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As part of several levels of organizational changes within our IT organization we're exploring the idea of having a single unified call center and providing a single number/email/point of contact for all IT service requests and helpdesk calls.  The basic idea would be to have student staff do some basic triage, and then if necessary quickly refer issues to 2nd tier full time support, or into normal support queues for longer SLA responses. 
 
Currently, our student-run helpdesk deals with walk-up, phone, and email/web support all at once which can be difficult and confusing during busy times.  In addition, people call various full-time staff for what should be routine support requests that should be handled as part of a comprehensive call response system, and ensuring that full-time staff are working as efficiently as they can.  My hope is to centralize initial call intake with trained students with extensive troubleshooting checklists and simple responses ("is it plugged in?"), and then have a more consultative, interactive helpdesk, staffed by separate people, and then as well a duty rotation of critical full-time staff who provide the immediate-level responses as necessary, and who bring in other full-timers as needed.
 
We're having a discussion whether or not this is in fact the right direction for the organization, mostly from a concern that parts of the organization that are known for high-quality response (such as our classroom hotline) will suffer if we route the calls through a central desk.   I believe that those considerations are manageable with a plan for response and prioritization that ensures critical issues are immediately handled.
 
Has anyone recently gone through a process of centralizing their inital incident intake?  Or, has anyone decided to go the other way and provide separate response desks where you had fewer before? Really just interested in what the state of the art on this issue.
 
--Mike
 
 
Mike Richichi
Director of Computing and Network Services
 
 
********** Participation and subscription information for this EDUCAUSE Constituent Group discussion list can be found at http://www.educause.edu/groups/.

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Message from mike.cunningham@pct.edu

I believe this to be the right move for proper logging and escalation and making staffing decisions, but I also think it will never work the way you envision. Initially you get everyone to call the central helpdesk but then over time the caller learns that when I call they always send Mary or I always get a call back from John and so I will just call them direct and maybe get a faster answer. I am even guilty of this behavior myself with some vendors. You contact their support, explain your problem, then get told someone will call. The same person always calls back so after 3-4 contacts I know who that is and just contact them direct. Sometimes that works, sometimes I get told to contact the central number, sometimes it’s a blend and the person will take care of my problem but ask that I call the central number so it gets logged correctly.

Mike Cunningham

VP of Information Technology Services/CIO

Pennsylvania College of Technology

 

Message from jj014747@pomona.edu

Mike, 

My question is what percentage of calls are actually those that are not first call resolution types?  And, for those upper tier support groups, how many knowledge base articles are they creating for sharing with first contacts?  In other words, there certainly is a degree of direct contact that will occur in a client-focused organization.  I don't think that aspect is any reason not to create a Single Point of Contact for clients.  Depending on the size of the population and the heterogeneity of technology, I don't think the client should HAVE to know who to call when.  

Additionally, I think it's key that 2nd, 3rd tier or other support groups learn to create tickets (or other forms) documenting their contact with the clients in order to maintain some semblance of baseline data for workloads, not only for the organization as a whole but for the support groups as a part.

Bottom line:  1) Single point of contact is the best way for a large percentage of your client population to contact the IT organization versus navigating through different branches of support groups or if their contacts (God forbid) should be taking a vacation or be focused on a project; 2) Knowledge base articles can and should be authored by other support organizations for dissemination both to the 1st tier of support and clients and 3) regardless of point of contact, all  individuals in IT who provide a form of support should be documenting their contact with the client.


Julianne Journitz
Director of Client Services
Information Technology Services
Pomona College
24x7 assistance: http://helpdesk.pomona.edu
ITS Website: http://its.pomona.edu



Message from mike.cunningham@pct.edu

Our first line support people are not IT graduates. ITS at my organization is in charge of the switchboard and we have the switchboard operators as the first level. They have training on some common issues (password resets is the biggest) and are radio dispatchers for classroom emergency calls. Most of our calls (80%) go to level II which are IT graduates. We do keep logs of solutions to problems and have a common wiki but level I cannot use that info.

