Helping Students and Faculty Help Themselves

By Staff Contributor on July 18, 2017

education technology, higher education, help desk

Helping Students and Faculty Help Themselves


When an end user can easily look up, locate, and apply their own resolution, we have what’s called a level 0 self-service. The simplest example of this is a password reset. In an automated password reset, the end-user clicks a link, enters some identifying information, and then changes his/her password. No assistance from the support center is required, and no ticket is created. – Roy Atkinson, HDI


The trend for self-help in IT customer service has become so prevalent that the industry has coined a phrase to describe it: Shift-left. According to Roy Atkinson, writing for HDI®, the association for technical support professionals, the Shift-left movement, refers to the practice of bringing more complex work down through the tiers of support and getting the most repetitive work out to level 0, unassisted self-service, which is both efficient and cost-effective. A big proponent of the value of Shift-left, Atkinson describes the benefits as follows:

  • It relieves the support center of the expense of simple, repetitive contacts
  • It reduces the burden on level two and three support by moving some of the work to level one
  • It moves work closer to the customer, providing faster resolution and increasing customer satisfaction

At the same time, increasing demand for self-service customer support is widely seen across all industries. Forrester® Research’s December 2015 “Customer Lifecycle Survey describes a growing trend for self-service as customers “…demand accurate, relevant, and complete answers to their questions—served up as painlessly as possible—so they can get back to whatever they were doing before the issue arose,” writes Kate Legget on the Forrester blog. According to Legget, “73% of the survey’s respondents report that valuing their time is the most important thing companies can do to provide good customer service.” The Shift-left movement dovetails neatly with customers’ demand for increased access to self-help solutions in customer support.

For IT support teams at schools, universities, and colleges, self-service customer support provides solutions for issues unique to the higher education sector. The IT help desk departments across higher education battle with providing support for a diverse population of students, faculty, staff, and alumni. Most higher education customer support departments operate in multiple locations across the campus and are required to support a broad range of devices and software. Budgets are often stretched to the max, and support teams generally include student technicians, so the turnover in employees is higher than the turnover in other industries.

Self-help IT support works for both the customer and technician. For the customer, access to the self-service of Knowledge Base (KB) articles and frequently asked questions (FAQ) pages for answers to basic questions can mean a quick resolution to a problem. For the IT department, being able to display self-service knowledge base articles related to service requests automatically can reduce the number of inbound customer support requests, which frees the team for higher-level troubleshooting.

A growing number of IT support departments in higher education are automating many aspects of help desk functionality with web-based software. Web-based help desk solutions can make it easy and fast to sort a knowledge base into searchable silos of information for self-resolution. These web-accessible knowledge management solutions allow customers to be self-sufficient, which can help reduce costs. This is significant, since the cost per incident for a self-service resolution is less than half the cost of a walk-up or even a phone incident resolution, according to HDI’s research.

The FAQ functionality serves a valuable role in this process. For common and repetitive service issues, a web-based help desk solution like SolarWinds®’ Web Help Desk®, can help the support tech to query a knowledge base article that resolves the request and injects a hot link to the FAQ right in the trouble ticket note. Fast, easy, and done. As an added benefit, as the team notices repetitive topics or issues that follow the same resolution, they can submit the service request and its resolution for review and inclusion into the knowledge base. They are then able to share the information with everyone or limit sharing to a select audience.

According to the research by Forrester, the numbers of web and mobile self-service interactions are higher than other channels, primarily because the customer perceives these channels to offer the least amount of interaction friction. What higher education IT support teams have learned is that by automating the help desk function and building robust external and internal knowledge bases, they can provide a higher level of overall customer service and support, and reduce some of the related costs.

For IT support teams considering moving to a web-based solution there are several characteristics of a good higher ed support tool to look for, including being easy to learn and manage. Because of the high turnover in student techs, it’s important to be able to introduce the software to a wide range of skills levels and to be confident the staff will be able to manage it without issue. The tool should include directory, incidents, service requests, remote support, knowledge base, asset management, and mobile functionality.

With the chosen web-based help desk tool, the IT support team should be able to:

  • Automate ticket creation, assignment, routing, and escalation
  • Automatically discover, manage, and report on asset inventory
  • Promote end-user self-service with a built-in Knowledge Base (KB)
  • Regulate and manage change requests by automating workflows
  • Use built-in reports and dashboards, or build custom ones
  • Generate performance and SLA compliance reports
  • Offer knowledge suggestions
  • Manage IT easily
  • Add or subtract user access easily


SolarWinds® Web Help Desk® is available for a free trial. Click here to download your free trial and evaluate it for yourself. SolarWinds® Web Help Desk® is designed to be quick to download, easy to install, and simple to use.

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