When things go wrong with technology, organisations rely on their IT support teams to fix problems and help out. The traditional method for dealing with problems sees calls (or email requests) coming in and tickets going into the queue to be dealt with.
If a first level support rep doesn’t have the skills to handle an issue, then it gets passed up the chain, essentially being put on hold for response and evaluation. The current ‘hot potato’ approach leads to responsibility being constantly shifted between teams or individuals, dragging out resolution times.
This method of problem solving is extremely inefficient from the end-user’s perspective.
Users get very little visibility over how long it will take to fix their problem, and they can’t find out who is ultimately responsible for resolving their issue. User frustration is high when they can’t get clarity on support requests or have to repeat the details of their problem to multiple technicians. This process becomes even more complex as businesses outsource parts of their IT services to third parties, who often provide even less visibility to end-users.
Swarming issues towards resolution
It is time for support organisations to break down the walls between tiers and embrace a more collaborative approach to support, pulling in the right people with the right skills when issues occur. This requires disparate teams to share responsibility for resolving issues and work together to swarm around issues in real time.
This is a significant challenge for IT service desks to consider. Alongside looking at new ways in which to give customers information and new tools to make support easier, there is a potential shift in IT support culture that will also have to take place.
NOTE: This will involve changing from traditional service desk management and becoming more collaborative in problem solving.
Obviously, collaboration is not a new concept. However, applying it in the IT service space does mean thinking things through, as there will be changes in both how problems and tickets will be managed when collaboration is implemented, as well as how metrics on performance are generated.
The support concierge service
One approach to improving service through collaboration is to position frontline tech staff as support “concierges” who guide the end-user through the entire issue resolution process, versus handing users off to higher tier contacts. Higher level experts should be accessible and be pulled into support issues as needed, helping to resolve problems as soon as they occur and providing on-the-job training to lower level reps. Finally, support reps should be able to securely bring in external vendors and experts as needed to assist with end-user issues in real time as well.
Getting an expert to immediately jump in on an issue has two benefits: firstly, it can improve first contact resolution rates as more difficult challenges can be solved at the first interaction with the end-user. Secondly, it helps improve the knowledge and skills for first line support, as they can watch how the experts solve those more difficult issues first-hand. This makes it easier to improve service levels overall on both a qualitative and quantitative basis.
The third way
From a logistics point of view, bringing in a third contact with experience on the same issue can help fix a problem sooner than shifting a ticket to a “new” queue. However, it does mean re-organising workflows, which can be a big challenge, particularly for situations where support resources will be required from a different location or from outside the organisation. Instead of being points along a line between the user and problem resolution, the first line “concierge” remains responsible for a problem until it is resolved.
Under the traditional service desk approach, there are often no chances for first line staff to expand knowledge of wider problems except for specific training – something that is becoming harder to justify for investment under current economic conditions.
For them, collaboration becomes an opportunity to up their skills and increase their satisfaction levels too. This can also help with morale on the service desk as staff feel better educated and more valued.
This collaborative approach is obviously difficult to implement if your support organisation relies solely on the phone to handle issues. From a technology perspective, it requires you to look at remote support tools and how they’re enabled, as well as other methods for providing support like chat sessions. To support collaboration, everyone has to view the same screen, pass controls back and forth and invite additional techs (internal or external) to join the session. Bringing in third parties has to be done in a secure and controlled way, so that they can have access to resources that they require in order to provide support.
The main aim for collaboration around IT support is that it can deliver a significant increase in customer service levels. Users have a higher chance of their problem being solved first time, while satisfaction levels should also increase as they feel that every issue is graded as important, whether it is a minor problem or a major one that requires multiple support staff to deal with.
This change in approach has to be supported by similar evolutions in culture and technology on the service desk. Collaboration does involve some standardisation in approach and tools so that teams work in the same way and know what is expected of them.
Similarly, support and service desk management will have to think about capturing and measuring their performance in different ways. For example, metrics like time to resolution will become less important as initial support sessions may take longer, but that should be counteracted with an increase in first contact resolution. More importantly, user satisfaction should go up as people with problems feel their issues get solved in a more efficient way.
By modernising their technology and processes to resolve more issues upon first contact, support and service desks can prove that they are focused on users first and foremost, which will help them improve their reputation and justify the budgets spent on them. At a time when IT strategies in general are continuing to change, the service desk can use these opportunities to deliver more high-value services back to the organisation that they support.