Self-service, Shift Left and AI free up time that your service desk staff can use to focus on important and recurring problems. Given that these are the problems that have the greatest impact on your customers, your service desk employees are becoming increasingly important in determining customer satisfaction. And that brings with it a new challenge: how do you ensure that you select the right people for your team?

What do the best service desk employees have in common? They are all intrinsically motivated to help people.

Intrinsic motivation is key!

Take a moment: about which service desk employees do you get the most positive feedback from your customers? Probably the ones who don’t always strictly observe the rules and who sometimes improvise to resolve your customers’ problems. The people who dare to set the objective – happy customers – above procedures.

What the best service desk employees have in common is that they are intrinsically motivated to help people. Naturally, they also want to resolve incidents quickly, but their main goal is to provide customers with real help. For them, meeting the processing time KPI is of less importance. Regardless of the tools they use, the procedures they follow or the problems they face, their priority is to help the person at the other end of the phone or PC.

The end of rigid processes

Intrinsic motivation is becoming an increasingly important factor at service desks. In ITIL 4, for example, we see that processes should become more flexible and simple tasks should be automated as much as possible. The goal is that your service desk employees have time to be more customer-focused.

Prior to ITIL 4, the main focus was on standardizing processes. This standardization reduces the risk of human errors and enables some incidents to be resolved faster. But not all queries, incidents and changes can be covered by a single process. Moreover, standardization doesn’t make your service desk staff’s work any more challenging. If you allow your staff the freedom to truly help customers, you’ll see that happy staff means happy customers.

Selecting the very best people

When looking for new team members, how do you select service desk employees that your customers will be enthusiastic about? You’re looking for the intrinsic motivation to help others, but you only have one or two interviews to assess applicants.

Taking note of non-verbal communication is the first step. The gleam in someone’s eye or the smile that appears when relating an example of making a dissatisfied customer happy again. However, the way you ask questions in a job interview makes all the difference. The answer to the question “Do you want to help customers?’’ will always be “yes”, but it tells you little about the applicant’s qualities. To get a better picture of someone’s motivation, at TOPdesk we use the STAR method.

STAR stands for: situation, task, action and result. You ask the applicant behavioural questions set in situations comparable to those of the service desk job they are applying for. By asking what was happening (situation), what the duties of the person were (task), what they actually said or did (action) and what the outcome of this was (result), you acquire a picture of how a person has acted in the past. This prevents you from becoming mired in hypothetical scenarios and socially acceptable responses.

Which Sesame Street characters roam your service desk? Find out now with our quiz!

Placing the human factor above rules

You could, for example, ask if the applicant has ever had a customer who was still on t their mind when they got home at the end of the day. What was special about that situation? What had the applicant done and what was the result? At TOPdesk, we’re always glad to hear that someone has refused to let rules or procedures hinder them in helping customers in the best possible way. Placing the human factor above procedures and rules is one of the values of the Agile Manifesto which we firmly believe in.

An extra tip: don’t just ask about work situations. People who are intrinsically motivated to help others behave in the same way outside their job. Does the applicant feed the neighbour’s cat when said neighbours are away? Or do they regularly do the shopping for their grandma? This has nothing to do with working at a service desk but it does say something about the applicant’s intrinsic motivation to help others. In this way, you can also apply the STAR method to novice applicants with little or no work experience to rely on.

The trap

People who are intrinsically motivated to help others often fall into the same trap: they will go to extremes to find a solution. They promise to solve problems that cannot be resolved, spend too much time on incidents, or agree to a solution the customer proposes even though they know it’s not the best way to go. Sometimes, you have to say no, and that can be difficult for this group.

The ideal applicant is assertive enough to continue asking questions aimed at discovering the question behind the question, and can discuss with your customers a long-term solution that will work well for both parties. The advantage lies with those who ask critical questions in the job interview and are able clearly explain why they might advise against specific solutions.

Examining your current team

What about the people who are currently working at your service desk, the ones whose motivation you’re not sure about? Invite these employees for a chat. Are there rules and procedures in place that prevent staff from helping customers properly? Or is something lacking that would enable them to do their work well?

If all the conditions are good and team members know that helping customers is the top priority but you still have doubts, it’s time for another talk. Perhaps the employee’s current job is not (or no longer) a good fit. In that case, it’s time to look for a new challenge together. What else does this person have to offer the company?