When evaluating help desk call-tracking software, you should always consider your organization's current practices and procedures, how your agents would use such a system, call queuing, routing and escalation, system integration points, and the program's reporting and adaptability. With these criteria in mind, let's look at HEAT Service & Support—an enterprise-level call tracking system from FrontRange Solutions.
HEAT Service & Support is designed for large organizations that need more than a basic call-tracking system, such as HEAT PowerDesk, FrontRange’s entry-level help desk package. Although HEAT Service & Support has features specifically designed for an enterprise help desk, its core function is nearly identical to that of its lesser sibling. I reviewed PowerDesk in a previous article, so this article will concentrate on the HEAT Service & Support features that are different from PowerDesk.
Call-tracking software evaluation toolkit
To help you evaluate call-tracking software and choose the best product for your help desk, I've developed a simple needs analysis checklist and product comparison spreadsheet. You can download this call-tracking software evaluation toolkit by following this link or by clicking on the Downloads link in the navigation bar at the top of this page.
My call-tracking software evaluation toolkit contains both a Word document and an Excel spreadsheet. To increase download speed, we've zipped these two files together into one file. You'll need an unzip utility, such as WinZip or PKZIP, to expand the zipped file. You'll also need Microsoft Word and Excel.
Agent use and call logging
The basic process of logging a call with Service & Support is the same as with PowerDesk. The Call Logging pane has four tabs: Call Log, Detail, Assignment, and Journal. Service & Support, however, allows you to categorize calls in a more detailed fashion via two-level call types and fields for service level agreement (SLA) urgency, call source, and customer service rating. As with PowerDesk, support personnel will require significant training to master Service & Support's call logging process.
Other enhancements to Service & Support include a customizable Detail tab, simpler acknowledgement and resolution of assignments, and an improved Journal tab that allows you to easily e-mail journals and make quick journal entries.
For enterprises concerned with billing and time tracking, Service & Support can automatically track the time spent on each call. These time records can be added manually, edited, or deleted to ensure an accurate record, as shown in Figure A. Through the editing process, activity descriptions can be added, if desired.
|The Activity Log screen allows you to manually edit, delete, or add time records to ensure accuracy.|
One of PowerDesk's strongest features, HEATBoard, gains the ability to categorize lead calls by teams (workgroups). HEATBoard allows support personnel to add a call ticket as a lead call for all technicians to view. Additional calls can be linked to this for automated closing when the lead call is resolved. This is particularly handy for bug fixes or system outages.
Call queuing, routing, and escalation
Like PowerDesk, Service & Support uses a rather unique call grouping system that allows support personnel to query all logged calls in a variety of ways. Techs move through the selected call group with record selectors or bring up a list window to view all records in a particular group. Call groups aren't always intuitive, so agents will need special training in working with and setting up the call groups they require.
Service & Support also takes a distinct approach to alerts and monitoring for escalation or SLA activity. A personal agent-specific monitoring system, as well as a systemwide monitoring service, is part of the standard Service & Support package.
Each technician can use Alert Monitor, shown in Figure B, to monitor the Service & Support database for various conditions and to send notifications via local audio, e-mail, or pager. The alerts are based on call groups defined in the Call Logging module. Alerts can be generated when calls are added, removed, or simply present in the selected call group. Polling times can be personally set based on need. With Alert Monitor running, agents can view a listing of calls in selected call groups and quickly log calls. This is a great tool for second-tier support techs who may not continuously log calls or for help desk managers who want to be notified when certain calls are logged—such as calls from senior executives.
|Alert Monitor can generate alerts via local audio, e-mail, or pager.|
Call escalation and SLA monitoring are handled by Service & Support's Business Process Automation module, which allows help desks to create Business Rules that are then monitored by Business Monitor—a service that runs on Windows NT or 2000. Business Rules are created using the Business Rule Editor, which has a number of common templates such as calls that are opened or closed, unchanged for X amount of time, past due dates, and so forth (see Figure C). These rules are based on the user-definable call groups constructed for call logging. Combining rule templates and call groups allows Service & Support to track and notify a wide variety of calls.
|The Business Rule Editor allows help desks to monitor call escalation and SLA compliance.|
For very large organizations, HEAT Service & Support provides the ability to transfer call tickets between HEAT installations using a comparison file to match field structures or standard e-mail messages. Auto Ticket Generation is also available to turn e-mail requests into new call tickets or to send updated information to the requestor based on the templates that have been created.
Integration with other systems and add-on modules
For complete customer relationship management, FrontRange offers integration with its GoldMine contact management system. The iHEAT Web interface and knowledge-base modules are also included.
HEAT provides asset tracking through its Asset Tracker add-on. Asset Tracker will inventory most flavors of Windows, Mac OS, UNIX, O/S2, and Linux. Libraries of software can be modified to include custom programs. The Plus Knowledge add-on allows users to obtain help information and documentation through a Web interface, which can be browsed or searched by keywords. There are also add-ons for call centers with an ACD and/or a computer telephony system, as well as a Remote Support Suite. As with PowerDesk, special call forms and reports for training and purchase order management are available within the standard call logging module.
Reporting and adaptability
Like PowerDesk, Service & Support generates reports through the Answer Wizard application, yet it contains a greater number of standard reports than PowerDesk. Reports are organized in a tree fashion and contain very useful information, including comparison reports from one time period to another. All reports are stated as questions, such as “What are our top five call causes?” and cover a wide variety of help desk metrics.
Another interesting reporting tool available only in Service & Support is the Manager's Console module, shown in Figure D. This tabbed module provides a graphical reference to issues such as overdue calls, assignments by agent, and more. You can even add your own items to track and create new queries for graphing. Unlike some areas of HEAT, customizing the Manager’s Console is very easy. This tool gives an at-a-glance look at how the help desk is performing at any moment in time.
|The Manager's Console allows you to track a variety of agent-specific metrics, such as overdue calls and current assignments.|
HEAT also allows for extensive customizations, including the ability to modify field locations on forms, add new fields, hide and delete fields, and validate or require certain fields. The wide range of customization will allow you to create the system that meets your needs. But you must take care in the planning and implementation phases of any customization development. Although it will likely add time to your rollout of Service & Support, you must take some time for backup and upgrade purposes.
System requirements and licensing
While Service & Support's features dwarf those of PowerDesk, they don't come cheap. A single-user license for HEAT Service & Support starts at $3,250. Asset Tracker runs $15 per asset (sold in bundles of 150), and HEAT Plus Knowledge is $1,195 per HEAT user. System requirements are similar to those of PowerDesk for the client machine, but additional database structures, such as Oracle and Sybase, are also available. As with PowerDesk, HEAT Service & Support will likely require greater training for users than other systems on the market.
Various walk-throughs and demos of HEAT Service & Support are available on FrontRange’s Web site, but there is no downloadable evaluation version. You must request to have a free evaluation CD mailed to you, although the company plans to make the trial downloadable.