The increased dependence of today’s global business on multiple types of end user devices has meant a change in how on-site services suppliers and their clients approach the support and maintenance of a myriad of devices.
While calls to Service Desks and technicians going on-site when needed will still be around for some time, there is potential to improve the end user support experience through the use of technical support centers, whose outward appearance is similar to that of a retail store. Usually located in large (>1000 users) sites and often found in strategic locations such as near a main entrance or next to a cafeteria, these dedicated support centers allow end users to walk in – no prior call or appointment is necessary – with mobile devices, such as laptops, tablets and smartphones, to obtain support for hardware and software issues. A technician will welcome an end user, discuss the issue, open an incident ticket and provide a face-to-face, over-the-counter consumer support experience. Technical support centers have a counter to attend to end users, back-shop repair and secure parts storage areas and several support technicians and sometimes a concierge whose job is to welcome users.
In the informal over-the-counter environment of a technical support center, the technician can provide the user with a one-on-one commentary about the issue at hand, explain the solution, what the end user can do in similar situations or suggest changes that might resolve this and other problems, all as part of the problem resolution. The technical support center is also an ideal environment for short training exercises and tricks and tips information exchanges that can be done informally and face-to-face between the technician and the end user. The technician will check the PC is working as correctly as possible and will not limit the support to just the issue the end user has. For example, a mandatory application update might be required of all end users and the technician might do this to save the end user doing it. And the technicians may find and resolve problems the end user was not even aware of. For instance, while swapping a laptop screen the battery might be found to be malfunctioning and would also be swapped, too. Similarly, given the technicians’ extensive IT knowledge, some organizations operate a “never say no” policy where a technician will attempt to resolve an end user issue even when the device or software is not officially supported. This effectively means that no end user is ever denied support even though some resolutions may be on a “best effort” basis. This comprehensive approach fixing problems encourages end users to return whenever they have an issue because they are familiar with and enjoy the support experience provided by the technical support center.
Some over-the-counter issues will be fixed in a few minutes, others a little longer and still others may need a device to be left for repair. Depending on the time needed the user can opt to wait at the counter or go to lunch or a meeting and pick up their device afterwards, thus minimizing lost productivity. While other users wait for their device to be repaired some technical support centers have an area with PCs where they can check their email; others have TV screens where the user can catch up with the latest corporate news.
Issues handled by technical support centers not only include hardware repair or software fixes and updates but also lifecycle management (including procurement, device deployment, management, and retirement), PC tuning and data recovery. One client has even installed vending machines in their technical support centers that dispense small IT items such as a mouse, memory sticks and keyboards.
Technical support centers, with an easy-to-access, consumer-orientated support experience, increase end user satisfaction scores (every support center user is invited to complete a survey), as well as increasing both individual employee and overall corporate productivity levels. In one instance, by using a technical support center, a client was able to reduce the average time to fix from eight hours to three, with over 80% of the incidents being resolved in three hours, which provided a more than adequate Return on Investment. Support technicians’ productivity also increases, with an average resolution rate of about 9 tickets / day when working in a support center compared to an average of 5 / day for standard desk-side support.
Whilst focused on sites with large end user populations, technical support centers can be tailored to fit various sizes of site and still provide a similar service with comparable gains. And, while centers of this sort will not eliminate the need for dispatched technicians, especially at smaller sites, they quickly become indispensable for end users and corporations alike, as both the user-friendly, consumer-like support experience and the increase in productivity they provide – not to mention the long-term cost savings – offer the right results for all concerned.