Within your growing organization, your teams are constantly providing various services to your customers, and to each other.
And it’s these essential services that keep your company running — and keep your customers on the path to success.
As vital as these operations are, then, it’s just as vital for you to maintain complete control over them.
Which is where service request management comes in.
What is Service Request Management?
Service request management is the strategic and systematic process of handling all service requests made by your team, your customers, or another related third party.
Actually, before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s explain what a service request is in the first place.
What is a Service Request?
A service request is a formal request for help made to a service team within your organization.
That said, service requests are not the same as incidents or incident requests. While incidents refer to unanticipated interruptions, unplanned events, and other emergency situations, service requests are expected, and are usually focused on further enabling the individual in some way.
For example, a request for tech support upon encountering a software bug would be classified as an incident. A request to add a new feature to the software would be considered a service request.
(In simpler terms, a flat tire is an incident — but a tire rotation would require a service request.)
Service requests can be made:
- By many different individuals
- To many different teams
- For a wide variety of purposes
IT teams, for example, service requests for updating software or installing new equipment.
Source / Note: IT teams often serve both customers and colleagues, each in different ways.
Creative teams process internal service requests for informational and instructional content:
For HR departments, service requests come in the form of time-off submissions, dispute assistance, and more.
As shown above, providers typically create a predefined “menu” of the services they offer. This, again, is because service requests are anticipated within a company’s usual scope of operations.
In any case, handling service requests is a requirement for continuous enablement and growth, for both your organization and your audience.
What is Service Request Management? (Revisited)
With the above in mind, know that service request management involves handling all of the requests for service coming into your organization at all times.
In other words, service request management (SRM) isn’t simply “providing specialized services as needed”.
(As we’ll discuss, taking this much-too-basic approach to SRM will lead to disaster in a number of ways for your business.)
Rather, SRM is a multifaceted, multistep process that aims to streamline and improve your service provider’s efforts — and in turn optimize the outcome of every request for service received.
The SRM Process
Let’s now take a look at the service request management process from start to finish.
1. Request Submission
The SRM process begins once an individual — i.e., a customer, employee, vendor, or other stakeholder — submits a request for service.
Service requests (SRs) are made through a formal process, which involves:
- Using the proper documentation
- Via the appropriate channel
- To the correct service provider or manager
Traditionally, service requests have been sent and received via phone, email, or simply in physical form. Today, many teams use client portal software like an IT ticketing system as their primary channel for service request communication.
2. Receipt & Assessment
Once the service team receives a service request, they’ll analyze and assess it as needed.
(Note: Requests may need to be routed to the appropriate service provider before this analysis occurs. However, this step can — and should — be avoided. More in a bit.)
The goal here is to prioritize the request amongst the many other SRs your team has received.
This involves assessing:
- The urgency of the issue
- The impact of solving the issue (and downsides of not)
- The cost of the initiative
You’ll then approve the service request to move forward, or amend the request as needed to bring about the best possible outcome.
3. Assignment & Verification
The request will then be assigned to a specific team member by the manager, who will have already assessed the situation and have approved the initiative.
Once the task is passed onto the employee, this individual will then have a chance to assess the request, themselves.
Ideally, they’ll find the plan acceptable and will have been equipped with the resources needed to accomplish the task at hand. However, the service provider may need to request additional resources or a change in plans — and will work with their manager to hammer out the details.
Now, the provider will begin actually doing what was requested of them.
While this step obviously varies with every instance, it should always involve constant, open communication between all involved parties. The provider, for one, will keep the user apprised of progress made throughout the initiative. The user will also be able to reach out with questions, concerns, or comments throughout the fulfillment process.
On top of real-time communication, digital portals allow all parties to stay aligned and up-to-date via the user dashboard.
5. Completion & Follow-Up
A short debrief session will follow once services have been rendered.
The provider will review the services delivered, providing a summary of changes and/or improvements the recipient should anticipate to their processes.
The recipient will then have the opportunity to ask questions, request additional information and resources, and provide feedback regarding the overall experience. In some cases, they may require additional assistance — and may even need to submit a subsequent request for service.
