Tech Trends: The Evolution of Support Center Software


by Roy Atkinson


For a long time, the average lifecycle for support center software—including both simpler ticket management tools and more sophisticated IT service management systems—has been three to five years. This may seem like a relatively short period of time to those of us who have gone through the costly and complicated process of replacement or upgrade. After all, it takes a lot of time to properly plan and execute a software transition and train everyone involved.

Consider what’s happened in our professional world over the past five years (bearing in mind that the iPhone 3G was announced in July 2008 as a replacement for the first-generation iPhone). BlackBerry was the mobile device for business, largely because it could be managed. ITIL v3 was gaining widespread acceptance. In 2008, Facebook was just passing 100 million users, as opposed to the one-billion-plus users it has today. These statistics are not irrelevant to the discussion of support center software.

For years we’ve known that most end users/customers don’t pick up the phone and call support at the first sign of trouble. They ask their officemates, their supervisors, or their search engines first. They’ve developed their own networks of trusted advisors. (“Jeannie always knows what to do when my software doesn’t work right.”) We also know that the new generation(s) of workers doesn’t necessarily like to make phone calls (or receive them). This is why chat integration into ticketing software is a growing trend: demand has increased. According to the latest HDI Support Center Practices & Salary Report, “the percentage of organizations using chat to create tickets increased from 21 percent in 2011 to 25 percent in 2012.”

Solution providers have responded to our desire to do things socially; they’ve begun to rethink the entire way incidents and requests are entered, tracked, assigned, and resolved. Several providers have developed software suites that are completely built around the idea of following issues the way we do on Twitter, in Facebook, and in wikis. The exchange of ideas among individuals—crowdsourcing, if you will—is being built into new tools that, while bearing IT service management principles in mind, are more focused on getting information to the right people at the right time, using the paradigms of major consumer platforms like Facebook, iTunes, and Amazon.

Change is underway: We’re seeing a shift from the traditional “issue and response” model to a newer model based on knowledge and methods of interacting that come directly from the social media world, enabling us to be far more collaborative and efficient. You’ll soon be following the issues (incidents and requests) that concern you and sharing questions and answers from all around your organization. The social approach to solutions will remove barriers between support and its customers.

Tag(s): support center, tools

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