Challenging conventional wisdom around IT customer service

The pandemic has seen many universities offer flexible and bespoke work and study arrangements, combining traditional on-campus contact with more opportunities for remote engagement. As universities seek to find the right balance between online and on-campus models, keeping colleagues and classmates connected within the increasingly virtual campus will require the support of agile, effective and leading-edge IT Helpdesk teams and processes.

The Cubane ANZ team recently conducted an in-depth study into how IT helpdesk services varied between ANZ universities and across regions. We found that universities currently allocate a high level of resourcing to the IT Helpdesk, with end users reporting high levels of satisfaction with the services provided. Participating universities recognised the importance of maintaining this level of service excellence in the IT Helpdesk space, but open questions still remain around the actions required to reduce cost and size without compromising on effectiveness.

We identified three hallmarks of an IT Helpdesk service which achieves greater efficiency while still keeping end user experience front of mind, rising to the challenge of supporting increasingly flexible and mobile work and study arrangements.

1. Challenging conventional wisdom around channel strategy

In our study, we challenged the assumption that offering more channels equals a better end user experience. While many institutions have invested in expanding their channel choice (email, ticketing systems, phone lines to instant chat), our study revealed that the key to an efficient and effective helpdesk is taking a more considered, streamlined approach to channel strategy.

When designing channel strategy and mix, it is vital to keep the preference and profiles of your customers in mind. The challenge here is to segment enquiries by demographic, channel type and enquiry type to develop a nuanced understanding of how users want to engage with the IT Helpdesk: Who is raising the enquiry? What level of support will they require to resolve their enquiry? What type of support best suits the nature of their request?

By taking a more considered approach, Helpdesk teams can begin further developing those channels best suited to the types of enquiries they receive, and work to direct end users to the most efficient and preferred channels.

2. Expanding self-service channels and automation

As off-campus learning and working and ‘bring your own device’ models of IT ownership become the norm, leading-edge IT Helpdesk support is increasingly centred around the use of self-service processes to solve a wider range of issues and enquiries. Currently, many universities use self-service tools to resolve simple requests, such as password resets. However, there is opportunity to expand the use of these technologies to enable more enquiries to be resolved at the tier 0 level.

These tools enable end users to resolve problems by consulting self-help materials or interacting with automated university systems. Resolving enquiries before they even reach the Helpdesk will allow Helpdesk workers to focus on more complex, bespoke enquiries and target enquiry demand management.

3. Moving towards a proactive knowledge management model

A strong IT Helpdesk is one where expertise and knowledge is distributed expertise across all sections of the Helpdesk team as well as to end users for the purposes of self-service enquiry resolution. However, many universities struggle with the fact that most of the knowledge and expertise in IT Helpdesk space tends to be concentrated in the minds of technical teams, or in internal standard operating manuals.

To counter this, leading universities have invested in developing the skills and capabilities of IT Helpdesk staff through secondments and training programs. Others have addressed this problem by increasing the maturity of client-facing knowledge bases and AI chatbots as well as empowering end users to crowdsource solutions by creating moderated community forums. Both strategies provide promising examples of universities actively moving towards a more complete and even distribution of IT knowledge throughout the organisation.

In order to close the gap between cost and end user satisfaction, it is vital that universities reflect on and their current channel strategy, the profile of their end-users and the knowledge and skillset within existing IT Helpdesk teams. The UniForum Service Effectiveness benchmarking exercise provides the means to understand which dimension of your service matters most the end users, and a robust fact base to inform your IT Helpdesk improvement journey.

If these findings resonated with you, or if you’d like to share your own experience or participate in the Service Effectiveness benchmarking, please get in touch via

This article was written jointly by Caitlin Pienaar, senior business analyst in Cubane’s Australia and New Zealand team, and James Catts, Managing Director Australia and New Zealand.