I agree 100% with having a single contact point so people do not need to know internal structure of ITS to open a ticket. And I also agree that everyone who deals with a user’s problem should log that contract. I am also a bit of a realist and know that will not happen. Not because ITS staff does not want to but because they are so swamped with work and are customer focused they are more likely to take care of the next customer rather than stop and document the last one. And many times they are out on a call and get stopped by 5 other people who see them and use that opportunity to report a problem and the tech tries to take care of the issue on the spot. By the time they get back to the office they may not even remember what all they did.  

 

I am also a realist.  The first thing I do when a student or employee shows up at my door to complain about IT not solving their problem is to look at our ticket system to get the history of what has been done.  Almost 100% of the time no ticket was created.  Often I don't even get into the system before the customer says so.  We have several ways to get tickets created:  users can email, call, visit to Help Desk + an IT employee or customer can enter a ticket through a web interface.  The reasons why tickets aren't routinely created vary but, from the IT side of it.  the usually fall into two broad categories:  good intentions that didn't work out or passing the buck.  Good intentions sound like:  "This is pretty easy for me to take care of and it will take more time to write a ticket than it's worth.  I prefer to help more users than waste time on paperwork."  Passing the buck is usually "Dealing with ____________ problems isn't my job.  Give __________ a call."  Our system will never be perfect.  In the long run using a ticket system results in better and more consistent service than not using one.  My guidance to IT staff is, if you can solve the problem immediately without significantly impacting other priorities, creating ticket is their discretionary decision.  In all other cases, create the ticket or ask the user if they can create their own ticket or use one of the methods to contact our help desk.  In all cases, every event is customer service and we should always strive to response efficiently, effectively and professionally. 

Keith Nelson
Chief Technology Officer
Alma College

This is an interesting thread and always seems to pop up at different times for different reasons.  I am a proponent of one way in/one way out.  I believe the Help Desk (or Service Desk depending on how you are set up and what best practices you follow) needs to field all calls and requests.  They are the central point of contact and they should handle the incidents accordingly (fix, workaround, triage or route to level 2).  Having multiple help desks, call centers or ways of reporting incidents requires a tremendous amount of coordination and discipline in using the ticketing system.   Bypassing the Help Desk may give the impression that the organization is uninformed and unaware of issues.  The larger the institution (and type of institution is also a factor), the more decentralization makes sense but still requires coordination and governance with the central IT body.  But that’s a different topic.

Is the ticketing system used the same way – incidents only? Work orders? Reminders?  Change management?  To-Do lists?  Some of this is not important as the reporting should filter out the incidents from everything else and categorization will show where the time is being spent.

I love this topic – part of the series in search of the Holy Grail for incident management.

Ensuring IT processes and procedures are essential to good practices but Keith sums it up perfectly: In all cases, every event is customer service and we should always strive to response efficiently, effectively and professionally. 

AJS

Anthony J. Santucci

Technology Support Services

Appalachian State University

Boone, NC

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At Drake we have completely rebuilt our IT Support structure and the the model on which it is designed. It's taken a year or so to do, required internal restructuring, and remains an ongoing process of end-user education. Some things we've learned

