Silhouette of man using customer support.
In today’s digital workplace, the IT service desk and customer call center are being replaced by more effective and automated support channels. PHOTO: Kai Kalhh

Service desks and IT support — once relegated to a back-room, phone-based operation — was typically associated with frustration, delays and short-term fixes that didn’t always solve the problem at hand. The results were often a loss in productivity and unacceptable downtime.

Today, a transformation in workplace technology support is blazing the path to the workplace of the future. The traditional service desk is now taking a back seat to automated, digitally enabled support channels that provide more options for employees and faster — and more accurate — solutions to everyday problems. As technocentric consumers, we have come to expect a wide variety of options, easy access and immediate results. We now expect the same level of support and access in the workplace.

The two main avenues of traditional support — telephone and email — are being phased out or eliminated, with phone contact now used only as a last resort once an issue has escalated. With phone support often being the most costly option, it makes sense to use it sparingly, especially as new generations of workers prefer self-service and peer-based options to solve problems. Email support, too, while less costly than phone support, is often unstructured and yields low satisfaction, frequently with prolonged delays.

Demand for More Options

Demand for innovative solutions is coming not only from the C-suite, which looks for more cost-effective and optimal solutions, but also from the workers themselves, who have been accustomed to immediacy and multi-channel access to whatever they want, whether it’s buying groceries online, or getting help changing their corporate password.

Multiple support channels are essential – and within that multi-channel support environment, integration is a must. To be effective, users need to be able to easily switch between channels based on their own preference, and still receive a high level of satisfaction regardless of channel.

To accomplish this integration, use a single, central support knowledgebase, so if an issue is raised on one channel (email, for example), and the user follows up with a phone call later, the phone channel still has the necessary details and a clear view of steps that have already been taken on other channels to resolve the issue. This eliminates the common complaint of having to re-state the same information at each point of contact.

More Choices for Support

Innovation in support channels is already emerging, bringing an increased level of convenience and automation, with the user often taking a more direct role in problem-solving.

Some of these newer channels are informal. Social media and peer-based solutions, for example, have become common in the consumer realm, with customers looking to their peers on social media to ask questions and resolve issues.

In the workplace, users can leverage the same power of social media to work together to resolve issues, crowdsource ideas, and troubleshoot problems. IT may resist handing over control, but when IT monitors those user group pages and uses them as an opportunity to jump in when needed, this channel can be effective.

Another high-value option is the LiveChat, which has been successful in delivering higher rates of satisfaction compared with telephone, email or self-service. It offers the immediacy of phone support, while still allowing users to continue to work while interacting with the support agent.

Another tool that is re-defining the user support experience is onsite kiosks or tech bars that, while expensive, deliver high rates of satisfaction. Kiosks also can serve multiple purposes, such as onboarding new employees.

A Wealth of Choices

This new era of support also helps management understand the types of calls coming through the individual channels, so that each can be optimized. It’s about understanding which types of calls to eliminate, which to elevate and which to automate. If, for example, users are relying on your service desk or kiosk to complete simple tasks such as a password resets, this represents an opportunity to redirect users to lower-cost alternatives such as self-service or automated password reset tools. This not only empowers users to resolve their own requests as they arise, but it also frees up support resources to focus on more complex issues.

In cases where management wants to eliminate or de-emphasize a particular channel, adequate information and guidance is needed. It’s also critical that users are presented with as effective, or better, alternatives to ensure that uptake of the new channel is well-received.

As simpler requests become automated and shift to lower-cost channels, other options such as phone support will decline. Users are increasingly looking to informal channels first before moving to the service desk. As a result, service desk staff needs to be upskilled as calls become more complex. The role of the service desk will become that of a “smart service center” rather than a catch-all for every issue.