Helping the helpers: How Microsoft is reinventing its Helpdesk

Mar 18, 2019   |  

The questions from customers who want to know how Microsoft runs its Helpdesk have changed for Abu Kabir.

They used to be: How do you support new releases? What is your process for escalations? How do you manage your SLA’s?

Now they’re asking one main question: How are you digitally transforming your helpdesk at Microsoft?

Abu Kabir is a senior service engineer in Microsoft Core Services Engineering and Operations (CSEO). It’s his job to modernize and transform the company’s Helpdesk in ways that support and live up to a digital transformation that is happening across Microsoft.

This is not simple.

“The Helpdesk has iteratively improved over time, but, has a long-standing culture and processes that run deep through the organization,” Kabir says.

Kabir shares that the IT Helpdesk is one of the operations that transcends industry verticals, company size, global region, and even organizational structure. Inside Microsoft, Helpdesk provides end user support through email, call, chat, and yammer.

“From the very beginning of the IT industry, a primary responsibility is to support the people who use the systems and services, everyone has a Helpdesk,” Kabir says. “The Helpdesk is often the only direct interaction between employees and the IT organization, the face of IT.”

The approach is changing in CSEO.

“Helpdesk is a strategic enabler for our business operations which are digitally transforming,” Kabir says. “Our customer is the end user, our partners and suppliers. We have recognized traditional customer service and the Service Level Agreement (SLA) only represents what we deliver as a support team, it does not genuinely show what experience they leave with.”

Kabir quotes Maya Angelou: “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

To achieve this evolution, Kabir and his peers first brought all the support teams together.

“We had onsite in-person support called TechLink inside Microsoft, the global call centers, and AV support working independently,” Kabir says. “We needed to have all the front-line services that interact with our users break their silos and work as a one-support services team. We also implemented various support KPIs to track user experience.”

This simple step connected the operations of each support service, allowing the now larger team to distill the same culture and focus into the organizations. Tactically, this also improved the hand-off processes between teams, improving the continuity of support for the users.

Like any organization digitally transforming, the Helpdesk had a data problem.

“Active directory information, Office 365 details, previous support requests, and device information were housed in different systems,” Kabir says. “Helpdesk agents had to ask a number of questions to ascertain the root issue for any given user escalation, this drove dissatisfaction with clients.”

To eliminate this, the End User Service Engineering (EUSE) team created a tool called Support360. “It’s a digital fingerprint of the end user and a single interface for a support agent,” Kabir says. “Intelligent use of data is the core component of our future Helpdesk success.”

The Support360 tool provides guidance based on predefined workflows.

“As a  Helpdesk agent, the most difficult step is to correlate issues with various wide changes in the environment. This tool has the ability to identify incidents related to any product change or release,” Kabir says.

The tool also provides the ability to become more proactive in addressing issue for clients. “By combining all the data sets related to a client, we are able to suggest updates or fixes to problems they have not yet encountered,” Kabir says.

Finally, the team had to tackle the reactive mindset on the Helpdesk. Like many enterprises, first and second line support is outsourced through a managed service contract.

“This poses a complex scenario to change cultures across companies,” Kabir says. “We were able to tap into the energy of resources across the team who were motivated to change.”

“Being inside Microsoft, we often deploy updates and services before they are released to customers. We are known as the first and best customer for our own products and services,” Kabir says. “This gives our Helpdesk teams a unique view into how everything works together, or don’t, in some cases.”

This changed the perception people had of Helpdesk staff. “They were not just solving an issue for a single user, but potentially for millions of customers,” Kabir says. “It is very powerful.”

When asked at what point he felt his success in transforming the Helpdesk inside Microsoft, Kabir says, “Not yet, we still have much to do, but I now feel empowered to drive change more than ever.”

Read more about how CSEO is using data and process mining to accelerate the company’s digital transformation.

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