After services have been rendered and the recipient is content, it will be time to close out the service request.
At this point, the service provider and their manager will assess the initiative as a whole. Together, they’ll work to:
- Determine what went well, and what could be improved next time
- Implement these changes effectively and efficiently
- Document any and all lessons learned throughout the process
This final step is important not just because it signals the “official” end of the service initiative — but because it leads to ongoing improvements for your service teams.
Why is Standardized Service Request Management Important?
On the whole, it’s fair to say that the team with a standardized, strategic approach to service request management will outperform those who don’t put much stock into SRM at all.
But, it’s also easy to fall into the trap of not implementing your systematic processes in certain circumstances — especially for relatively low-risk, low-impact service requests.
That said, let’s talk about why you should always go through the full service request management process with every case you encounter.
Optimize All Steps (and Handoffs)
Though the actual service delivery is the most important part of the process, each step is a crucial piece of the puzzle.
On the one end, a solid plan is needed for solid execution. After the task is completed, a comprehensive wrap-up ensures everything actually did according to the plan (or better).
Standardizing your SRM processes also makes for easier transitions from step to step. With a routine in place for all parties to follow, everyone involved will know what to expect at all times — and can more easily navigate the issue at hand.
Streamline the Planning Process
While all service request instances are unique, you shouldn’t start planning each one from scratch.
In standardizing your approach to SRM, you won’t have to.
Instead, you can use planning templates to guide your efforts and ensure you cover all the bases before digging in. In many cases, you’ll likely be able to autofill certain sections using past blueprints — with perhaps just a few minor tweaks as needed.
(For example, purchase order processing typically requires the same material resources and personnel.)
Basically, the more you know and can anticipate before getting started, the less you’ll have to plan out whenever you receive a service request — and the more time you’ll have to actually get moving.
Consistent and strategic service request management helps keep waste to a minimum when providing your services.
As we discussed, part of the planning process involves defining the resources needed to complete the requested task. On top of ensuring the provider has what they need, you’ll also ensure they’re using these resources economically (and, overall, properly).
Similarly, strategically defining the urgency and intensity of your service requests allows your team to dedicate a necessary amount of time to the initiative. And, of course, it keeps them from spending too much time and energy on low-intensity and low-impact tasks.
Maintain Alignment Throughout Service
All service request instances involve at least two parties — and usually many more.
And creating a formalized SRM workflow is essential to keeping everyone on the same page at all times. As mentioned, handoffs become easier because everyone will be following the same processes and protocols.
You’ll also build intentional communication into these workflows to ensure all parties are privy to updates, progress reports, and anything else they need to know about the initiative. So, even when a stakeholder may be in a “holding pattern” of sorts, they’ll still have complete visibility as to where the project stands.
Enables Continuous & Focused Improvement
With a consistent approach to SRM in place, you’ll be able to pinpoint areas in need of improvement with ease by comparing historical and current performance records.
In fact, a systematic process is necessary in order to determine whether a given problem is an ongoing concern — or if it was a one-off outlier. It also allows you to prioritize the improvements to be made to your SRM workflows, should you discover more than one area that needs it.
Finally, a systematic approach to SRM helps you dig past the immediate problems in your internal processes to get to the true root cause of the issue. Otherwise, you’ll end up making surface-level improvements that have minimal impact on your team’s productivity.
Service Request Management Best Practices in 2022
To be sure, the above assumes that you understand and follow best practices as you systematize your SRM processes.
Use Context to Prioritize Requests for Service
Chances are, your service teams will have more than one service request to handle at any given moment.
(Many more than one, that is…)
And you won’t be able to take care of all of them at the same time.
So, you’ll need to have a system in place for prioritizing these incoming service requests.
For customer-facing (or customer-impacting) requests, creating context involves considering their perspective of the issue, as well.
Of course, this requires an extra layer of internal assessment and validation. But the benefits experienced by both customer and company are well worth the effort.
Finally, analyzing context is also needed to sequentially prioritize certain service requests. For example, before your IT team can install new or updated software, they may need to update a user’s hardware and operating system — or at least confirm the new tool’s compatibility with their current system.
