Changing attitudes to university IT services will affect all

The Service Desk Institute (SDI) recently published an in-depth study into how university IT service desks are facing new challenges in supporting the requirements of students and staff members.

While the research paints a vivid picture of how demands on IT are changing, it also provides insight and guidance to IT directors across different industries.

Dealing with customer expectations was the biggest challenge for university service desk teams. This included managing specific BYOD programmes as well as the more general provision of support when students have problems.

Self-service web portals were voted as the most popular way for students to request help from the service desk. Self-service was ranked higher than more traditional email and phone channels.

Around 57% of universities now use Twitter as a channel for managing interactions with students around support requests.

The way students want to interact with IT support, and their IT expectations in general, is driven in part by the growing levels of comfort that exists around using IT, but it is also driven by the rises in tuition fees that students now have to pay.

When students are paying up to £9,000 a year to be taught, they are much more likely to be concerned with getting value for money and value for money from all university services.

Alongside expecting that teaching standards are high, students now expect the support functions within the institutions they decide to attend will also provide efficient and effective services.

In response to these changing circumstances, university IT service desk teams are investing in their staff (training, additional head counts, etc.) to expand on the services and support delivered.

The main priority for IT service desks around this investment are improving how existing assets are used (76%), followed by increasing the value of service to the business (61%) and increasing first-time fix rates (59%).

>See also: St Andrews becomes first UK university to bag 3-star service desk certification

This investment comes at the same time universities face pressure around their budgets in general. The rise in tuition fees has not grown budgets in general, as central government funding has been reduced. So any investments made have to produce a definite return on investment.

Measuring success around the service desk has traditionally been linked to volume of calls being answered and fixed on the first attempt; however, the changing nature of service means that this too will change over time.

As the phone goes from being the primary way of raising an issue to being one of many ways, the metric to judge success will have to change. Customer experience and satisfaction will become more important, so university IT teams, like the wider IT community, will have to move from looking at purely quantitative results to more qualitative ones.

The shift here will be more around understanding how services have produced results. Rather than asking, “How many calls did my service desk fix first time?” the emphasis will be on, “How well did we deal with that problem? Is that user happy with the service and the result we delivered?”

University service desks are currently investing in customer handling skills as well as the IT tools required to meet this change.

For university IT service desk teams, the path forward is fairly clear around the role of service management; however, other IT teams should be thinking about how they will be bringing in future employees with new views about service expectations.

New starters in businesses will come with personal experience gained from IT support environments set up to fulfill their requirements, and expectations, in a manner that is responsive to how they want to work. This can lead to a huge culture shock around service delivery.

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In the past, traditional IT services have been set up by business teams; this mix of applications may have been in place for years without being updated, including traditionally installed apps and new cloud services.

In this environment, getting the service management mix right may be difficult. This involves understanding things beyond the service desk too – rather than just thinking about handling calls for IT fixes or new app requests, it should be put into the context of other services the business runs, like finance and HR.

Dealing with expectations is one of the biggest challenges for IT in general – you can see this in everything from social media comments whenever Facebook or Twitter change their designs through to the discussions around large-scale IT projects in the public sector.

What all these projects have to bear in mind is that user expectations are changing and that service has to keep up.

As a service to the business, IT can learn a lot from the issues and challenges university IT service desks are currently facing and how they deal with them. In the future, they too will face the same challenges.


Sourced from Tony Probert, managing director EMEA, Cherwell Software

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Ben Rossi

Ben was Vitesse Media's editorial director, leading content creation and editorial strategy across all Vitesse products, including its market-leading B2B and consumer magazines, websites, research and...

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