The COVID-19 crisis, or coronavirus outbreak, has changed the world. At the time of writing, billions of people are practicing social distancing and many employees are getting used to working from home (instead of their usual offices). For your organization, and its employees, to continue to work effectively your IT department needs to keep delivering against their IT service delivery and support needs despite the challenges currently being faced.
To help your organization and its IT service desk to respond, this blog looks at the top five COVID-19 IT support challenges being faced as well as offering advice on how best to deal with them.
Challenge #1 – Your IT service desk is overwhelmed
Chances are the last few weeks have felt like months if not years for your IT service desk. Your once manageable ticket queue has gone from being well controlled and meeting service level agreements (SLAs) to something akin to an utter nightmare. There are phones that never stop ringing, service desk staff who (if they're not on the phone) are fielding an ever-increasing flood of email messages and self-service submissions, and a first-line support queue that’s hitting triple, never mind double, figures.
How to fix it:
First and foremost, your success requires teamwork and lots of hard work.
Get everyone involved from the service desk analyst who’s in their first few weeks, to the service desk manager who hasn’t done anything technical for longer than they care to mention. Get as many people as you can involved, and get them triaging. This is an “all hands to the pumps” situation whereby, if you have IT in your title, you should be helping with the fix effort.
Normally at this point, we’d be talking about the use of a priority matrix to ensure that incidents are handled consistently, based on impact and urgency, but in the current situation it’s about looking after the vulnerable and those struggling with connectivity issues first and foremost. So, look for tickets raised by colleagues in front-line servicing roles or those who are struggling to work remotely. Everything will get fixed in time, but you want to assist anyone dealing with the elderly, the vulnerable, and the scared first, followed by those who are dealing with connectivity issues.
Challenge #2 – Getting used to remote support
Receiving support in person is a very different experience to remote support, especially if your organization’s employees are used to having a physical IT presence. Lots of end users will be working remotely for the first time which is an adjustment to what they’ve potentially done for years. Add in the need to contact IT for help in a different way and it’s going to lead to worry and teething troubles.
How to fix it:
Make sure everyone in the IT department is completely comfortable with using your remote support tool of choice. Get them to practice, with the remote tool, in between calls such that it begins to feel as natural as providing face-to-face support.
There’s also a very different skillset required for providing remote support versus in-person support. There’s also a need to create a strategy for dealing with “quiet time.” For example, when service desk analysts are waiting for a laptop to reboot or an update to finish installing so the person on the other end of the call knows that you’re still there. Analysts can use this time sensibly. Perhaps recap the ticket details, check the end-user’s contact number or asset tag, or even ask them what they thought about the last episode of Westworld (other dystopian dramas are available). Please just make sure that the other person feels connected.
Challenge #3 – Getting used to new equipment
When working in IT, it can be easy to forget that not everyone loves technology as much as we do. Being comfortable with laptops, tablet devices, and cloud-based services is part of the day job but the reality of it is that – thanks to COVID-19 and remote working – some of our colleagues are grappling with technology that’s completely new to them.
How to fix it:
Be flexible in the way that you offer support. Typically, most IT departments won’t support home devices but if someone is unable to access their laptop, they’ll still be able to work if they can access Office 365 or G-Suite through their home device.
There’ll also always be the employee who has left their laptop charger in the office or needs a network cable to improve their connectivity. So, you’ll also need to consider delivery mechanisms for quickly sending IT equipment to their home address.
Challenge #4 – Your end-user community will likely be feeling frustrated with their support
It’s a scary time and, in this case, it’s made worse by having to work differently. Factor in reduced staff levels, if people are unwell or self-isolating, and suddenly you’ve delays in fixing things or providing updates leading to a poor customer experience.
How to fix it:
Make the rest of the organization feel empowered and ease the pressure on support teams by promoting the use of self-service. Your IT self-service offering should be a central location for everything from password resets to requesting new equipment. If the adoption levels are low, then invest the time and effort in improving and marketing its capabilities – it’ll pay dividends during these troubled times.
Challenge #5 – IT support people are feeling down
There’s no data yet on the impact of COVID-19 on the mental health of IT support personnel. But given that people are overworked and potentially scared and feeling isolated (given your IT support personnel might now be remote workers too), there’s a need to ensure that their wellbeing doesn’t go unnoticed. And to maintain the level of support that’s needed during the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, looking after your people is key.
How to fix it:
Your people are your everything (at both a business and IT support level). It’s that simple.
As a manager, if you don’t look after your people, then you’ve nothing to leverage when more is needed (and are likely bad at people management). So, take care of your colleagues by making sure that they’re supported both by you and by senior management. Ensure that they have the resources and flexibility they need and that they’re taking their breaks no matter how busy they are. Also, keep a sense of normalcy by scheduling daily check-ins and virtual team meetings even though the temptation is to not take people “away from the pumps.”
For more information on how we’re responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, please see here how we’re offering our service desk solutions free of charge to anyone who needs them.
How is your organization dealing with the COVID-19 crisis? How are you all adjusting? Please let us know in the comments.