The helpdesk of the future

Johannesburg, 08 Apr 2021
Read time 5min 00sec
Barry Venter, CEO of Nashua.
Barry Venter, CEO of Nashua.

While people are becoming accustomed to resolving their own helpdesk issues by interacting with bots and technology, Barry Venter, CEO of Nashua, firmly believes that the human touch will always be required, despite the increasing automation of just about everything.

“We’re already seeing more streamlined helpdesks that take the form of a single, Web-based portal, instead of having different e-mail addresses for various queries, issues and requests. Businesses are bringing together functions like the IT helpdesk, BI support, supplier enquiries and stock enquiries into a single point of contact.”

Automated systems allow a user to register a query and prompt them to supply all of the required information to resolve that query. The user can see when a ticket is assigned and to whom, as well as if it’s assigned to someone new down the line, as well as changes to its status. “Not only does the user have full transparency into their ticket’s progress, they also have the ability to review closed tickets at any stage,” explains Venter.

He goes on to say that the pandemic has had a massive impact on helpdesks. “They would have digitised regardless, but the COVID-19 lockdown highlighted the need for it to happen sooner. In the initial stages, a few key helpdesk members looked after the entire business, and companies that relied on manual processes probably found that some e-mail queries became waylaid or overlooked as a result.”

The other challenge with manual helpdesk tasks is that despite having processes in place, a user will tend to ask for assistance from the person they know or like dealing with. However, that might not necessarily be the right person, resulting in people providing tech support over and above their actual function within the business.

The pandemic has played an integral role in shifting digitisation into overdrive. “The only way to funnel queries in the right direction is to create a centralised inbox. In order to support the customer, you need to be able to pick up on a query that someone has started and finish it off should that person fall ill or be away from their desk. The bottom line is that no query should get stuck with a single individual.”

This applies equally to customer and channel support as well as internal support. “The latter is a crucial aspect of support,” says Venter, “and often overlooked.”

He believes that internal support is just as important as external and a centralised, automated helpdesk needs to be accessible to both. The incoming query can be defined as internal or external and allocated accordingly to the department that can best help that customer. A ticketing system enables tracking of the query and provides visibility into the route that the ticket takes on its journey to resolution. This means that the entire business is able to support customers, regardless of whether they’re internal or external.

Analyse everything

Analytics are key to streamlining any helpdesk. “The long-term aim is to no longer have a helpdesk,” says Venter. He goes on to clarify this somewhat unusual statement: “Using analytics to follow up on tickets provides the opportunity to optimise internal processes, or uncover processes that are inherently flawed, and identify training opportunities for employees, thus reducing the number of tickets.”

For instance, if internal and external customers are logging the same tickets repeatedly, this could indicate a lack of understanding of a process. If users keep asking the same question around something that they should be familiar with, either the process is flawed or they require training. This offers an opportunity to understand where internal processes may be failing the business. “In order to ensure a streamlined and optimised business, helpdesk analytics is key. If you have a helpdesk that’s just opening and closing tickets, the business isn’t achieving anything.”

Robots and humans

Venter believes that in this age of AI, robots and humans will work side-by-side. AI enables a platform on which users can log their query, and then reverts to them with suggestions of things they can try to self-resolve the issue before a ticket is logged. This chatbot functionality is replacing the FAQ of old, says Venter. It’s basically helping people to help themselves. However, if the query can’t be self-resolved, it can be escalated to a person by logging a ticket.

“You’ll always get people who prefer to speak to a human being – or it may be that their query doesn’t appear on the automated list on offer. While the personal touch is important to people, AI helps to streamline and minimise queries. This is particularly useful for businesses that don’t have a call centre, because the helpdesk function is sometimes carried out by staff members who have other roles, freeing them up to perform their core function.”

The pandemic has forced businesses to evolve and add to their portfolios, adding lines of business to adapt with the times. The customer has had to be supported regardless of what’s happening within the business, and the helpdesk has had to evolve too. The helpdesk function has to become as streamlined as the rest of the business, which has been a steep learning curve for all involved. The pandemic has hastened this change, requiring adaptability and agility.

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