University help desks field a wide range of questions from students, professors, and parents, but most callers are unaware of the challenges in providing those answers. A high turnover rate or a lack of knowledgeable representatives, for example, can create obstacles. Faced with complaints about its IT help desk, Lesley University sought to improve the caller experience.
Lesley University is located in Cambridge, Mass. and serves about 7,000 undergraduate and graduate students. Students frequently contact the university's IT help desk for assistance with passwords, Wi-Fi connections, and other issues. Previously, the university outsourced its support through a company that provided nationwide contact center services.
The problem was that "no matter how much training we gave the agents from the third-party company, they just weren't a part of our culture," says Charles Cooper, assistant director of information technology at Lesley University. "Callers were confused when they heard different accents and even though the agents had a lot of information, they didn't have a local understanding of the campus and would have to look everything up to understand what the caller was referring to."
In 2013, Cooper developed an in-house solution with Freshdesk, a cloud-based help desk software maker. Instead of working with outsourced agents, the university hired students as part-time employees. About a dozen students were hired to provide IT support from four work stations.
Having a knowledge base system for creating and storing articles was essential, Cooper notes. "The unique part of Lesley is we don't offer a technology major and so the tech staff needed to write numerous articles on how to solve various issues for students who don't have a deep knowledge of technology," he explains.
The platform's gamification features were also important. Given that answering calls and troubleshooting tech problems can become monotonous the IT center needed as much help as possible to keep students motivated. A gamification system that lets students earn points for closing tickets and receiving positive customer reviews provided several benefits.
"We found that earning points for completing 'quests' adds an extra element to the job that makes it more interesting," Cooper says. "It creates a friendly competition to see who's on top of the leader board and we haven't had a high turnover rate."
Social listening and responding to complaints via Twitter and Facebook is also crucial for addressing negative sentiments before they spread, Cooper adds. Additionally, the university gives students iPod Touches equipped with Freshdesk's mobile app, allowing them to receive updates on cases and close tickets in real time.
Giving employees the training and tools they needed to quickly solve problems led to an uptick in customer satisfaction ratings. Once a ticket is closed, users receive an email asking them to rate their experience. Since the university launched the new platform in 2013, 95 percent of the ratings have been positive, 2 percent were neutral, and 3 percent were negative. The previous solution used a 5-star rating system and the customer satisfaction rate hovered at 4 stars or 80 percent, according to Cooper.
"A lot of institutions, Cooper adds, "are wary of putting their students on the front line [of support services]. But if they have faith in the information they're putting into the system and provide guidance, it can work out well."