Chris: Welcome to SolarWinds TechPod. I’m your episode host Chris McManus. On this episode, we’re going to discuss IT’s role in employee engagement. We’re going to talk about what that term means, how it’s measured, and how IT can create an environment built around the employee experience. Throughout the episode, think about the ways your digital experiences have shaped your opinion of your job, or of the consumer products you use. Digital engagement is top of mind for each of our guests today. We have Andrew Eardley-Day, the ITSM administrator for Betfred, the world’s largest independent bookmaker. Andrew’s team supports the technology experience for over 10,000 Betfred employees across the U.K. in multiple offices and 1,700 shops. Hello, Andrew.
Andrew: Hey Chris. How are you?
Chris: I’m doing great. We also have Joey Brown, he’s a product manager on the ITSM team here at SolarWinds, and Joey has a variety of experience working with SolarWinds customers in Service Desk implementation, as well as in his current role, connecting different organizations to understand their goals and deliver the best possible experience to their employees. Hey Joey.
Joey: Hey Chris, how are you?
Chris: I’m good. Thank you guys both so much for joining us on TechPod. I wanted to start this one with a few statistics from Gartner. So according to Gartner, 70% of business leaders agree that employee engagement is critical to business success, and according to a recent report, by 2020, so now, 20% of organizations will include employee engagement improvement as a shared experience… Excuse me, as a shared performance objective for both HR and IT groups. So it’s not just HR, it’s IT as well that’s involved in employee engagement. Now, what do those stats say to you guys? Andrew, let’s start with you.
Andrew: Well, yeah, I mean, you’re right in saying that it’s not just about HR, it is IT as well. So we have a big part to play from an IT perspective with the employee engagement. It’s what can we do as IT to make the job of our employees easier and get them engaged in what we’re doing?
Joey: Yeah, I mean, I think I would just ride on that in saying that every single organization that I’ve worked for, now with SolarWinds and obviously before that, human resources was always like there was a face to the person that I was dealing with. You’d go up to somebody, you had that true engagement that just brings everything to another level, and IT was always seemed as the people behind the curtain that made everything work. There was really no face to them. And what we’re finding in the whole market, obviously what they’re finding in the market is that IT also, there needs to be a face to IT, because as tech continues to get more and more in our everyday lives, it becomes a more crucial point in our business. So having that engagement with IT is becoming just as important as it is with HR and any other part of the organization.
Chris: And Andrew, we gave some of the numbers there about folks who work for Betfred, 10,000 employees, you’ve got all those locations. Are you feeling that, as time goes on, that IT is playing a larger role in terms of just their daily experience in their jobs?
Andrew: Yeah, absolutely. Because fundamentally, without IT, they’re not going to be able to do their job. We are a large digital organization, and so if we didn’t have the IT right in the first place from day one when they join us, they’re not going to be able to do the things that we need them to do and to make sure that, as a company, we can succeed and thrive. So yeah, IT is crucial. As Joey said, HR, they’re the people at the forefront of bringing people into the business and supporting people, but we’ve got big part to play in terms of making sure they could do what they’re employed to do. And once they’re with us.
Chris: So, according to that statistic, organizations are now recognizing it as an IT and an HR objective to increase employee engagement. But I think it’s important that we define what the term means. So Joey, I’ll start with you on this one. You’re talking with all kinds of businesses about ways to improve their service management practices and what they need a service desk to be able to provide to employees. So when you look at it, what does that term mean to today’s organization?
Joey: That’s a great question. So employee engagement is multi-leveled, and it definitely encompasses a bunch of different things. So I’ll just start out with the very high-level on what everybody’s kinda looking for right now, and it’s being able to take care of your employees where they are. So being able to engage directly with your employees. Some people call them end users, some people call them requesters. But at the end of the day, everybody is an employee, and as the technology and the way that we work has changed, where you got to meet those people is completely different. Let’s say 10, 15 years ago, it was a help desk in the middle of your organization that somebody walked up to, and then maybe 10 years ago—wow, I’m probably not even doing those timelines—30 years ago was a help desk in the middle of your building, and then 20 years ago might’ve been switched over to email, and potentially phone. 10 years ago it was probably mostly email.
Joey: And now what we’re seeing is people are wanting to just log in to a portal and have direct access to a portal. Everybody’s always on their phones. Everybody has a phone in their hand, in their pocket, on the desk, anywhere around them. So they want to be able to get help or engage directly from their phones, so having like, a mobile app. Another way that we’re seeing is via chat. So every single time that I go to any sort of website, if I need any type of customer experience, I’m not looking for the phone number anymore. I’m looking for that little icon where I can click on it and I can chat with a representative, because it allows me to continue to multitask and do things that I need to do instead of calling, picking up the phone. So the way, I guess, to bring it all around, to me, employee engagement is making sure that you can take care of your employees where they are and making sure that they don’t go out of their ways, or out of their way, to get help.
