Service Operation: ITIL Service Desk Metrics

Today, IT management has access to hundreds of metrics that relate to different aspects of service desk operations. In the final analysis they should give you answers to two questions:

1. Is the service desk operating within the established budget?
2. Is it meeting established levels of customer satisfaction?

Many different metrics contribute to answering those questions, however according to ITIL Service Operation there are six ITIL service desk metrics that establish a baseline on what should be monitored.

1. First Line Resolution

The First Line Resolution is one of the ITIL service desk metrics, also referred to as First Tier Resolution or First Call Resolution depending on the type of support organization, measures the ability of the service desk personnel to resolve an incident without having to escalate the ticket to the next tier of support. As a best practice, it is standard for a service desk to have technical resource personnel with different tiers of technical knowledge and proficiency in helping customers. This metric should only account for tickets resolved by the first tier of support.

For instance, if a call is escalated to a higher tier of support because the first-tier individual knows—either based on the description of the incident, or due to policy—that he or she cannot help the caller, that ticket has not been resolved at the tier of support. Likewise, if a caller is asked to leave contact information so the first tier of support can all back with a resolution, that also is not a first call resolution.

First Line Resolution is the ratio of calls resolved at the first tier divided by all calls coming into the service desk.

The First Line Resolution metric relates to both financial matters and customer satisfaction:

  • First tier support personnel are paid less compared to those with increased expertise and proficiency. Every ticket resolved at the first tier saves money when not escalated. Further, at some organizations first tier personnel receive less training, thus costing less to prepare them to serve customers. In addition, the total cost of operation, cost per incident and other metrics are all affected by the First Line Resolution metric.
  • Resolving incidents at the first tier saves the customer frustration and time, which clearly relates to customer satisfaction. Tickets that have to go through multiple tier, along with the attendant wait times and call backs, detract from customer satisfaction.

2. Average Time to Resolve

The Average Time to Resolve is one of the ITIL service desk metrics, known as Mean Time to Repair (MTTR) in the ITIL glossary, refers to the length of time from receiving a ticket to completing the repair and resolving the incident. Generally, this metric focuses on first tier of support because it is the least costly tier; the tier at which management hopes most calls will be resolved.

The measurement of time considers only business hours. If a service desk is closed on weekends and holidays, MTTR would not include hours over the weekend for a ticket received late on Friday but not resolved until Monday.

Note that MTTR refers to repairing (fixing) a device or service that has failed. The ITIL glossary advises that restoring a device or service is different than repairing and should be captured by the MTRS metric, Mean Time to Restore Service. Consider, for example, a service desk that supports LANs and cloud-based services. The time required to repair a user device on the local network would be reported using the MTTR metric. The time required to restore a SaaS program running in a cloud service would be reported using MTRS.

The MTTR metric relates to customer satisfaction inversely. The shorter MTTR, the greater impact on customer satisfaction.

3. Average Time to Escalate

The Average Time to Escalate is one of the ITIL service desk metrics that reports on the time it takes for the first tier of support to escalate the incident to a higher tier. The metric can be monitored on any schedule and is often tracked on a weekly or monthly basis. It is calculated by averaging the MTTR for tickets that were not resolved at the first level and that were escalated.

The Average Time to Escalate metric correlates inversely with customer satisfaction. A caller who has already spent a long time with a first level technician will often be displeased when eventually informed that another level of support will be required—along with the attendant wait time and having to “re-explain” the problem.

4. Cost per Incident/Cost per Request

Also known as Cost per Ticket, this is one of the ITIL service desk metrics that requires tracking over time; each day, week or month. Adding together all costs of operation, then dividing by the number of tickets handled over the period yields the Cost per Ticket. The following components should be considered to arrive at total cost.

  • The sum cost of all technology dedicated to the service desk. This can include interactive voice response equipment, automatic call distributors, telephone equipment and expenses, computer hardware, licensing and maintenance fees for software, etc.
  • Base facilities expenses including office space, maintenance, insurance and utilities.
  • Office supplies
  • Agent training expenses incurred during the period.
  • Because the service desk is labor intensive, the salaries and benefits associated with service desk agents are almost always the largest cost factor.
  • The salary and benefit cost of non-agents; supervisors, managers, training personnel and others essential to the operation.

5. Customer updates completed on time

“Updates” refers to communication with customers and can take many forms. Some reasons for updating may be governed by an SLA. For example, the SLA may describe when or how frequently a customer is to be updated on the status of a ticket that is still being handled. Other reasons for communicating with customers, such as the examples below, may be matters of service desk policy.

  • Communicating a security issue such as a potential or actual breach, discovery of a zero day exploit or other emergency situation.
  • Informing customers of changes that will affect their use of an IT device or service.
  • Notifying customers of upcoming maintenance schedules or other events that affect customers’ normal access to services

The form each communication takes is determined by the process involved. For instance, updating a customer about the status of resolving an incident is governed by the incident management process.

This metric thus becomes a series of metrics addressing various reasons for communication with customers, all of which report on how effectively the service desk meets its goals.

6. Incident/Request Volumes

Tracking the volume of incidents or requests that come into the service desk gives management a view of when activity levels peak or plunge, thereby serving as an indicator on staffing requirements. This metric is a series of metrics that measure incident volume by the hour of the day, the day of the week and week of the month.

How to monitor these service desk metrics

The best way to monitor these and other ITIL service desk metrics is to use software that provides both historical reporting and real-time dashboards. Ideally, such a ITIL service desk metric monitoring tool will display and report on metrics from multiple channels of interaction—by ACD, IVR, online chat, or email. Having separate tools for each incoming channel, each with their own login and unique capabilities, is a recipe for inefficiency. Best practices suggest using a software tool that delivers an overall, comprehensive view of service desk operation with a single login.

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