Behind the scenes at Atech… with Addam Reynolds
IT support is changing as remote workers, team collaboration and the ideal ‘work-life’ balance drive the need for organisations to create a modern workplace. But while the majority of the workforce is still wanting, or needing, to work from home, it’s not as simple as handing over a laptop and allowing people to just get on.
The traditional 9-5 office hours are now a thing of the past as people choose to start work earlier, finish later or work weekends to balance out their other commitments. In fact, Microsoft research shows, that the remote working day is longer, with more meetings, with a more fluid pattern and that collaboration time spills late into the evening and weekend… A big challenge is that much of the workforce isn’t necessarily technology-savvy. So while your people may be keen to get on, the second they encounter an issue – which could occur at any time of the day, week, or night – they’re forced to stop. Not only does this result in a loss of productivity for you, it also causes unnecessary stress for your employees because they’re unable to do the best job they possibly can.
We decided to spend some time with Addam Reynolds, one of our infrastructure engineers, to find out more about how he helps our clients, and how important support is to achieving success.
What does your role on the Service Desk encompass?
My role is split across customer support and proactive support. On the proactive side, I help with day-to-day things like patching and checking everything’s working as it should, as well as reacting to failed servers or network issues. On the customer-side it tends to be more access issues, like firewalls or folders, end point issues or end user requests for things that would make their lives easier.
Overall it’s a real mix because I work on all facets of infrastructure, both on-premise and in the cloud. And I enjoy both sides, even though they have their pros and cons.
I love the simplicity of the cloud and the fact that anyone can pick it up through a free trial to see how it works – in the cloud I can spin up a server in 30 mins. But the cloud tends to involve more third parties, which can make it challenging for IT support when you need to escalate issues.
And then onsite is great because sometimes it’s good to get in, trace problems through and fix issues. Of course, the downside is that you have to buy the kit first.
What do you believe are the key ingredients to delivering a great customer experience?
I once had a manager say that either you’re a people person, where it’s simple to teach the tech skills. Or you’re a tech person, where it’s impossible to teach the people skills.
I’m a good mix down the middle because I love the technology, but I equally love the social aspects and could talk for hours upon hours upon hours.
One thing I love doing is organising parties and social gatherings. In the past I’ve volunteered to organise trips for the whole team to go bowling, go karting and to the trampoline park, because it’s great to relax and get to know each other better.
One particular highlight was last year’s Christmas party because we had a few new people who had only been with the company for a couple of months. It was nice to see them bring their partners along and let their hair down – we even had José show us his salsa moves!
I love catching up with old clients too. I had one client that I used to speak to everyday. But we hadn’t spoken for about 3 years, so when I called them up, it felt really nice that they remembered me and we caught up as if we were old friends.
And when our contacts move on to other companies, they usually take us along with them. It’s really good to have those long-standing, strong relationships based on trust because it’s satisfying to support someone we’ve known for a number of years.
Speed of service
In our customer survey, some of the feedback we received about Addam included:
So we asked him specifically about whether speed matters?
There’s a joke within the team that if I’m not doing 4 things at once I’m not working hard enough!
I like being busy because I know I’m helping people – it’s what I’m here to do. And in support, you have to judge what the right things are to prioritise in order to provide the best help.
So for example, you might have a very small issue that’s easy to fix, like a password reset, but because it’s so simple it might fall to the bottom of the priority list. But I know that without that password reset, the user can’t do any work. Our SLA might be 8 hours, but if I wait 7.5 hours to fix the issue, that’s a whole day’s work wasted, which is going to have an impact on that user’s mental state, so I just get on and do it.
IT support is about more than simply fixing issues, it’s about helping individual people in their roles.
What has been the most challenging situation you have had to deal with?
We experienced a major issue that affected all of our client sites, but because we didn’t manage that specific part of the solution, and there were so many third parties involved, it was really hard to deal with.
Eventually, we determined that the root cause was a DHCP failure in the switch, which is the bit that provides IP addresses to any device on the network. But escalating the issue with the suppliers and getting someone to admit to it being their fault so it could be fixed was really tough.
In the end, it took about 2 weeks of very late nights and long weekends, but we got everything fixed. Throughout the ordeal, it was important that our customers were kept in the loop. We’d received 95 separate tickets about the issue, but we updated every one so the clients all knew what was happening, and were reassured that we were doing everything possible to resolve the issue as quickly as possible.
