Rethinking the Help Desk

A basic law of IT is that every solution creates at least a dozen new problems. As CIOs know, tending to the all the questions, troubles and breakdowns is time consuming and expensive. In the past, most organizations have relied on dedicated staff to address these problems. But smarter and better computing technology is now reshaping the space in significant ways.

An infographic from IT talent and solutions provider Randstad outlines how these changes are unfolding. Better connectivity, mobile devices and apps, the cloud and social media channels are radically reshaping the way organizations deliver help-desk services to employees and others. These tools introduce an array of new capabilities as well as shortcuts to existing processes. While hands-on support isn’t going away anytime soon–and business and IT leaders must not pull the plug on personal support–a viable self-service model is taking shape.

For example, mobile applications introduce powerful capabilities, including the ability to schedule 1:1 appointments, check the status of a support ticket, search for a solution while in the field, log a support request and receive maintenance or network alerts via an app or text message. Virtual assistants allow those seeking assistance to contact a service desk via chat, voice or video. What’s more, remote capabilities allow the technician to see what is happening on a device.

But social engagement is also introducing enormous changes. Not only does it offer a channel for submitting service requests, tickets and information, it introduces an entirely new concept: crowdsourced support and solutions. Some organizations are even acknowledging those who help out on forums and social media streams by offering awards and rewards.

Of course, it’s not exactly a bulletin that any of these technologies exist. But, as always, it’s how they are combined and how they are integrated with real-world business processes. For instance, Randstad found that the right mix of self-service technologies reduces phone calls to the manned service desk by 30 percent. It noted that today’s technology and the right workflows automate numerous functions and tasks, including computer upgrades, patches, move requests and mobile phone service changes or acquisitions.

Live support isn’t going away. In fact, CIOs must avoid the temptation to rely too heavily on technology. There’s no better way to burn through employees and customers than making it too difficult to get a real person with real expertise to solve a real problem. But a focus on technology can change the stakes and introduce efficiencies that weren’t possible only a few years ago.

Samuel Greengard, a contributor to CIO Insight, writes about business, technology and other topics. His forthcoming book, The Internet of Things (MIT Press), will be released in the spring of 2015.

Samuel Greengard
Samuel Greengard
Samuel Greengard writes about business, technology and other topics. His book, The Internet of Things (MIT Press) was released in the spring of 2015.

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