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All you need to know about IT Support Software
If you have IT systems that you are responsible for operating and fixing when it breaks, you need IT support software. It is that simple. You can only juggle so many questions, requests, issues and updates on your own before you miss something important and your business users are impacted. That is where IT support software comes in – giving you a centralized place to manage all the information about your IT solutions and services, your users and the support requests you receive from them.
Whether your IT support function is a single person or a large distributed team, IT support software can help them be more effective in providing the service and assistance that your users need. Designed to make it easy for you to better support your users, IT support software brings emails, phone calls, chat messages and more into a “single pane of glass” and virtual support command center where your staff can see the big picture of support work that needs to be done. They can sort through the messages, assign them to the correct team members, and make sure everyone gets a timely reply. IT support software also help you build a knowledge base and provide self-help capabilities to enable your users to find answers to common questions and get back to normal business activities quickly.
IT support software (sometimes called helpdesk software or customer service software) is a suite of capabilities to facilitate your staff helping users solve their problems through a single (or multiple) point of contact. It allows users to troubleshoot problems, track their issues, and get assistance regarding IT solutions or services.
These tools are used to manage a wide variety of user interaction scenarios including:
IT support software also helps support teams and their management measure performance and identify ways in which the level of support can be improved. Some examples of improvement opportunities include automating key processes, documenting best practices and recording customer interactions – all functions that IT support software provides.
A main goal of IT support software is to increase the speed and efficiency of issue resolution. By consolidating user data into one easily accessible platform, your staff can access complete client interaction history as well as information about the user’s job role, business processes and the IT tools they use. User related information combined with rule-based routing capabilities ensures requests are directed to the right agents by automatically categorizing and separating issues into work queues for different teams. This helps avoid unnecessary delays in resolving the users’ issues.
Companies implement IT support software solutions for two reasons:
1. Increase how many tickets your staff can handle
2. Improve how efficient they are in solving user issues.
Even if your company employs only one IT professional to support the entire organization, you still need a system to manage the requests that come in. The employees of modern businesses are heavily reliant on technology to do their jobs effectively. Many issues can arise when dealing with only a few devices, which means that even small and medium size businesses are likely to have significant IT support needs that mean they can benefit from IT support software. As your company grows, the need for consistent service delivery and support processes increases and so does the value that IT support software can provide.
IT support software provides a consolidated portal view for agents and simple end-user interfaces to help your company manage all ticket requests effectively. This is important because:
End-users want simple support experiences
Support Agents need access to information to do their job effectively
Your company needs issues resolved in an efficient and consistent manner
Your IT staff has a lot of responsibilities and their job is often hectic and often complicated. IT support software helps reduce some of the chaos and hassle of hunting around to find information, enabling them to focus their attention on solving your users’ issues.
For larger support functions, IT support software provides the tools to balance requests across agents and teams, route and track large numbers of tickets and monitor the performance of your IT support processes. It helps you with scalability, workload balancing, establishing follow-the-sun support offerings and managing escalations. Armed with more complete and better-quality information, your teams will be able to achieve higher levels of productivity, efficiency and cost control.
Spend less time on password resets and common IT support tasks by providing intuitive self-service capabilities to your users. IT support software provides you with a means of curating information and self-service tools to help users solve their own problems. If they can’t resolve the issue on their own, IT support software provides an effective means of engaging your staff for support. Nobody likes to ask for help, but IT support software can make it a productive and positive experience for both end-users and your support teams. With multi-channel solutions, employees can submit a ticket to you on the channel they prefer (email, web forms, chat, phone, and mobile apps) even if they're not in the office.
IT support software helps unite your whole team in providing high quality customer support by enabling collaboration among agents and enhanced user interactions. Through various communication tools, team members can collaborate and share information which they think might help to improving the service provided to users. The increased communication enabled by IT support software provides:
Efficiency in solving easy issues
Teamwork for solving complex issues
Learning opportunities to build collective knowledge and improve the quality of service.
These tools also help agents engage with users in convenient and interactive ways. IT support software helps to ensure users feel heard and understood and that critical support related information is captured and used effectively.
