IT support has always been perceived as a service function of the organization that does not bring profit. However, with the development of technology, the support has included more and more new functions, and its importance has grown. The COVID-19 pandemic also contributed to the development of IT support. In this article, we will figure out why IT support is important for business, why its quality directly affects the company’s profits, and what the prospects for this area are.
The historical value of IT support
The responsibilities of this service have grown in number steadily as technology, methodologies, and customer relationships have evolved.
Today, the main functions of the IT help desk include:
- technical support for the company’s employees;
- support of external clients – users of the company’s products;
- maintenance of the company’s infrastructure and its applications/products;
- control over the execution of requests at the agreed service levels;
- Call Center/Help Desk;
- work with the Service Desk system;
- filling the knowledge base;
- monitoring the quality of the company’s IT services;
- communication with clients, employees, contractors.
And this is without a lot of smaller tasks that differ depending on the specifics of a company. Most of them are hidden from prying eyes like the underwater part of an iceberg.
Despite the deepness of modern IT support, there is an opinion that this support for both employees and customers does not have an essential impact on the financial performance of the company. This point of view has been formed over decades, so no wonder that changing it is very difficult. But the world does not stand still, and changes have affected this function of the business as well.
It is the support service that is often the first point of contact between customers and a company, and it has great potential to take their relationship to the next level. Modern IT support specialists are no longer bearded geeks in sweaters who speak incomprehensible tech jargon.
Nowadays, a qualified IT support specialist is a person with a high level of sociability and empathy, as well as teamwork and problem-solving skills. Such a specialist is constantly evolving and puts the needs of the client first. And they can give the business something more than solving clients’ problems and advising them.
COVID-19: a tragedy or a chance?
The coronavirus pandemic directly affected the development of IT support services, just as it affected all businesses across the world. From the digital transformation era perspective, these changes present a tremendous opportunity for CEOs around the world.
The pandemic has greatly accelerated the global development of digital processes. Companies that managed to implement digital solutions in time have already seen practical benefits for their businesses. Those that hadn’t, realized their oversight with the beginning of the transition of the whole world to remote work. There is no doubt that the trend will not decline but, vice versa, only grow in the coming years.
This opens up new opportunities and forces businesses to be more flexible, including in IT processes. In addition, the massive transfer of IT teams around the world to remote work has opened the eyes of companies to the effectiveness of remote support. More and more companies are announcing their plans to work in this mode at least for the whole of 2020, and some are organizing this process on an ongoing basis.
The work of IT support is going to a new level and increasing the value of the outsourcing format. Outsourcing companies often have a higher level of process maturity and a larger pool of resources than internal IT teams. Moreover, outsourcing services also actively introduce new digital approaches and change their models in accordance with modern customer requirements. Their flexibility is now extremely high, and the benefits of using their services are maximized.
These companies operate at agreed levels of service, so the client can be confident in the quality of service they will receive and how much it will cost. Both Gartner and Deloitte are reporting the increased value of outsourcing services during the pandemic.
There are many examples of successful transfer of customer service to outsourcing companies, including by such well-known entities as Microsoft, Dell, Ford Motor Company, CISCO, General Electric, American Express. Cost reduction remains one of the major reasons for such transfers, but Deloitte research shows that modern companies are concentrating more on the overall value they can get from the outsourcing services instead of just cost savings.
The digital future of IT support services
Digital transformation is primarily perceived as the introduction of new technologies and communication channels in the work with clients. More and more companies are implementing chatbots, virtual assistants, notifications via messengers, polls via social networks, etc. Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, and Big Data are also increasingly used to create additional customer benefits in IT services.
But even this is not enough to get the maximum benefits of the current period of digital transformation. Now the most important thing is to change how the operating model of IT support works with clients. All operational processes need to be improved to meet the new service requirements that are put forward by today’s customers.
IT support teams should reorient from their usual performance indicators to those that are more important for the business:
- Net Promoter Score
- Customer Lifetime Value
- Customer Profitability.
The new benchmarks for the IT support function should be aimed at increasing customer satisfaction and loyalty by creating additional benefits for them. And IT support team leaders should reconsider processes much more often. This will ensure that the quality of their teams’ work meets the current requirements of clients.
Additional features of the support service that add value to your business:
- Analyzing customer needs and behaviors
- Identifying key touchpoints of customers
- Growing customers’ loyalty through a personalized experience
- Demonstrating to customers how they can get the best from the new digital solutions
- Providing fast feedback about the efficiency of new methods and technologies
All this makes it obvious that there is a need for urgent changes in the operational approaches of IT support for every company that wants to achieve maximum success in working with clients. The old approaches are hopelessly outdated, and the competition is higher than ever before. At the same time, the scale of the ongoing digital changes is enormous and brings many benefits to the business.
Those companies that adapt to the demands of the new era faster than others will be the first to maximize their competitive advantages. And clients, for their part, will tend to work with those companies that are actively implementing digital solutions in their work for the sake of the clients’ convenience. This is a win-win situation.
The transformation has already affected all aspects of the business: sales, marketing, development, and so on. But the support service has one big advantage over all others: it historically has the maximum flexibility necessary to work effectively with customers. In a fast-paced world, support teams who work directly with customers on a daily basis are used to changing their approaches and tools as soon as required.
Since customers now more than ever dictate to companies the level of service they receive, the willingness of organizations to respond quickly to these requirements plays center stage. And here, the flexibility of customer service specialists and their developed software skills will be more useful than ever.
The determination to act and change is needed for one more reason. Digital transformation is not the last of the key trends affecting the business environment. It will be followed by other trends, also critical for business development. The sooner companies start implementing technological innovations, the sooner they will have the opportunity to be among the leaders in their field.
This mindset is now more important than ever for leaders who determine the strategy for support services for the coming months and years. Today, clients are very demanding and highly value quality service. The opportunities that have opened up for companies in the current era of digital transformation may be exactly the accelerator that many of them dream of. The only question is who is ready to change quickly for the benefit of clients and for the sake of their future – in practice, not just in words.