The importance of service request management for ITIL 4

| By:
April Taylor

As a managed service provider (MSP), the bulk of the value you provide clients is in meeting their service and support needs. This means you and your team need to develop an efficient system for service request management. 

So, what is a service request? Throughout the workday, MSPs and other IT technicians receive service requests from both clients and fellow team members. If these requests are for first-time access or new services or devices, they fall under the realm of service request management. Essentially, a service request definition is when users request access to any new service or device. 

Formal service requests are subject to the Information Technology Infrastructure Library 4 (ITIL 4) framework, which sets best practices for the delivery of managed IT services. It covers five areas of IT service:

  • Service strategy: Focuses on the design, development, and implementation of IT service management.
  • Service design: Guides MSPs and other IT technicians on how to structure their processes and services.
  • Service transition: Ensures all other services and processes remain in balance while adding a new service or changing a current one.
  • Service operation: Provides best practices for optimal service delivery. 
  • Continual service improvement: Focuses on how businesses may need to recalibrate to maintain first-class service delivery and keep up with industry trends.

Adhering to the ITIL 4 framework ensures consistency in the request fulfillment process.

The service request management process

Service requests are actions taken by customers, employees, or vendors that initiate the delivery of a service—like cybersecurity protection or IT asset lifecycle management—that an MSP might perform. These services are pre-defined and agreed upon ahead of time in a service-level agreement (SLA)

Generally, these services follow a predetermined pattern as part of a broader service request management process. SLAs are commonly outlined for clients in a service menu, while services can be requested either through the MSPs website or a partner portal.

Some of the most common service request examples are the following:

  • Approval requests for purchase orders
  • Requests for time off
  • Creation of new content
  • Password resets

Tracking and reporting metrics for any service requests within your business is critical, regardless of category. As part of the service request management process, MSPs should be aware of which services are most popular, the speed of the initial response, and how long it takes to close out requests. These statistics are vital to perfecting your service request management process—and helping you grow your MSP business.

Armed with this information, you and your team can optimize your service menu to focus your efforts on only the most in-demand services. You’ll also be able to identify any bottlenecks in your service request management process and brainstorm tactics to remediate them. 

How the service request management process works

With an understanding of what service request management is, we can now dig a little deeper into how the process works. The finer details of how to handle service requests may differ between organizations, but thanks to ITIL 4, there’s a solid foundation for handling service requests through these general steps:

  • Submission: This is the first point of contact, when an employee or client requests a service. Most teams use service request software, a service desk, a customer or employee portal, or a mobile app to record and monitor the submission process as it moves forward. But some companies still use platforms like social media sites, mail, email, or telephone. 
  • Assessment: Assessment is a crucial step. Whoever intakes a service request must first evaluate it so they can properly respond. The appropriate team will assess the request, determine the necessary resources, and decide whether the request needs any support or supervision from leaders in a particular department (i.e., HR, IT, C-level, etc.). Typically, a proper assessment will require participation from multiple teams or departments. Another option if internal bandwidth is a concern is to outsource this work to a help desk service.
  • Fulfillment: After analyzing the request, multiple departments will come up with a plan to resolve the request. This involves assigning tasks, collecting pertinent contact data, and coming up with a reasonable time frame to complete the request based on the evaluation from the assessment stage. 
  • Completion: Once a request is successfully resolved, it’s considered “completed,” and you can close the ticket. This is an important stage in the process because it’s often used to help measure the performance of the various stakeholders involved. When managers pull reports, they will often use the “completed” stage to gain a better understanding of how the overall service request management process is working. Essential KPIs for these reports can include metrics like SLA adherence, tickets past due, and service backlog.
  • Follow-up: Your internal team and your clients may have different ideas of what “complete” actually means. Hopefully, your customers are happy with your service (as captured by metrics like customer satisfaction, tickets opened by client, and average time to resolution plan), but just because you close a ticket in your system doesn’t necessarily mean the person requesting the ticket sees it that way. Follow-up for customer feedback allows you to reach out to clients or employees to ensure your request management met their expectations. It also gives you an opportunity to identify how you can improve and what you’re already doing well. You can usually handle follow-up via standard methods like phone or email.

