The Lifecycle of an Incident
When a new call comes into the service desk, a specific set of actions are set into motion. This happens regardless of whether or not an organization has a structured set of documented processes for dealing with incidents.
The very first thing that happens is something that each service desk agent will do instinctively as they listen, or read, the details of the issue being faced by their customer. Whether they realize it or not, they will be subconsciously asking questions of themselves:
- Have I seen this before?
- If I have, what caused it the last time?
- Do I know of any changes that have been made to this service?
- What else do I need to know about this?
- Are there any simple things that we can try to get this fixed?
Much of this thought process will happen before the call is officially logged. It is all about using the information that is provided, and checking it off against situations you have already encountered. People who think and work this way are the ideal candidates for the service desk role.
The Next Step
When answers do not come to mind instinctively, this generally means that you are dealing with a non-standard call, something that either has not happened before, or happens rarely. This is where a more structured and deliberate approach is needed to set you on the path to incident resolution.
1. Gather information – you need to carefully gather all the factual information that is available related to the current situation. This will be information around where, who, when and what aspects of the situation.
2. Verify that you are dealing with facts and not assumptions – it can be easy for guesswork to masquerade as truth and it is important to remove unverified assumptions from the equation.
3. Investigate – at the service desk you can perform initial investigation looking for what has happened that is different to the norm and may have caused current issues.
Effective Questions Provide Useful Answers
Employing Kepner-Tregoe (KT) questioning techniques at the earliest stage of an incident investigation will give the best opportunity for timely resolution of customer issues. If a call cannot be solved at the service desk level and needs to be escalated to second level support, having the answers to standard questions will allow the second level support team to be far more effective in their work.
Not only will asking the right questions provide your second level support team with the information they need to successfully resolve the call, doing this will also instil a sense of confidence in your customer. Effective questioning leaves your customer with the feeling that their call is in good hands and that you do know what you are doing.
A ‘Real-World’ example
A leading provider of mobile phones, mobile devices, home phones and broadband internet invested in training its staff in Kepner-Tregoe Resolve for managing incidents and resolving technical problems. While going through training, one of their technical experts used KT Problem Analysis to resolve a complex issue.
The organization’s website allows customers to login and see their account information and purchased services and to pay their bill. At 5:00 am alarms monitoring the website were raised. A major incident management team was notified and communications went out about a possible outage. By 6:00 am, when customers started waking up and trying to log in, complaints mounted. Customers were receiving intermittent “time out” and “page not found” errors after logging in.
Using his new Resolve skills, the technical expert described the problem: “Customers are getting intermittent errors when visiting the customers’ login,” and then specified the problem to identify the what, where, when, and extent of this deviation from normal.
With the problem identified he was able to use KT structured questioning techniques to quickly determine the root cause of the issue and identify an appropriate action to allow customers to access the website correctly.
Rework Wastes Precious Time
Providing complete information to your second level team reduces the chance of them having to contact the customer again and ask the questions that could have been asked earlier.
When a customer is quizzed multiple times by different people about the same call, they will lose confidence in the ability of the people who are looking after their IT services.
I liken this to what happens when you go to a hospital or medical clinic for help with illness or injury. If the patient intake is done well, each medical professional you see along the way will have access to all pertinent information about your condition, they do not need to ask you the same questions time and time again. If you are quizzed over and over again by different people, you soon start to wonder if you have chosen the right place to get help for your problem.
The effect will be the same if the first person a customer speaks to when reporting an IT issue does not gather all the relevant information.
Paving the Pathway to Success
Good groundwork in the form of information gathering and analysis will give the best opportunity of providing your customers with a satisfactory resolution to their IT issues. KT techniques can provide a sound and strong foundation of knowledge that will allow you to build a pathway to incident resolution that can be used time and time again.