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Process 1: Record the User’s Request

Published: April 25, 2008   |   Updated: October 10, 2008

 

When a user contacts the Service Desk, the first step that the CSR must take is to open a Help request, and then perform the following tasks:

  • Record the user’s contact information.
  • Record the details of the user’s situation.

Only when this information has been documented can the CSR move on to the next process—categorizing the user’s request.

Process 1a: Record the User’s Contact Information

In this process, the CSR opens a Help request and records the user’s contact information or receives an automated Help request generated by an alert or a user-initiated self-service request.

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Figure 3. Record the user’s contact information

Activities: Record the User’s Contact Information

What happens if users call the Service Desk with ”quick” questions and these calls are not logged and recorded? The result is hours of undocumented effort. The disparity between actual effort and documented effort can make it very difficult for the customer service team to justify staffing requests or to turn away new support requests. Over time, the gap can widen and the value of IT can come under fire. Keeping accurate records of user calls and the time spent by the Service Desk to support IT users can generate very meaningful and powerful data.

The first step in keeping accurate records is to open a Help request for every user call and record the user’s contact information. Help requests can also be opened automatically by input generated from a system alert or from a user through a self-service portal, a link embedded in an application or Web site, or e-mail. Automated inputs are scripted to open Help requests and record data. Manual inputs include direct phone calls and instant messages. These create real-time connections between users and CSRs, as well as requiring CSRs to manually open Help requests to capture the contact.

The following table lists the activities involved in recording the user’s contact information. These include:

  • Opening a Help request and recording the user’s contact information.
  • Receiving an automated Help request generated by a system alert.
  • Receiving an automated Help request generated by a user-initiated request from a link in an application or a Web site, or from a self-help portal.

Table 5. Activities and Considerations for Recording the User’s Contact Information

Activities

Considerations

Open a Help request and record the user’s contact information

Key questions:

  • Is the caller an internal employee, an outside user, a partner, or a service provider?
  • What is the user’s contact information: call back number, e-mail address, physical address?
  • Is the call regarding a new Help request?
  • Does the caller have an existing Help request still open?
  • Is the caller reporting an issue for another user?

Inputs:

  • Information provided by the user
  • HR database
  • User contact list

Output:

  • A Help request with a unique number provided to the user that records basic information about the request. This should include the time of the initial contact so that CSR time can be tracked

Best practices:

  • Capture a call-back number and other user contact information immediately. In some scenarios, the user may have just endured a long time on hold to reach a CSR. If a phone error occurs and the user is disconnected, the CSR should call the user back instead of requiring the user to get back in the call queue.
  • Keep call routing systems simple. After more than three layers of questions, user frustration will grow exponentially. The flow of the questions should be changed as infrequently as possible since users who call often will memorize the sequence. If a change is made in the sequence, an announcement should inform the user at the beginning of the call.
  • Make good use of pre-recorded messages. For example, if IT knows that the network is down for an entire building, the Service Desk is not going to add value by starting a Help request for every person affected. Instead, a front-end message should be recorded and played to all Service Desk callers informing them of the scope of the incident, its current status, an estimate of the time it will take to fix it, and the time that the front-end message will be updated next.
  • These concepts should extend to self-help portals as well. When there is a known service failure, it should be posted on the portal site. Use patterns and traffic statistics should be tracked for the portal to demonstrate its value.

Receive a Help request automatically generated by an alert

Key questions:

  • Is the information in the request complete and accurate?
  • Does the request include user contact information?
  • Can the recorded symptoms be correlated to other events to provide the CSR with suggested incident causes?
  • Is there sufficient data to set an initial classification and priority?

Input:

  • System alerts from Microsoft System Center Operations Manager

Outputs:

  • Basic contact information and a description of the incident
  • The name of the service or feature affected by the incident

Receive an automatically generated Help request resulting from a user-initiated self-service request

Key questions:

  • Is the information in the request complete and accurate?
  • Does the request include user contact information?
  • Can the recorded symptoms be correlated to other events to provide the CSR with suggested incident causes?
  • Is there sufficient data to set an initial classification and priority?

Inputs:

  • E-mail templates from embedded support links
  • Templates from self-help portals

Outputs:

  • Basic contact information for the user experiencing the incident and a description of the incident
  • The name of the service or feature affected by the incident

Best practices:

  • Use templates with a limited number of free-form fields. This drives consistency in the data collected and simplifies the process, in turn improving the user experience.
  • Make it quick and easy for users to report non-critical incidents from within applications and Web pages by embedding links to automatically generate Help requests. This creates the opportunity to capture data about the system state during the incident and automatically populate it into the request.
  • When a request is generated from a self-help portal, the automation routine should capture a list of the knowledge base articles or FAQs that the user reviewed prior to opening the Help request. This can later be reviewed and used to improve the self-help content.
  • Where possible, a confirmation message should be sent to the user (for e-mail and portal-generated help requests) that notifies the user of CSR response time for incidents raised in this manner. The confirmation should also provide a unique incident record reference number.
  • Some of the best-designed self-help portals go unused as the result of poor awareness and education programs. Users must be informed of available self-help tools and be educated on when and how to use them effectively. Companies with advanced maturity in financial management sometimes offer a discount to business units with users who make effective use of self-help portals.

Process 1b: Record Details of the User’s Request

The next process is to record the details of the user’s request.

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Figure 4. Record details of the user’s request

Activities: Record Details of the User’s Request

Once the CSR has collected the basic user contact information, the next process is to record some details of the user’s request. This information ensures that critical information is captured up front so that in the event that the user is disconnected from the CSR, he or she does not have to repeat the details.

The following table lists the activities involved in recording the details of the user’s request. These include:

  • Recording the details of the user’s request.
  • Validating the data contained in an automated Help request.

Table 6. Activities and Considerations for Recording Details of a User’s Request

Activities

Considerations

Record details of the user’s request

Key questions:

  • What technology or service is the request concerning?
  • Has the user made this request before?
  • What can’t the user do or what does the user want to achieve?
  • What does the user consider to be a successful outcome of his or her request?
  • If the user is reporting a failure, what does the failure look like?
  • How should the service or feature be performing?
  • If the user is reporting an incident, what evidence exists to confirm the incident?
  • If the user is reporting an incident, what are the steps to recreate the incident?

Inputs:

  • Information provided by the user
  • Review of previous user requests
  • The user’s description of what a failure looks like
  • The user’s understanding of how the service or feature should be performing
  • If the user is reporting an incident:
    • Evidence provided by the user to confirm the incident
    • The steps provided by the user to re-create the incident
    • Direct experience by re-creating the incident on another system or by witnessing the incident through a remote control tool
  • Event logs or monitoring tools

Output:

  • Help request updated with the details of the user’s request, which should provide input for classifying, prioritizing, and resolving the request

Best practices:

  • Use a tracking tool that provides customizable templates and question trees to help the CSR record the details of the request consistently. However, do not restrict the CSR to the point that it affects the quality of information captured.
  • The tracking tool should use drop-down lists to drive this activity; avoid free-form fields. Each drop-down list should contain an “I don’t know” choice. It is more valuable to record the number of times a CSR cannot properly categorize a request than to force the CSR to guess and choose incorrectly.
  • CSRs should be accustomed to speaking in user terms. Complex or technology-specific language should be avoided.

Validate the data included in an automated help request

Key question:

  • Is the information in the automated Help request accurate?

Inputs:

  • User information records, if available, from contact lists, HR systems, or configuration management systems
  • If necessary, contact the user directly to verify information
  • Help requests created from system alerts should be validated by reviewing the alert data and checking logs from the originating system
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