From a lesson learned point of view, it was interesting to see the different parts of the technology at play and how they all fit and work together.
We maintain a massive knowledge base at Atech, with general articles and some specific to each client. Every issue and the associated fix is recorded, so we can call upon that knowledge in the future if necessary. This is particularly useful with third parties as when we escalate issues we can say, “This is what happened last time, and this is the fix you recommended, please can you try this first.”
How is the role of support changing?
We’ve always had some clients who are more nervous or jumpy about technology, based on their past experiences. But lockdown has certainly heightened that anxiety and increased the need for us to use our people skills more within the role of support.
I think many of our clients are worried about what happens next, which is feeding into their IT issues. So we’ll have someone call up with a relatively minor issue but they’ve got themselves into a big panic over it. If they were in the office, they’d probably ask a colleague for some help, but working from home they haven’t had that support.
It means that a lot of the time we’re having to calm the person down before we can solve their issue. It’s why I tend to start every call with a friendly chat.. It’s enough to put the caller at ease and help them to make a personal connection with you. The personal connection is an essential part of an enterprise managed service. It helps our clients be successful.
What are the most significant changes you’ve witnessed at Atech?
I joined Atech in February 2015 as a nightshift engineer supporting our clients in the Americas, Asia and Pacific. Eight months later I moved to the general service desk and overnight I went from dealing with 2-3 issues per night to 30-40 per day!
Over the years I’ve seen a lot of change as the company has evolved, expanded and streamlined different parts of the business. For me, the most interesting part has been seeing the new technologies that we’ve adopted – and being proved wrong about them!
For example, when I started we used TeamViewer – a remote support solution – which was later replaced by Bomgar. I never thought we’d use it but I was so wrong. Enabling us to support our clients remotely, it means we can help our clients to work from anywhere and the experience and security is the same. It’s beyond anything I’ve ever used before. The technology is flawless and reduces the support time and reduces friction for the end user.
Automation is an amazing thing. I love it. From my first days at Atech, I’ve been automating systems and processes – the first being a remote support solution deployment for one of our customers where I could deploy the technology to every system in one click rather than connect to each one individually.
In reducing the time we need to spend on support, it frees our time to spend on improving our knowledge and the services we provide. Through automation, work is less about the day-to-day and more about focusing on the future.
But, because automation makes things appear much simpler, I worry that people will start to think that they don’t need us and can do everything themselves – particularly when you can go and search a knowledge base for the answer to your issue. The problem is that when things do go wrong, that’s when you need people who really know what they’re doing – which is why it’s so important to have the right level of IT support in place.
This time last year, we were allowed to work from home but most of us didn’t want to because we enjoyed being in the office together. Then the pandemic forced us to change the way we work. Collaboration is a fabulous tool, but it doesn’t beat getting everyone around a table and thrashing an issue out. Everyone notices something different and it’s only when we piece it together that we can understand the root cause.
It’s made us get creative about how we work. Now our team tends to sit on a video call for most of the day just so we maintain the social interactions we’d previously had in the office, and to quickly bounce ideas off each other.
Of course, we experienced some teething issues – mainly the challenges of working over a home broadband line rather than a business one. But I think we’re all more relaxed now. We’re all working hard but you feel like you have a little bit of freedom to do other things, like improving work knowledge. And I know some of my colleagues have welcomed the flexibility to balance work with family commitments.
It sounds strange, but working remotely has actually made us closer as a company. Before, we had people who weren’t working from the office because they were out on client site, working in different parts of the country or living abroad. But because of lockdown, we started having more video calls rather than phone calls, which helped us get to know each other better. I’ve always referred to Atech as my extended family and it feels that way even more now.
Atech has now moved to an all-remote way of working, and I know some of our clients are looking to do the same, or at least reduce their office space. It’s interesting to be able to share our experience so they can improve theirs.
Even simple things like being able to share how we use different technologies is important. With migrations, you always get people who resist change because they’re so ingrained in the old mindset. But when I show them how we use something like OneDrive, and how simple it is to do something that was a previously painful process for them, they become more accepting of the solution.
Also, if they have ideas, we’re able to share our knowledge on the pros and cons so they can make an educated decision – or they’ll ask what we’d recommend instead to help improve their systems.
Fancy meeting another member of our team?
Thank you to all our customers for all the wonderful feedback shared over the last 3 months. If you missed the wrap up, we summed up a very busy Expert Service Desk summer here.
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