10 Tips for Improving Your IT Service Desk KPIs

The selection of the right IT service desk performance metrics is an age-old challenge that’s again front and center for IT professionals with the newer focus on the metrics associated with employee experience and eXperience level agreements (XLAs). But there are so many metrics “basics” to get right first. This blog highlights 10 tips for improving your IT service desk’s key performance indicators (KPIs).

1. Use metrics for a truly rewarding reason

If your IT service desk metrics are merely a box-ticking exercise, i.e. “We need to have some.” Or a monthly, quarterly, and annual exercise in proving that performance targets can be exceeded. Then you’re doing your customers and parent organization a disservice. Instead, make your metrics count by ensuring that they serve a value-adding purpose. For instance, as a platform for driving improvement activity.

2. Make your metrics S.M.A.R.T.

Where S.M.A.R.T stands for: Specific, Measurable, Attainable/Achievable, Relevant, and Timely. This might sound like a piece of outdated management training material but it’s still a valid check to run on any proposed, or existing, metrics.

3. Focus on what’s really important

There’s a need to stop measuring things just because it’s easy to do so. For instance, because the IT service management (ITSM) or IT service desk tool your organization employs “just does it.” Instead, understand what’s important from a business perspective and focus on the metrics that demonstrate how well your IT service desk has performed against this. Think of it as aligning IT service desk metrics with desired business outcomes.

4. Regularly review what’s important

Things change, with businesses no exception. So, to continue to focus on what’s important to your organization there’s a need to regularly assess which metrics are still valid – asking “How does this metric help us and our customers?” – and what needs to be added, metrics-wise, to continue to demonstrate how well your IT service desk is performing (against business needs).

5. Don’t ignore the relationships between different metrics

Most commonly that performing well against one metric will adversely impact another. For instance, increasing your customer satisfaction (CSAT) scores will most likely incur an increase in average call-handling time and the average cost per ticket. These relationships need to be borne in mind when setting targets and managing performance.

6. Don’t just look at “this month”

Instead, look at key metrics across months and quarters, and years. This will allow your IT service desk to identify trends – either positive or negative – that will provide both greater insight (into performance) and inspiration for improvement. For instance, an SLA target might have been consistently met over the last 12 periods but the analysis across the 12 months shows a rate of decline that will eventually adversely affect business operations.

7. Be conscious of the behavioral aspects of metrics

Measuring someone’s performance will drive their behavior (as they attempt to hit the metric target, especially if it affects their remuneration). So, ensure that your metrics aren’t driving the wrong behaviors – perhaps encouraging speed over quality and the customer experience. Also, look out for metrics that pull service desk agents in different directions. For instance, a high target for first contact resolution along with a requirement for average call length to be less than 10 minutes.

8. Don’t lose sight of your critical success factors (CSFs)

It’s all too easy to be so focused on lower-level metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs), that the real purpose of performance measurement is lost. So regularly talk to performance against CSFs not just the KPIs. Plus, as with metrics, the review of the ongoing applicability of CSFs will help to ensure that your IT service desk isn’t now focused on the wrong things.

9. Don’t report everything to stakeholders, focus on what’s important to them

There’s a reason why there’s a metrics hierarchy – some metrics will only ever be of interest to the IT service desk. Thus, when reporting performance, only report what’s important. And this will no doubt differ by stakeholder type.


10. Be wary of industry benchmark metrics

Firstly, because the “10 most commonly used IT service desk metrics” will probably not be the most important metrics for your IT service desk and organization. And secondly, because the average scores they offer up are for an “average IT service desk” that’s probably nothing like yours in terms of size, location, services, applications supported etc. Benchmarks are helpful, but they need to be used in a way that recognizes the likely differences. For instance, the costs included in a cost-per-ticket metric.

So there you have it, our 10 tips for anyone looking to improve their Service Desk KPIs. Would you have included any others? Please let us know in the comments.