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'Live chat' with IT to receive real-time support quickly and easily

Haskayne students collaborate with Information Technologies to implement new support channel
March 30, 2017
UToday

Thanks to a collaboration between Haskayne School of Business students and the Information Technologies team, the campus community can now use a new live chat feature to speak with IT Support Centre (ITSC) agents Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on weekends and stat holidays by visiting ucalgary.ca/it.

Business students provide the student perspective for the university’s IT department, helping make live chat a reality

It’s not every day the stars align, but with one exciting project, that is exactly what happened. The University of Calgary Information Technologies team had been looking at implementing a new way for users to reach their Support Centre agents, and after analyzing various online chat tools that would connect them with users directly from the IT website, they began working to see which would best fit important security requirements and meet user needs.

Meanwhile, as part of their course work, students in the Business Technology Management (MGIS/BTMA 317) course were asked to come up with project ideas that would improve IT systems, using the university’s own IT department as an example. Fourth-year Haskayne students Bernice Wong and Rinzi Dhundup Sheka turned to their own experiences as students working in a technological environment to identify an issue and propose a solution.

“We looked at issues that we faced as students, and integrated this with ideas for how the IT department could keep up with industry trends,” says Sheka. “We looked at cell phone companies and what channels they use to resolve their customer issues — and we found most of them use live chat.”

With the tool already in the planning stages within IT, the suggestions from Wong and Sheka’s group provided helpful student perspective on what live chat should offer to users — invaluable information for the IT team working to find the best tool for the university. The new tool was developed and tested as a pilot in August 2016 with the help of several senior IT team members, and is now part of IT’s permanent service offering.

“Some of the insights the students brought forward helped us determine what they wanted in a chat tool, and helped shape the way we made it work,” says Gary Adair, IT manager of customer experience. “We used this insight when selecting and vetting the software required.”

Getting technical support is now easier for students, faculty and staff

By adding live chat and increasing the IT service offering, students, faculty and staff will find it easier and more convenient to get the technical support they need from across the various UCalgary campuses.

Speaking with the ITSC online in real time offers a way for students to receive IT support in a way that fits into their lifestyle. “Live chat will help to improve IT service, especially for students,” says Wong. “We’re in that generation where we text more than we talk on the phone, and we’d rather talk over the web.” The ability to chat online will also help students who often call for support between classes, but are forced to abandon the call as class begins. 

Being able to interact in real time without having to wait on the phone also has its advantages for faculty and staff. As Adair points out, it allows users and ITSC agents to multitask. “People like being able to chat online since they can keep doing their work as they talk to us. At any given time, we have approximately seven agents online providing support, and agents are able to handle multiple chats at once.”

Introducing the online chat option has led to a higher success rate in resolving issues — 90 per cent of the live chat ratings have been good or excellent — as well as lower call abandonment rates and better customer feedback. The number of users turning toward live chat is growing every day, with ITSC agents receiving between 500 and 700 live chat sessions each month. Chat transcripts are kept indefinitely, providing an excellent training tool for support centre staff by building a knowledge base of common IT issues, and allowing users to keep and consult the advice they receive.

“This was a great experience — when we brainstorm projects ideas, we often don’t think of them being significant outside the classroom,” says Wong. “This experience encouraged us not to shy away from voicing our suggestions as they can often be executed into real-life solutions.”

Do you have feedback about live chat? Leave comments after any live chat session, or send us an email at ITsupport@ucalgary.ca.

Haskayne School of Business students Bernice Wong and Rinzi Dhundup Sheka try out live chat.
Photo by Riley Brandt, University of Calgary

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