Why Time in Pending Status is an important KPI in Service Desks

Most IT Service Desk SLAs are built around response time and resolution time (MTTR) which are great metrics to ensure agents (and vendors) are doing their jobs effectively, but these metrics are often implemented in a way that intentionally excludes time in various on-hold and pending statuses from SLA calculations.

Why are pending statuses often excluded from SLAs?

As a ticket progresses through the service desk workflow, it will likely follow one of two paths.  It will either be immediately resolved by the first agent the requestor talks to (first call resolution) or it will go through a series of back and forth interactions between the requestor and support staff.  If the ticket takes the longer path, it will likely spend considerable time in statuses like: “pending customer response” or “pending 3rd party”.  In most ITSM implementations, these statuses pause the SLA clock because they are assumed to be outside of the service desk’s control.  

What can time in pending status tell you about Service Desk performance?

While it may be true that progress on resolving the ticket may be outside of the agent’s control, the IT Service Desk is responsible for end-to-end ownership of the customer’s issue so it is appropriate for pending statuses to be included in any measurement, KPIs and SLAs dealing with performance of the helpdesk function. Time in pending status is an excellent measure of the efficiency of the IT Service Desk operations.  The goal of the service desk is to resolve incidents and requests as quickly as possible to minimize impact to users and the business. When a ticket is in pending status, no progress is being made towards resolving it – the service desk workflow is on hold. By measuring how much time the workflow is on hold and what situations are causing the delay, service desk managers can more easily identify improvements that can speed up the overall support experience.

Improvement insights that can be gleaned from a time in pending status KPI

Like any KPI, the reason you measure it is to evaluate performance and drive improvements.  In the context of “time in pending status”, some of the common improvement opportunities that can be generated include:

Collecting the right data from requestors: Going back to a requestor to ask follow-up questions that were overlooked on the initial engagement is a common occurrence but one that is avoidable in most cases.  Measuring time in “pending customer” status can help you assess how often this scenario is occurring and whether it is an area for service desk improvement.

Minimizing hand-offs among support teams: Multiple hand-offs among support teams (each with their own response and resolution time SLAs) creates significant delays in the requestor getting their issue resolved.  Tracking the number of handoffs and the time that the ticket is “waiting for response” due to hand-offs can help drive simplification of multi-tier support models.

Improving 3rd party support engagements: It may be cost effective to use 3rd parties as a part of your overall IT Service Desk support model but these dependencies come at a cost of increased time to resolve issues.  By measuring the time spent in “waiting for 3rd party” statuses, your service desk staff can see where delays are taking place and make decisions about bringing support knowledge in-house (training service desk staff) to reduce the frequencies when 3rd parties need to be engaged and enhancing vendor engagement processes to reduce delays to the requestor.

Your IT Service Desk is there to help users solve their problems. KPIs and SLAs are an important tool in measuring how effectively that charter is being fulfilled.  Measuring “time in pending status” can be an effective and powerful tool for not only evaluating performance of your IT Service Desk but also gaining valuable insights on opportunities for improving the service you provide to the company.  If you aren’t measuring this KPI today, perhaps it is time to put this tool to work.