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By Jim Blayney

Few things can slow down a support center like the daily flood of routine technical issues. Password resets, frequently asked questions and rudimentary questions lead to lost hours of productivity and significant losses for your organization as well as user frustration. Below I’ve outlined how to immediately increase efficiency and user satisfaction by applying IT Service Management self-help technologies wisely.

IT Help Desks are often looking for ways to improve problem/resolution metrics and customer service. While self-help technologies are on the rise, they’re often not the "silver bullet," one-stop answer to improving the Help Desk. If implemented properly, however, self-help tools, combined with other people and processes, can smooth out and improve the Help Desk workflow while improving overall service levels.

Simply stated, self-help technologies are tools that allow users themselves to initiate action when a Help Desk call is deemed necessary. Instead of calling, waiting for help, and then explaining the problem to one or more agents, the user can start trouble tickets and alert agents to problems independently. This process may even reduce costs by directing simple questions to an automated system. Self-service tools allow agents more free time to handle unique issues or resolve a problem that has already been identified.

Investment in self-help tools is still seen primarily – if misguidedly – strictly as a means of improving internal efficiencies rather than as a way to also improve customer service. For example, directing simple questions to an automated self-help system reduces costs by off-loading the support burden onto the customer. That is an intelligent and proper use of self-help technologies.

Where they become ineffective is when they are used to off-load the majority of Help Desk issues onto the customer, regardless of complexity. Self-help technologies must be carefully targeted and thoughtfully implemented to improve customer service by providing an additional communications channel and/or extend the help desk’s hours of operation. Remember that the mission of the help desk is to provide assistance, not reduce the number of calls it receives.

Self-help technologies address two critical business drivers: the desire for simplicity and drive for best practices in IT. Such technologies empower customers to find answers and/or log their own service issues around the clock. Tools such as Knowledge Management software, blogs, and wikis can make this happen. These methods allow customers with Web access to search for answers whenever and from wherever issues arise, rather than using a telephone anytime they need assistance. The Help Desk team instead is able to focus on resolution of larger and more complex issues that users can’t solve on their own, which reduces service and Help Desk costs. At the same time, users can often find answers to simple questions faster on their own than they can waiting in queue for an Help Desk agent to become available.

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Jim Blayney is the Director of IT Service Management Products at FrontRange Solutions.
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