Cal State Helps the Help Desk

California State University, San Bernardino, is a sprawling campus. With 64 buildings on 430 acres, it's not easy to find your way around quickly.
No one knows that better than the university's support technicians, who traverse the campus daily responding to calls for technical assistance. Before setting out, they carefully map their routes to ensure the most efficient use of their time.
Even so, technicians were getting a workout by showing up at the wrong locations. On a campus the size of a small town, it is hard to keep track of more than 1,500 staff members as they change jobs and offices. When a staffer calls the help desk, the caller's name and location are displayed, but the accuracy of the information hinges on how recently the phone directory has been uploaded into the Heat database, a customer relationship management application from FrontRange Solutions Inc.
To ensure that technicians did not waste time going to old locations, Jeffrey Hicks, director of data center services in Cal State's Information Resources and Technology Support Center, customized the Heat system by creating a green box with a large yellow check box to remind technicians to double-check the caller's location. It was a simple solution that made his job and his technicians' jobs immediately easier. "It was a three-minute fix," Hicks says. "Next time the technicians logged in, there was a check box. I stopped getting complaints immediately."
Hicks has often customized the Heat system in response to the university's needs. "I consider myself proficient in PC and mainframe applications, but I'm far from a programming expert," he says. "That's how easy the system was to customize."
From the outset, the ability to customize was at the top of the university's demands for support center software. "It was a consensus from the selection committee that we must have the flexibility to customize the system," Hicks says. "The user interface Heat has—with the convenient tabs and little check marks—is great. Little things like that really make the product exceptional."
Hicks also customized the system to streamline electronic processing of tests, a function assigned to the data center. Previously, professors would drop off tests and write the test information on a sign-in sheet. The data center staff would assign the job a number, process it, and put the test results behind the counter for the professors to pick up the next day. To Hicks, the paper-based system was inefficient and disorganized. He also thought the new system would save professors time by having their results ready sooner.
So he built a detail table for the key information needed, and the system was ready to go. Now when tests have been processed, professors automatically receive e-mail notification. Plus, Hicks used a reports feature to generate custom reports that track the number of sheets run through the university's Scantron Corp. test-scanning machine each month. That way, the data center staffers know when to perform preventive maintenance.
"Before, job tracking was very time-intensive, and data gathering was all manual," Hicks says. "Now we're more precise with tracking." His vision was to install Heat campus-wide, with the data center serving as the central point of contact for all campus calls.
To do this, he launched a pilot program in the College of Arts and Letters. First, the technician assigned to the college provided him with a list of first-level questions for service and support staff to ask. Hicks then customized Heat to accommodate those questions and designed the system so that, when a call comes in, a first-level technician simply has to type the caller's phone extension and the software automatically supplies the caller's name and e-mail address. Based on the caller's location, Heat can automatically assign a work order to the appropriate technician.
The customization and implementation process went smoothly. "I was able to build the call groups and detail tables in just a couple of days for them to review," Hicks says. As the first point of contact for the college, the help desk can now often resolve problems on the first call, saving about three to four hours per day. "Now, they're only having to deal with things they truly need to be involved in," he says. "They're not having to answer the phone. They can actually do their work."
Cal State now uses nearly the full range of Heat functions, including Web-enablement, the Business Process Automation Module, Auto Ticket Generator, and customer self-service. "The support given to the campus would not be as proficient without Heat," Hicks says. "It has made all the difference."

For more information, contact Jeffrey Hicks at jhicks@csusb.edu.

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