The role of self-help in IT support

Help desk automation – who benefits most?

Many of our international customers have support centers in the UK, and from time to time we hear that the UK is experiencing a considerable backlash against call center automation. To callers, the automation appears to offer nothing except frustration and delay. A succession of multi-choice questions to (maybe!) eventually place your call in the appropriate queue is a poor substitute for a brief conversation with someone who at least appears to be interested in helping get our problem into the right queue.

Help desk self-help – what are the true goals?

So, how high does an interactive self-help facility rate today in your list of ideal IT help desk functionality? A good place to start is to ask – “What is the real purpose of a self-help facility in my organization’s help desk?”
• Does it enable me to constrain the relentless increase in head count of expensive support analysts?
• Is it intended to free my skilled analysts from dealing with mundane, uninteresting and hence de-motivating user issues?
• Is it intended to enable some types of user to short cut the process of applying to the help desk for support and achieve a faster resolution of their problem?

Help desk automation – the image problem

The call routing automation described above has a universal image of having been implemented purely to save costs. The opening statements about “Please answer the following questions so we can deal with your query as efficiently as possible.” are seen as disingenuous. The more phoney it sounds, the more tortuous we expect the set of questions to be. So, likewise, how are the self-help facilities of your help desk positioned to your users? How do you manage to convey to the users that they are valued as co-employees? What is the value of self-help to the users?

IT help desk self-help – positioning and review

There are check questions to ask about how self-help has been implemented in your IT help desk, such as –
• Have you profiled the levels of IT-awareness among your users before deciding which topics to cover with self-help?
• Which groups of users did you decide to target through self-help?
• Which groups of problems did you decide to target through self-help?
• What provisions have you made to assess the effectiveness of the self-help?
• Do you track the frequency with which each self-help topic is visited?
• Do you analyze visit paths through the self-help to assess how easily people are finding their way to the appropriate topics?
• Does the scheme encourage users to submit ideas about new self-help topics?
Our proposition here is that a well-thought out self-help scheme, well implemented, could be a great asset. This is not so much a technology win, as an opportunity to plan and deliver the facility with sensitivity to the needs and IT-awareness of your user community. I’m sure you will have recruited a panel of users right at the start of the process.

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