What is IT Support? Technical Support Tools and Service Desk Explained
3. Lack of training
This challenge has two parts to it. First, there is a lack of end-user training that creates more demand on the IT professionals as more tickets get filed in response to user error or user misuse. Second, there is a lack of IT technology training for IT professionals. Helpdesks need continuous training to keep their skills up to date amid the uprise of new technologies and new security risks. Additionally, there is a shortage of skilled IT professionals. This results in an increase in non-traditional IT professionals entering IT support roles. These non-traditional workers may have a long learning curve and intensive training to get up to speed.
4. Rate of change
Digital transformation, the adoption of new on-prem and cloud technologies, the need for remote-enabled and work-from-anywhere workplaces, and even more traditional changes, like company mergers, etc. are occurring at a fast pace. This means IT support teams must work quickly to integrate new technologies, make data and documentation available through these technologies, and secure access without interfering with transparency or operability.
5. Perimeterless networks
Networks that expand beyond the office building create the necessity for security—both physical and cybersecurity—that can match the perimeterless sprawl of technology, workers, and multicloud environments.
How is the effectiveness of IT support measured?
To ensure optimal support, it’s imperative to measure and understand the effectiveness of your helpdesk. Here are the top key performance indicators (KPIs) and metrics to measure support team performance:
- Ticket volume trends: This indicates the total number of tickets that the IT support desk handles and the pattern of those numbers over a period of time. Analyzing these trends can indicate how much support is needed. Any increases or decreases in support requests after services are offered, or when new software or solutions are introduced, can help measure the effectiveness of implementation. Viewing this data can also help support teams optimize and manage resources, validate additional resource requirements, and plan ahead for peak times to ensure less downtime.
- Ticket backlog: These are the customer support requests that are left unresolved. A ticket backlog can indicate whether or not your tech support team is resourced to handle the number of support requests that are filed. If the backlog is too high, further strategies may be needed to lower the number of tickets that are being filed (ie: employee training on a specific tool or software).
- Mean time to resolve (MTTR): This is the average time it takes for the IT support team to resolve a customer’s issue. MTTR is different from the average first response time, which indicates the average length of time it takes for tech support to initiate a response to a ticket. The goal is to aim for short resolution times. Efficient IT support teams will use MTTR as a key metric to work towards for their own improvement.
- First call/contact resolution rate (FCRR): This indicates the percentage of tickets that are fully resolved within a single response. Submitting a support ticket prompts the user to submit enough information for the IT professional to assess and resolve the problem without needing to engage for follow-up information. A high first call resolution rate can also reflect that your tech support team has adequate training and resources to resolve a high proportion of issues upon first response. This metric is correlated to both end-user satisfaction and cost-per-ticket.
- End user satisfaction: End-user satisfaction—sometimes referred to as the customer satisfaction score (CSAT)—is another measure for support desk efficiency. High scores here will likely validate efficiencies being measured in the other categories.
- Cost-per-ticket: This metric is calculated by dividing the total monthly operating expense of the help desk by the monthly ticket volume. The goal is to maintain levels of costs. Spikes in cost can be indicative of inefficiencies, training needs, or resource requirements.
- Lost business hours: These are the total calculated hours of business operability that are lost or disrupted over time period due to IT issues. Help desk inefficiencies, under-resourcing, lack of training, and inadequate technical support tools can all impact this number.
- Change success rate: This refers to change implementation, or the implementation of adjustments or replacements to processes, systems, software, hardware, etc. within an organization. It also measures the number of successful changes compared to the number of executed changes. Failed changes are changes that did not meet their objectives. When tracking these numbers, it is also important to track the number of unplanned, emergency, or urgent changes.
- Infrastructure stability: This is characterized by a maximum availability of IT professionals and IT technology tools, a low number of lost business hours, and a low number of major incidents.
- Software asset utilization rate: This refers to the percentage of software products and licenses that are in use by the business, categorized as software with high risk or high implication (category 1); free software (category 2); and prohibited software and malware (category 3).
The most essential tools for IT support
The effectiveness and efficiency of your IT support team is highly correlated to the resources, tools, and technologies set up to empower them. Consequently, it’s important to have the right ecosystem of technologies in place. Here are the top technologies for enabling your IT support team.
1. Communication technologies – One of the foundational components of a help desk’s ability to properly function is its ability to communicate, whether its end users are off-site, on-prem, or remote. This means you must have established and ideally integrated communications technologies, including email, VoIP, teleconferencing, video calling, and chat. More types of communication mean more accessibility, but having an integrated source for these varied types of communication will help ensure efficiency of communication, and higher levels of security.
2. Ticketing tools & IT service management (ITSM) – Tools for the creation and submission of IT support requests are essential, but for proper IT support, an IT service management system should also be in place. An ITSM solution is a streamlined ticketing system that enables information tracking to allow those tickets to be opened, assigned, and for their progress and completion to be monitored and reported. A few top ITSM examples include ServiceNow, Cherwell Software, ZenDesk, and JIRA, etc.
