IT and Business Insights for SMB Solution Providers

Self-Serve Help Desks

Support techs often wish users could help themselves, at least a little bit (“Have you rebooted your computer?”). Surprisingly, some users are now asking their support companies for ways to resolve some of their own problems.

Kate Leggett, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research Inc., says, “We have found customers want their time to be valued, and they often go to self-serve sites as their first point of contact. If they can’t find the answer quickly, then they escalate.” Customers tend to go through digital channels, however, to avoid “phone-tree hell” on some interactive voice response systems.

“Dimension Data surveyed 1,300 help desks globally and found this is becoming a big deal,” adds Leggett. The best examples are quick explanations about tasks such as address changes, password resets, and explaining what a new feature does. Users not only want help with broken systems, but they also want to learn how to use their hardware and software better.

Fewer trouble calls means lower costs for MSPs, continues Leggett. “There are lots of case studies showing how self-service can help decrease MSP costs and increase customer satisfaction,” she explains. Some examples include how airlines and retail banks assist customers through apps and mobile sites. “But hard, complex interactions aren’t handled well by self-service options,” she adds.

Balancing Act
That dividing line is where Vince Tinnirello, CEO of Anchor Network Solutions Inc., an MSP in Denver with about 90 clients and 1,800 users, focuses. “First of all, why would they hire us if they just want self-help?” he asks. “You want to thread the needle between telling customers to do it themselves and empowering them to resolve some issues faster than we can get back to them.” (See “Have you rebooted your computer?” above.)

“We want to be deliberate and clear on what the self-service option might be,” says Tinnirello. “Self-service is one thing, but self-troubleshooting is another.” Anchor provides some how-to articles to customers and will provide more. “We don’t want them to spin their wheels before calling us.”

Unfortunately, says Leggett, “Many companies don’t do optimal self-service.” She suggests using tools that offer good FAQs with precise answers to precise problems. Self-serve ticketing options let users file a request and follow the progress without phoning for that level of basic information. “I wrote a report called Your Customers Don’t Want to Call You—and it’s true,” she says.

“Our ultimate goal,” says Tinnirello, “is to get our customers working again as fast as possible.” Sometimes that’s a truck roll, and sometimes that’s a reminder about a FAQ that answers exactly what the user is struggling to solve at that moment. “But when people call, they definitely want value. And we have to deliver.”


About the Author

James E. Gaskin's picture

JAMES E. GASKIN is a ChannelPro contributing editor and former reseller based in Dallas.

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