As consumer spending drops, organisations are constantly looking for alternative methods, which are different to the ubiquitous price slashing, to attract and retain customers. This has made impeccable customer service more essential than ever. Ian McEwan, Vice President EMEA, FrontRange Solutions explains why organisations need to put staff in the right position to capitalise on the market opportunity.

Surprisingly, perhaps, the foundation of impeccable customer services lies within the IT department - as it is vital for both front and back-end IT systems to work efficiently to keep business operations running smoothly. And even though some might argue we are beginning to see the ‘green shoots’ of recovery, there is still a distinct need to ‘do more with less’ which is putting increasing pressure on helpdesk technicians, responsible for maintaining the IT which in turn powers customer service.

So can the helpdesk really improve business performance, or is it becoming an inefficient drain on resources?

Traditionally, the helpdesk has relied on manual processes. Organisations often approach IT support in an ad hoc manner with personnel responsible for dealing with user enquiries as they arise. It is true that the ‘human touch’ is hugely important to any helpdesk, as knowledge and experience will always play a major role is resolving problems. However, with businesses looking to save money, the associated reduction in helpdesk staff causes two problems.

Firstly, fewer service desk staff does not equate to fewer IT problems in the business, meaning the remaining staff must work harder to get the same amount done. Secondly, when helpdesk staff depart, their knowledge and experience goes too. Relying on a human knowledge repository is acceptable in better times, but as soon as job security decreases and cutbacks begin, this loss of expertise can be detrimental to the business.

For organisations of all sizes, the name of the game at the moment is to increase efficiency substantially without any significant outlay in financial terms.  And while some still view IT as a cost rather than an enabler, IT does have a vital role to play in realising efficiencies and revenue aims.

Helpdesk automation is a perfect example of this. When between 60 and 80 per cent of all calls to the helpdesk are just simple password reset requests1, assigning each of these tasks to a human agent is highly inefficient. Instead, automating the password reset process using voice or web self-service technologies can both dramatically increase the speed of resolution for end users and enable helpdesk staff to prioritise on more complex service requests.

While self-service can substantially reduce the overall volume of calls that the helpdesk staff have to manually address, there are other technologies available designed to speed up those calls that still need to be answered ‘in person’.

One example is to build a complete inventory of all assets (hardware and software, virtual and physical) across the corporate network.  Analysts calculate that the average helpdesk call lasts around 17 minutes, up to 40 per cent of which is spent assessing the current state of the user’s computer and software. Making this information available to the helpdesk user automatically in their dashboard view can reduce the average length of the call by a massive margin.

Extending the view of IT assets to include software usage can even allow the helpdesk to play a role in managing software licenses and ensuring that IT asset availability and usage is optimised.

The ability to analyse trends and track the statistics of user queries can enable IT staff to identify underlying problems in the IT systems, and more quickly resolve issues, while a technological knowledge repository guarantees that even when integral staff leave, their expertise is retained.

In terms of return on investment (ROI); the helpdesk itself needs to be monitored and analysed - so it’s important that a helpdesk solution makes this easy to achieve with automated and customisable reports.

By providing an efficient helpdesk that processes queries quickly and contains automated elements such as call logging and ticket generation, IT can ensure staff are focused on selling and developing the business. Rather than being a necessary but time-consuming headache, IT can become a powerful tool in driving revenue.

The IT services team is essential not only to maintain the smooth running of any business, but also to help determine the overall level of customer satisfaction - getting the helpdesk wrong can literally bring a business to its knees, whereas getting it right can create a real competitive advantage.

1 FrontRange research