Most IT support software solutions will include reporting and activity-tracking features that provide management key insights and analytics capabilities. Managers then have the information needed to understand:
Metrics and KPIs are an important tool in any operations function. IT support software enables you to define and track key metrics like first call resolution and time to restore that give you clear indicators of how well you are managing user issues. The workflows within IT support software provide structure, enable data capture and encourage consistent execution of support processes. Pre-built dashboards, custom reports and analytics capabilities enable leaders to access a wealth of information to help them make informed decisions. It also helps teams to build workflows and create knowledge bases used to train team members and ensure your team is providing consistent guidance to end-users.
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Selecting the right IT support software can be confusing and figuring out what features you need can be challenging. IT support tools need to include more than a ticketing system and the ability to send and receive email (though these capabilities are essential, so don’t overlook them). Your support software should also include productivity tools like: team inbox, knowledge base, forum, chat, phone, and mobile support that help your team members interact with customers and manage their workload effectively. (IT support software that offers this suite of features is often called a multi-channel support app)
Here are some of the other key features that you should look at when selecting IT support software for your business.
The most important role of IT support software is helping you manage all the data you collect about the people who use your solutions and services. User records and interaction history are essential. Some of the features you will need for user data management include:
The set of activities involved in creating, managing, assigning, reporting, and prioritizing user requests. A lot of valuable data about your users is found in your ticket notes and correspondence that you should be actively mining for insights.
A central place to store details like name, location, systems/services being used, issue type and other essential information. In many organizations, IT support staff have some of the best visibility into how the company is structured and operates – much of this information can be managed in a well-structured contact database.
Record and maintain an archive of past user interactions including previous requests and the kind of support provided. Recurring Issues and themes can point to larger issues, training needs, and opportunities for new features in your systems and IT services. These insights aren’t visible in individual interactions but can be exposed through contact history data.
Every business is unique. Your IT support software should support creating custom fields to capture additional data needed to better understand your users and their issues. Custom fields can help with data analysis and identifying actionable opportunities for improvement.
Record user feedback, suggestions and pain points about the services your team provides. This helps improve the quality of customer interactions and provide better service experience.
Users can solve many of their own issues with access to the right information. Your support software should include online portals where end-users can access information, ask questions, engage in discussions, and perform routine tasks, without needing assistance from your IT staff.
Promote interactions between users by enabling them to post their questions, issues or best practices in a forum that others can provide comments on. Sometimes other end-users can answer support questions better than your staff can (because they speak the business language and come at the problem from a different perspective). IT support software and moderated online forums can help enable user-to-user collaboration to solve many issues without the need to engage support staff.
Allows users to perform basic tasks like creating tickets, tracking status, escalating tickets, viewing ticket history and submitting feedback. Your self-service portal should be intuitive to use and easy to understand.
A centralized online repository of frequently-asked questions and other useful information that can be used both by support staff and end-users. Some IT support software (like Freshdesk) take this capability one step further. They let you create separate sections of the knowledge base that are accessible only to some of your users. For example, you can create private documentation visible only to your support agents with in-depth technical information.
IT support is not "one size fits all" and users prefer different methods to get the help they need. Your support software needs to enable you to interact with users via multiple channels, such as email, chat phone calls, web forms, and social media – and capture all related interaction notes in one place. Some of the features that you will need to enable multi-channel support include:
Streamline IT call center operations including: call routing, agent management, call distribution, performance monitoring and reporting.
Enable users to submit their issues and raise tickets using the chat options embedded on your support website and embedded into the services that they use. Support agents can then communicate with users in real-time via a chat window.
Email is the most common communication method used within most companies. Team inboxes and support aliases integrated with your IT support software enable your staff to interact with users via the communication method they are most comfortable with.
Many support related tasks are repetitive and ideal candidates for automation using business rules. Automation not only improves quality and speed of service but also minimizes the need for human intervention. This eliminates the possibility for error, wasted effort, and redundancy.
Use customizable templates to quickly generate different types of emails such as ticket confirmation, service updates, and service completion notifications. Templates provide consistency and efficiency in your support communications.
Configure notifications for common issues and events that get delivered to support staff, management and/or end-users via email, text or in-app notifications.
A rule-based routing engine that allows businesses to distribute and assign calls according to the agent's availability, skills and/or experience.
Send automated replies and follow-up messages to users acknowledging that a new issue or communication has been received.
IT support software can help make routine workflows more efficient, so you can address customer issues faster. Workflow orchestration can include tasks like prioritizing and routing requests, assigning cases, managing feedback and monitoring process performance. Some of the features that support workflow orchestration include:
Design workflows to support common support management activities like creating and handling tickets, assigning requests to agents, tracking support progress, and closing tickets when the service is complete.
