customer story

The University of St Andrews

The secret to service success

The University of St Andrews is the first European university to receive a three-star SDI accreditation. Read on to find out how the university’s IT Services department changed its culture, adopted a new tool and increased customer satisfaction.

We have an 8% response rate, and in January 2014 we had 100% overall customer satisfaction.

Lorraine Brown

How the IT service desk works

“We support the university’s staff and student community and visitors,” explains Lorraine Brown, St Andrews’ IT Service Desk manager. For the university, this means 2,200 staff, 8,000 students and almost 35,000 visitors a year – nearly a third of the population of the town of St Andrews itself.

With its self-service facility, including online tutorials and extensive FAQ section, online suggestion scheme and IT Services Twitter account St Andrews’ IT Services department utilizes the latest developments to provide the best possible service to its customers. They make it easy to find the information you need, and equally easy to contact them if you cannot figure things out for yourself.

The IT Service Desk is transparent, accessible and highly visible within the organization. However, this was not always the case. Lorraine Brown, one of the people responsible for turning the St Andrews IT Service Desk around, explains what it took to raise IT Service’s profile and get everyone on the same page.

The University of St Andrews

Finding a framework

“When I arrived here, there were lots of little groups working in isolation,” says Brown. IT Services had to deal with problems familiar to many supporting departments: limited visibility within the organization and communication with room for improvement.

“The change began in January 2010, when Steve Watt was appointed Chief Information Officer” says Brown. “He was absolutely committed to IT Services providing excellent customer service. He sent all of IT Services on a world-class customer training course. That took us a step forward. We also all went on ITIL training, which helped, but we wanted more change and needed help to drive this forward.”

3 stars for the service desk

Their search led them to the Service Desk Institute (SDI), the leading professional body for the IT and support industry. “We contacted the SDI in February 2012, and by April we had signed a three-year contract to go through their certification program,” says Brown. “We had our initial audit in May 2012 – we didn’t meet the two-star requirement, achieving a score of 1.64”. However, rather than be disheartened, the IT Service Desk used the assessment as a concrete starting point for improvements. “We took the SDI feedback and by December 2012 we had achieved a two-star accreditation,” says Brown.

Every year after that the SDI came back for surveillance audit. In the same period, the SDI reviewed their standards. This had us worried.” This turned out to be completely unnecessary, however: the improvements at the IT Service Desk were clear to see for the SDI. “We achieved three stars!”

The road to SDI success

How did they manage to become the first European university to achieve this success? At St Andrews, the key was ensuring the various teams within IT Services worked better together. “I’d say the big change for the service desk team was when IT Services went on ITIL training. For the first time ever, we all started speaking the same language: incidents, service requests, escalations. It also helped raise awareness of the IT Service Desk’s role within the department, because it made second and third line support see what we were stopping at the door.”

The improvements within the IT Services department are immediately visible – and have had a clear impact on the department as a whole. “Communication flow within IT Services has improved unbelievably. People now ask for advice from the front line service desk before they implement anything.”

Communication flow within IT Services has improved unbelievably.

Lorraine Brown

Engaging end users

With the framework in place and the ITIL training getting everyone on the same page, it was time for an even bigger push towards a shift in culture. The first step was repositioning the IT Services department within the university. The department realized they were not visible within the organization, but were not sure how to remedy this. The solution was daring, but undeniably effective. “We brought in an experienced Business Relationship Manager (BRM), Pauline Brown. She was able to completely rebrand IT Services – giving the department an identity.” With the BRM’s help, the IT Services raised their profile within the organization. “We changed all the images we used: we started putting our front line service desk staff on all our publicity material instead of photographs of computers. We wanted to be seen as a department who were friendly, approachable, proactive and keen to help our end users. We’re not just here to provide systems, or help with emergencies.”

The department started actively reaching out to users. An important tool was the revamped IT Services homepage, which now includes a welcome film and a suggestion page. “It’s an incentivized scheme: users have a chance to win free coffee for a month from one of the university cafe outlets,” says Brown. However, this is not the only way they solicit customer feedback. “We also have postcard feedback stations near classrooms. We want to make sure they see we’re there to support them.”

End users can also provide immediate feedback on the services provided thanks to the one-minute survey: every user who logs a call is asked to comment on the services. This has proven to be an excellent way to get customer feedback, but it also provides even more proof that the changes are working. “We have an eight per cent response rate, and in January 2014 we had one hundred per cent overall customer satisfaction ,” says Brown. “We received no complaints, nineteen suggestions and seven compliments directly related to IT Services and staff!”

Four stars and beyond

Despite the IT Service Desk’s impressive achievements, Brown does not want to rest on her laurels. “This year, we’re working towards a four-star certification. If we achieve that, we’ll be the only university worldwide to do so.” This may sound ambitious, but it is well within reach, as Brown explains. “There are nine concepts and each one is weighted differently. For instance, the leadership concept represents fourteen per cent of the total score, and we’re already on four stars for that.”

However, the drive to continue improving services does not mean that the current three-star accreditation is seen as simply a stepping stone towards something more. “Achieving the three-star accreditation was an effort by the whole department,” says Brown. “We have worked really hard, and are being rewarded with recognition now.”

i-Graduate survey

The SDI accreditation is not the only proof of how well the service desk is doing. “Every year, we participate in the i-Graduate survey. It provides valuable information about student satisfaction across many areas, including IT support,” says Pauline Brown, Business Relationship Manager. The 2013 results are based on a survey conducted among 227,579 students from 178 institutions worldwide. St Andrews received a 21% response rate. “With our recent excellent SDI results, this reinforces that we are doing a great job in this area. The additional measures we put in places have gone a long way in creating a good impression of IT Services with our student community – and that’s extremely important to us.”