Apple Genius Bar workers undergo rigorous, regimented training that covers not only technical skills, but also training in how to relate to customers, because ultimately they want people to buy more Apple products. While your IT service desk doesn’t care about selling things to end-users, there is still plenty that is worthwhile to learn from the Genius Bar concept. Other companies are starting to implement similar walk-in style IT services.
Deploying these walk-in IT services is often simply a response to a changing workforce. More employees are mobile, working in the field, while traveling, or from home. Laptops and mobile devices have largely taken over for desktop machines in many companies. Creating a place where people can show up, seek help, and interact with IT service desk workers in person has offered promising results in some workplaces.
What Manulife Has Implemented in Canada and the US
Canadian insurance company Manulife has set up a series of what they call “TechLounges” in several divisions, starting in Toronto. These are drop-in technical support centers where end-users can bring their laptops and other company-issued devices for upgrades and minor fixes. End-users do not need to call and schedule appointments, which is important in a company in which 75% of workers use company-issued laptops, 25% use company-issued mobile devices, and many employees telecommute.
With this type of workforce, it’s not always easy for the IT service desk team to offer hands-on help for those who need it. So the company concluded that the best bet was to create a space where people could show up for help when their schedule allowed. Nearly one-third of Manulife’s workforce telecommutes at least two days a week, and that can make scheduling a technician on “office day” difficult. Now telecommuters can simply drop by when they’re in the office.
In November, the company launched a TechLounge in its US headquarters in Boston, and they hope to extend the TechLounge concept to company branches in Hong Kong and Tokyo. Response in Canada so far has been positive, and bodes well for the Boston TechLounge and the ones expected to roll out in Asia.
They’re Not Just for Servicing Devices
Manulife’s TechLounges aren’t simply a new way to package the service desk. End-users can also drop by to attend half-hour training sessions. For example, the company offers small group sessions on topics relevant to the workforce like creating specific types of tables in Excel. So while service functions are the main reason for the TechLounges, the company is offering proactive help in the form of training, which could ultimately reduce help desk tickets over the long term.
Why the Walk-In Concept May Be Attractive for More Businesses Today
The standard business model of end-users at their desks from 9 to 5 has largely given way to workforces that may or may not work in traditional office environments, and who may have variable schedules. Telecommuting is increasing across all industrial sectors, and the number of end-users with company issued mobile devices or who bring their own is increasing as well. In this environment, the static service desk that takes in help tickets during regular business hours may not be sufficient for delivering the best quality IT service management.
You Need Solid IT Software Underpinning Everything
Any company that considers setting up a “Genius Bar”-type station or something similar to TechLounges to provide technical support has to pay particular attention to their help desk software. Flexibility is essential for IT software in any organization, but particularly so in organizations that want to try something new, as Manulife has done.
A service desk that’s suitable for walk-in tech support should have integrated IT asset management so that end-user device specs can be called up instantly, and so service desk interactions can be noted on a device’s history. Clearly not just any help desk software will do. What you need is an IT service desk solution that’s the foundation for more extensive IT service management, and that provides all the tools necessary for that to happen.