Help Desks Get a Boost

SAN MATEO (04/21/2000) - Initiatives launched this week by e-support providers Motive and PCSupport to bolster overburdened corporate IT departments promise to aid in problem resolution and cut rising support costs.

While PCSupport partnered with Pivotal to create an e-support portal, Motive targeted IT departments through its new MotiveNet Server, expanding alliances with Dell Computer Corp., Compaq Computer Corp., and Hewlett-Packard Co., and announced a new alliance with Peregrine. The partners plan to use the newly launched MotiveNet Server to create business-to-business e-service networks.

According to Robert Igou, senior analyst at Mountain View, California-based Dataquest, MotiveNet creates a Web interface to a knowledge base of common problems that can help ease overloaded internal help desks and allow service providers to view end-user configurations, aiding problem resolution.

For companies such as Dell, Compaq, or HP, the benefits of integrating MotiveNet into their e-support offerings is obvious, allowing much of their call volume to be redirected to a server that may be able to resolve the problems without assistance from expensive help desk personnel, Igou said.

"This server will become a first line of support before the corporate help desk," Igou said.

Incorporating this latest MotiveNet technology, Dell Computer last week relaunched its Resolution Assistant, an Internet-based technical support offering that the computer maker plans to roll out in all its laptops, PCs, and servers by the end of this year, according to Gary Cotshott, vice president of services.

HP this spring will rev up its HP Instant Support, a joint venture with Motive.

The support system will be accessible via the HP Web site and will offer information on the repair and support of HP desktop PCs, laptops, workstations, and Windows NT servers, an HP official said.

Peregrine also announced it will bundle Motive technology into Peregrine's Get It offerings under the Get Help name, said Rick Berzle, spokesman for Peregrine.

If the problem can not be solved through MotiveNet's knowledge base, Igou said MotiveNet will "escalate," or assign a higher priority to, the problem automatically, referring it to the internal help desk with the end-user's relevant information.

"[They're] getting that direct information from the software and the hardware, which is a whole lot better than an end-user telling them, 'It gave me a blue screen,' " Igou said.

Because MotiveNet also allows access through corporate firewalls, the end-user can also be passed to an external service provider, such as Dell, Compaq, or HP, with all of the relevant information and configurations, Igou noted.

The company's internal help desk has options to decide what levels of information the external service provider can access, enabling a direct conversation between the external service provider and the end-user, Igou said.

For example, Dell installed a virtual Customer Help Desk option that resides within the corporate firewall, giving their customers the ability to control what information they send down to Dell's main customer support.

"[The internal help desk] can enable additional things as part of a three-way conversation [with the external service provider]," Igou said.

Enabling the external service provider to work through firewalls can also allow the provider to fix some problems remotely, without needing the end-user or the internal help desk to follow sometimes confusing instructions, said Igou.

EDS also will use Motive software in June to roll out an e-support portal, aimed at "pre-emptive support" to lower costs of support by automating the process of requests, such as a software fix or download, said Tamara Day, technology manager at EDS' global request management division.

PCSupport, not to be left out of the portal e-support game, last week announced a partnership with Pivotal to begin developing an e-support solution, initially for Pivotal's customers, then a branded support portal with services including dialer protection, data backup, interactive online support services, live chat, and remote diagnostics and repair, according to PCSupport.

Motive Communications, in Austin, Texas, is at www.motive.com. PCSupport, in Mountain View, California, is at www.pcsupport.com. Dell Computer Corp., in Round Rock, Texas, is at www.dell.com.

Helping the help desk

In its Service Management Strategies report, Meta Group analyzed some key characteristics of help desk usage.

* 15 percent to 35 percent of help desk call volumes are password resets* 25 percent to 35 percent of call volume is from new service requests or status checks* Average number of calls to help desk, per end-user in 1999: 1.75 calls per month In 2003: Three calls per month (20 percent annual increase)* Help Desk queries via Internet in 1999: 6 percent By 2003/2004: 20 percent* By 2001, 40 percent of IT help desks will migrate to IT customer service centers.

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