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Should you accept IT support calls via email?

Far too much contact to the IT Service Desk is still channelled via email. While a lot of this demand is better channelled via a well-designed web-based customer portal (as discussed in a prior post), often there are examples where a phone call would have been the best option by far.

I have seen email dialogues between the customer and the Service Desk that take days and which could have been replaced with a 5 minute phone call. But Service Desk staff and Team Leaders can be big fans of email as a method of contact instead of phone. If you don’t take a step back and look at the bigger picture, email can seem quicker – just a quick reply, file the email away, job done (for now). But for both the Service Desk and the customer the ensuing dialogue can take a while and the Service Desk is just generating a growing queue of work for itself. Misunderstandings in what information is required are slowly worked out over days, where verbal contact could’ve addressed this in seconds.

Additionally, any student of communication will know that the further we go from face-to-face contact the more we lose big chunks of the message. Losing body language is bad enough, but acceptable given the advantages of centralising the Service Desk, but when you then lose verbal cues (tone of voice), and also lose real time dialogue to rapidly clear-up misunderstandings and to provide immediate service, the price becomes significantly higher. The efficiency of a well-designed, properly-implemented customer portal can outweigh some of these negatives, and is much better than email, but there are still instances where phone is better than either, for the reasons outlined above. And for truly urgent issues, real time dialogue with the Service Desk is always preferable.

What about real time chat? This may have a place for your Service Desk; it can be less scary and feel like less of a big deal to make contact for the customer. Some people don’t much like picking up the phone and talking to strangers. But it is still slower and still does not provide that verbal component. Real time chat is increasingly becoming an option for contacting service providers though, and is something I’ll talk about in a future blog post.

Finally, when the customer calls you, addressing their issue is clearly their priority in that moment, and they will make themselves available at least for a few minutes to address it. If you receive an email (or even something logged via a customer portal) and then decide you’d be better off talking on the phone with the customer anyway, odds are that at the time you call they will not be immediately available, or at least not as happy to work with you right then.

So what is the solution?

  1. Have just phone and portal as the two channels into the Service Desk.
  2. Work out which types of incident and request are best channelled to the phone and which to the portal.
  3. Develop and execute a plan of action to get customers using the right channel for the right things.

To achieve these three things may take some effort, but in terms of providing the best response and service to your customers it is worth it.

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