Sam’s Narisi recent article in TechRepublic makes some great points about the changing face of front-line IT, and even where it may be off, it stimulates conversation. It is far too easy in IT to get complacent with end-user support and start to draw hard lines in the sand, “because that is what we have always done.”  As rapidly as technology changes, it is crazy to think that processes and support paradigms that have been around for decades should not be reassessed in the current environment. With the BYOD trend continuing to infiltrate corporate culture along with the “consumerization” of IT and IT services, there are real changes afoot. No matter how much corporate inertia is involved, change is inevitable. (Except for those folks running AS/400s- you’re on your own…) We also need to consider environmental differences and how they contribute to the support model. What plays at a Fortune 100 engineering company, will seem alien in the culture of a software startup. Let’s review the bullets from the article to see where we may find some value:

 

Create a Social Help Desk

This idea actually contains the unlikely chimera of two hot buzzwords: “Social” and “BYOD.” In practicality, although there certainly are some savvy users, a majority do not know how to fix the devices they possess. Nor should they be expected to, in that is value that IT provides to the organization. “Social Accounting” will not be reducing the Finance department workload anytime soon either. In the assembly line of corporate efficiency, tasks are assigned according to core strengths and abilities, so it is inefficient to have your highly-paid staff spending even a moment performing a function that a Level I tech can handle. A decent IT-maintained FAQ/KB will provide infinitely more value.

 

Have a Help Desk Liaison in each department

The Help Desk already knows who this guy is. His name is Dave, and he knows their job better than they do. He also knows just enough to be dangerous, and will be calling in IT to pick up the pieces after he has taken a simple problem in a terrifying direction. To dovetail with point #1- especially with low-level functional tasks, we should not be sapping resources from other departments that could be resolved with a Level I tech. But this brings up an interesting point, if IT is competing against users to provide the best possible customer service; we better bring our A-game. If your users stop calling you because they can service themselves better- you’re doing it wrong BOFH. For IT to “win” these jobs, you need a well-oiled machine to react to tickets and drive down response times. Metrics and a good help desk system are key for this, as ironically the better job you do at Level I- the more Level I tickets you will get. People will also love IT- so we have that going for us.

 

Write policies

I couldn’t agree more with Sam on this point. Now that said, more important than writing policies is empowering your front-line IT guy to actually say “no” to a request. This is not an easy task, particularly in this BYOD era when the VP of Marketing comes by to get Touchdown working on his rooted Ice-Cream Cherry-Cola 1.23X Beta Android device. Unless the IT team has significant air-cover, all the policies in the world will not prevent your front-line guys from supporting anything that comes their way. This is not a bad thing in and of itself, but must be measured and taken into account when determining the cost / savings of a BYOD policy.


Educate users

Functional training for end users is a great idea, and can be a great investment in the organization. Your IT team however may not be the best choice to lead the effort. IT guys are really good at fixing IT problems. Typically they are not very good at conveying digestible morsels of functional MS Office trivia to a mass audience. You wouldn’t have a mechanic teach a class about race-car driving, so nor should you have your IT staff trying to teach productivity applications. If classroom-lead training would have value for the organization, bring in an outside party to do a session. The real educational value the IT staff can have, as Sam points out, is via FAQ’s and KB articles. Perhaps we throw in a video here and there, about common technical issues and how to provide self-service. Also having this FAQ data display contextually when users are about to open a ticket is key. Give users the information they need, when they need it. Just don’t expect them to remember the half-day course they took six months ago.

 

Let users know a problem has been reported

Much like the malfunctioning office coffee pot with the “Service Called” sign on it, communication of IT service issues prevents a flood of tickets, and generally leads to a better customer service experience. At the end of the day, people just want to know it’s being taken care of. A good method of reporting outages, be it a blast email, a notice on the help desk home page, or a voicemail recording asking users to reboot three times can be key in those troubled times. Once the crisis is over, it is equally important to communicate back- doubly so for anyone that ignored your message and submitted a ticket. For those of you with ITIL-conforming help desk systems, this could be as simple as linking all those incident tickets to a problem and closing the batch. No need to close them all individually.

 

Technology is changing the business world at an increasingly rapid pace- that is inevitable. For my brethren in the IT world, this means we either run faster, or we get run over. Yes, we want to “Eliminate those Annoying Help Desk Calls” but we want that to be because we proactively solved the issue, not because the user followed some random post online and made the issue less trivial. Willingly removing IT (that means you) from the conversation altogether will lead to long-term decline in customer satisfaction and productivity for the organization.

 

Full Disclosure- Rob Hock is a Product Manager at SolarWinds and evangelist for good IT customer-service experience.

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