Chris: Andrew, Joey said something right off the top about how there was no face behind IT. It had been like that for a long time. Are you feeling that change with the different ways, now, that people can connect with IT departments?
Andrew: Yeah. As Joey said, the face of IT is changing as technology’s changing. So I completely agree what Joey said. When I go to a website to get some level of support, whatever that may be, the first thing I look for is that chat feature. More because, as Joey said, it allows me to multitask, and I think from a natural, certainly maybe a British perspective, we can probably tend to be a little bit more upfront with what we’re saying when we’re in a chat feature. So…
Chris: Are you calling us passive?
Andrew: Yeah. So we’re probably just more likely to say what we’re thinking when we’re in chat, whereas if we’re on the phone to somebody or face to face. We’d maybe be a little bit more reserved, shall we say. And so, I think it just allows us to have that front conversation without end users, employees, whatever we want to call them. And so that we can get to the heart of what the issue is, get it resolved, and we can move on. So yeah, the face of IT definitely is changing as technology advances.
Chris: I think that’s true about the chat. Sometimes it can be easier to communicate exactly what you think because it’s not necessarily real time. I can think about exactly what I want to say and type that to the person, whether it’s my IT department internally, whether it’s the consumer support for my bank or my cell phone carrier, and Joey, I think that’s probably a big part of the experience that people are asking for, that they can provide to employees too.
Joey: Yeah, 100%. So, not only with chat can you make sure that you’re fully thinking about what you want to say and also being able to multitask and all of these things that we’ve already mentioned, but also, it gives you a channel to be able to serve up your end user with potential knowledge-based articles or being able to create a ticket and have that directly in front of that person. It gives them a visual representation of what’s actually going on. So, what our customers and what we’re seeing in the market is, they want to be able to allow somebody to go onto a portal or any type of website and be able to click on a chat icon and be served either with a chat bot, something that will automatically serve them based on their needs, to serve them knowledge base articles, solutions, things like that. Or get directly in touch with an agent, so that way they can get that help right off the bat and hopefully get their issue resolved sooner rather than later.
Chris: I think the diversity of employees in terms of the ways that they want to engage is interesting now, and I think it’s an interesting challenge for teams like yours, Andrew, because not every employee necessarily wants the same thing when they come to IT, their problem’s different, and the way they expect to find a solution is different. So, how have you seen that develop and how do you deal with those challenges of, that all these employees are different?
Andrew: Honestly, I think you’ve just got to accept that there are different people out there, they want to be served in different ways, so it’s tailoring that solution to that user. You’ve got some users who are always going to want to pick up the phone and have a chat with you, and they’re not necessarily want to go to a chat feature or they want to go to a portal. You’ve got the more tech savvy who probably do want to grab their mobile phone and grab an app and quickly log a problem and then they can carry on with their day. So, as much as we can try and push our end users or persuade our end users to come towards in the way that probably is better for the IT department. We have to accept, humans being humans, they want to do it their way. So we just have to work with that and help them in whatever way they want to come at us.
Chris: And when you say the best ways for the IT department, these are, you’re talking about the ways that you can collect the information you need to resolve it quickly. Right?
Andrew: Yeah. So, the quickest way to resolve a problem is if I know 100% what’s going on, if I know exactly what your issue is, I can resolve it first time and I can get on with it. And the chat feature’s great for that, because I can have that conversation, actually get to the bottom of what the issue is, and actually then if I then need to raise an incident off the back of that, then great. But if I just get that straight off an incident or off an email, then the way they put it across may not necessarily be the actual issue that I need to deal with. So the chat feature is great for that because that allows me to have that conversation and be able to understand and then fix the issue that I’m faced with.
Joey: So you mean getting an email that says “my computer doesn’t work” isn’t helpful?
Andrew: Yeah. It’s not the best information you can give me, in all honesty, but we can work with it, if that’s what I get it’s what I have to deal with.
Joey: It’s a starting point. You know it’s the computer.
Andrew: Yeah. I would then question how they sent the email, if the computer’s not working, but yeah, yeah, exactly that. If I can have that chat with them, they say their computer’s not working, it’s okay, well I can then develop from there and I’m apt to deal with the actual issue, not the computer’s not working.
Joey: And I think you bring up a good point of, you’ve worked with 10,000 people, 10,000 different users, and everybody’s going to have their own way or method that they want to get help. People that potentially have been around in the industry for a long time are going to want to pick up a phone or send an email. Other people might be wanting just to pick up the app or use a chat. And you said you want to push them to get things done the best way for IT to get the issue resolved. I think the thing that the whole industry is having a problem with is teaching our end users that if you do go through things like a portal or if you go through a chat, you’ll actually get your issues resolved quicker because we’re able to have those communications back and forth with you.
