Navigating the Crucial Soft Skills for IT Service Desks
January 30, 2024

Ruben Franzen

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Our technology landscape seems to be advancing at the speed of thought, so the significance of soft skills within service desk teams cannot be overstated. Out are the days of solely relying on technical expertise. In an era dominated by artificial intelligence (AI) and constant technological shifts, the human touch sets IT service desk professionals apart.

The rapid pace of technological change renders hard skills obsolete over time. The influx of AI into business has further emphasized the need for distinctly human skills. Emotional intelligence (EQ) emerges as a frontrunner in this scenario, encompassing traits like collaboration and empathy that machines simply cannot replicate.

Research conducted by the Service Desk Institute reinforces this shift in demand. Emotional intelligence, problem-solving, and analytical thinking now take center stage while traditional requirements like programming and managerial skills dwindle in importance. The message is clear: the future of IT service lies in embracing and enhancing soft skills.

So, what essential soft skills will future-proof IT service desk teams?

There are several factors, but the leading five include communication, emotional intelligence, failing (forward), continuous learning, and the ability to embrace agility.

1. Communication

Strong communication skills are the backbone of an effective service desk. The ability to convey technical solutions to customers in a clear and understandable manner is indispensable. In an era where miscommunication can lead to costly errors, mastering this skill ensures smooth interactions and satisfied customers.

Mastering communication in the service desk is critical to ensuring smooth operations, customer satisfaction, and overall success. Key strategies that organizations can implement to excel in communication within their service desk include:

Establish Clear Communication Channels: Ensure that there are well-defined and easily accessible communication channels. Implement tools such as ticketing systems, chat platforms, and email to streamline communication.

Provide Comprehensive Training: Train service desk personnel in effective communication skills. This includes not only technical communication but also customer interaction. Emphasize the importance of clarity, empathy, and active listening. Training should cover both written and verbal communication.

Develop Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs): Create clear and concise SOPs for common issues and scenarios. SOPs serve as a guide for service desk staff, ensuring consistency in communication. They also help in providing accurate and standardized information to customers, reducing the likelihood of misunderstandings.

Implement Knowledge Management Systems: Utilize knowledge management systems to centralize information. This ensures that service desk personnel have access to accurate and up-to-date information. A well-organized knowledge base facilitates quick responses to customer queries and promotes consistency in communication.

Utilize Automation for Routine Communication: Implement automation for routine and repetitive communication tasks. Automation can send status updates, confirm ticket receipts, and provide initial responses to common queries. This allows service desk staff to focus on more complex and personalized interactions.

Encourage Collaboration and Information Sharing: Foster a culture of collaboration among service desk team members. Encourage the sharing of insights, tips, and solutions. This approach ensures that everyone benefits from the collective knowledge and expertise within the team.

Implement Customer Feedback Mechanisms: Establish mechanisms for collecting customer feedback on communication processes. This feedback can provide valuable insights into areas that may need improvement. Act on constructive feedback to continuously enhance communication practices.

By implementing these strategies, organizations can create a communication-rich environment within their service desk, enhancing efficiency, customer satisfaction, and a positive reputation for IT support.

2. Emotional Intelligence

With AI becoming more prevalent, the ability to empathize and ask insightful questions is invaluable. Understanding the human aspect of IT issues saves time in issue resolution and significantly enhances the overall customer experience. Emotional intelligence is now the linchpin that holds together technical expertise and human-centric problem-solving.

3. Failing Forward

The fear of failure can stifle innovation. Encouraging service desk teams to experiment, take risks, and learn from mistakes fosters a culture of continuous improvement. "Failing forward" is not about avoiding failure but about extracting lessons from it. This mindset shift propels teams toward creative problem-solving and ensures ongoing progress.

4. Continuous Learning

In a field where technology evolves at breakneck speed, the ability to learn continuously is paramount. Service desk teams must have access to learning and development opportunities to stay abreast of new technologies. A commitment to continuous learning benefits the individual and translates into organizational growth and adaptability.

5. Agility

The rapid evolution of IT demands an agile mindset. Service desk professionals need to be adaptable to new technologies and challenges. An agile approach ensures quicker responses to issues, drives innovation, and ultimately leads to elevated customer satisfaction.

Developing an agile mindset involves cultivating attitudes and behaviors prioritizing adaptability, continuous learning, collaboration, and a proactive approach to change. Practical steps to foster an agile mindset include:

Embracing change: Recognize that change is inevitable and view it as an opportunity for growth rather than a disruption. Embrace a mindset that sees change as a chance to learn, improve and innovate.

Open to feedback: Be open to feedback, both positive and constructive. Feedback is a valuable source of information that can guide improvements. Embrace a culture of continuous improvement by actively seeking and incorporating feedback into your work.

Encourage learning: Foster a culture of continuous learning. Stay curious about new technologies, methodologies, and industry trends. Actively seek opportunities for professional development, training, and acquiring new skills.

Adopt a collaborative approach: Collaborate with colleagues, stakeholders, and customers. An agile mindset values teamwork and recognizes that diverse perspectives contribute to better solutions. Actively participate in collaborative activities, such as brainstorming sessions and cross-functional teams.

Develop resilience: Cultivate resilience in the face of setbacks or failures. Understand that failures are opportunities to learn and iterate. Embrace the concept of "failing forward," where each failure is seen as a step toward improvement.

Break down silos: Break down organizational silos that hinder communication and collaboration. Encourage open communication and information sharing across teams and departments. An agile mindset thrives in an environment where information flows freely.

Iterate and experiment: Adopt an experimental mindset. Be willing to try new approaches, technologies, or methodologies. Learn from the outcomes and iterate on your processes based on the results. This iterative approach promotes adaptability and innovation.

Promote autonomy: Encourage autonomy and self-organization. An agile mindset values individuals who can make decisions independently, take ownership of their work, and contribute proactively to team goals.

Stay adaptable: Be flexible and versatile in the face of uncertainty. An agile mindset is characterized by the ability to pivot quickly when circumstances change. Instead of resisting change, be ready to adjust plans and strategies accordingly.

Remember that developing an agile mindset is an ongoing process. It requires self-reflection, a commitment to continuous improvement, and a willingness to challenge the status quo. As you incorporate these practices into your daily work, you'll be better equipped to navigate change and contribute to agile, dynamic teams.


The IT service desk of today and tomorrow must be equipped with technical prowess and a rich set of soft skills. These skills, including effective communication, emotional intelligence, a culture of learning from failure, continuous learning, and agility, are the keys to success in an ever-transforming IT landscape. Embracing and honing these skills will meet the industry's current demands and future-proof IT service desks in the face of technological uncertainties.

Ruben Franzen is President of TOPdesk US
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