Benefits of effective request service management

Establishing and optimizing a formal service request management process will help you in building a profitable business model. Aligning your internal practices with request management best practices and ITIL 4 can provide impactful benefits. Below are some areas of improvement organizations can expect to see as they implement their service request management protocol.

Comprehensive tracking

Taking a service request ticket from start to finish requires a lot of people from many different departments. A lot can happen as a ticket progresses from stage to stage.

Proper service request management allows teams to monitor tickets as they travel from submission, to assessment, and eventually on to completion. 

Managing the process through each individual stage will increase efficiency and accountability in the short term. Additionally, as your team begins to handle more tickets, you’ll grow an invaluable library of historical data you can use to improve and optimize your processes moving forward. 

Another item to consider here is that a centralized system is essential. This helps keep all the tracking process and communication in one place to make sure that information isn’t lost as it goes on.

A holistic fulfillment process

Service requests don’t exist in isolation. They rely on critical software, teams, and tools to ensure they’re closed out properly and on time. Organized, streamlined service request management seamlessly connects all these touchpoints throughout the process. This makes your overall process more efficient which, in turn, will reduce the cost of service delivery.

Consistency in service requests

Standardizing your service request process helps get your entire team on the same page. Your staff can rely on a clearly defined service menu so everyone is aware of which services are available and which aren’t.

You can also implement processes to inform clients or employees of estimated completion timelines and any assets or resources that may be necessary. Ultimately, you’ll begin to see the delivery of every service fall into a standardized framework—simplifying your request response workflow, increasing efficiency, and improving the health of your MSP business’ bottom line. 

Learn more about why customer service is at the heart of customer retention in our eBook, Providing Fantastic Service.

How you can use service request management to execute ITIL 4

ITIL 4 is the benchmark for MSP and IT technician best practices. This architecture for service request management helps guide these professionals to ensure clients, customers, and employees are receiving the best service possible.

Since its inception, ITIL has continued to evolve to help industry experts embrace the newest technologies like cloud computing, artificial intelligence (AI), digital transformation, and DevOps. 

As you and your team implement and optimize your service request management, your procedures will almost automatically align with ITIL 4 parameters. 

The five key areas of ITIL 4—strategy, design, transition, operation, and continual improvement—will all begin to fall into place. It will enable you and your team to effortlessly manage your catalog, triage response requests, coordinate processes or policy, and more—all the tasks recommended to you under the 26 detailed processes of ITIL 4. 

Here's an example of what that might look like:

  • Service strategy: Giving your processes structure will instantly allow you to hone in on service costs and budgets, forecast financial performance and service demand, and make for easier performance measurement.
  • Service design: Choosing which services your MSP business will focus on is another step toward optimizing your operations. Doing so also allows for easier monitoring and management practices, creates a feedback process for SLAs, and allows you to focus on policy and process designs.
  • Service transition: Positioning your business to adapt to the changing market will help you align with the service transition. You’ll create plans for transitioning to or introducing new products. Additionally, you’ll naturally create processes for change management and change evaluation—two critical elements of business management.
  • Service operation: By ironing out the day-to-day operation of your service delivery, you’ll align with key ITIL 4 service operation concepts. You’ll have a clear definition of each team member’s role and also practice more in-depth management of the overall service lifecycle. 
  • Continual service improvement: Constantly reviewing and updating your service request management processes will inherently align your processes with core ITIL 4 guidelines like gathering and analyzing data, tracking the proper metrics, and using this information to make data-driven decisions.

