Have you ever noticed how many questions a new employee has in their first few months: how can I submit my expenses, who do I have to request a phone from, and so on? IT, facilities and HR generally all have their own procedures for these requests, and as a result the employee might never get a definitive answer. How can this be improved?
The pitfalls of too many counters
If you’re familiar with Belgian cartoons, you’ll know the cinematic masterpiece that is The Twelve Tasks of Asterix, in which our heroes have to fulfil twelve assignments that are considered impossible. Cross a river full of crocodiles, resist the temptation of sirens, and eat all the dishes that are presented to them. One of the assignments turns out to be “getting a hold of ‘Permit A-38′ form in the ‘The Place That Sends You Mad’”
And it turns out to be a bureaucratic hell. Asterix and Obelix are sent endlessly from one desk to another, from floor to floor, to request forms with which they can request other forms, ad infinitum. Eventually they succeed, but not before Obelix is brought to the brink of a nervous breakdown.
Does every support department need its own counter?
No real service organisation will be that bad, but the phenomenon is still recognisable. Each support department often has its own counter, or even multiple counters.
HR has a telephone number, an email address and a link on the intranet; IT a different email address, different forms behind different links on the same intranet; facilities strongly prefers you to stop by – unless they’re not there, in which case please leave a post-it on someone’s desk; and the procurement and communication departments have their own procedures too.
With so many (digital) counters, it’s not surprising that your staff and students don’t always understand which department they have to request which service at, and through which medium. Sometimes they choose the wrong counter. The result is that they’re sometimes sent from place, to place, to place. And it sends them mad.
Dealing with negative customer experiences
Now, your customers won’t necessarily get a nervous breakdown if they are sent from IT to facilities for a smartphone application or vice versa. But they won’t be happy either. And certainly not if such a thing happens regularly.
In fact, the dissatisfaction with this kind of fragmented service will only increase. In recent years, customers increasingly expect to be able to address their questions in one place, partly through familiarisation with search engines such as Google. Having to gamble at which counter they have to ask which question is less and less ‘ok’ with people.
Towards one service desk
Ideally, staff and students have one place where they can go with all their questions and requests, regardless of which support department ultimately helps them. More and more organisations offer their customers an intranet or self-service portal for this. Some support departments go a step further and work together more closely together under the banner of Enterprise Service Management.
You can develop Enterprise Service Management in different phases:
- Shared tool
- Shared service desk
- Shared processes
Does your university have different offices for HR, IT and facilities, and do you want to make them more united? You can then choose to introduce a shared self-service portal, but you can also start smaller. Ask yourself: how many counters does your support organisation have? How many should you have? Maybe you’ll find out that you can immediately cancel some channels or forms. Then you can do the same exercise with your colleagues from other service departments.
Step by step to better service
With these kind of simple measures, you can work step by step towards a better service. The fewer counters you have, the clearer it becomes for your customers. If you want to read more about breaking down the silos with Enterprise Service Management, I’ve collected some inspirational articles here. And if a new employee is looking for an A-38, then it’s more likely that they’ll submit their application to the right counter on first attempt.