In 2017, the Croydon Health Services NHS Trust invited the Service Desk Institute (SDI) to evaluate their IT Service Desk. Historically, the desk lacked empowerment, direction, and investment and was seen as the lowest operational level in IT.
Their analysts scored Croydon’s service desk at 1.06—significantly lower than the National Health Service (NHS) average of 2.36. Service desk manager, Lucy Hallam, and her team welcomed the feedback and embraced the need for change.
“It didn't surprise us,” she says. “At the time, we were very behind. We had a lot of prior managers who did not prioritize the service desk function.”
Although unsurprising, the evaluation proved a turning point for the Trust's IT department. With the support of senior management, Lucy upskilled the team, transformed the old help desk to a service desk, and kickstarted a period of significant change.
The transformation was a resounding success, driving up the rate of first-time fixes to 60%, trimming total tickets logged by 9%, and cutting in half the number of escalations.
What’s more, the Changemaker says she’s only getting started.
DATED TECHNOLOGY AND NO WAY FORWARD
Before her change of role to service desk manager in 2014, Lucy had spent 15 years in the Croydon Health Services NHS Trust’s IT department.
Reflecting on her career, she says the world of healthcare was quite insular. Many of her managers had spent their entire careers within the Government-run National Health Service (NHS)—often within the specific Croydon organization.
“There was no insight into how other trusts worked,” she explains. “We weren’t building relationships with other organizations.”
The old service desk platform, a small business-focused tool, had been in place for around 12 years. It had a ticketing system and basic analytics but lacked advanced features like scheduled reporting. Lucy spent hours tediously drawing up reports for her managers. Worse, the old tool lacked the IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL) framework her whole team had been trained on.
That all changed when the Croydon Trust welcomed a battery of new managers. They brought fresh ideas and outside perspectives. Not content to carry on business as usual, they empowered Lucy to drive change within the service desk team.
Having battled with the system for the majority of her career, Lucy knew the service desk had to change. With the poor SDI evaluation confirming her lived experience, she recommended a radical overhaul of their dated technology. With the support of senior managers, the project got the go-ahead.
IN SEARCH OF A REPLACEMENT
After years spent locked within a dated technology ecosystem, the team had lost track of the key players in the market. They kickstarted a period of research, attending SDI roadshows and tapping colleagues in other trusts for recommendations. The process was challenging as all organizations have some innate resistance to change.
“We put ourselves in their shoes,” Lucy explains. “We wanted something easy to use, particularly on the self-service side, so that more people would use it.”
Alongside a user-friendly UI, Lucy and the team also needed powerful technical functionality, such as automated reporting, strong workflows, and approvals. In other words, they wanted everything the old system didn’t have.
With a laundry list of requirements, they whittled down options, creating a shortlist of three vendors, who each pitched to the IT department’s operational and senior managers. After much analysis, they selected a frontrunner: Freshservice.
As service desk manager, Lucy’s primary concerns were functional—but she harbored additional goals for the transformation The service desk was everyone’s first port of call for incidents and requests. Recognizing its importance, she resolved to improve its perception, reputation, and authority.
“We wanted something that had a stronger alignment between IT and the business, ensuring responsive and efficient, supportive provision,” she says. “We wanted the service to be recognized more as it’s a huge factor within the organization. It should be valued as a strategic asset.”
THE GREAT MIGRATION
Based on her extensive experience within Croydon Health Services NHS Trust, Lucy opted to act as the internal stakeholder for the transformation. She had spent years working within IT support and had intimate knowledge of every last process and policy. But even with a mass of institutional knowledge, preparing for the migration was a monumental task.
Focusing exclusively on existing processes, Lucy spent six months evaluating workflows and transferring them to Freshservice. She discovered many were overly complex and cumbersome. These she streamlined, simplified, and updated with the support of appropriate stakeholders.
“We wanted to make sure the new processes were user-friendly, especially from a self-service point of view,” she says. “We also did a lot of testing and used automation to allocate tickets to different teams.”
The preparatory phase was grueling and exacting—but it laid a strong foundation for the transformation. In October 2019, Lucy and the team executed the migration, mothballing the old system and making Freshservice live.
In the week that followed, Lucy ran daily meetings with her team and consultants from Freshservice, rooting out the final few bugs that had made it through testing. After the first week, she slowed the meetings to weekly and then monthly. Eventually, she took the maintenance of the new system entirely into her own hands.
In the months that followed, Lucy recorded a cornucopia of improvements. With a new user-friendly interface, self-service usage leaped from 15% to 34%. With employees able to solve certain issues themselves, the total number of service requests dropped by 9% and escalations fell by 54%. This trend encouraged Lucy so much that she’s planning to increase staffing on self-service resource production by sixfold.
Fewer simple calls coming in gave Lucy’s team more time to spend on more complex calls. This led to a significant improvement in both call abandonment rates and call wait times.
Across the board, customer satisfaction trended upwards—currently, 90% of callers rate the service as excellent.
ADOPTING A STRATEGIC ROLE
Lucy’s secondary goal—to improve the service desk’s reputation and standing within the Trust—is improving, too. The service desk is no longer the simple break-fix department it once was.
The Changemaker has built relationships with other department heads and strengthened buy-in from executives. Armed with reams of statistics from Freshservice, she can now prove her team’s positive impact on the Trust. The work is elevating perceptions and giving a stronger voice to the service desk.
“We have many meetings with different areas of the trust,” she says. “People now know why IT plays such an important role within the organization. They appreciate IT as a critical enabler for the business.”
It’s not just lip service, either. Since the transformation, the service desk has been classified as one of the Trust’s business-critical applications, highlighting what a crucial role it plays in the delivery of quality healthcare.