Integrated Helpdesk Solutions

Want to improve the efficiency and service offered by your helpdesk? An automated system will deliver both, along with a host of other benefits, discusses FSI's Karl Broom with Essential FM Report.

The helpdesk or call centre is the Thin Blue Line of any FM operation. It is the first port of call for the end user. It is the first cog to turn in the FM response, setting all the other wheels in motion. It can be fair to say that an FM offering can only be as good as its helpdesk. Which is why automating it can help deliver an integrated solution that improves customer satisfaction and efficiency across the FM operation.

Improved helpdesk efficiency
Automation can revolutionise the efficiency of a helpdesk that has been logging calls manually or on an Excel spreadsheet. For a start, an operator backed by an integrated software solution can handle more calls. The key to this is integration: for maximum returns, your helpdesk solution should be integrated with other software, such as the internal phone directory. By prepopulating the system with personal details of staff, it can automate a lot of the information that was previously being entered manually for each call; for example the system can automatically upload the caller's email address, telephone extension and where they are located.

But that is just the start. CAFM offers ‘cradle to grave' management of each call. Your helpdesk already knows the work flow that needs to be created from each type of call to deliver successful solutions. CAFM offers the ability to automate this work flow: the programmed menus list all of the faults typically logged with machinery and facilities, with each option automatically triggering a cascade of actions required to deliver the solution, along with estimated timescales and costs.

For example, if you register a broken lift, the system can prioritise the urgency of the task, define the disciplines and skill sets required to mend the lift, anticipate delivery times for spare parts, book the necessary engineer, raise a purchase order, email the end client an update of the progress and estimated repair time, and produce any necessary invoice. All of which frees the operator to handle more calls, at the same time as enabling the helpdesk to drive all of the FM services that need to fall into place to deliver the necessary solution. (Of course, the most sophisticated drop-down menu in the world can't cover all eventualities, and the system should have the flexibility for operatives to enter information manually, rather than pigeonholing them to the expected range of variations.)

A CAFM solution that offers integrated mobility will enable the helpdesk to be even more service focused. On-site engineers can update progress and order necessary spare parts from the field, keeping the helpdesk fully informed without having to call in; the software can automatically raise any necessary POs, email an update to the end user and book any subsequent engineer visit. Which gives the helpdesk operatives even more time to concentrate on end-user calls.

Improved operational efficiency
Automatically capturing the cost and time of every call provides useful insights to improve efficiency across the FM operation. The system will automatically identify duplicate calls to eliminate duplicate solutions. Tasks that vary from the estimated time and costs can be flagged for authorisation, enabling closer management of situations that fall outside the expected range. If certain repairs are consistently taking longer than the estimated time, you can analyse where the problem lies and take corrective action. Is there an issue with the delivery time of spare parts? Is one engineer consistently taking longer to implement repairs than others? Is additional training required to make sure you are not draining costs throughout the duration of the contract?

Information is key to effective FM management, and the information provided by a CAFM solution can enable you to have a view of the performance of both staff and plant through easy-tointerpret operational dashboards. At a glance, you can examine fluctuations in repair time, seasonal spikes or even daily P+L for a contract. By benchmarking your trend analysis, you can improve your forecasting, helping you refine budgets for maintenance and investment. Having all of this information readily available to the helpdesk can enable operatives to monitor performance against Key Performance Indicators and Service Level Agreements and make early interventions to prevent breaches.

CAFM can also interact with suppliers to create an even more stream-lined response for the end user. In the case of the broken lift, if a quote is required, the software can invite tenders from several companies, managing the quotes and placing the successful order. Providing an interface for suppliers, on which they can see their jobs or POs that are outstanding, can further increase efficiency by enabling them to update progress in real time, again freeing helpdesk time from task management to greater emphasis on service. 

Improved customer satisfaction
The increased focus on service is one of the many ways that an automated helpdesk solution can improve customer experience. The automation itself delivers an enhanced service: by generating automatic email updates, the end user has an understanding of the progress of the job, removing the information vacuum that prompts frustrated users to chase the helpdesk.

Applying a traffic-light system within the software related to Service Level Agreements can further enhance customer satisfaction. The software can automatically flag any call that is in danger of being in breach of the SLA, enabling the hierarchy of management to intervene as required. Keeping the end user informed at all times, even when breaches do occur due to unforeseen factors, takes away their sense of not knowing what is happening, removing the aggravation of them having to chase for information, and refocusing the helpdesk away from simply managing call reporting.

Offering a gateway for the end user to access the helpdesk directly also greatly enhances customer satisfaction. Such self-service systems require web-based CAFM solutions and it is vital for the portal to be completely intuitive for the end user: you should not need training across the organisation, only internal PR to encourage people to access the system themselves. It should ideally recognise who and where they are and offer a range of simple drop-down menus to enable them to log their problem accurately to trigger the appropriate responses. As well as improving the customer experience by offering a simple, 24-7 interface, self-service platforms further facilitate the helpdesk by reducing the number of in-coming calls.

Contract variations
If you have diverse FM operations, you may be concerned that a one-size-fits-all CAFM solution won't have the capacity to meet your requirements. But the best solutions offer sufficient flexibility and power to be able to operate across a diverse portfolio, including distinct locations, divisions, operations, people and projects, centralising the data and processes into one seamless platform. From schools to conference facilities, leisure centres to offices, intelligent CAFM solutions can provide a streamlined solution for all of them. 

Intelligent CAFM solutions will also support flexibility across different contracts, with different SLAs and KPIs informing the call management of each contract. Plus they will enable you to adapt the work flow as your business grows or as your requirements change, without going down the route of a bespoke software platform. The tools should be sufficiently intuitive so that your own staff can keep your CAFM system relevant as contracts and processes develop.

Pivotal hub
The right CAFM solution can transform your helpdesk from the Thin Blue Line to the central hub of all FM activity. The moment the helpdesk receives a call or logs a self-service request, it automatically triggers all the activities that are required to deliver a streamlined, efficient solution. By creating the axis for a truly integrated solution, a helpdesk solution can enable you to deliver increased efficiency and end-user satisfaction, no matter how complicated or diverse your operations.

Fortunately, the best solutions won't force you to choose between a self-service platform or a mobile application, between traffic lighting potential breaches of SLAs or being able to set SLAs on a per-contract basis. The best solutions offer you all of these features. So even if you can't quite see how they will be applied across your operations just yet, the features will be in place ready for when you want to take advantage of them.

About FSI FM
FSI FM is a market leader in CAFM, offering single user to enterprise scalability, either onsite or fully hosted and accessible anywhere. FSI's Concept Evolution CAFM merges powerful functionality with sophisticated technology to extend facilities management across borders, and optimise efficiency, accuracy and productivity through the lifecycle.