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How to say no: 3 steps for handling IT service requests

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Ruben Franzen, President, TopDesk USA

Nobody enjoys denying a request, and especially not a service desk team member whose job it is to find solutions and help. One of the hardest things for a service employee to do is to say no. But sometimes it must be done.

If you use a service catalog, you have already made a choice about which services will be supported by your team. And that's an excellent thing.

But your customers might not know about the decisions you've made. That means that they will file requests for services that you don't support. You need to teach your team the best way to say no while leaving customers feeling as if their needs are being met—particularly if your organization is trying to build the business case to extend IT service management to the rest of the enterprise. Here's how to say no.

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1. Find out what your customer really needs

Imagine your customer asks for an iPad, but you support only Android devices. Ask why the customer wants an iPad. What are her needs, and why does she think that an Android tablet can’t meet those needs?

Always ask your customer why she has made a particular request. Maybe she requested an iPad simply because she doesn’t understand all the possibilities offered by Android products. Perhaps you can educate your customers by providing some instructions or by installing an app.

2. Propose an alternative standard solution

As soon as you know your customer's needs, it becomes easier to find an alternative for the request that you aren't able to fulfill.

Ideally, you will have an alternative standard service that fully meets your customer's needs. That will make the customer happy and save you time and resources.

But if you don't have a standard service that fits, you can likely offer an alternative that at least partially meets your customer's needs. In this case, you need to ask yourself how important the missing functionality is for your customer.

If the customer requests an iPad you don't support, does the Android tablet you do support help meet your customer's most essential needs? Try to steer your customer toward the alternative solution.

[ Get up to speed on IT Operations Monitoring with TechBeacon's Guide. Plus: Download the Roadmap to High-Performing IT Ops Report ]

3. Propose a custom solution

If you can't offer a standard service that meets your customer's expectations, determine whether you can offer a custom one. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Is it technically feasible to provide a custom solution for the requestor?
  • If the answer to the first question is yes, ask yourself:
    1. Do you want to offer this alternative?
    2. Does it fit the policies and strategies of the IT department?
    3. Will it take a lot of time to provide the alternative solution?
    4. What is the impact on security?
    5. Are you able to maintain the solution?
  • If the custom solution is technically possible and you believe it's a good idea, move on to these next questions:
  1. Does the custom solution fit your customer's budget?
  2. Will you be able to invoice their department for it so it won’t impact your IT department’s bottom line?

If the answer is yes to all of the questions above, you can deliver the customer solution, but then you’ll need to think about another question: Do you want to add this service to your standard services? If so, add it to your service catalog.

Be prepared to say no

It can be difficult for your team members to say no. They want to help, and denying a request could make them feel like they're not trying. But sometimes there is no choice. You can’t adhere to policies for your department if you say yes to everything.

And, even if the answer to an initial request is no, your team can still go above and beyond by offering alternatives or custom solutions.

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