IUG 2001 Conference Proceedings

Table of Contents

Session: J3

Service Issues

Jennifer Merrill, Dartmouth College
Katrina Anderson, Innovative Interfaces
Faye Chartoff, Innovative Interfaces

This was an open forum to discuss service and customer satisfaction with members of the Innovative staff. Katrina remarked that it would be a very valuable session because users' suggestions help enhance service and make III's staff more aware of customer needs. Here are questions/topics that were discussed:

(1) Some service requests get answered immediately while others take a long time. Does the Help Desk do any sort of triage to deal with this?
When you call the Help Desk, you will get a generalist who will ask you to briefly describe the problem. If a specialist in that area is available, you will be transferred. The specialist will either resolve the problem then or begin troubleshooting it. Similarly when requests are submitted via e-mail, the triage people review issues and either route them to the appropriate specialists or bring them to the attention of the Help Desk managers. If you have concerns about the way a problem is being handled, feel free to escalate the call.

(2) There seems to be a tendency to close calls too soon. Do some calls get closed just because they are old or too long?
There is a record size limit (very large) for calls. If it's necessary to open another call due to size, the two calls will be linked. Calls aren't closed just because they are old. If you feel this has happened, you can request that the call be reopened.

(3) Sometimes calls are opened and customers are not aware of it. How does that happen?
The chief example of this would be calls that are opened on the customer's behalf as a result of the automated system monitor. These may not be brought to your attention immediately, but at some point they will be.

(4) Can adequate notice be given to sites if III needs to shut down their system? Sometimes this happens with very little notice.
This would be a very unusual situation. III is very sensitive to the disruption caused by shutting down a system and tries to avoid forcing a shutdown on anyone unless there is a crisis.

(5) What exactly does the automated monitoring system do? Specifically if the load average on a system gets very high (which may in itself indicate a serious problem), does the system lose the ability to e-mail out thereby preventing the AMS from reporting difficulties?
Yes, the send mail option will not function if the load average is too high. The load average must be very high for this to happen. III is working to change this. The AMS checks to see if control is stopped on your system. It catches that probably 95-98% of the time. The AMS checks on initialized space for the number of records in your system. It also monitors for unusually high numbers of error reports. III does not use the AMS utility to monitor software-only sites.

(6) What is the status of the team leader concept?
III has gotten away from team leaders. What they prefer is that you escalate a call through the person who owns it. Contact the Help Desk managers for a lack of response to your call or for larger service issues. A list of the managers can be found on CSDirect. The initial role of the team leader was reactive rather than proactive. It seems better to have the management team involved. When III decides on what system is best, they will make an official announcement.

(7) Are there plans for upgrading the "View Open Calls" section of CSDirect? Because of the number of open calls, the lack of a person associated with specific calls, and the fact that calls sometime disappear from CSDirect, some sites are creating their own call tracking systems.
Some of these problems may be communication errors on III's part rather than something that would be addressed by enhancements to "View Open Calls." The names of staff working on calls are not listed in CSDirect for departments like Product Development and Software Engineering. The Help Desk will pursue issues involving these departments. Enhancements will be made to "View Open Calls" in the next 4-6 weeks: (1) calls will be listed in reverse chronological order (newest calls first); and (2) real-time updating of calls will begin sometime in June. The staff will include more meaningful information about calls.

(8) The results of some calls are reported by mediators rather than the person who actually worked on the call. In these cases answers to questions may be difficult to obtain. If an issue has not really been resolved, this lack of communication makes the solution more problematic.

(9) Sometimes a call is closed because a fix is available in the next update. Is it possible to leave the call open until the fix has been installed and the problem has actually been resolved? Currently there is no record of that call on CSDirect. Is a "closed" calls database needed?
III will look into the idea of making these kinds of calls available to customers for a short period of time. If these calls need to be reopened that's not really a tracking problem. It's a sign that the job wasn't done right in the first place.

(10) Can libraries get fuller explanations when a call is closed, so they will know what happened and perhaps avoid doing it again? Was it a training issue or an anomaly that could occur again?
III will tell you, if it's a user training issue. If they put out a whole lot of details on each problem, it will slow response time. Staff try to assess what the customer needs to know.

(11) Sometimes it seems there's a push to get a call closed, when the problem hasn't really been fixed. Are there time constraints placed on III staff to get them to close calls faster?
Yes and no. III wants staff to get a lot of calls closed and to get their work done, but they want it to be done correctly. Katrina will take the "quality" message back to her staff.

(12) What are III's performance standards for responding to calls? How long should it take for a problem to be resolved?
The initial automated response is actually a template chosen by a Help Desk staff member, who reviews the type and urgency of the call. You should get that response within an hour or two, since this is monitored 24 hours a day. Depending on the problem it will vary how quickly the person assigned to the call gets back to you. Hardware problems will be responded to sooner. Setting response times is difficult because calls tend to be cyclical depending on where we are in a release or in an academic year. Calls are normally heavy at the beginning of a release.

(13) Would it be possible to have III staff who specialize in the history of particular libraries? These folks would be familiar with issues a library has had in the past and would prevent sites from having to re-explain problems with ongoing histories to the Help Desk.
This is a realistic expectation. It's helpful if you let the Help Desk know that you've had a particular problem in the past, because they tend not to go back through the history of all of your calls. The current tracking software is not equipped to deal with all the relevant information about your library. Some of this info is in separate databases that would need to be combined. III is aware of the problem and is working toward a solution.

(14) Can you assume that if you call the Help Desk, they will know that your call is urgent?
You need to make it a point to tell the Help Desk if your problem is urgent, so that the appropriate action is taken. Some libraries are more comfortable calling about everything, so the Help Desk might not know the difference between what is urgent and what is not.

(15) Several people commented on communication problems with Customer Sales. One library assumed they were in the queue for training, but later found out they were not. Another library had money to spend, but had a hard time getting quotes in a timely manner.

(16) Calls seem to be taking longer to get resolved in the last six months. Is there a particular reason for this?
Katrina was surprised that response time hadn't gotten better recently. The last couple of years have been hard for Customer Services. The Y2K problem included upgrading hardware for about 100 systems. Last year there was a learning curve for staff with the new Millennium modules. The staff turnover problem due to dot.com competition has stabilized. Katrina thinks they've turned a corner on response time.

(17) Would slowing down the pace of new releases help to improve service response time?
This question drew mixed reaction from the audience. It is a juggling act. III is trying to see what works best. Last year was experimental with all the software updates. The early release adopter period allows the release to be more robust. Release 2001 should be a lot more stable by the time it goes into general release. This should lessen the need for patches and updates. The reality is that the release cycle is shorter than you think. Also, because Millennium is a new product, there is a lot of pressure for increased functionality.

David A. Badertscher, Washington and Lee University