When something goes wrong with a computer, the first thing people do is contact support – well, perhaps the second thing they do after having had a bit of a moan about it. But IT support can cover a whole host of issues. From the other side of the fence, you never quite know what to expect when the phone rings. It could be something as simple as a forgotten password, or it could be a major server problem.
If the support team is unable to deal with a range of different challenges then users will become frustrated and maybe resort to their own workarounds or fixes, ultimately making the problem worse.
Providing good support is therefore crucial, whether it’s for your own in-house staff or for customers using your systems.
Generally speaking, IT support exists on a number of levels. First of all there’s self-service support. This consists of FAQs or how-to guides to enable users to find out how to carry out tasks or fix simple issues. This, if managed effectively, can help to cut down the number of calls for basic issues that find their way through to higher levels.
Next comes first line support. This is the help desk and the first point of human contact in the support chain – although this is starting to change as AI applications become more sophisticated. Support personnel here will be able to fix basic problems over the phone or via email and more than half of issues should expect to be resolved at this level.
Where issues are more complex, they may be escalated to a second line of support. Solving these issues requires analysts with a greater understanding of the systems infrastructure and software in order to resolve problems.
Finally, there’s the third line of support. These are the problems that are too complicated for the in-house team to resolve and which need to be escalated to the supplier of the hardware or software for investigation or resolution.
For the end user, it’s important that they are kept informed as to where their query is in the process and how efforts to resolve it are being progressed.
For many businesses, the key choice is how much support to carry out in-house and how much to outsource. Outsourcing the whole process risks losing knowledge of the business and its systems that allow common issues to be resolved quickly.
On the other hand, for smaller businesses, it may not be cost effective to employ the levels of technical expertise needed for more complex problems to be resolved. There’s a balance to be struck in providing the best level of support in a cost-effective way.
It’s important that users have a clear means of contacting support if they need it. It’s also vital that events are properly tracked; most organisations use some form of ticketing system so that issues are automatically escalated if they are not resolved within an agreed time frame. Listening to feedback from users is a key aspect of getting it right too. Take the time to find out what most frustrates them about the systems they use and the support process. You may find that some simple changes to procedures can be effective in reducing the number of calls and improving the user experience.
Good support is critical to the experience of end users and therefore to the success of the business. As technology plays a bigger role in all our lives, support is likely to become more complex and the end users will be more tech savvy, so don’t underestimate the need for your IT support to continually improve.