Joey: We’re able to serve you up the correct things. We’re able to, I guess, engage with you on a higher level, so that way I can send an email that says my computer doesn’t work and then wait 30 minutes maybe, whatever your SLAs are, and then I get a response, “Well can you give us more information?” And then I might be in a meeting and then I have to continue, and next thing you know it’s been a day and your computer is still not fixed. Where the industry is having a problem teaching people, hey, just go to this portal or pick up your phone and go to this app. We can actually get your issue potentially resolved in minutes or maybe even hours instead of days.
Chris: Yeah, and I think, actually, I’d love to get your thoughts on that too, Andrew, because that’s one of the challenges, right, is you can provide versatile ways for employees to engage and you can provide the ones that are going to give them the fastest answers, to drive them to a portal or to have them connect with an agent via chat. But then to actually have them take that step to do that action, that can take some strategy behind driving that behavior. So, how have you seen that develop and what have you guys done at Betfred?
Andrew: When we came into SolarWinds, maybe upwards of about four years ago, we went through that initial going from emails, going from phone calls, to developing on to using the portal as it was, and now we’re developing into chat. And in some ways, it’s having to have that, I hate to use the phrase of tough love, in terms of, the problem comes in to us in whatever guise that is, be it an email or phone call, it’s then going back to that user and say, and actually, do you know what, you can get a better and a quicker response if you do X, Y, Z. Could that be, you go to the chat, you go to the mobile app, whichever it may be, and it’s having that conversation with them and saying, go here, it’ll be quicker, it’ll be better. And then hoping that you have that trust, that leap of faith from that person that sat around that day, that you go down that route.
Joey: Yeah. We’ve actually had a couple of customers here in the U.S. that have just said the only way they can open a ticket’s via the portal. A little bit more straightforward, not as passive.
Chris: They get an automatic email reply or it says on the phone support that there’s an automatic voicemail that if you want to put this ticket in, you need to go to whatever the link is for their service portal. But I think, hopefully, and you guys are working in this every day. I’m the employee on the other end. For me, when I do it that way and it gets resolved faster, you don’t have to tell me again. I was happy that my issue got resolved faster. I’ll do it your way next time.
Andrew: Yeah. And that’s what I was saying about you need the end user to take that leap of faith and actually trust when you say, if you do it via the app, or you do it via the chat, you’re going to get a quicker response, and you need that user to take that leap and have that experience so that they know next time. Actually, do you know what, he was right. I listened to him. I trust what he says. Let’s go with that.
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Chris: Okay, so everyone in this room thinks a lot about how a service desk tool functions for IT, and how it can make ITs lives easier. And Andrew talked a lot about that, right? If we get the tickets through the portal, we can resolve them faster, our department’s going smoother. But if you look at the other perspective, and what makes it easiest for the employee, I think everybody can have a different opinion on this. So Joey, as an employee, what’s the best way for you? You’re having an issue. What’s your natural reaction to want to contact IT?
Joey: I thought you were about to ask what was my natural reaction when something doesn’t work, which would be totally different than my natural reaction to contact IT. And it’s actually, it’s a great question cause it happened to me on Monday. I came in to the office and my passwords were reset, and like a good old end user, I forgot what I reset passwords to. So I tried to resolve that myself by going through all the different links, and then when I realized that I couldn’t go any further on my own, I actually logged in to our service portal and looked through the solutions to see if there’s anything that I missed. And then I opened up a ticket directly from there. And what was really cool about opening up a ticket directly from our portal is as I was putting in my issue, it was still offering me up all these different solutions.
Joey: So, being somebody who has been in this industry for a long time, I knew the steps that I needed to take, but if I didn’t know that I need to look for a solution first to fix it, it was already offering that up to me. So, it was helping me make sure that I didn’t need to open up a ticket unless I absolutely had to. But I went to the portal. I knew that if I went there and I started filling out the form of what was going on, it would ask the correct questions of me to make sure that they can get their job done correctly. So, after I filled that out, I think they were able to get my issue fixed in maybe like 10 minutes. And I think it was mostly because of the questions that it asked on the portal.
Chris: And as you said, Joey, you’re someone who is familiar with the process and kind of knows what to do. Andrew, I imagine among those 10,000 people, there’s some percentage of them that don’t know what to do. So, what do you find is the first reaction for people to want to do?
Andrew: I think from our company perspective, I think that the end user’s first protocol would probably be to pick up a phone or send an email. Or certainly, maybe that would have been, if you go back a couple of years. If we look now, I think we’ve had the educational piece now, we’ve gone through that teaching them the best way is to go to the portal. So we’re more likely now to get an incident logged via our service portal. And we’ve also got some service catalog items. So we’ve got, my password isn’t working. I need a password reset. So we have a form for that. And one of my favorite phrases that I like to say, “We’ve got a form for that.” The good thing about the forms, filling in a service catalog item is, I get all the information that I need to be able to service that request as best as I can. On an incident, it goes back to the thing we were talking about before where it may just say, I can’t log in.
