BLOG State of the Service Desk Part 4: The Increasing Demand

Ben O'Loghlin

This blog series explores the topics discussed in’s State of the Service Desk report. More details at the bottom of this blog article


A number of factors have led to an uptick in demand for support over the previous 12 months, including:

  • COVID-19 accelerating the demand for collaboration
  • Digital Transformation
  • Enterprise Service Consolidation

The challenge for service desk operators is that resources are not scaling linearly with demand, and operators are being asked to “do more with less”.

“We have gone from 800 calls per month to 5000 calls per month with no increase in headcount to cover that. Hold times up, and abandonment rate from 8% to 24%. We just don’t have enough people to answer the phones. Look, service desk is an equation. Plug in the variables and you can predict wait times and abandonment rate, per time of day.”

– Senior Director of IT Operations, Internet

One service desk analyst reported that their incentives were so structured that if it looked like they were going to exceed their SLA on CHT then their interests were best served by just escalating the ticket to Tier 2.

Several reported that pressure to perform against SLAs under increased volume led to more stress, and that this was causing staff attrition (see “People” section) which ultimately led to a loss of productivity for the service desk.

Strategic Response

Strategic responses to the increase in demand were characterized by the following:

  • Communicate clearly to senior management the tradeoff between resources and performance so spend can be aligned with organizational goals for IT budget and service desk performance
  • Dedicate resources to analyzing opportunities for continuous improvement
  • Dedicate resources and have teams to implement automation and orchestration projects (stay tuned for “Automation and Orchestration” blog post to follow) to “Shift Left” (see subsection below)

Some found senior management supportive, but others put a lot of pressure on IT to perform.

“Senior management wants five things yet will only fund two. But you can’t make ice cream out of water”

– CIO, HealthCare.

Lack of investment limits service desk transformation, since budget constraints affect both service levels but also the pace of automation.

Several leaders reported willingness to sacrifice short- and medium-term performance in order to drive efficiencies by effectively addressing the second two points above. However they noted the need for point 1 above, in that such strategic choices needed to be aligned with senior leadership to provide “top cover”.

Devops collaborations

Several highlighted the need for support to collaborate with developers, engineers and testers to ensure that products were only shipped if they were mature enough to not drive a significant increase in support demand.

This sort of collaboration is facilitated by the move towards devops models, and in some cases by the practice of giving devs rotations in ops to better understand the holistic picture.

Continuous Service Improvement

The following methods were reported as ways of effecting continuous service improvement (CSI):

  • Extensive use of surveys to identify problems
  • Analysis of service desk request and incident data to identify good candidates for process improvement
  • Use of analytics and data visualization
  • Always thinking from the customer perspective terms of customer experience (CX)
  • Understanding customer use cases for digital transformation
  • More site visits to check in with customers and sell IT to the customers

When overwhelmed with the volume of service requests CSI is hard to do for two reasons:

  • High demand tends to divert CSI resources into Business As Usual (BAU) to maintain service levels
  • It is hard to get the trust of customers and other lines of business if NPS/CSAT is low

The perpetual challenge for service desks is to carve out resources for automations, orchestration and process improvements  while meeting the increasing demand and maintaining service levels.

Next – Part 5: Transformation, Consolidation and Integration

n late 2020 conducted 23 research interviews with service desk executives, managers and practitioners, to explore the State of the Service Desk in the post-COVID19 world.

The interview results were synthesised into a report that covers the following topics:

  1. Executive Summary
  2. Introduction
  3. Service Desk Metrics
  4. Increase in Demand
  5. Transformation, Consolidation and Integration
  6. Shift Left
  7. Automation and Orchestration
  8. Knowledge Management
  9. People Management
  10. Support Channels
  11. Data Quality
  12. Tools
  13. Conclusion

This blog series will serialise the topics listed above. The full report is available for download at

If you would like to discuss any of these topics please get in touch via the website or book a meeting at

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