Sheridan College has begun a customer relationship management project that will bring self-service capabilities to its help desk operation.

The school went live with PeopleSoft HelpDesk in late August just before the fall

term began, allowing it to keep better track of calls from students and staff members. The next phase will involve the development of a solutions database that will allows users to look up the status of calls they have placed and potentially find their own answers to common problems.

“”I would hope it would be (complete) in the next six months,”” said Lynn Morgan, Sheridan’s manager of client support services.

Morgan said Sheridan turned to PeopleSoft after watching some of the college’s other IT projects increase the volume of help desk activity. Since 1998, for example, the school has been giving out laptops to students under an initiative called Delivering Effective Learning Technologies Anyone, Anytime, Anywhere (DELTA3). This year, 5,000 students received a mobile computer.

Sheridan has also launched a number of online tools to help students register for courses and check grades, which also generates more issues with network connections and password problems. In the meantime, Morgan’s staff has not grown at all, creating pressure to keep up with phone calls and e-mails about the various help desk requests, or “”tickets”” that haven’t been completed.

“”It ties up an agent on something that might not be terribly productive,”” she said. “”We wanted to allow our employees, for example, to look up the status of the tickets they have logged themselves and leave the agents free to handle the calls that really do require a live body.””

IDC Canada analyst Warren Shiau said Sheridan’s experience is common among enterprise companies that struggle to keep help desks responsive.

“”Within your help area, it is expensive to keep these people, and it gets more expensive the further you elevate the query,”” he said. “”For a while now, it’s been one of the focuses of CRM (customer relationship management) vendors to have product features that try to, as much as possible, steer help function users away from having to interact.””

Until now, Sheridan handled support through a walk-in service where users would come to a counter. As it launched online capabilities, the school wanted to set up a telephone support service, but Morgan said she had concerns about the scale of what was needed. “”We can’t suddenly support 20,000 students over the phone with the existing stuff unless we can, again, provide more self-service options,”” she said.

Morgan said Sheridan will be able to measure the results of the project in part by looking at how many calls or tickets were being handled prior to the PeopleSoft implementation. The college had already been using a help desk call-tracking product from Vantive, which merged with PeopleSoft in a US$33 million deal three years ago.

PeopleSoft has been doing very well in the CRM space, Shiau said. “”They weren’t part of the CRM boom – they kind of came in towards the end,”” he said. “”They had time to incorporate lessons learned from the other vendors.””


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