  • A single point of entry for delivering support is critical to effectively distributing support service in a coordinated manner
  • It is critical to help people understand the difference between a request for service and reporting a problem (and requesting support to fix that problem). We built out a Service Catalogue as both a way to internally emphasize this distinction as well as one means of routing inquires to our Support Center. It will be an ongoing process to retrain our end user base to recognize available self-service capabilities.
  • We use student support but have FT IT staff at the phones. We decided that we needed that level of attention and knowledge to effectively route incoming requests. Perhaps in time – when we have more mature processes in place – and have shifted the end user culture from one of learned helplessness to greater ownership for IT - we will train students to be effective in a front-line position. Right now, it would not serve anyone's interested and especially not the individual student staff
  • We are continously building out a knowledge-base to move our end users toward independent problem solving.
  • Due to our sub-optimized de-centralized organizational structure, we too have the challenge of folks NOT creating support tickets, especially among those outside the OIT structure. I have begun reporting ticket closures to the Deans and include those tickets that come through us (centrally), are closed by us, and that are escalation or closed by the IT staff outside our central IT org. This is helpful in that the data illustrate that we are increasingly serving their customers, raising the question: what are their IT staff doing?This underscores that we cannot develop central services to support them if we do not know what they are doing, what they need, and what are their problems  e.g. Training needs?, tool selection?, etc. ( I would be willing to respond even if they came with their own data)
  • In aiming to direct folks to a central point, I would suggest starting with the student population. Students are not likely to think in terms of silos and when they begin to get effective services, the decentralized structure begins to become a problem for faculty and staff who live in the silo such that they are more apt to address the issues from a system perspective.
It has been enormously difficult to do this, mainly because our end user population has never experiences a service-based approach to IT support (that is based on a shared vision) so they could not (and in some case, still can not) imagine what they don't know. Plus, or course, you have the problem of redesigning the plan while flying it. We've had a lot of turbulence. I think however, that we are starting to climb to a smoother flight path. I just looked at metrics from a  year ago and we are closing twice as many tickets per week (from 300 to 600), mainly because our demand has increased  - we can actually help people now, and because we are working more efficiently (we have the same number of staff dedicated to user support).  Eventually, I want to see those numbers go down as we see usage numbers go up for serviced packaged for self-services, as well as an increase in our usage of training resources and materials.   But for now I am content to be lumbering around in a C2 Cargo jet rather than something made of balsa wood. .

Ann

_____________________________
Ann Kovalchick, Ph.D. 
Chief Information Officer 
Dial Center 
(o) 515.271.2345 


Drake University 
2507 University Avenue 
Des Moines, IA 50311

********** Participation and subscription information for this EDUCAUSE Constituent Group discussion list can be found at http://www.educause.edu/groups/.

Just a couple of comments on this. I feel this is a place where IT can be helpful on campus. 1. I proposed this kind of unified model on my campus in 2008 and couldn't get buy-in. At that time the units all felt their custom solution was superior. However, we were going to a new ERP for students in 2009 and I figured this would change as we moved forward. 2. What we did in 2008 was switch to a new open source helpdesk system for IT, create a central web site for finding help (however it was provided), work to build in a much better FAQ model, and then revamp our own IT service model. As we launched the new ERP most areas that went alone began to see issues develop that made it harder to scale or provide strong support. 3. As we got our own IT act in order prior to the ERP launch, we were a model that users pointed to as doing things right and that slowly brought in the other groups such as the registrar, admissions, bursar, financial aid, and reslife. We don't have a common phone center but we do have a common approach through online support -- trouble ticketing, reporting, FAQ model, and portal location. We now have close to 450 people resolving tickets in our online system Prior to 2008 IT generated about 25,000 support requests and we still do, last year we had 75,000 total requests (25k in IT), and this year we expect to go over 100,000 requests (25k in IT). The feedback from students and faculty has been very positive and I think we have helped the departments improve their support by functioning as a convening group for people using our technology tools to share ideas. I'd love to do a common call center and think that will evolve out of these efforts but probably happen organically. thanks jack
Message from mknox@austin.utexas.edu

