IT Service & Support Awards 2016: Winners Interview


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Q. Tell us a little bit about Retail Assist

My name’s Anthony Collings, I’m the Service Desk Manager at Retail Assist. As an organisation we’ve been around since 1999. As the name suggests, predominantly we work with retailers (as well as hospitality operators), and our service desk sits on the Managed Services side of our business. Having won the Best Managed Service Desk award I’m going to talk about the service desk and how it fits in within Retail Assist. We’re in the very fortunate position that the service desk is at the forefront of Retail Assist, and is the pride of the company. It’s the biggest department that we have; I’ve been with the company 10 years now, we are a 24/7, 365 operation and we’ve recently taken on a few more languages. We now support 9 different languages across the desk with a third of the team being multilingual. So I have seen a lot of changes over time. As an organisation Retail Assist is really supportive towards myself and the service desk in improving our services, we’ve got a fantastic relationship with our customers that we work with, and we’re pretty much an extended part of their teams.

Rhianne: I’m the Marketing Executive at Retail Assist; I was responsible for putting our award entry together, so it will be great to speak about the process you go through and why it benefits your organisation so much.

Q. What made you enter the Best Managed Service Desk Award?

Rhianne: It’s probably worth speaking a little bit about our awards history with the Service Desk Institute, as we entered the SDI Awards for the first time in 2015. That time that we entered we were lucky enough to be shortlisted into the final three. It was a really great experience for our service desk and I think this year we just wanted to come back bigger and better, and show how our new service desk innovations and things we’d learnt from our last awards journey had really contributed to evolving our service provision for our customers.

Ant: Continuing on from that, the heart of what we’re like as a service desk is all about continual improvement, so from our perspective it was really important to come back from being runners up to be able to demonstrate “this is what we’ve done and this is what we’ve done better”, taking on all the feedback and inviting the judges to come and see it in action. I think it was really pleasing to be able to demonstrate the progression we’d made over that 12 month period.

Q. How did you feel when you were told you were awards finalists?

Ant: It always comes as a relief really; we had experience, we knew what the process was like, but then we’re probably our biggest self-critics – we’re always thinking about what we could have done better. There are obviously a lot of fantastic managed service providers out there at the moment as well, and we know that it is a really tough category based upon our experience the year before. But we were confident in the processes and procedures we have in place. Most of all I’m confident in the team that we’ve got on our service desk and I know that they all give it 100%, and that’s all we could ask for.

Rhianne: If you get through to the finalist stage it really is a recognition that shouldn’t be understated, because of the level of competition that you are up against. It’s the best in the industry that are up in the running for these awards so getting through to the final 5 shortlist is a great achievement.

IT Help Desk

Q. What did it mean to your team to win the Best Managed Service Desk Award?

Ant: It was a massive amount of pride! We hired a local venue in Nottingham where we’re based and took the team out, choosing a date in the summer when the weather was a lot nicer, and we had a big barbecue with everybody. It was great to get together, and celebrate that this is what we’ve done. It was also nice to do it a few months after the awards to reflect back on it and remember, rather than doing it straight away in April. In terms of what it meant to the team – it’s about the pride and passion, recognition, the great feedback and support from our customers. I think in these couple of months where they can collect all that feedback and realise what they’ve achieved it definitely enabled them to enjoy the night out a lot more as well.

Rhianne: When the service desk is dealing with hundreds of calls every day and sometimes the customer on the end of the phone might be frustrated, or the problem that they have may be causing them a lot of stress, it’s a very high pressured environment and there are a lot of challenges that our service desk analysts face. So I think getting the recognition that they deserve is important, that they really do such a great job in achieving that first line fix and getting the problem resolved and allowing the customer to be happy at the end of the day. And the fact that it’s at a world beating standard, an “industry best” recognition, is a big sense of pride and a massive uplift for the team. It’s really helped the culture; we’ve become a lot prouder and a lot more proactive.

Ant: We’re really big on feedback at Retail Assist and providing positive feedback and encouragement for the team, so this award is really the icing on the cake and it reinforces that what I’ve told them on a daily basis and what the customers say is actually happening, and that recognition just helps them to keep looking to improve and carrying on with what great work the guys do.

Q. What impact has winning the award had on your team and the wider organisation?

Ant: The biggest impact is the confidence booster; it’s the pat on the back that we’ve talked about before. For the guys, it’s not about; “oh we’ve won an award we’re really good, let’s take a step back”. It’s like, “ok we’ve won an award because this is how we deliver a service, let’s keep on top of it and make sure we’re continually improving”. Once people have that pride and passion for what they’re doing on a daily basis, everything else slips into place really easily. We’re in a really good position where we’ve been able to offer a number of new positions. So it’s definitely benefitted us in recruiting in the Nottingham region where there is a lot of talent, a lot of competition for graduates and the people that we’re looking for. It has made recruitment a much better process by getting really talented candidates in, and getting the right people into the right place.

Rhianne: I think being able to speak about ourselves as the Best Managed Service Desk awarded by the Service Desk Institute has given us a unique difference in the market. I think it’s also helped us regionally with other awards: we recently entered an award for Nottingham top 10 regional businesses, in which our service desk played a really critical part. We were lucky enough to be awarded as one of those top ten and again, like Ant said, that’s something that really attracts new recruits that would like to work with an organisation that represents such a high standard in the industry. Something we learnt from entering the first time into the awards, and even as winners of our category, we still identify areas in which we can improve. We do have a really strong continuous improvement process. The judges that you interact with provide great advice and actionable feedback (in our category we had Ollie O’Donoghue, Head of Research & Insight at the Service Desk Institute, Barclay Rae, ITSMF UK CEO, and David Wright, Chief Value Officer at the Service Desk Institute). As well as it being quite a critical process, like Ant said it’s also positive – we’re taking that forward to continually innovate and we’ve got more plans in action for the future.

Q. What was the best part of the process?

Ant: That’s definitely the easiest question. It’s got to be our video creation without a doubt.

Rhianne: It’s got to be the video!  When you get through to finalist stage you’re invited to record a fun 2 minute video of your organisation and we really got creative this year. Because in our organisation the service desk is called the Helpdesk, we made a video to the tune of Ice Ice Baby, which we changed into Helpdesk baby. We really got the team involved in that. The standards of the videos this year at the service desk awards was fantastic – some really really funny ones – but I think it probably just encapsulates what’s at the heart of everyone’s service desk culture which is the team and teamwork. You can really get a sense of how they interact and get on, and enjoy their day to day job role.

Ant: Away from the fun of the video the parts that the team get the best out of is the actual visit. So when the judges come in to visit the desk they don’t want to spend time speaking to myself, Rhianne, they want to speak to the guys that are doing the work. For the analysts on the desk to be able to sit with the likes of Ollie and Barclay and explain what they do, and show them what they do/ how they do it, they get to see real life examples. It really helps them realise what an important role they’re doing, and the questions that they get asked it makes them value the career how we achieve things. So it brings the whole community together. The actual awards night, it’s all about success, it’s not about beating somebody else and winners and losers, it’s about what’s great about delivering IT support services.

You can see Retail Assist’s “Help Desk baby” video here:

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