My experience of turning off email to the service desk, Lena Gaston, Affinity Water

Posted on Wednesday 19 July 2017.

It is possible

Affinity Water

When I mentioned turning off email at an SDI event a couple of months ago, the look of sheer joy on some faces and shock on others was the catalyst for this blog.  I started with my current employer just over 12 months ago. The service desk was outsourced and the journey to build an internal team to deal with the daily requirements of the business was a challenge.

The problem with email

If your ITSM tool allows you to manage the unstructured nature of emails, that’s great and you probably don’t need to read any further. However, for my team, this turned out to be a nightmare.  On an average day, we had a task of manually logging approximately 100+ emails per day.  This task meant that I was losing a resource to what was essentially an admin task.  With the limited resources at my disposal, it was a constant juggling act to provide a semblance of a good service for our customer base contacting us via phone or email.

Fast forward 4 months into my journey with my current employer, we started a project to deliver a Self-Service portal for our customers and move away from an excel spreadsheet used by customers for placing requests for EUC items and other standard Service requests; this was also a manual task.

My expectation from one of the key project deliverables was to be able recoup Service Desk resource so I could reduce the phone call abandonment which was at approximately 30% and increase ticket response times.  I guess in my mind, it made perfect sense to switch off the email service once we engage with customers about the benefits of using the portal and had most of the organisation onboard in this journey.  My hope was that the quality of information would get better in time and obviously more structured.  There would be less chasing customer for the one liner emails we received; by achieving this we could provide a more efficient service and customer experience.

Preparing for and managing the transition

Leading up to switching off emails, the team were trained, we had engaged with a number of customers across the business as testers/champions, we sent numerous targeted communications in the weeks leading to switching off the service and of course we had the blessing of our CIO.  We had email notification set up as well pre and post the service being switched off.

During the first week, we did some ‘hand holding’ with customers who logged tickets via email and after the first week, we did not respond to emails and customers received a notification on how to use the Self-Service portal.  To put things into perspective, in January this year, we logged over 1500 tickets via email and 750 via phone and 300 Walk-ins (the email service was switched off on 1st February 2017).

Where we are now

To paint a picture of our contact channels, the current stats as of June this year are:

Phone: 40% (no increase from beginning of year)

Self Service: 50%

Walk-in:  10%

We are reviewing our Self-service offerings and looking at ways to make it even simpler to use and increase the uptake of Self-service by at least another 5% by the end of 2017.

Find your customer champions

My advice to anyone considering this, is to engage, engage, engage with your customers at the very start of your journey and ensure you sell them the benefits of the service (I called it the Amazon experience).  Once you’ve got your champions on board, the rest is easy/straightforward.  Don’t underestimate the culture of your organisation as one size does not fit all when it comes to making such a major change.

I have to also add that switching off email has also done loads for team morale who are now more excited about learning the techie stuff but I can also get them focused on providing a good experience for our customers.

What are your experiences of trying to move customers from one support channel to another?

The SDI Members research library contains a new report on switching off email. Join today to get free access to this and many other insightful papers to help you improve your service desk.

About Lena

“As IT Service Desk Manager at Affinity Water Limited my role is to ensure that we are fulfilling requests, resolving incidents and that our customers are receiving a consistently good experience.  I love working with people (whatever that capacity) whether it’s seeing that ‘penny drop’ moment, getting that ‘Thank you’ email for a job well done or simply seeing a smile from a customer for a service we’ve fixed an issue for.  My job satisfaction comes from all of these and more.  I’ve worked across many industries over the years in various capacities; from construction, retail, charity sector and now the water industry.  I have a love of all things SDI and looking to take my team on the journey to eventually become accredited in the future and also enter Small Service desk team awards.”



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