As most service desk outsourcing companies will tell you, most any remote solution can be accomplished with the right access, documentation, and training. That’s why new service desk implementation teams spend a majority of pre-launch activities on knowledge transfer with the emphasis on replicating unique processes specific to client workflows as they relate to the technology being supported. Since IT support professionals bring Level 1 skills related to end-user support for standard MS Office products and frequently deal with access and connectivity issues, the training and transitional focus is going to be on what’s new. Below are some examples and how the service desk adapts:
Saas/Proprietary Application Support
Saas providers and entrepreneurs frequently require support for their product as they gain more clients. After the release of their product, support is gradually rolled out by leveraging internal software developers for end-user troubleshooting tasks, but once that volume reaches a critical mass, those developers can no longer focus on high-value activities such as programming, testing, and fixing bugs. That’s when outsourcing “how to” support to a Level 1 service desk provider starts becoming a more attractive, more affordable alternative. Thankfully, building up a single-platform knowledgebase and resolution repertoire is less of a challenge for service desk organizations used to supporting a suite of varied applications and operating systems for other corporate clients. So for a Saas solution, the primary focus of the discovery and implementation process is creating knowledge base articles or filling gaps in existing documentation for the client’s flagship product including FAQs for self-service. A good place to start is reviewing any historic ticket data, if available, and sorting by incident categories (i.e. what prompted end users to call for assistance). Compiling a top 10 list for any platform, even those with diverse features and equally diverse requests for technical support, should still account for a majority of the volume the service desk would be handling upon launch of the service. Once those common issued have been identified, it’s the service desk implementation team’s job to create detailed and accurate resolution procedures culled from the ticket notes and verify them for thoroughness should a single step be missed.
Remote Software Installations
Some Saas providers have their own in-house IT to handle support and simply need to outsource remote installations to a third party. In such instances, the scheduling tools being leveraged, especially for more time-consuming installations, are a primary focus area for documentation and training. The service desk also reviews any non-industry standard remote desktop access tools, authentication methods, departmental approval policies, and role-based profile settings for the applications themselves. In addition to creating knowledgebase articles including screenshots that walk service desk agents through the installation process and scripts. As with any solution, team leads also conduct live WebEx training sessions with client IT management and welcome agent questions from a first-point-of-contact perspective then distribute session recordings to agents who could not attend at the time.
For any client considering using a third party for dispatch support, they must first establish resolution requirements before selecting between a true service desk outsourcing partner and a log and route call center. For example, clients that merely expect remote staff to log issues into a ticketing system and dispatch the client’s local technicians would find call center support adequate for their needs. Since service desk providers staff IT support professionals with the technical expertise necessary to resolve remote issues they tend to be priced comparatively higher than call centers especially for a US-based solution. By contrast, call centers bring on staff that are more administrative than technical so data entry and customer service skills suffice which usually translates to lower pricing. In a service desk outsourcing model, clients pay more for the resolution with the intention of minimizing internal costs that a call center would be escalating. It all depends at what point in the workflow clients are inclined to prioritize those costs and whether or not remote staff would perform any triaging prior to escalation. Alarm companies, for example, may perform remote troubleshooting online faults, low batteries, loss of AC, and sensor failures but still dispatch a technician once the root cause has been isolated. While industry leaders tend to retain these services internally and publish end user manuals, smaller organizations or property managers may outsource the initial triaging aspect of the workflow to a service desk provider. If so, creating documents specific to each alarm code or trouble signal on the panel or administrative interface will be a priority before training the agents.
No matter what type of support agents are performing, the service desk must make the documentation easily accessible and searchable using a web-based repository. If the knowledge base cannot be stored within the ticketing system itself, a reasonable alternative is to include links to resolution procedures via SharePoint or a shared network drive. Considering there are some incidents that service desk agents may rarely encounter over the course of a year, resolution procedures will not be top of mind so the next best thing is to make them easily accessible within a few clicks.
Outage Alerts, Notifications, and Escalations
In addition to end-user service desk support, most IT support providers offer infrastructure or network related assistance, but for security and compliance reasons many clients are precluded from outsourcing those functions. In such cases, they will rely on the service desk to detect companywide root causes based on the type and frequency of related incidents. Or they will install a network monitoring appliance that can identify issues related to network performance, security, or devices out of compliance and automatically send out the appropriate email notifications. In either case, clients may still require the service desk to manage the notification and escalation process. So the implementation team develops prerecorded IVRs that can be posted to the ACD, notifying callers of performance issues or outages for a specific system or application impacted. If end users prefer to contact the service desk via web form or user portal, the service desk should be prepared to upload scrolling alerts on a moment’s notice to minimize unnecessary contacts when known issues are being addressed but still pending resolution. Lastly, even if they’re included in the email distribution list for outages, many clients still rely on the service desk to follow up with outbound calls to their infrastructure services staff to confirm receipt of such critical messages. This means developing a network related escalation procedure including a call list of relevant personnel, phone numbers, and intervals at which agents should continue to call them, working their way up the chain of command until they can reach them on the phone directly. The process itself may not be complex, but due to the impact and urgency of the issue, agents are trained to avoid taking any inbound contacts until they’ve reached the appropriate person.
For most service desk clients, any combination or all of the above can comprise a full scope of services. With dispatch support, MSPs often escalate hardware/break-fix issues to their own desktop support technicians or refer server issues to their own network engineers. And “how-to” support on proprietary applications or remote software installations are often listed in the supported technologies section of the scope of services along with MS Office and Adobe products. As with any outsourcing solution, clients ask the service desk to fill operational gaps only where it makes the most sense for them by deferring internal costs and streamlining processes. If that means specializing in areas where technical and procedural expertise must be narrow and deep, the service desk will prepare, adapt, and deliver on those requirements. As the mantra goes, with the right access, documentation, and training, increased resolution for any technical support issue no matter how unique, may not be as remote as the agents themselves.