Bringing context into the picture allows you to go beyond the “on-paper” service request, and to truly understand the issue as it exists in reality.
Centralize the Request Process
Remember earlier how we said service requests are traditionally delivered through multiple digital and physical channels?
Well…some traditions are meant to be left in the past.
By today’s standards, you must have a centralized platform on which to receive and manage service requests. Without this centralized location in place, information silos will cause operations to stagnate — and prevent your service teams from doing what they do to the best of their ability.
Now, you can approach this centralization in one of two ways.
One is to require all service requests to be made through a specific channel. For example, content agencies often provide digital forms along with their service menus — and will direct all service requests to be made through this form.
If possible, you might integrate and connect all of your communications channels to a centralized digital database. That way, users can make service requests through multiple channels — while your service team will need only to look in a single location to receive them.
Offer Self-Service Options
Your service request management efforts should also allow for self-service at multiple points in the process.
As shown above, recipients should be able to request service on their own, and on their own terms. Neither your customers nor your employees want to wait in line or on the phone to ask your team for help.
Once a request is out of their hands, your recipients should also be able to keep track of progress on their own terms, as well. Digital service portals allow for asynchronous communication and updates between all involved parties, at all times.
In some cases, offering self-service options might even remove the need for service in the first place. For example, before a user makes a request for a specific feature, they might be automatically directed to a related feature that offers a similar solution — along with in-depth instructions on how to use it.
Remove Unnecessary Internal Touchpoints…and Automate the Rest
Though we’ve talked about the importance of streamlining service request handoffs, you ideally want to minimize the amount of touchpoints throughout the process altogether.
Again, self-service comes into play by removing the need for a “collector” to stand post for incoming service requests. Internally, automation can be used to send progress alerts, reminders, and other triggered messages to all involved stakeholders.
Some of the more sophisticated SRM tools available automate other advanced processes, such as:
- Task scoring and prioritization
- Assigning team members
- Accepting or rejecting requests
Beyond automating these processes, you can also remove redundant touchpoints by shifting responsibilities to the left.
The idea here is to move “service provision” as close to the front of the line as possible — removing superfluous touchpoints and personnel from the process along the way.
Note, however, that this doesn’t mean rushing through the SRM process — nor does it mean relieving team members of their duties. Rather, making this shift means refitting your service provider teams and processes to maximize their efforts at every essential touchpoint.
Define Key Performance Indicators for Service Teams
For your SRM efforts to have a truly positive impact on your overall operations, you need to pay attention to the right KPI.
Some of the most common service request KPIs to focus on include:
- Average handle time
- Success rate (within target time)
- Rejected requests
Many teams keep close tabs on ticket backlog at all times. A
Customer-focused metrics (like CSAT, CES, and NPS) are also important to know. In fact, these metrics can be used to measure the effectiveness of individual SR instances — and to measure the impact these instances have on your customers’ overall experience with your brand.
Along with more longform commentary and other feedback, this information will help you identify specific ways to improve your service team’s performance — and your approach to SRM overall.
Document, Document, Document
Documentation is key to ensuring your SRM initiatives go as planned, and that your overall efforts continually improve.
For individual SRs, this means documenting:
- Business requirement document for the initiative
- The overall plan and workflow
- Clearly-defined KPIs and outcomes
Once the initiative wraps up, you’ll then revisit this documentation to assess your team’s performance. From there, you can document lessons learned and other need-to-know information for future reference.
This, in turn, will lead you to make more substantial, overarching improvements to your SRM processes. As you make these changes, you’ll again want to document them within your internal knowledge base for safekeeping, immediate retrieval, and ongoing improvement.
Use Helpjuice to Document & Optimize Your SRM Efforts
Keeping all this documentation straight requires a comprehensive and cohesive knowledge base tool.
Which is exactly what Helpjuice has to offer.
With our software, service teams can collaboratively document their SRM processes, while also creating and linking to additional resources to offer each other further guidance. That way, all service team members will continually follow standard procedures and best practices as they deliver for those in their charge.
Ready to get started? Book a demo with Helpjuice’s team today!