In conversations like this I also think about Indiana's approach on knowledge bases (hello Sue!) and how it fits into what Jack is talking about . I admit to using it at times (the Indiana one) to solve my own problems. http://kb.iu.edu/ Regards, Marg ____________________________________________________ Margaret H. Knox mknox@utsystem.edu Chief Information Officer (CIO) (512)322-3774 The University of Texas System CTJ 2.218 78701 -----Original Message----- From: The EDUCAUSE CIO Constituent Group Listserv [mailto:CIO@LISTSERV.EDUCAUSE.EDU] On Behalf Of Jack Suess Sent: Thursday, October 11, 2012 1:23 PM To: CIO@LISTSERV.EDUCAUSE.EDU Subject: Re: [CIO] Call center/helpdesk consolidation Just a couple of comments on this. I feel this is a place where IT can be helpful on campus. 1. I proposed this kind of unified model on my campus in 2008 and couldn't get buy-in. At that time the units all felt their custom solution was superior. However, we were going to a new ERP for students in 2009 and I figured this would change as we moved forward. 2. What we did in 2008 was switch to a new open source helpdesk system for IT, create a central web site for finding help (however it was provided), work to build in a much better FAQ model, and then revamp our own IT service model. As we launched the new ERP most areas that went alone began to see issues develop that made it harder to scale or provide strong support. 3. As we got our own IT act in order prior to the ERP launch, we were a model that users pointed to as doing things right and that slowly brought in the other groups such as the registrar, admissions, bursar, financial aid, and reslife. We don't have a common phone center but we do have a common approach through online support -- trouble ticketing, reporting, FAQ model, and portal location. We now have close to 450 people resolving tickets in our online system Prior to 2008 IT generated about 25,000 support requests and we still do, last year we had 75,000 total requests (25k in IT), and this year we expect to go over 100,000 requests (25k in IT). The feedback from students and faculty has been very positive and I think we have helped the departments improve their support by functioning as a convening group for people using our technology tools to share ideas. I'd love to do a common call center and think that will evolve out of these efforts but probably happen organically. thanks jack
Hi Marg! Thanks for nudging me to respond. IU has had self-service IT support through knowledge management for over 20 years now. You can test drive the search/retrieval at http://kb.iu.edu/ . However, this is really a repository of information where we write/maintain once and use in many places (class info, newsletters, and even building web pages on the fly like uits.iu.edu). We have over 30M searches/page returns (no crawlers in this count) each year, and this typically costs about $.07/search fully loaded. We have an IT Support Center that provides services via phone, email, walk-in, and chat 24x7 and serves as the front-door to IT, but also has technical depth so that escalations happen only on the most severe cases. A personal contact to the Support Center via phone, chat, email, walk-up has fully loaded costs of about $9-13/contact. Our knowledge management system not only provides self-service to the IU community, but also feeds the support staff so we are not re-creating solutions to problems we already have solved, and provides confident answers to our front-line making them productive very quickly after hire. We can leverage our human resources to focus on problem solving and addressing newer issues, and utilize technology to do what technology does best - repeatable processing. We are now developing a system where universities can crowd-source IT info to leverage our various expertise without duplicating so much information between U's. IU has just partnered with Ivy Tech Community College in IN to provide IT support to their 210,000 faculty, staff, and students on 30 campuses. http://newsinfo.iu.edu/news/page/normal/23015.html/ This leverages the expertise, systems, tools, that IU has developed over the years for the best use of state of IN funds, and providing high quality services to the Ivy Tech community. Watch for an upcoming EDUCAUSE Review article on this "partnersourcing" arrangement. My personal views on ticketing systems - they are necessary, input is a requirement, and they can provide a dashboard to view what is occurring at any point in time. The use has to be managed, just like timesheets, and other processes we have in place for efficiency and effectiveness. I have so much to say about this, but I'll refrain from taking up your email quotas. If you would like to talk further, let me know and I'm happy to set something up. Sue Sue B. Workman, Associate Vice President Office Vice President and CIO, Indiana University (812) 855-0913 (IU Bloomington)      (317)278-9099 (IUPUI)      (812)325-3928 (Cell) http://uits.iu.edu/ -----Original Message----- From: The EDUCAUSE CIO Constituent Group Listserv [mailto:CIO@LISTSERV.EDUCAUSE.EDU] On Behalf Of Knox, Marg Sent: Thursday, October 11, 2012 2:30 PM To: CIO@LISTSERV.EDUCAUSE.EDU Subject: Re: [CIO] Call center/helpdesk consolidation In conversations like this I also think about Indiana's approach on knowledge bases (hello Sue!) and how it fits into what Jack is talking about . I admit to using it at times (the Indiana one) to solve my own problems. http://kb.iu.edu/ Regards, Marg ____________________________________________________ Margaret H. Knox mknox@utsystem.edu Chief Information Officer (CIO) (512)322-3774 The University of Texas System CTJ 2.218 78701 -----Original Message----- From: The EDUCAUSE CIO Constituent Group Listserv [mailto:CIO@LISTSERV.EDUCAUSE.EDU] On Behalf Of Jack Suess Sent: Thursday, October 11, 2012 1:23 PM To: CIO@LISTSERV.EDUCAUSE.EDU Subject: Re: [CIO] Call center/helpdesk consolidation Just a couple of comments on this. I feel this is a place where IT can be helpful on campus. 1. I proposed this kind of unified model on my campus in 2008 and couldn't get buy-in. At that time the units all felt their custom solution was superior. However, we were going to a new ERP for students in 2009 and I figured this would change as we moved forward. 2. What we did in 2008 was switch to a new open source helpdesk system for IT, create a central web site for finding help (however it was provided), work to build in a much better FAQ model, and then revamp our own IT service model. As we launched the new ERP most areas that went alone began to see issues develop that made it harder to scale or provide strong support. 3. As we got our own IT act in order prior to the ERP launch, we were a model that users pointed to as doing things right and that slowly brought in the other groups such as the registrar, admissions, bursar, financial aid, and reslife. We don't have a common phone center but we do have a common approach through online support -- trouble ticketing, reporting, FAQ model, and portal location. We now have close to 450 people resolving tickets in our online system Prior to 2008 IT generated about 25,000 support requests and we still do, last year we had 75,000 total requests (25k in IT), and this year we expect to go over 100,000 requests (25k in IT). The feedback from students and faculty has been very positive and I think we have helped the departments improve their support by functioning as a convening group for people using our technology tools to share ideas. I'd love to do a common call center and think that will evolve out of these efforts but probably happen organically. thanks jack
Has anyone recently gone through a process of centralizing their inital incident intake?  Or, has anyone decided to go the other way and provide separate response desks where you had fewer before? Really just interested in what the state of the art on this issue.

