Many higher education institutions struggle to offer the best possible technical support. There is frequently a lot of red tape for students and professors to cut through, and it’s not uncommon for academic institutions to be hampered by tight budgets — meaning they don’t often spend enough to offer the best possible support. There is a pervasive perception of miscommunication and bad service, owing to a large chunk of the support process being outsourced.
The most savvy higher education institutions are finding ways to cut through this red tape by embracing new tools and technologies. By implementing new technologies, these institutions have empowered their own students to support internal users, resulting in higher customer satisfaction and cost savings.
Transitioning to a cloud-based customer support system may seem overwhelming to small colleges, but it doesn’t need to be. Institutions like Lesley University, based in Cambridge, Mass., are proving that a small budget and employee base don’t need to equate to a lower quality of support.
Lesley University is a private university with approximately 7,000 students and is well known for its education, creative writing, counseling and fine arts programs. The university had been using an outsourced company to manage its IT helpdesk. When students submitted their requests, they received inconsistent responses. They often spoke to service representatives with various accents, making it confusing for students to know from where their support was coming. The agents on the other end didn’t really understand the campus culture and nuances, and users were often getting answers late.
Prompted by complaints from students, Charles Cooper, assistant director of information technology at Lesley University, recognized a need in his department for a more comprehensive support system. Taking customer support in-house with the help of a cloud-based customer support system helped him solve three pain points: delivering quicker and better support, reaching students no matter where they are, and transforming customer support into an engaging activity for student agents.
Offering local and uniform support
In 2013, Cooper was tasked with bringing Lesley University’s IT support back in-house to make it more accessible and user-friendly. He wanted to find a system that would help them own customer support, do it all in house and take customer satisfaction to a whole new level. He also realized the potential he had to teach students the ins and outs of IT support through first-hand experience.
Cooper turned to Freshdesk, the cloud-based customer support platform, to implement an easy-to-setup and intuitive help desk that made it possible to put university students on the front lines of customer service and IT troubleshooting. Ultimately, Cooper hired more student workers, creating more on-campus jobs, and gave his students valuable IT experience they couldn’t find elsewhere at a liberal arts university.
They offered support in a variety of areas from resetting passwords and establishing .edu email addresses to accessing the school’s Wi-Fi. Cooper also used Freshdesk to create and share scripts that answer the most common support questions. By doing this, he created a uniform approach to service, something that was missing from the previous helpdesk. When new students came on board as agents, they were able to quickly pick up troubleshooting knowledge by looking at these scripts.
By using a local cloud-based help desk and student employees, universities can ensure the messages they are sending to students are aligned with their brand while making sure students get help when they need it.
Reaching students where they are
At Lesley University, the IT office is on the far end of a two-mile campus. It can take his agents nearly 30 minutes to walk to work if they are coming from the other end of campus. One feature Cooper particularly liked about Freshdesk was the platform’s mobile integration. With the Freshdesk mobile app, his agent can login from their phones and offer support on the go.
Additionally, Cooper found that with Freshdesk, his agents could communicate with students through the channels that meant the most to them. Although the Lesley University network worked smoothly more often than not, positive feedback was rarely retweeted. Cooper noticed an increasing number of complaints rolling in through social media and used Freshdesk to mitigate those complaints.
Freshdesk enabled the IT team to monitor any mention of Lesley University on social media that was related to IT issues. When they spotted an issue, the team would pull it into the platform’s ticketing system and assign it to an agent to handle. Another benefit for Cooper was that he could allow his students to respond to issues via social media directly from the platform, so he did not have to share the login credentials for the university’s social accounts.
Systems such Freshdesk enable higher education institutions to help their students get the on-the-go answers they need. This technology also allows multiple users to respond to social media complaints without sharing login credentials with a high volume of individuals. These capabilities make it possible to offer the best support to students whenever and however they need it.
Making support fun for agents
Customer service support can often be a mundane and repetitive job, leading to high employee turnover. This is especially true for student-based support jobs — college students can become easily distracted at work by their personal and educational lives. Cooper needed to implement a system that would make offering support fun.
Freshdesk’s gamification aspect, which lets support agents score points with each incoming ticket, allowed Lesley University to make the helpdesk more fun and turn customer support into an attractive job for student representatives. The system challenged students to earn points for closing tickets and receiving positive customer reviews.
Cooper established quests, such as “close 10 tickets with positive customer satisfaction ratings in a week.” The challenge leaders would get special recognition among their peers, creating an environment of healthy competition. These challenges also proved beneficial to students as they claimed more talking points on their resumes. The school found that as more students participated in gamification, they were happier at work and provided better customer support.
Better support leads to happier customers
As institutions implement cloud-based customer support software, they’ll find they not only save money, but also their employees and customers are happier. The numbers speak for themselves.
After each ticket is resolved, Freshdesk lets Lesley collect feedback on the service through a customer satisfaction survey. Lesley University’s old support provider operated on a five-star system and customer satisfaction teetered around four stars, or about 80 percent. Lesley University now has 95 percent positive customer satisfaction.
Universities can leverage internal teams to help students find the answers they need by focusing their IT support efforts through a cloud-based helpdesk. This new focus will also help universities save money while providing jobs for students. Investing in a simplified and intuitive approach to customer support can help universities make the most of their resources while improving student satisfaction.
— Alan Berkson is the Director of Community Outreach at Freshdesk, a cloud-based customer support platform that was founded with the mission of enabling companies of all sizes to provide great customer service. For more information, go online to www.freshdesk.com.