Shell is transforming the way it operates from one where activities are regionally based to one that is product oriented. This allows Shell to recognise that its operations are global. From the helpdesk perspective, this has brought fundamental changes and on January 1, Shell Services International (SSI) was formed through a merger between the American and European IT, HR, contracts and procurement operations. SSI mainly supports Shell employees, but in the USA it provides services to some third parties. Shell's systems are being standardised on SAP's R/3 and the main desktop products are Office 95 or 97. Having said that, Shell has a variety of specialist systems, all of which require comprehensive support. At the moment Shell has two main European help desks; one is in Manchester with 65 staff, the other is in the Hague, with 40 staff. The American helpdesk is based at Houston with 60 staff. In addition there are a few very specialised helpdesks, for example there is one in the UK for Shell's Unix systems. Mike Hinde, Shell's UK helpdesk manager described the range of services offered and detailed the way the helpdesk is run. "We are trying to standardise as much as possible," he said. "For instance, we have a Standard Desktop Environment which is Microsoft Office plus Exchange, with Netscape Navigator for Internet access. "The helpdesk is split into what we call customer islands. For instance, we have an Expro desk that supports around 5,000 exploration and production users, whilst another group supports Downstream - the market and sales teams. "Within each island support is provided for special applications like our head office time recording system. The idea is that each island supports not only the common applications but the 5% or so of specialist applications in each group. Users contact us by phone and we have an ACD system to provide intelligent call management. "Our main problem management system is based on IBM's InfoMan. At the moment, each helpdesk office has its own system but Shell doesn't feel it is sensible to have two different systems and so we expect to see changes which will standardise the global helpdesk activity. "We have been benchmarked in terms of cost and quality of resolution and are quoted as world class. The benchmarking exercise was on desktop services including the helpdesk but there remains a genuine challenge to balance cost against customer satisfaction - my key performance indicator. "I consider that we are very strong on customer satisfaction. We send out surveys to helpdesk users who are selected at random but with a dash of common sense. The sort of questions asked are: "Were you satisfied with the resolution of your query?". 'When they are returned, the questionnaires are scored in two ways. First we analyse monthly trends and then pick on areas we are interested in.
For example, when a new product is being rolled out we need to know the effectiveness of the support being offered. "The surveys highlight areas where we can improve. At one time we had more calls than people. We cured that and then tested to make sure the actions we'd taken were making the difference we expected. "The surveys provide three things: - Quantifiable evidence to our user community that we are delivering what we say we will. - Focuses attention on problems - Acts as a motivation tool. "Helpdesk personnel are mainly dealing with distress calls and it is important they see the effectiveness of their work. "We have created a culture that makes the helpdesk analyst important. For instance, all analysts are offered free massage and we have a lot of social events. We operate a 24 hour, 365 days a year service that handles about 1500 incoming calls a day. This means the helpdesk managers have to come in on Christmas Day and give the analysts a bottle of champagne apiece. One of our VP's came in on Boxing Day to say thanks. It may sound trite, but to us culture is extremely important. We have very good staff retention rates and, unusually at a time of skills shortage, have people wanting to join us "When we do lose personnel, it is almost invariably because of a career or location change. We encourage helpdesk managers to go out into the user community to see what the users are facing and we operate a "how's the headache?" system. This means we will ring users back after a call has been handled to see if the user has been able to progress beyond the problem they were experiencing. All this means that our business is not fault solving, it's helping people in their business process. "Problems are divided into three groups: a genuine fault in the software, a query that generally starts with the question "how do I?" and a request for a service such as registration to the Web. We are seeing the main growth in query calls which we use as a method of providing just in time telephone training. Gartner talk about the expense of peer to peer support. We believe our methods dramatically reduce the costs normally associated with this form of training. "We are constantly trying to grow the helpdesk into new services. For instance, we have a service called QuickFix where users will come with jobs requiring a small amount of work but a high level of skill. For example, a user might have a presentation they can write but cannot make look pretty. "We'll polish it up for them and return it in 24 or 48 hours."
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