We've gone the other way.

Prior to my arrival, the IT department had consolidated all classroom/media/faculty/staff/student calls to one telephone number and one email address.  While the students who staffed the desk tried hard, it was little more than a poor answering service.  They would enter tickets, sometimes staff would pick up the tickets and sometimes issues would just be orphaned.  And, of course, technicians would directly receive phone calls and emails from folks bypassing the help desk.  It's clear that this model can work for some organizations and departments, but it was not working here.  One comment from a community member was "Friendly, but incompetent service."

So, we made some significant changes last year.  First, we assigned technicians to support specific departments (their title is Computing Coordinator).  They can be contacted for any IT issue and if it needs to involve other IT staff, they will coordinate resolution of the issue (not just hand it off).  The Coordinators are expected to enter tickets, no matter how they are contacted if a ticket does not already exist.  Additionally, we created a hotline specifically for classroom and media issues.  People have been good about using the line only for classroom issues.  Finally, we didn't dismantle the help desk, just changed it's mission.  It can help with simple issues, but it mostly exists to provide a friendly voice and to forward issues to the correct Computing Coordinator.

What I like about our model is that it recognizes that faculty and staff want to work with a person, not an ever shifting pantheon of people.  It also holds them accountable.  If a Computing Coordinator is not serving their departments, it becomes very clear very quickly.  I think that's an important point because metrics like ticket closures will never tell the full story.  What about vacations or absences?  The Computing Coordinators provide coverage for each other. 

The reaction on campus has been overwhelmingly positive (actually, I have yet to hear a complaint about the change itself).

Brad

--
Brad Christ
Chief Information Officer
Southern Oregon University

********** Participation and subscription information for this EDUCAUSE Constituent Group discussion list can be found at http://www.educause.edu/groups/.

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