The Help Desk has grown from being a stand-alone service strategy to one that is leading many organizations to support a multi-channel and in some instances, multi-channel based approach to delivering service.
Examples of TBSS options across different service industries include on-demand service and support through guided solution applications on websites, guided help on telephone systems, (ATMs), electronic kiosks for baggage check in or a boarding pass at airports as well as for room check out at hotels, and service computers with internet connection at airports (Dabholkar 1994, 1996; Kotler 2000; Meuter, Ostrom, Roundtree, and Bitner 2000; Carlin 2002; Harler 2002; Wright 2002).
The transformation of service options from the Help Desk to multi-channel strategies that are technology-based service can be viewed in terms of the relationships between employee, customer and technology components (Figure 1). Note that a single strategy of just using a Help Desk fails to support the triad as shown in this figure. Strategically, that is the reason why Help Desks are becoming just a single strategy in one that is multi-channel based; there are more unmet needs that customers have than just a Help Desk can respond to. The intent of this research proposal is to ascertain and quantify the extent of the gap between unmet needs and the effectiveness of just a Help Desk vs. all components of a multi-channel service strategy including web self-service, intelligent routing, and real time chat.
All interactions between these components are laid out from a customer's perspective, showing what a customer sees as s/he approaches to the service setting. The full-service option (a) includes customer-to-employee interaction, where a service employee waits on the customer. The joint production option (B) includes both the service employee and the customer working together to produce and deliver the service within the service system, as defined by the service provider. The self-service option - reflects a customer responding to a service system in the absence of a service employee. The technology-based full-service option (D) includes a service employee fully serving a customer by utilizing full-service technologies. The technology-based joint production option (E) includes the customer interacting with a service employee and technology. The technology-based self-service option (F) includes customer-to- technology interaction without any contact employee (Dabholkar 1994; Meuter and Bitner 1998; Anitsal, Moon, and Anitsal 2002a, 2002b).
The role of technology in Self-Service
Help Desks implemented purely from a technology perspective nearly always fail. What is required for a successful Help Desk strategy is for first a thorough overview of the processes that are inefficient and broken today, and that need to be re-architected to be of greater value to customers. The pure use of technology for Help Desk redesigns does not work; the underlying processes need to be first changed.
Innovations can be revolutionary (disruptive, pioneering, or breakthrough) or just evolutionary (sustaining, incremental, or spin-off). In the case of Help Desk redesigns and their integration into broader multi-channel initiatives, technology must be used as an enabler of change at the process level.(Bates 1989; (Christensen and Overdorf 2000; Christensen and Tedlow 2000; Columbus 2001). Revolutionary innovations are discontinuous and make consumers 'adopt new behavior patterns' (Schiffman and Kanuk 2000). The use of self-service websites including the segmenting of response to customer needs based on the lifetime value of a specific customer is increasingly being used by organizations to make their service organizations more profitable (McDonald 2002; Dabholkar, Bobbitt, and Lee 2003). Therefore, diffusion of innovations and particularly the adoption process within self-service throughout multiple channels including retailing have become important concerns (Maruca 1999). (This specific literature review for this proposal highlights that best practices in Help Desk redesign needs to include a strong multi-channel orientation and a deliberate strategy of making service channels, and levels of service align with how customers want to be served. The quantitative portion of this proposal will look to measure Help Desk best practices in the following strategic areas where organizations are getting strong performance. These including integrating phone self-service and Web self-service implemented together and aligning them on a single database, having an it architecture built to allow for a high percentage of level-one calls and e-mails, a relatively high level of Internet access among customer base, low product complexity Columbus 2001), and high visibility into customers' requests and trends in them. Additional factors to be measured in the survey include the maturity of knowledge management processes throughout organizations adopting Help Desk strategies, and most critically, a strong focus on interface design making the entire process of using multiple channels more accessible.
Proposed research methodology with rationale
The research methodology will rely on a multi-phased approach to accomplishing the research objectives of this study. Starting first with a thorough literature review this study will complete a comprehensive qualitative analysis of all available data on help desk models and their relative levels of performance and the broader strategic concept of self-service strategies. This qualitative analysis will also specifically focus on the variations in help desk and broader self-service strategies' performance in several key vertical markets including auto sales and service, consumer electronics, retail, travel and hospitality, and the financial services industry. There are significant differences in each of these specific industries as it relates to the effectiveness of help desk and self-service strategies as well, and these differences will be thoroughly analyzed from a qualitative research standpoint.
The first phase of the methodology will be a thorough literature review and analysis of financial and industry analyst, industry trade publications, and the series of companies who comprise the help desk and broader self-service market. Vendors competing in this market arena will also be specifically have their financial statements analyzed and a thorough ratio analysis completed to ascertain their strengths and weaknesses in competing in this market. The objective of this stage of the research is to find insights into the financial performance of these companies as it relates also to the direction their customers, the developers of help desk and self-service applications, are taking them,
Primary Research Strategy
Using a targeted list of Help Desk early adopter companies stratified through multiple industries, the initial primary research effort will send questionnaires to 180 companies who are considered the survey population of Help Desk and Web Self-Service early adopters. As response rates to postal surveys can vary significantly, it is advisable to have multiple phases of the survey to attain a suitable sample size.
While the motivations for this research are for the completion of this academic dissertation, an executive summary will be offered to each respondent as an incentive to participate. The most critical aspect of interest to them will be using the survey results to benchmark their service performance relative to peers.
Primary Research: Phase I in-Person Visits
The intent of this first phase is to accomplish the following tasks. First, the questionnaire will need to be fine-tuned based on how respondents perceive the questions. Completing the survey with a few respondents in person will assist in finding areas where the questionnaire can be improved. Secondly, there are issues and concerns that may not have been covered in the questionnaire, and in this phase, these considerations will be discovered. Finally there is the issue of capturing the nuance and areas of emphasis respondents have on specific projects. Having this face-time with respondents is critical for all these reasons.
Primary Research: Phase 2 Mail and Web-Based Surveys
In phase 2 web-based surveys are sent to the 180 Help Desk early adopter companies. As the initial response rate typically is low, follow-up reminder cards will be sent.
For international companies the e-mail survey circumvents the lengthy postal transfer times across continents. Using automated programs available on the Internet, reminders can also be sent directly to the respondents as well. Further, these programs provide real-time analysis of results.
Data collection methods with rationale, including population, sampling
Using a sample size of 180 Help Desk early adopter companies acquired from InfoUSA or comparable list broker, the data collection method will be in multiple phases. The first phase will be to fine-tune the questionnaire in person with selected respondents as a form of quality checking. The second phase will include e-mail blasts and successive follow-ups via telephone calls to get an acceptable number of responses.
A stratified random sample will be used to define key early adopters of Help Desk strategies across several industry verticals. Chi-Square analysis will be used to find those vertical markets that are statistically significant in terms of their Help Desk best practices.
Following the collection of data, SPSS will be used for completing frequency distributions on all variables included in the study, and cross-tabulations (joint frequency distributions) will be used for analyzing the data further. Correlation analysis including a correlation matrix will be used for finding statistically strong interrelationships between variables in the survey. Finally, a model will be created to predict best practices in Help Desk performance by quantifying the variables that are most…