The Benefits Of Switching Off Email To The Service Desk And Going Self-Service

Posted on Wednesday 21 June 2017.

Retail Assist

At a recent SDI event the service desk manager from Affinity Water, Lena Gaston, presented on ‘Service Improvement – From Chaos to Affinity and Beyond’. During her presentation Lena spoke about how, as part of her service improvement plan and with the support of the CIO, they had switched off email as a communication channel to the service desk in order to boost the use of self-service.

Lena’s presentation sparked an interesting debate so to dig a little deeper in to public opinion on this topic, SDI set up a poll among Twitter followers asking whether service desks should keep the email channel open or switch it off. The results were really interesting with votes culminating in an almost equal split:

  • Keep email 51%
  • Switch email off 49%

A conversation then followed in the SDI LinkedIn group – a 25,000 strong global service desk community – kicked off by Jamie Bell, Client Support Manager at Utilize plc. As a delegate at the SDI event, Jamie asked the community:

“Whilst attending a recent SDI event, I was surprised at how many Service Desks had ‘switched off’ email as a means to communicate. Instead, leading with a preference for Live Chat & Public Portal. Having had time to think about this, in theory, it seems like a brilliant idea. Has anyone had experience in this field? I’d be keen to understand how the customer base reacted, how objections were overcome and what customer satisfaction looked like afterwards?”

The ensuing conversation attracted an impressive 75 likes and 44 comments and some brilliant thoughts and advice have been shared!  Here are just a handful comments which gives a great insight in to the pros and cons and a variety of approaches:

“When we insourced our help desk we took the decision to not have a help desk email address. Email was considered labour intensive as users will never give you all the information you need and in my organisation it is difficult to call people back. We built a comprehensive service catalogue which now has over 130 items on it. There was no back lash from users as we kept any forms simple, certainly easier than typing all the information into an email. We put a lot of automation in to ensure that tickets went to the right team first time, therefore cutting resolution times. We got compliments from our user base on how good the portal was and how easy to use, this is key. The previous portal with the out sourced service desk was a single form for everything, it was confusing and use was about 10% of all calls. With the new portal we average 42%.” Grant Harris, Head of IT Operations at Western Sussex Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

“Email is a blocker to tier 0 systems such as diagnostic tools, knowledge bases etc, but would I take the option away? Probably not, but I would focus on driving the benefit of a portal with your customers. Even with a great portal you need a notification tool that something changed on the incident, generally that will be email? Build a great ux portal, and they will use it!” Jason Hodgkinson, Director, Support Engineering EMEA at Gigya

“We removed inbound email when we moved to a new ITSM two years ago. We ensured that we provided end user training and had templates available for our end users to select. This meant we were provided with more meaningful information rather than emails stating “my pc doesn’t work”. This then enabled a more efficient FTF.” Kim Blanchard, Group IT Service Desk Team Leader at Activate Learning

“I agree with another​ commenter here; with the intelligence built into tools to read and respond to emails intelligently, including logging a ticket, and even responding with a link to more info (eg a link to self-serve on resetting a password), we don’t need to block email, but rather allow our customers (internal or external) to use the communication method they prefer. So, my recommendation is, don’t switch off email. Instead, make your systems receiving the incoming request intelligent. Best of both worlds.” Emerson Freedman, Head of IT Services & Operations, FNG Europe & Africa

Learn from the global Service Desk Community

We invite you to read the full conversation thread the LinkedIn group here as it contains some brilliant practical advice and guidance. We welcome all service desk professionals to the group and offer apologies to all software vendors, the group is exclusively for practitioners!




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