices and apps, and the growth of cloud-based services should not equate to disrupted customer service. Yet this often happens, as over-stressed CIOs with tight budgets overlook or delay upgrading user support in the heat of new implementations and more “executive level” responsibilities.
Your Service Desk is the face of IT for your users. If the Service Desk is lacking, the entire IT department will be seen as lacking. Let’s talk about preventing this ugly scenario and making you and your IT staff heroes.
Your Service Desk analysts interact with physicians, clinicians, and other users more than any other resource, and have the power to transform users into champions of your IT department. Or, they can destroy the department’s reputation and present obstacles to every future IT initiative or program. Not coincidentally, they can also thwart your ability to thrive and be successful in your role.
Many CIOs have been making great strides in upgrading service standards, processes and tools to sustainably provide a high level of support across the growing spectrum of technologies within their hospitals. Some are creating world-class service support in-house, and others outsource this increasingly expensive and complex function to outsourcers who can leverage staff and major expenses across multiple hospital clients.
Christopher Longhurst, the CIO at UC San Diego Health, understands the extraordinary value of IT service support especially well, in part because he is also a physician. On assuming his CIO role in 2016, the first initiative on his mind was unusual: customer service. “I bring both the perspective and voice of the customer from hands-on experience with electronic medical records (EMRs) and other clinical technologies… I’m interested in doubling down on the service component,” he said. He noted that even though his IT staff supports a huge array of business and clinical information systems, its consistent goal is providing a high level of service across all of them.
It is telling that an early step for Longhurst was to rename the department from Information Technology to Information Services. “We want to partner closely with our customers to understand their needs and workflows… and to be proactive in finding opportunities for improvements and not just respond to help calls.”
The “Wow” Service Desk: ITIL Standards Offer the “What” But Not the “How”
Many, if not most IT support organizations across all industries have chosen the IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL) to define best practices in Service Desk operations. ITIL is the most widely accepted global framework for implementing IT service management, and defines planning implementation and services maintenance guidelines. ITIL is organized within five books — Service Strategy, Service Design, Service Transition, Service Operation, and Continual Service Improvement — and describes a system that provides a closed-loop feedback throughout all areas of the support lifecycle. ITIL’s strengths: it details “what” to do. But in the face of healthcare’s new IT challenges, it comes up short on “how” IT ought to meet them.
ITIL is the first to agree with this assertion, pointing out that it should be augmented with other standards that are tailored to unique user environments. Hospital IT users have very different needs and priorities than banking or manufacturing systems users. Which other best practices are available that can be integrated seamlessly with ITIL to transform a hospital service desk into a world-class support center?
Once known as the Help Desk Institute, HDI has become an indispensable resource for Phoenix’ Service Desk outsourcing staff. HDI is a non-profit organization known worldwide for its set of best practices for planning, maturing and maintaining a Service Desk, whether an internal operation or an outsourced support center. HDI’s “Support Center Standard,” regularly upgraded since 2000, integrates seamlessly with the ITIL framework, to help CIOs understand how to put the necessary resources and capabilities in place to sustainably deliver quality user-friendly support, despite technology changes.
Here are some recommendations based on HDI’s best practices:
A special note: Conducting periodic user surveys, in addition to ongoing quick surveys after every interaction is essential for sustainable customer satisfaction.
How many times are you been asked for your feedback on an online company or its services? Amazon, the New York Times, Walmart… We’re bombarded with requests for our feedback because it is important to those vendors to fine-tune service delivery.
We should be doing at least as much in our hospital IT departments when supporting healthcare. So how do we survey our service desk customers in such a way that they will engage with us and enable us to drive service improvement? I’m not talking about the quickie survey questions your software automatically asks users after individual problem incidents. Think about it…if your customers are frustrated by taking minutes to get answers from your service desk, they have no time to rate your agents’ performance at a moment’s notice.
We recommend defining your service desk from its first introductions to your customers as much more than a utility — that in fact, your staff views itself as a partner that is focused on making a definitive difference in making patients well. You should alert them that you care enough that you will:
What is “wow” in a Service Desk experience? No long waits for an answer in an emergency — or any time. Human beings picking up your call with few or no auto delayers. Stated desire to help, with matching follow through. Empathy and listening well. Obvious analyst competency with support applications. Clear communications, including no unexplained silences. Professionalism. Speed and accuracy. The job done. Every hospital Service Desk can get there.