Help desk

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					Help desk

     The evolution of IT computer services from batch operation only into
     complicated Tele-Processing networks has enlarged the job of the IT staff.
     Simple tasks have become complex functions. The Service Desk is an
     excellent example of this. Since the early beginnings of IT, clients have
     approached Computer Services with questions or complaints about print
     output. The more complex the IT services have become, the bigger the
     increase in the number of problems of users/clients. In the early days of IT
     systems exclusively operated in batch mode and simple problems occurred,
     such as lost print output and problems with batch jobs.



     Work preparation, production management or even operations mostly dealt
     with these kinds of questions. Output was usually meant for one person at
     every user department and therefore questions only came from one party.
     However, operations and other departments can no longer handle the
     number of questions, as the size and complexity increase. The Service
     Desk is now an essential part of Computer Services and its importance
     grows as IT penetrates business. A distinction should be made between the
     physical Service Desk, where Service Desk staff are present in order to
     function as first point of contact for support, and the Service Desk process,
     whereby one or more IT staff (as well as the Service Desk staff themselves)
     are responsible for achieving the objective of the process.


Helpdesk

A Helpdesk is a generic name typically associated with the end user support
center. Increasingly, the Helpdesk is being seen as an integral part of the service
function, responsible for bringing multiple resources to bear to solve issues to the
client's satisfaction.

Often the term Helpdesk is used for internal support within the company, and
others use this term for both internal and external support groups

Many companies are turning to Helpdesk software to automate a variety of tasks
and, at the same time, reduce costs by cutting staff and providing more user
support with existing staff. The advantages of automated Helpdesk packages are
critical in that they allow fewer people to deal with higher volume

Users want Helpdesk packages that can be integrated with existing electronic
mail systems and network management programs. The Helpdesk programs now
available are only operable on a few operating systems but the number of
platforms is expected to expand. Many Helpdesk software publishers are
incorporating expert system
Helpdesk and call centers typically handled only inbound and outbound phone
enquiries. Over the past few years, with the explosion of Internet usage, and an
increasingly sophisticated customer base, Helpdesk have had to morph into
handling increasingly electronic methods of support.

The Helpdesk is increasing in importance as companies move to client/server
architectures. Users who interface with the Helpdesk often form a general
perception of the Information system group. Information systems help desks
have an important role within an organization. Although working the Helpdesk
can be a stressful experience, an organization nevertheless can succeed in
putting together an effective and responsive unit within the group.

The Internet has made all these somewhat parallel efforts combine, and with
some tweaking and re-training, today's Helpdesk is superbly equipped to handle
complex, business driven customer interactions, that result in true customer
loyalty.

   In education, call centers can be useful to the educational institution in many
ways, ranging from simple provision of information to prospective students, to
fundraising, collection of survey data, and even provision of instructional services
(Hitch & MacBrayne, 2003). In distance education in particular, the call center
concept can be an effective communication tool, enabling the institution to
provide and improve service to students in many areas, including instruction
(Adria & Woudstra, 2001; Annand, Huber, & Michalczuk, 2002).

  The first generation of call centers focused on answering telephone calls from
customers (students). As the Internet has become more widely used, call centers
have made use of this technology as well. Internet technology allows feedback to
customers or students to occur through either of these two channels, and the
more flexible Internet media provide a variety of tools, including Web chat,
asynchronous conferencing, video conferencing, and Web call backs.

   Recently, call centers have also begun to make use of Web sites to provide
their customers with more information. There has been a push to providing
customers with “Frequently Asked Questions” (FAQ) pages, where customers
can look up answers to their own questions. Intelligent question and answer
systems can look up answers for clients, and provide them automatically (Brandt,
2002). Athabasca University has developed such a tool, called Ask AU (see
http://www.askau.ca).

   When considering any of the Web-based tools for use with a call center, it is
important to consider their positive and negative aspects, and how they will affect
call center operations. Since the Internet gives customers or students the power
to seek out answers on their own, organizations have a challenge to develop
integrated systems that allow delivery of services that are better and that operate
faster than those that customers can find for themselves. In addition, people tend
to like services that are “multi-channel”; they may use the Web site, but will also
want direct contact with representatives. The channels should be viewed as
complementary, not competitive.