IT support software should include a rule-based engine that collects and distributes user requests among agents in an orderly manner. Queue management is an essential part of a successful IT support operation.
Alerts can be configured for almost any event in your IT support workflow including: SLA performance, queue backlog targets, agent availability and calls being dropped. Escalation features enable issues to auto-escalate to supervisors and other agents when assistance is needed to ensure tickets are resolved quickly.
Design, create and share feedback forms with their users, as well as record their feedback to analyze and understand user sentiment and satisfaction with the IT solutions and services they use and the support experience they receive.
Your IT support functions are only successful if the entire operation is working well in support of common goals. Activity tracking and performance monitoring tools enable management to monitor and measure how well teams are doing to what areas need attention. Management features of IT support software include:
Analyze SLA performance, agent performance, and other customer engagement data from multiple sources and present data in a way that can be used to make informed decisions.
Enable managers and agents to monitor KPIs and track their daily tasks on a single screen.
Generate custom reports for things like call quality, cases resolved, agents progress, and other KPIs to help in analyzing support performance and addressing challenges.
Keep track of core activities of agents and users throughout the support workflow, from the time the ticket is raised until it is successfully resolved.
Enable supervisors to listen to and record agent-user interactions for training and quality purposes.
Your IT support software contains a lot of sensitive information about your services, solutions and business operations. It is imperative to have appropriate controls in place to ensure the security of business data and prevent unauthorized access.
Define and set access levels for the different set of users like managers, supervisors, support agents to ensure that users can only access the features they are authorized to and are restricted from the rest.
Enable users to access multiple integrated applications by signing in from one interface with one set of login credentials.
Assign role-based permissions to access data, files, or other important documents and restrict access to data that is highly sensitive.
IT Support Software and Vendor Support
Many organizations leverage support vendors and other 3rd parties for various parts of their IT support operations. Facilitating the interactions with vendors can be challenging without the help of IT support software to help capture, manage and route issues to the right resources for resolution. When you use vendors to support your IT systems and services, workflow management and service level agreements (SLAs) are essential to ensuring that end-users receive the levels of responsiveness and quality support they expect. IT support software not only help to keep work flowing smoothly and measure SLA compliance, it provides an important level of visibility to management into the quality of the vendor’s work and the value that is being created from the outsourcing investment.
When companies engage with outside vendors for support, they typically have 2 choices when it comes to IT support software:
The first option is only typically used when you are outsourcing all of your IT support to a single vendor (business process outsourcing). That vendor will then typically be responsible for staffing, processes and providing tools related to the support function. A more common scenario is for your company to have relationships with many vendors to support various parts of your IT environment (a hosting vendor, a helpdesk vendor, a field support vendor, etc). In this situation, the second option is usually chosen – having your own IT support software and integrate it with the vendors’ systems.
There are many considerations when it comes to system integration that you will need to address, but the most important ones are:
In most cases, these considerations will be covered by your service agreements and contracts with the vendors but if they aren’t it is a good idea to seek clarity before they become sources of conflict.
There are a lot of similarities between the Customer Relationship Management software that call centers and customer support organizations use and the IT Support Software that your internal IT team relies on. Both deal with user records, both have workflows and knowledge bases. What really sets these solutions apart are the types of information and related systems that they need to interact with.
Customer service software often deals with sales, finance, product and manufacturing data that is obtained from systems like your order management, ERP, logistics, finance, and product development systems. The issues that customer service staff typically support are related to transactions flowing through the various systems of your company – they are data issues. The tools that these agents need to be effective are often centered around troubleshooting data issues and transactions that have gotten stuck someplace in a business process and need some sort of intervention to get unstuck.
IT support software in comparison, deals with infrastructure, device, software, data access and service availability/performance issues. Your IT support software will likely be integrated with infrastructure management, access control, asset management and technology monitoring systems. Your staff working on IT support issues often need access to diagnostic tools and technical documentation to understand and resolve user issues.
While it is possible to use the same support software for both internal technical support and customer support applications, most companies find it advantageous to implement them as separate systems. This enables them to optimize configurations and business processes for each individual function separately. It also lowers the risk of sensitive internal data being exposed to customers and private customer data being inadvertently shared internally.
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