The ongoing revolution, or perhaps invasion of BYOD, combined with the most rapid adoption of new technology (tablets) anyone has seen, translates to a lot of users needing help. Now, we broke a resolution there, and referred to customers as users, or so you think.
Having spent a lot of time near a help desk, mainly of the tech support variety, a common thing I saw was a lot of non-business-use-technology support, service, and training going on for free. In my opinion the moment the customer presents a problem that's not even remotely relevant to the business, they have now crossed over to the "User Help Zone."
The User Help Zone is an area of time and space where the currency is productivity and patience - both spent by your help, support, or service desk staff. While the random box of goodies, free lunch, or doughnuts are nice - it still doesn't do much to improve the way people feel about the help desk. Just take a look at a couple of our more recent posts (Why does everyone hate the help desk? or Understanding the Help Desk: Five Inaccurate Perceptions of Customers).
Of course, what's a team to do? The best IT professionals enjoy helping people and maintaining relationships. Ultimately, they want to make their customers happy, and that's a great trait to have, and near impossible to train. On the other hand, we can help your staff offer alternatives. Applying a loose interpretation of opportunity cost, perhaps some of these trips to the User Help Zone can be prevented simply by providing alternatives that cost the same or offer quicker service.
Until recently, alternatives were few and far between. However, there has been a recent rise in free tech support. Some from the largest companies like Microsoft, and even some from companies you might least expect, like CostCo (a volume goods retailer). While not all the options are free, they do provide alternatives your teams can use to direct customers, and in turn, prevent productivity loss. Thank of it as the way you get out of that office party by saying your significant other has a previous engagement like a wedding or funeral, which you just have to attend.
We've listed a few of the most recent options based on a recent article from PC World. We haven't used these and aren't partnered with them, but think they would be great step in making your team a bit more productive, avoid the User Help Zone, and keep your customers happy all at the same time.
Microsoft Answer Desk - Training, Help, and Support with costs ranging from free to $99
CostCo Concierge Services- If you buy it at CostCo, and are a current member, tech support on pretty much any piece of electronics is free.
Crutchfield - Perfect for the non-computer related support questions your team most definitely gets. Pricing maxes out at $100 for a lifetime of support for almost any non-pc device.
Apple Retail One-To-One - A $100 a year opens you up to setup support and learning resources for your Mac.
Image: Flickr | Meltwater