Scarce tech support can mean bad profitability: survey

It’s the little death in phone related tech support. When you hear the “our call volume is higher than normal” message on a tech support line, it’s difficult for end users to not let the frustration get to them. According to a recent survey of chief information officers (CIOs) in Canada, that problem is not getting better fast enough.

In the survey, commissioned by Robert Half Technology, a provider of IT professionals in Canada, more than 270 CIOs for Canadian companies acknowledged a 38 per cent disparity between what they felt was the ideal amount of technical support staff and the amount they were working with.

This means that the average amount of end users per technical support staff is 85 to one. The ideal, according to CIOs, is 53 to one.

According to Lara Dodo, Canadian regional vice-president of Robert Half Technology “understaffing in the IT support department can result in a frustrated and less productive workforce,” says Dodo. “(This) may ultimately have a negative impact to the company’s profitability.”

If that logic is sound, it means that companies who cannot reach the ideal ratio of support staff to end user are at risk of undermining the morale of that staff, frustrating end users and actually reducing bottom line profit.

Independent technology analyst Carmi Levy thinks the survey itself might stem from an outdated way of thinking. “Old-style IT loves to throw bodies at a problem. Indeed, even the methodology for this survey is somewhat questionable because it uses a straight ratio of end-users to technical support employees,” says Levy.

So, if hiring isn’t the only solution, what else can you do? If you ask Levy, he’ll say that “service management frameworks like ITIL, self-service portals and centralized monitoring can all be leveraged to reduce the load of inbound requests.”

This means, essentially, a combination of streamlining IT practices to reduce wasted time and diverting a portion of tech support callers to self-service routes. Apple, for example, has an incredibly deep support forum to direct users towards before booking time with a Genius.

It’s also important to understand where the answers to the survey come from. According to Levy, “CIOs will always want more than they have. You maintain your position at the top of the corporate IT food chain by striving to control more resources.”

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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