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4 Ways the Digital Age Is Dramatically Changing IT Support

By | December 19, 2017 in Service Desk

We have long left the era of traditional IT help desk or service desk models, where break-fix or incident management reigns. These no longer meet the expectations of the consumers and citizens living and working in this digital age. Digital consumers expect so much more of IT service delivery and support, with this outlined in my previous blog: 3 Ways Our Technology-Led World Is Changing.

IT Support in the Digital Age

A service support function, such as a service desk, might represent an organization’s brand and public face (if dealing with external customers), or alternatively it might help ensure that employees are able to keep working (as is the case with internal IT support). And every service provider – whether externally or internally facing – must decide how much support they will offer for any given product or service, ranging from none to total.

Thankfully, most companies now realize that the support department is where relationships are created, repaired, and of course broken and lost to a competitor. However, digital has changed the rules of customer and service support, dramatically, and it's only just begun.

The needs created by the expectations of the digital consumer have a significant and immediate impact on: (1) service support strategies, (2) operating models, (3) use of technology, and of course (4) the skillsets of support professionals.

In this blog, I’d like to dig into all four of these.

1. Support Strategy

All support organizations, no matter how big or small, need to apply “digital” to their thinking now. And a good starting point is making sure that you understand the extent to which your customers have become “digital consumers” and what these consumers now expect. You’ll need to:

  • Build a list of support-related situations that commonly occur.
  • Ask your customers directly what methods of communication (channels) they use to request support? Do these differ from what they use at home? What methods would they prefer to use going forward and for what situations? Use this to drive the support channels you offer.
  • Know what technologies are available today and advances that can help. Pay attention to interactive voice, virtual agent, guided knowledge, and any emerging home technologies. Remember that it’s more often the case that expectations are set by non-work-related activities and imported into those at work.
  • Inspect your responses to support requests. Analyze how you and the technologies involved interact with your customers. What works, what doesn't? Where do the emotions of your customers become inflamed, and why? Where would a touch or voice interface work best?

Finally, do you have a lab environment where your support staff and customers can exercise and explore new technologies and methods? Don’t forget this could be as simple as a regular webinar. It could also be an Apple or Microsoft store-styled “innovation café.”

2. Operating Models

This is your approach to support. It’s less about your standard, best practice processes and more about how you engage with customers. You’ll need to answer the following questions:

  • Is your current IT support model hierarchical (escalation based), collaborative (team response), or chaotic (model du jour)? Do you apply this model to all situations?
  • Are you sensitive to the “personas” (common characteristics and behaviors) of your customers? Do you adapt your operational response accordingly, or are you governed by service agreements? How do you measure success?

Consider adopting an “all the above” model where the style of support (concierge, first-in-first-out, or contract-based) is situation- or customer-based and requests for support have designed pathways through your organization. And:

  • Measure the performance of your support organization using the level of customer satisfaction to each request-response pairing.
  • Be prepared to change any interaction and any style of response based upon customer feedback.
  • Solicit this feedback at strategic points within a response where you know you may encounter an extreme emotional response.

3. Modern Support Technologies

Looking forward, there’s no doubt that more and more support agent tasks will be automated. Do you use “virtual agents” (chatbots, computerized website agents, interactive voice response)? Are these employed at the right points within a response? Importantly, does the customer agree that chatbots are helping their support experience?

The design quality of automated, cognitive, and “human touch” support systems and procedures is now a differentiating factor. It’s important to know when and where this makes sense from the perspective of both your organization and, again, your customers (employees in the case of internal IT support).

Identify what can be automated. Know what should be. Appreciate what should not.

Identify what can be automated. Know what should be. Appreciate what should not. Click To Tweet

4. Staff Skillsets

As I’ve just said – human agents will be assisted by virtual agents. Thus, when and how a human agent is engaged in a response will become increasingly important, and likely situation-specific. And let’s not overlook the fact that these support personnel will also want, and expect, to be using the best available technology.

Why shouldn't support agents use the same technologies as used by their customers and end users? For instance, how feasible might it be to have a smart speaker device available to an agent that helps search for similar situations, knowledge articles, and troubleshooting or support response procedures? Very.

Plus, given that the human agent might not always be the first contact point invoked, support agents will also have to be familiar with where and how elements of a digitized support capability are used. This might be through ready access to a visual representation of the request response “pathway” already traveled by the customer, i.e. a picture of what the customer has done already and the support they have received. The human responder will also need to factor in that journey, and how it has left the customer feeling, as part of their resolution approach.

In short, skillsets will need to be adapted from knowing how to act as the primary support interface, to knowing how to broker, arbitrate, and manage a digitized support capability – including when and how to release and reclaim direct responsibility.

Imagining Tomorrow’s Support, Today

So, what might a digitized service support capability look like? Perhaps something like this:

Finance employee (Fred): “Computer – good morning, please log me in and set up my workspace for my planned activities. Please also filter my notifications and only alert me for anything above alert level 4.”

Computer: “Good morning, Fred. Bioscan complete, you now have access to your planned work, alert level 4 confirmed. There are several issues that may impact your schedule. Would you like me to connect you to support for the current information on these?”

Fred: “Computer, yes please, I’ve an urgent invoice to create for one of our most strategic accounts, Widgets Incorporated, oh and I need voice.”

Computer: “Given your situation, I’m connecting you directly with an agent and bypassing the e-agent, voice channel opened.”

Support: “Hi Fred, Peter here, I see you need help creating an invoice for Widgets Inc.”

Support in background: “Support, search for any system issues or changes that might prevent the creation of an invoice for Widgets Inc. by Fred Smith of the South East sales region.”

Support: “We are applying an emergency security patch to that system now. Our estimate is that it will be finished within 15 minutes. If you like I’ll set up an automatic alert to notify you when that's complete so you can enter the invoice.”

Fred: “Oh, ok. I’ll work on something else for now and look for the alert. Appreciate the information, thanks for your help.”

So within this example, do you think that this is still IT support or is it now closer to business support?

It’s my thinking that, as we start to build technology-enabled support capabilities around people, as opposed to the lines of business that provide the services and support, support-related functions will converge into a singular, consistent support experience for employees.

One final thought…

With the pace of digital change we’re experiencing, I doubt we’ll have to wait the 250 years until Captain Kirk’s time before we can enter an elevator and simply ask for the floor we wish to travel to: “Elevator, bridge, oh sorry, staff restaurant.” I think the Captain would be pleased with our progress. And I’m pleased to say that the front line for much of this advancement will be the service support function and its digitized capabilities.

Sarah Lahav

About Sarah Lahav

As the company’s 1st employee, Sarah has remained the vital link between SysAid Technologies and its customers since 2003. Current CEO, former VP Customer Relations. Always passionate about customer service! Mother of three adorable children – she juggles work, family, and zumba classes with ease.

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