An Entrepreneurial Approach to Procurement Service Desk Management

December 19, 2012

On a recent visit to a client’s headquarters, where Shelby is engaged in a variety of different capacities, I heard high praise for our team that handles Procurement Service Desk operations in an outsourced capacity. I wasn’t surprised at the compliment because our weekly reports have shown marked improvements in user satisfaction over the former, internally staffed operation. But, on the flight home, I made a mental note to investigate what it was that we were doing differently, and to report the findings here.

In my last post, I commented on the need for procurement organizations to become better change agents in facilitating adoption by business stakeholders. If you are looking for ways to amp up your activities in facilitating change, your Procurement Service Desk is a great place to start. While far from conclusive, the following three recommendations from our team may prove useful.

Set a High Standard for Service Desk Personnel

In staffing your service desk function, it’s a no brainer to recruit and retain people with good communications and problem solving skills. You also want people who demonstrate the ability to handle stressful situations. But these are the criteria that everyone uses for staffing. Despite this fact, service desk operations are almost universally not well regarded. We love them when they resolve problems quickly, but love to complain when they don’t.

According to a recent survey conducted by Forrester Research, 41 percent of the more than 2,000 service desk users interviewed were “on the fence” about their satisfaction.

So what is different or unique about our outsourced service desk team? Why are they able to solve more problems, more quickly and receive better ratings from users? In addition to possessing good communications and problem solving skills, the Shelby team is comprised of procurement specialists who receive extensive training in the procurement strategies, processes and technologies of the client organization. It is precisely this knowledge that helps them create value for users and win respect for the procurement function.

Of course, setting a higher standard for staffing costs more. But it makes sense when you consider the fact that service desk personnel are often the first and primary point of contact with your procurement stakeholders throughout the enterprise. Investing in better qualified and trained personnel pays off in the form of increased adoption, increased spend under management and more positive “procurement brand” experiences for your internal customers.

Move Beyond Treating Symptoms to Address Root Causes

Another key difference we found when investigating best practices with our service desk team was a deeply held belief that almost every problem resolved represents an opportunity for improvement.

At the core of every service desk operation is a process for moving “tickets” as quickly as possible from intake through to triage, follow-up and resolution. This process, however, can sometimes result in a preoccupation with treating symptoms without taking the extra time to analyze and address root causes.

On a weekly basis, our team categorizes support tickets according to root causes such as training issues, technology problems, approval and workflow bottlenecks, etc. Tracking the frequency of problems in each category provides insight into trends. Analysis of root causes has resulted in key recommendations for software improvement, streamlining business processes and enhancing training programs.

Cultivate and Celebrate Continuous Improvement

Setting a higher standard for staffing and empowering your team to play a more proactive role in solving problems are important steps for helping your service desk create greater value. But at Shelby, we have found a third factor to be equally important. Employees must possess a sense of ownership in the role they fulfill for the organization.

Each member of the Shelby service desk team understands that his or her job depends on creating value for the client. By carefully monitoring performance metrics, user satisfaction ratings and the business impact of recommendations, the team has created a culture of continuous improvement. New problems are confronted as opportunities rather than hassles. And successes, small and large, are celebrated and recognized by management. Through weekly reviews and reporting, the team operates as a business within a business–as all shared services departments should.

While we’d love to talk to you about our outsourced service desk support, I firmly believe that the same principles that have helped us succeed can be applied to improve the productivity and strategic value of any internally managed service desk operation.

Do you have a procurement challenge you would like to have addressed in an upcoming post? We’d like to hear from you!

Jim Kandilas, CPA
EVP, Principal
The Shelby Group