Should your company use a Web-based support structure?

Should IT support use a Web-based intranet site to answer simple employee questions? In this week?s Member Debate, we examine some of the pros and cons of Web-based support.

Many IT help desks receive more calls in one day than they can ever hope to answer during working hours. Some of these calls require simple solutions, while others are more complex and need special attention. But how can your help desk devote more attention to the difficult calls while not neglecting the easy ones? Web-based support may be the solution.

How does Web-based support work?
Web-based support’s sole purpose is to reduce your help desk’s call volume. Troubleshooting information is contained on either an Internet or intranet site that users can access to resolve simple problems that don’t require the assistance of a support technician.

Employees can search this site for specific problems they wish to resolve and find answers to such questions as “How do I make my screen resolution larger?” and “Where is such-and-such program located?” These sites usually include numerous screenshots to help users understand the instructions and avoid mistakes. This online support option allows the help desk’s staff to concentrate more on emergencies and complex issues that can’t be resolved by users.

The problems with Web-based support
While Web-based support may sound like the perfect solution, you shouldn’t necessarily rush into building a site. Several issues must be considered before making a final decision. These include:
  • How will your users respond to Web-based support?
    While Web-based support may sound like a great idea to you, your users may not like it one bit. After all, they are accustomed to a technician talking with them, either in person or on the phone. Users may feel Web-based support is “impersonal” and they might call the help desk anyway, using an excuse such as, “I just don’t like using that thing.”
  • The site must be built and maintained.
    Web sites can’t write themselves, and creating an informative, user-friendly site requires a significant investment of time and energy. The site must also be actively maintained. New problems and solutions must constantly be added, and out-of-date information must be removed. Supporting a support site can be a job unto itself.
  • Nothing is up 100 percent of the time.
    Web servers occasionally crash, and your help desk must be prepared for such an event. If your users are visiting the support site regularly, don’t be surprised by a flood of calls asking, “Why isn’t the support Web site working?” when there are problems.
  • People may become hesitant to call IT support for real problems.
    While this may be a rare problem, it’s important to recognize that it does exist. Some users may not call the help desk when an issue isn’t resolved. These users become so dependent on the Web-based support interface, they might fail to call the help desk if they can’t solve the problem using the Web site.

Join the debate!
Has your IT support department implemented a Web-based support option? If not, is your company considering one? If so, how is it working? Please post a message or send us a note and tell us your opinions on and experiences with Web-based support.

Editor's Picks

Free Newsletters, In your Inbox