Assigning Shared Service Desk Agents to New Accounts
The shared staffing model combines primary agents and pooled resources to achieve consistency, to increase the number of agents with in-depth knowledge of the account, and to leverage these shared resources for handling call spikes and peak periods. This model offers great flexibility and scalability yet still ensures that end users talk to agents who know them as well as the client’s culture and environment. In addition, a pool of secondary agents is trained to handle the client contacts for 24x7x365 support, absences, and/or unexpected peaks in volume due to outages or rollouts. And for long-term or permanent call volume increases brought on by mergers, acquisitions, or service expansion to separate business units, additional agents are prepped for assignment to the new account.
There are clients, however, who prefer the dedicated model which assigns agents solely to one account and no others. This option is selected for various reasons along with the understanding that there is less flexibility when monthly call volumes fluctuate especially during unanticipated peak periods. Clients electing the per incident/shared agent model occasionally make the false assumption that, by contrast, shared agents support every client outside of the dedicated model. This is not the case. In fact, agent assignments are typically segmented based on relevant technical expertise, peak coverage hours, and process versus resolution driven support models. Although each client is unique, aligning the proper agents with like disciplines both procedurally and technically shortens the learning curve when transitioning assignments.
That being said, assigning additional agents to a shared model client is not as simple as flipping a switch. Even assuming they are familiar with the client’s ITSM platform, supported O/S and applications, and are proficient in resolving their most common issues experienced at Level 1, additional training is a must. Although the tools and technology could conceivably be identical from client to client, processes, workflows, and how those tools are tweaked and applied are unique to each IT environment. So before agents are transitioned into a new account they undergo several training sessions conducted alongside the Team Lead or Subject Matter Expert. Agents attend remote WebEx sessions with the client’s management team where hypothetical incident walkthroughs are performed and, on a self-study basis, review captured video sessions as well as a plethora of procedural documents. For healthcare and financial industry clients secure data (PHI and PII) compliance training is tacked on to the technical portion after which agents submit relevant agreements along with access requests for client’s internal systems.
Part of the client specific training process involves getting to know their end-user demographic or profession as that often indicates the equipment, applications, and systems accessed. The needs of medical insurance and hospital personnel can vary greatly from those in manufacturing, financial, and education industries. For example, nurses or other perpetually mobile healthcare professionals frequently experience access and connectivity issues, but since they use a combination of laptops or access a virtual machine from a workstation, agents learn to ask their current location. In turn, they can identify the correct device assigned to the caller in their ITSM profile and, after authenticating ID and passcode, reset the virtual machine or restore VPN connectivity for the laptop. If the caller is not sure which machine they’re trying to remote to, agents are also trained to sort hardware by the latest accessed date and confirm the equipment ID number. But many of these troubleshooting techniques hinge on the ITSM capabilities specific to each client.
While supporting financial industry personnel, agents direct end users to close out any sensitive account or credit union data should they need to perform a remote desktop troubleshooting session via TeamViewer. Since it’s a standard Level 1 function, agents can also perform remote application installs during these sessions, but if the caller is requesting a program be added to their personal, home PC, agents most follow client protocol in terms of liability and, in some instances, can only instruct the user which icons and buttons to click until the installation is complete.
For all industries where data security is of paramount importance, agents must learn client dictated security parameters. For enterprise clients running AS400, how many days can an end user go without access before they’re removed? Can end users submit an access request web form for reinstatement or is the issue escalated to the client’s network support team? What are the commands in TPX for authorizing access to the mainframe for a suspended user’s account? What procedures must the agent follow for mapping a drive to re-enable Host on Demand access?
Understandably, there is a significant amount of client specific information for each agent to digest before handling contacts over the phone, via email, or text message. But since the client’s ROI increases as the agents supporting them become more proficient, keeping them permanently assigned to that account is a service desk outsourcing best practice. As the cumulative proficiency of the shared team that’s assigned to the account increases so does the client’s contracted resolution rate. So building on that familiarity with the client’s people, processes, and technology translates to a shared success for both.