4 Tips for Virtual IT Support Success



While many institutions face great challenges in providing adequate support for students, faculty, and staff, traditional Help Desk models are being put to the test. Today, most institutions provide some form of virtual IT support through various methods. With current events, some institutions still provide phone support, but have reduced hours, while some have adopted live chat or have found other creative ways to provide support, and some provide support only by email and web.

There’s no question that students and faculty have struggled with the changes they have faced due to COVID-19. With so much uncertainty about the future of the college campus in Fall 2020 and beyond, institutions are searching for the most cost-effective and high-quality means in providing virtual support. Fall 2020 will be an interesting academic year, and it’s crucial to have a good support system in place. 

IT’s role in this whole matter is to ensure the continuity of teaching and learning by providing strategic direction for the institution so faculty and students have the most effective tools, training, and support to be successful. However, with the certainty of budget cuts happening across institutions all over, the planning to provide the best tools, training, and support possible will have to be done very strategically.

Let’s look at four considerations to make in planning for Fall 2020 and beyond for virtual IT support.

1. Automation & AI Tools

The volume of support requests continues to rise due to COVID-19, while budgets are tighter than ever. A cost-effective way to provide support to the most pressing questions is through automation and A.I. technologies.

For example, we know that the most common call for any Help Desk is a password reset. Institutions have tried many ways to provide self-service technology on the web to enable users to reset their passwords themselves, but regardless, the password reset remains the top call volume driver. Implementing IVR Password Reset technology and integrations into different authentication tools and directories can significantly decrease your support request volume.

Clark State Community College utilizes automation tools within their phone trees to provide password reset assistance for users. As a result of this automation, password reset interactions have been cut down by nearly half.

A gas to the fire of digital transformation across campuses, chatbots enable institutions to provide better student engagement in both proactive and reactive communication methods. Chatbots are always available and can answer many of the repetitive support questions on a tremendous scale. While taking on chatbot projects can be time-consuming, there are significant benefits of using a robust and integrated tool. Working with a partner to implement a chatbot for your institution helps you reap the benefits of a robust tool without the added project burden to your staff.

2. Multi-Channel Support

Providing multi-channel support can get complicated because the more modalities you include, the harder it becomes to staff. However, in a virtual support environment, you should seriously consider having multiple options available for end-users from phone, email, web, and chat.

With the impact that COVID-19 has had on institutions we serve here at Blackboard, there’s been a massive shift away from phone calls in the number of support interactions. We’re now seeing nearly 30% of interactions coming in from channels other than phone calls, with a jump over 5% in live chat usage.

“Chat with a live advisor has steadily increased in popularity for Miami over the last two years. This channel merges the advantages of a phone call—back and forth conversation in near real time—with the advantages of email, such as allowing multi-tasking and sharing digital resources such as URLs easily. While the end-to-end transaction may take longer than a phone call in many cases, the actual investment of effort is substantially lower with equal or better outcomes,” says Bob Black, Assistant Director of IT Planning and Process, Miami University, Ohio

3. 24×7 Support

As institutions consider a mix of online models for the fall and beyond, it is critical to provide support at all times. In Higher Education today, teaching and learning never stops, and support needs to be ready in the moment of need. This is especially true with online environments with high populations of non-traditional students.  

While self-service and automation tools are excellent for providing 24×7 support, you should also consider having live people available throughout the day. The rise of technology across campuses and its growing accessibility for students, faculty, and staff around the clock makes it even more important to have support resources available.

For us, nearly one-third of support requests come during non-traditional business hours across our IT help desk services, and COVID-19 has only caused an increase as institutions moved online.

4. New Coverage Models

Finally, it’s time to assess new coverage models to deploy in the virtual environment. Virtual support services enable further considerations in new sourcing models for Help Desk. Partnering with a company like Blackboard can allow an institution to scale virtual support quickly, lessen burdens, complement budgets, and provide high-quality support to end-users. 

We have multiple service options that can help optimize your help desks and provide cost-effective ways to expand your capabilities through:

  • 24×7 Tier 1 IT & LMS Help Desk Services: providing fast, high-quality support, acting as the first line of support at all times of the day
  • 24×7 Overflow Augmented Services: providing overflow options for institutions with large volumes to increase scale and keep tight service levels
  • Nights and Weekends Services: providing wrap-around services for institutions to ensure the lights are always on

Institutions have done an exceptional job of keeping things up and running during this pandemic. As we look ahead at the semesters to come, it’s an opportune time to be thinking about the future of IT and how you can provide the best support structure for your institution.

Learn more about our IT Help Desk services including Blackboard Chatbot for LMS. We partner with higher education institutions to support universal technology applications and provide 24/7/365 multi-modal responsiveness, scalability, knowledge-based capabilities, and highly trained resources to internal IT departments. We’re solving the widening service gap with a strategic and cost-effective plan for virtual support. Read the datasheets for Help Desk Services and Blackboard Chatbot for LMS to learn more and start planning for the semesters ahead.