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IT in the Workplace - Helpdesks

Taking this to a wider level it’s essential to integrate the Helpdesk into an organisations business processes and more and more companies are starting to sit up and take notice.
The role of the Helpdesk is becoming more centralised within business and changes in the Technology infrastructure governing the Helpdesk mean that customers can now have full access to the information when they want, and in a shorter amount of time. This has meant that technology has had to keep up with the increasingly high standards expected by customers when they interact with any Helpdesk system.
On a business level the streamlining of resources aided by increasing the technology involved with Helpdesks means that staffing levels can be reduced whilst retaining Quality of Service, therefore cutting costs and bringing productivity gains.

The technologies involved in Helpdesk and call centres have in the past depended very much upon the size and scale of the operation, but recently most technologies in some guise have been available in all levels of call centres and helpdesk operations. Looking closer at call centre technology the emergence of Skill-Based Routing through IVR (Integrated Voice Recognition Systems) has meant that a more efficient customer-focused approach can be created. Technology such as CTI (Computer Telephone Integration) and TAPI (Telephone Application Programming Interface) enable telephone systems to "Talk" to Helpdesk computer software. This provides the call centre operatives with a caller’s history and details immediately, further enhancing the customer-focused approach to the interaction between caller and the Helpdesk. FSI "practice what they preach" by using CTI in conjunction with their own Helpdesk Software product on their Helpdesk.

Self-service is one of the current trends whereby the end customers have a bigger role in the helpdesk process. Using Web Technology organizations can provide intranet/extranet sites for customers to log service requests, gain status updates and generally participate in the process in a more informative manner. The use of web based technologies to provide collaborative information portals to company information is reducing the workload on helpdesks as well as creating a knowledge base from which the customers themselves can answer their own questions again providing further productivity gains.

The use of new media when interacting with the helpdesk is now as common as using the telephone. Web chat, fax, email and sms (text messaging) are all common methods for not only customers making requests but also the responses back to the customers to keep them informed. The use of Voice over IP (VoIP) whereby all of the communications run on a single data network infrastructure allow the customers to prioritise, distribute and stack requests from all media channels more efficiently.

Case Study
FSI’s work with Royal & SunAlliance is a prime example of how various Helpdesk services are now being integrated into a "one-stop shop" solution for major companies. This is seen as the way forward in Helpdesk technology. In 1999 Royal & SunAlliance, one of the world's leading international insurance companies saw a need to consolidate its existing facilities management systems into a single system that could meet the needs of all their sites throughout the UK. Having already established a working relationship with FSI (FM Solutions) Limited (FSI) through FSI's Concept™ 300 system, it decided to replace all existing systems with FSI's facilities management software suite, Concept™ SQL.

As a result, Concept™ SQL was launched in August of that year as its national service desk, managing all facilities-related queries and building management problems. The Royal & SunAlliance service desk services 125 buildings throughout the UK. Approximately 6000 tasks a month are being logged by the 15 helpdesk staff. Along with general building facilities requests, catering and room booking requests are also taken.

In addition to the service desk, Concept™ SQL is being used to manage the Royal & SunAlliance property portfolio for frequency-based maintenance, which uses a mixture of in-house teams, subcontracted labour and engineering partnerships. The Royal & SunAlliance implementation strategy uses 16 child sites for high profile and high priority property where local Facilities Teams take control and manage the tasks. In 1999 Royal & SunAlliance launched their UKFM intranet site. This provided the staff of Royal & SunAlliance with a portal into the services the Facilities Team offers in addition to giving them access to project information and the associated service level agreements. The success of the initial intranet site led Tony Girvan, the UK FM Property Services Manager, to forge ahead with phase two of the project, which aimed to make the site more interactive and to provide better business benefits. Royal & SunAlliance wanted staff to be able to book rooms and log service desk calls over their intranet. Vicki Price, Royal & SunAlliance's Property Services Co-Coordinator who works alongside Tony Girvan reflects: "The key reasons for phase two of the project was to provide support for staff outside of the core business hours and to reduce the number of abandoned calls and the average wait time on the service desks."

To assist Royal & SunAlliance in meeting their objectives, FSI provided an integrated intranet solution to Royal & SunAlliance to allow users to make use of their intranet for facilities management purposes. Working closely with the technical teams within the Royal & SunAlliance organisation, they developed a web-based solution that integrates directly with Concept™ SQL, employing much of the business logic and existing processes currently in place by the service desk team. The solution was developed using Microsoft TM Internet Information Server (IIS) and Active Server Pages (ASP) scripting and uses a Microsoft SQL Server TM database. The front-end navigation to the solution was provided by the Royal & SunAlliance development teams and was developed in Lotus Notes TM as a part of phase two of the UKFM intranet redevelopment.

Some of the Intranet Services provided by FSI
Room Bookings
Customers may book rooms, conference facilities, and catering and inventory requirements online with immediate confirmation of the booking being given by a unique booking reference.

Catering for local venues as well as for formal conference and meeting facilities can be booked. The integration with the Eclipse booking module allows catering schedules to be issued to the catering contractors in the UK.

Helpdesk Requests
Facilities requests can be made for a variety of different work types. Confirmation of the requests provides the user with a unique call reference number that may be used to query the status of the job.

Customer Satisfaction Monitoring
An online feature that allows customers to indicate the level of service provided has been developed, integrating with standard reporting features of Concept™ SQL. This feature allows the quality of service to be monitored on a month-by-month and service basis.

The use of technology is changing the way that helpdesk and call centres manage calls. There is no getting away from the key concepts behind helpdesks of service provision. The use of new technologies for helping to prioritise, manage and inform our customers will continue to be innovative as long as the balance between customer service, efficiency and cost are acceptable. Technology brings with it, automation of processes, and some business functions react well to this automation whilst others do not. The social impact of technology in the helpdesk is a major consideration when designing helpdesk operations. The younger generation of customer feel quite at home using web chat but many of the current generation may of never used it, thus combinations of technologies must be used to provide a quality of service to the whole audience not just a narrow section.

So what does the future hold?
Wireless technologies will change the way in which helpdesk and call centres operate. By using cordless headsets the operators will no longer be tied to their stations, allowing operatives to speak to other members of staff for information and assistance. Hand held technologies will provide helpdesks with the answers and job information in real-time allowing the customers to be updated quicker and the process to become more efficient. As Voice over IP (VoIP) becomes more mainstream, Video conferencing sessions with helpdesk operators may supplement the telephone and email media channels for logging requests.