virtual agents for IT support


A winning ticket: How virtual technicians can improve IT support

With ongoing innovation in the cloud, mobility and the Internet of Things, technology is changing by the day. And thanks to bring-your-own-device policies in the workplace and the consumerization of tech, users are growing more sophisticated about their computers and devices.

Organizations and their employees aren’t using tech like your dad did. So why are agencies still running your dad’s version of a help desk?

You know the old drill: An employee encounters a catastrophic computer issue (blue screen of death, boot error or virus) and calls it into the help desk. An IT person writes up a brief summary of the problem and sends a ticket to the deskside support team. Eventually, someone walks over to the employee’s workstation to troubleshoot. “Have you had this problem before?” “Did you try turning the computer on and off?” “When was the last time you ran a virus scan?” It’s an exercise that’s frustrating for employees who need help and distracting for already overwhelmed IT staff.

We’re overdue for a change here and, fortunately, help is on the way. The concept of a “virtual” technician has emerged as a more effective, efficient and budget-friendly version of traditional deskside services. With a virtual technician, free-standing kiosks are made available at high-traffic agency spaces, taking the place of a staffed IT concierge desk. Rather than walking to the IT desk when they can’t use their machines, employees head to the kiosks for prompt issue resolution, made possible by these multiple support levels:

  • Self service: With a highly intuitive kiosk interface, employees are just a couple clicks away from a wealth of actionable information/videos/diagrams to self-diagnose and fix their own computers and devices.
  • Live support: Kiosk-enabled phone calling, support chat and video conferencing bring in live expertise from an agency’s tech department when self-servicing can’t tackle the issue. This service helps those employees in agencies that do not allow unsecure phone-based video connections or Internet-based remote control tools.
  • Deskside support: Employees can even connect their machines to the kiosk and to the network, so a tech pro can troubleshoot via video conference. This feature is very useful for the technically challenged employee and for PCs that can’t be reached with remote control tools.

With a virtual technician, the agency saves money and reaps the following benefits:

Self service. Agencies can save on manpower because self-service drives much of the virtual technician model. Think about it: Through the internet, we now watch videos to learn how to fix our appliances, plumbing and other household essentials instead of paying a repair shop. Why should work-based tech issues be any different? Because the kiosk interface is user friendly, employees can quickly resolve most of their own cases. As a result, IT team members aren’t distracted with putting out minor fires. They only get called into situations that require their deep expertise, giving  them more time to focus on strategic, innovative initiatives to better support the agency mission.

A tech “presence” in remote offices. Many agencies have remote offices that don’t have on-site IT staff. In some cases, broken computers/devices are overnighted to a central location, while employees wait for days to get their machines back. That amounts to major downtime and workflow bottlenecks. The virtual technician can make all non-hardware fixes because it can be installed anywhere. Hardware repairs can be coordinated and spares prepositioned near the kiosk.

Happy campers. The traditional help desk frequently creates an “us versus them” mindset. Employees resent that their productivity depends upon IT getting around to repairs on “their time.” IT workers, in turn, sense a lack of respect for all of the work they do to get machines up and running-- on top of everything else they’re asked to do. The virtual technician eliminates such tensions because employees receive immediate and actionable responses. As their tech knowledge grows with every kiosk interaction, they increasingly collaborate with IT as knowledgeable partners about computer/device situations.

Today agencies face greater demands to keep productivity high and budgets low. No one wants to “do away” with the IT department through (ironically) technology. But advancements in virtual tech can reduce IT staff “firefighting” duties while delivering enhanced help-desk services to employees. In the process, computers and devices are fixed faster and more affordably. That’s something that anyone can appreciate -- even your dad.

About the Author

William C. Liberti is a director at HumanTouch LLC.


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