3. Remote support tools – Remote support technologies allow an administrator’s computer to remotely access another computer or device (PC- and Mac-based desktops, mobile devices, servers (Windows, Unix, Linux, etc.), point-of-sale (POS) systems, etc.) so they can view, and even interact, with that device to facilitate support via an internet connection. Remote support tools help IT support teams navigate and manage the increasing complexity of today’s digital environments. They help maintain connectivity between multiple devices, software, cloud environments, and networks to ensure high levels of organizational productivity, and to ensure security compliance standards are being met. Using a single tool for remote support can help improve incident handling time, technician productivity, and other important KPIs. Because remote support sessions often entail some degree of privileged access, it is imperative that robust remote access, password management, and other security features be baked into the solution. In addition, the tool should monitor, log, and manage every remote support session to ensure proper oversight and auditability.
4. Self-service or employee portal and knowledge base – A tool to enable end users to self-service their own technical support issues. The support portal should provide accurate and reliable guides, system documentation, FAQs, and an easy way to escalate more complicated issues to a help desk agent. A support portal and knowledgebase can increase end-user satisfaction. It can also significantly reduce the task load for your IT support team by providing end users with knowledge access and training.
5. Change and problem management tools – The right change management tools can help organizations plan, manage, report, and audit the impacts and effects of change management initiatives. These can include projects, resource changes, etc. Change management tools will also help with management of workflows and communication during complex process changes.
The most essential tech support features
Now that you know the best tools to enable your IT department, here are the top features and capabilities to look for in those IT technologies to ensure success:
- Chat – In addition to helping exchange more information about the problem, chat can allow the technician to send links, knowledge base articles, and even canned responses. Additionally, chat can be used between tiers of the service desk, and potentially, with an external entity. This ability to extend the reach of an initial touch point keeps the customer from feeling like they are being “bounced around.” It also allows the rep to expand their knowledge and exposure to problem-solving in real time. Chat transcripts should be available for audit and training purposes as well.
- Automation – Automating some or many components of the help desk can free up time for your IT professional to focus on completing the higher-impact queries faster and more efficiently. For example, automatically running canned scripts in the background can solve common issues or illuminate problems faster. This can help the service desk increase efficiency and decrease resolution times.
- Collaboration – Your IT team should be able to collaborate easily on queries. They should also be able to access, tag, prioritize, and assign tasks to ensure smooth operations. This collaboration could look like a Tier 1 tech working seamlessly with someone in Tier 3, or it could be a shared session with an external vendor/partner. Either way, collaboration is a powerful component as organizations strive to improve customer satisfaction.
- Integration – APIs and service integrations are critical to ensuring the success of your digital and IT ecosystems. You don’t want your IT technologies to interfere with business operations–they should enhance them. One of the best ways to do this is to allow support activity to be initiated through the system of record (ITSM solution). Features that enhance the user experience include the ability for customers to generate sessions from the ticket they just opened, the ability for the tech to initiate support through the ticket they are responding to, and the ability to contextualize the audit logs that reside inside the ticket.
- Self-service – Your end users should be able to troubleshoot for themselves, to a point, using an accessible dashboard or resource pool. This will keep your IT department focused on the higher-impact tasks.
- Reporting – One of the most critical components of success is auditability. Having the ability to submit and monitor reports easily means having access to accurate metrics that can be analyzed regularly to audit for success. Additionally, there are often external audit rules in industries like healthcare, financial services, and government entities. It is imperative that the solution employed for remote technical support balances internal reporting needs, those imposed by compliance standards, and broader considerations, like GDPR, that seek to limit data collection.
- Troubleshooting – The IT support systems should provide the transparency and visibility necessary for your team to quickly and easily troubleshoot problems, identify security threats, and more. Remote system control is often the core of a troubleshooting interaction. It is critical that these interactions are made simple for all parties. The messaging that is provided on session close is also important in many cases. For both attended (someone is at the remote system) and unattended (no one at the remote system) sessions, it is often important to clarify that remote access has ceased at the end of the session.
- Adaptability and Scalability – The best tech support tools are readily adaptable to changes in the IT and work environments. For instance, being able to shift from office-based to remote workforces. Further, these tools should be scalable so they can grow with the organization and its evolving needs.
Securely Supporting & Enabling Your Business
IT support is a pivotal factor for the operational success of any business. Consider how many technological cogs need to function and integrate to meet the daily operational requirements of your industry. As more organizations are trending towards digital transformation and remote, work-from-anywhere environments, having properly equipped and resourced tech support is only becoming more critical.
Learn how to address all your secure remote support needs with one powerful solution.
As a content marketing manager at BeyondTrust, Laura Bohnert applies a multifaceted, tech-centered marketing skillset to help drive SEO, blog, PR, and product marketing in support of BeyondTrust’s demand generation and sales enablement initiatives. She has a diverse background in product marketing, brand marketing, content writing, social media, event coordination, and public relations. Outside of the tech world, she has a passion for literature, with a BA, MA, and PhD Candidacy in English Literature, and she can either be found beekeeping, restoring her historic haunted house, or continuing her dissertation on the psychological interpretations of ghosts in gothic and horror fiction.
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