Tech Support in the Time of COVID-19

Kelsey O'Connell | 03.31.20
Topics: Tips - Trends - TechTalks, Outsourced IT - Technical Questions

Information technology (IT) help desk providers are facing unique challenges as they adjust to support an entirely remote workforce. In a matter of a few days, DelCor took more than 80 clients from onsite to remote—something that none of us could have expected to happen even a few months ago.

Like many other IT support vendors, we’ve encountered just about every possible scenario, from organizations who simply need a few additional licenses to those with no existing remote capabilities whatsoever. These are our tips for other IT support vendors as they struggle to right the ship:

Prioritize strategically and be transparent

Effectively prioritizing technical support requests is difficult—especially when every user believes that their issue should immediately be treated as the highest priority. It’s never been more important for technical support to document the priority structure and get executive buy-in.

For example, if your first priority is to maintain your organization’s internal servers and your second is to assist users who cannot connect to mission-critical systems, write that down and have your CEO or COO share it with staff to establish expectations. Otherwise, the frustrated user who has waited for three hours to hear back about a Tier I issue is much more likely to keep calling.

Move to the cloud as quickly as possible

As avid supporters of cloud hosting and collaboration, it’s no surprise to us that clients who already use Office 365 and SharePoint Online have had far fewer technical issues while working from home.

If you use Office 365, even staff members who have never worked from home will be able to easily connect directly to their files and continue working. On the other hand, when staff members need to connect to on-premises servers to retrieve files, they will need to follow several steps to get there. The more hoops that your staff need to jump through, the more likely they are to stumble and fall.  

While we’ve been able to provide support for organizations that still have on-premises servers, that support is often much more complicated and expensive. Cloud solutions are easily scalable, while connecting an entire office to a file server through a VPN may require additional licenses or adjustments to accommodate the significant increase in use.

We recommend that organizations migrate to Office 365 and use OneDrive and SharePoint Online as soon as possible. Cloud hosting and collaboration tools aren’t just going to benefit your organization during this crisis; over time, these solutions will pay for themselves.


Leverage the tools that you already pay for

Effective and accessible training has never been more important. The more users know about the technology that they’re using, the more they can recognize errors and troubleshoot without assistance. Host video conference calls, record demonstrations, and train power users to reduce your association’s reliance on the IT help desk.

Partner with internal IT staff

Even organizations with Managed Service Providers (MSP) often have an internal IT staff member to provide general support, maintain servers, or service specific applications. As an MSP, it’s important to forge a partnership with the internal IT staff.

As the organization’s staff adjusts to working from home, that internal IT support resource may also be adjusting to supporting the staff from home. Partner with the IT staff member and keep communications open. Empower those resources by talking through issues rather than just providing an answer.

Find innovative solutions to hardware issues

When users have a hardware issue, it’s no longer possible for them to call an onsite resource over to their desk to help troubleshoot. To address hardware issues, we have to get a little creative. Based on each client’s needs, we’re either mailing laptops or executing hostage-exchange-style porch trades.

It has also become increasingly difficult to acquire hardware. Having spare laptops is key, especially as the wait for a new laptop has gone from five days to five weeks. Our consultants now keep spare laptops at home with them in case a client’s computer fails and/or we need provide a temporary replacement while reimaging.

Once all users have the basic hardware necessary to do their jobs, support providers should prepare for the next wave of hardware needs. Users will need the hardware necessary to do their jobs efficiently and effectively, which may include additional monitors, spare laptop chargers, headsets, or web cams.

Regardless of the challenges we face, we all need to be patient with each other

Nobody had time to prepare for the radical shift to a 100% remote workforce. Everyone—managers, IT support, and users alike—should cut each other some slack. Here are two simple ways for IT support to make things easier on your coworkers:

  • Track IT issues: It’s very frustrating to answer the same questions over and over. Show your coworkers that you’ve been listening to them and taking their issues seriously by tracking their issues. That way, if they have to call you back, you can say “I can see you’re still having a problem with your connection. Are you still using your company laptop and trying to access the database through the VPN?” instead of “Have you tried turning it off and on again?”
  • Follow Up: In the office, it’s easy to pop by someone’s cubicle or check in when you pass them on the way to get more coffee. Remote work makes it much easier to just cross an issue off your list and move on. However, a simple “Hey, how’d that fix work out for you?” can go a long way with a coworker who’s isolated.

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