Best practices for service request management

Implementing a service request management system from ground zero can be daunting. As you and your team undertake this process, here are some best practices to keep in mind:

  • Leverage automation whenever possible. Look for simple, repeatable, and quickly resolved service requests and set up your system to automate them. This will save time, costs, and effort on repetitive tasks—ultimately increasing efficiency, reducing costs, and allowing you and your team to focus on more complex or urgent matters at hand. You can also use automation to streamline self-service or client follow-up. Leaning on these tools—like help desks, service request management software, etc.—is imperative to growing your MSP business, especially given the current IT labor shortage.
  • Provide education along with service. Combining knowledge with service request response allows clients to self-service some of their more minor troubleshooting challenges. You can easily guide customers to indexed knowledge base articles that are easily searchable and provide step-by-step instructions to fix their issues. Resolving their own service requests will give customers a sense of accomplishment and reduce the time and resources spent on simpler troubleshooting tasks. 
  • Prioritize feedback requests. As you begin to monitor service requests, take note of your most popular ones. Prioritize these first and add more services as you go. Ultimately, you’ll end up with a service catalog focusing on the most in-demand services per your clients’ requests. Now, you have empirical data and can draw a clear picture of what your customers may need or want. 

Common issues in service request management

Service request management can involve various challenges and issues that organizations may face. Some common issues include:

  • Lack of visibility: Service request management becomes complicated if there is a lack of visibility into the status and progress of requests. This can result in delays, miscommunication, and frustration for both customers and service providers.
  • Inefficient communication: Effective communication is crucial in service request management. Issues can arise when there are breakdowns in communication channels, such as delays in response times, inadequate documentation, or poor coordination between different teams or departments.
  • Manual and paper-based processes: Relying on manual and paper-based processes can slow down service request management and introduce errors. Managing and tracking requests through physical documents or spreadsheets can be time-consuming, prone to mistakes, and difficult to scale.
  • Lack of standardization: Inconsistent processes and a lack of standardized procedures can lead to confusion and inefficiency. Without clear guidelines and protocols, different teams may handle service requests differently, resulting in inconsistent service delivery.
  • Escalation and prioritization challenges: Service requests often vary in terms of urgency and impact. Failing to prioritize and escalate requests appropriately can lead to delays in resolving critical issues, affecting customer satisfaction and overall service quality.
  • Integration and automation: Integration challenges can arise when service request management systems or tools do not seamlessly integrate with other IT systems or databases, leading to data silos and reliance on manual data entry. Lack of automation can also hinder the efficiency and speed of managing service requests.
  • Performance tracking and reporting: Without proper tracking and business intelligence reporting in place, it becomes difficult to measure performance metrics, identify bottlenecks, and make data-driven improvements. This can impede the ability to assess service levels and provide meaningful feedback for continuous improvement.
  • Customer self-service: Some organizations may face challenges in implementing effective self-service options for customers. This can include providing user-friendly portals or knowledge bases where customers can submit and track their own service requests, reducing the burden on support staff.

Solutions for efficient service request management

Fortunately, MSPs can use a library of tools to enhance their service request management. Software platforms like service desks, project management interfaces, and email automation can help to streamline and automate service requests and maximize your team’s efficiency and profitability. 

ConnectWise PSA is an award-winning professional services automation solution designed to streamline business operations improving end-to-end service delivery. Better operations drive decreased costs and better customer service, and happy customers leads to increased revenue.

Start your free business management demo today to unlock the power of intelligent business management solutions for your MSP.


Service request management is managing customer and team member requests for access to services and new devices. The IT industry relies on a standardized framework known as ITIL 4 to govern this process.

Service request management helps companies conform with important elements of ITIL 4, like response triage, service catalog management, and coordinating policy designs.

ConnectWise handles service request management through its professional services automation platform. The platform contains a help desk feature that helps MSPs and other IT technicians standardize and organize their service request tickets.

Service request management can improve MSP operations by streamlining the overall process of handling client and employee support tickets. Additionally, with the right software and tools, MSPs can leverage automation to handle less complex requests. This helps improve efficiency, increase profitability, and enable business scaling.

Some common issues companies face when it comes to service request processing are:

  • Lack of visibility
  • Inefficient communication
  • Manual and paper-based processes
  • Lack of standardization
  • Escalation and prioritization challenges
  • Integration and automation
  • Performance tracking and reporting
  • Customer self-service