Tiner’s Take on Customer Service Through Controls

“Our rooms talk to us,” says Scott Tiner, Assistant Director for Classroom Technologies at Bates College. In his recent InfoCOMM webinar titled Leveraging Existing Technologies to Create Exceptional Customer Service Tiner mapped out the importance of tapping the usage-tracking capabilities of the technologies we already have in place in order to maximize not just customer service, but also to contribute valuable data to institutional planning.

This is important stuff. Networked control systems can do much more than just dim the lights and raise the volume, all current systems provide hooks to a database in which every button-push and device-selection is recorded and time-stamped. Furthermore, graphic touch panels offer the added benefit of serving as real-time trouble-shooting tools that can minimize session interruptions and empower users to “fix the glitch” before it turns into everyone’s problem.

Lesson One: Harness your data and make it work for you

No helpdesk operation is immune to the errant user who fires off a hostile tale of woe to the boss in the corner office. Perhaps they woke up on the wrong side of the bed. Or maybe it was just one of those days when, despite best intentions, things go horribly awry. We all have those days.

But from the big boss’s perspective, he imagined that you had everything under control… and now THIS changes everything.

Tiner notes that, while this certainly is a critical time for data (remember that “data” is represented in the “I” of “IT”), the best time for data would have been a year earlier. At that time, free of the taint of grumpy users demanding someone’s head on a stick, the savvy technology director could have begun to brief the administration on the nature of learning technology support.

So, although the help desk fielded 64 trouble tickets in Fall 2010, that represents a failure rate of about 1% when aggregated across 5865 total events… A 99% success rate!

When coupled with trends that show improved service over time, that’s powerful stuff.

Lesson Two: Success is more than finding and fixing the problem, it’s about helping users forget they even had a technical difficulty

The latter opportunity is crucial to successful customer support. At Bates College, an outbound technician must travel across campus to the classroom before taking the time to evaluate the problem and render a solution. Scott’s team implemented a robust library of self-help pages that the user could access right from the touch panel.

Service data indicated that 15% of the time, the instructor had already resolved the problem by the time the technician arrived, nonetheless, the ordeal of poking buttons and rebooting machines left a bad taste in their mouths.

With that, Tiner’s group set the goal of decreasing the amount of time it took to resolve common problems. On closer inspection, the data revealed one of the most common problems was the lack of a laptop video signal (aka the notorious “Fn-F8” problem). His programmers set to work adjusting the controls to check for a video signal when the “Display Laptop” button was pressed. If the system finds no sync signal, the touch panel displays a self-help prompt for the user to try two easy steps (one of which will usually do the trick) and the on-screen message disappears when system detect video sync.

And the outcomes? Tiner reports that users are engaged in the solution and, consequently, they never perceive that they have a technical difficulty. Instead, the instructor finishes class having a completely positive technical experience. Furthermore, manpower is conserved (30-45 minutes saved per incident) by eliminating the need to dispatch outbound technicians. Bravo!

Scott Tiner is the chairman of InfoCOMM’s Technology Managers Council and a regular contributor on AV-1. Take in Scott’s webinar here (contact info required) and share your thoughts below and on the AV-1 list.

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