   The Internet is capable of providing vast amounts of information for call center
staff as well as for current and potential customers or students. However,
developing user interfaces that make this information quickly available in a format
that satisfies the diverse needs of users is an ongoing challenge. A major impact
of the new Internet-based technologies is that the service bar is being raised. If
routine issues are handled on the Web through automatic agents, the call center
must handle more sophisticated calls.

   The staff of an online learning call center must incorporate skills from both call
center and helpdesk environments, and have some specialists available to deal
with particularly complex issues. Good skills within an environment such as this
usually include strong communication skills, student (or customer) service
experience, and an ability to adapt to new situations.

   The call center manager can help staff answer all types of questions by
ensuring that all staff are aware of any new technology being used.
Demonstrations on how the technology works, and time to practise and become
familiar with the application are important for the staff. A good set of “Frequently
Asked Questions,” complete with step-by-step solutions, should be made
available to call center staff. And, as with course content queries, there should
also be a technical expert available for more complex issues.

Call Centers at University


   The Information Center, the call center operating as a first point of
contact, was established in 1995. Information Center staff field all incoming
calls not directed to a private line or to one of the other call centers, and
determine the purpose of the call. Information Center attendants are well
informed about the University's services, programs, and courses, and have
access to a wide range of information. Many calls to the Information Center
are redirected to student advisors, to the Office of the Registrar, to the
Computer Services Help Desk, to the School of Business Call Center, or to
course assistants. Prior to 1995, incoming calls came to a single telephone
number in the Office of the Registrar, and many calls were lost. In addition,
students expressed frustration with their experience in finding the right
person in the institution to deal with their particular problem. Since 1995,
many of these problems have been resolved, and the volume of calls, and
students, has increased exponentially. In the past five years, the volume of
e-mail queries has also risen rapidly, and an automated information
system called “Ask AU” has been added to enable students to obtain
answers to questions without intervention of a staff member.
   The Computing Services Help Desk, established in 1994, provides
technical assistance primarily to help University staff obtain information
and support for University computing resources; that is, it helps staff
resolve problems with their Athabasca University equipment and supported
software. The Help Desk does provide assistance to students in computing
science and psychology courses, but students are generally referred to the
academic units for courseware support.


What is a Help Desk?

A Help Desk is a generic name typically associated with the end user support
center. Increasingly, the Help Desk is being seen as an integral part of the
service function, responsible for bringing multiple resources to bear to solve
issues to the client's satisfaction.

Often the term help desk is used for internal support within the company, though
this FAQ and others use this term more generically, used for both internal and
external support groups.

Use the glossary for common terms used in the call center/help desk industry.

What is e-Support and e-CRM? How do they relate to Help Desks?

Help Desks and call centers typically handled only inbound and outbound phone
enquiries. Over the past few years, with the explosion of Internet usage, and an
increasingly sophisticated customer base, Help Desks have had to morph into
handling increasingly electronic methods of support, hence e-Support.

The techniques for handling e-Support are quite different than phone based
support, and typical support models do not map to the Internet. But that is the
topic of a more detailed FAQ which I shall write at some point.

e-CRM is yet another 'e' moniker added to the traditional CRM (Customer
Relationship Management) space -- where every customer interaction is
handled, much like 'trouble tickets' and 'incidents' or 'cases' in typical help desk
terminology handle all aspects of the customers' technical interaction with a
company.

The Internet has made all these somewhat parallel efforts combine, and with
some tweaking and re-training, today's help desk is superbly equipped to handle
complex, business driven customer interactions, that result in true customer
loyalty.



Common Names used by Help Desks
   Computer Support Center
   Customer Support Center
   Help Desk
   Information Center
   IT Response Center
   IT Solutions Center
   Resource Center
   Service Desk
   Technical Support Center



    Hours of Operation

    They are staffed during business hours and often offer reduced support
    outside these hours. Some sites have actively started using the World
    Wide Web as a method of providing service 24 hours a day, 7 days a
    week. Multinational corporations are increasingly using a 'follow the sun'
    model where multiple support groups around the world take over support
    for the global corporation.

    Don't forget to take into account the differences between
    'internationalization' and 'localization'. The former handles things like
    translations of web pages, documents etc., while the latter does this and
    adds context to internationalization.