As if year 2000 wasn't causing enough headaches, the unknown effects on embedded systems like those found in domestic and industrial appliances could have the unwelcome effect of creating strain at the supplier helpdesk.
Martyn Riddle, European marketing manager at Bendata, suggests that with careful planning and the judicious use of service-level agreements (SLAs), much of the hassle can be avoided.
"A small number of companies will have foreseen this and prepared themselves.
However, due to their great number and their small size, many will have only identified a fraction of the time-sensitive chips. So, what happens to their customers? No doubt, these people will be straight on the telephone.
The helpdesks at the other end of the telephone will then face the challenge of dealing with these calls as efficiently and quickly as possible. Although some companies are already looking at this, many are ignoring this aspect of customer support in the frantic rush to ensure the IT systems will be running well.
"An important interface to the customer is the field engineer. They need to be prepared to deal efficiently with any problems arising from Y2K bugs. However, field engineers are a finite resource and companies recognise that customers could be better served by the helpdesk identifying potential hot issues then ensuring the operatives are briefed on them. By putting these measures in place, when a customer calls they can deal with the call without necessarily referring to the field engineer.
"But what should the customer expect from these companies when it comes to solving Year 2000 issues? Companies who agree a level of service with their customers can see clearly when and if expectations are being met.
With SLAs, each problem can be categorised in terms of urgency and allocated a time within which it will be fixed. In this way, customers know exactly what to expect when they call and are reassured that their call will be dealt with. Companies can expect customers who have no indication of when their call will be looked after or indeed if someone is looking after it at all, to become increasingly frustrated and perhaps take their custom elsewhere. The helpdesk needs to have a clear idea of how long each problem will take to fix and communicate this to the customer.
"Those companies that focus on the helpdesk challenges faced on 1 January and look to the efficient use of field engineers and SLAs will be well placed to inspire confidence in their customers by providing and maintaining exceptional levels of service."
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