Andrew: Okay, well that kind of helps me, but what was your actual issue? And whereas if we fill in a form, I can ask set questions, I get set information and so I can deal with that a lot easier.
Chris: What do you guys think, and Joey, we could start with you on this one. What do you think are among the top things that IT needs to provide in terms of the experience, right? Andrew talked about the ability to go fill out a form that’s straightforward. Is it the visibility into what’s going on with your issue? Is it the actual point of engagement, or in an immediate response? Like what are the top things that are part of the actual experience that IT should provide?
Joey: So I think it all starts about how you get to that level of engagement. So people are just like, I guess you could say like water. They’re going to take the path of least resistance to get to the end goal, or wherever it’s going. So first you have to make it not complicated for somebody to get to where you want them to be. If it’s easier for them to open an email than it is to find where your portal is, figure out what the login is, things like that, then they’re always going to go to the email. So that’s the first thing that IT, or anybody who’s using a ticketing system or a portal needs to do is make it the easiest path is to go through the portal. Once you get to the portal, I think making sure that everything is laid out in a way that makes the most sense.
Joey: And that is a very broad answer, but it also comes down to simplicity. Just make sure that the things that you know that you see, and you can make sure the things that you see most commonly are upfront. And the way IT can do that is by running reports on how many solutions they see going out in a certain quarter, or how many tickets they have on a certain thing. Okay. We’re see a ton of tickets around password resets. Cool. Maybe let’s put that solution right up front on the help desk. So that way I can, as a end user, go there and that’s the first thing that I see. But then also just fast responses are always really great. But I think the main thing is just getting to the portal, I think is probably the hardest and biggest leap. And then once you get there…
Chris: And you’re talking about, on the initial point of I have an issue as an employee, like that is the most important time that we’ve got someplace that that employee can go. I mean, the rest of it, there’s obviously, there are things you want to provide throughout the process, but you’re talking about right upfront, I have an issue, what do I do? And Andrew, for you guys, how have you tried to make that experience make sense? And how Joey talked about, it should make sense as an employee. How do you make that make sense for the employee?
Andrew: I think it’s just about keeping it simple, as Joey said. So as you said, when you go to the portal, I just want to be able to search for password reset, and then I got a form to tell me what I need to do. If I don’t necessarily find the form that I need, I may go and raise a standard incident instead, and the great thing about SolarWinds is what it will then do is, if I start to type that incident and it’s, the system knows what I’m asking for and then it goes, okay, well actually we’ve got this form over here. Do you want to go and fill that in instead? So it’s having that simplicity of the system so that the end user, ultimately, as you said, the end user kind of sits and goes, you know what, I’ve got an issue. I need that fixed then. How I get to that end point, I’m not too bothered about. I just want it to be as simple as it can be and as quick as it can be.
Andrew: So, it’s just having that simple layout and some simple forms so that they can come to us, give us the information and we can get it resolved as quickly as we can do.
Chris: I know both of you talked about live chat earlier in the episode. Where I’m an employee, I have an issue, I log in and I’m connected with someone from IT that can either help me with that issue right there in the chat, or do what needs to be done, send me the form, send me the knowledge article, create the ticket for me. So, I’m getting that connection right away. I feel like that’s got to be inspired a bit by what we’ve seen in the consumer world. I mean, I feel like now, every time you log into an app for your bank or your mobile provider, or even your gym, I canceled a gym membership via chat recently.
Joey: That’s the laziest thing you could’ve done.
Chris: Is that the laziest phrase ever said?
Joey: I canceled my gym membership via chat.
Chris: But I feel like it’s available everywhere now. And so to provide that to the employee is now something that they’re kind of expecting, right?
Joey: Yeah. I mean 100%. I think everybody’s expecting it and it’s becoming the normal, it’s coming on one of those things where it’s like, well, I just assumed that if I go to this website, I should have a chat. And to be 100% honest with you, as an end user, I’m not going to make a difference between me going to my gym and chatting with somebody on chat and my internal support team. In my eyes, they’re there to do the same exact thing. I don’t care if it’s because I’m a consumer of either their product, because I’m a customer of that business, or I’m a consumer of their service. In my eyes, I’m a consumer either way. So I expect the ways that I’m going to be taken care of to be exactly the same no matter where I go. So, I assume that there’s always going to be a chat at every turn.
Andrew: I’m almost a little bit, if a go onto a website and there isn’t a chat feature, I’m bit like, oh okay, what do we do now? Where do we go from here? Because I’ve almost forgotten that, and I suppose this is why we want to get our end users to be in that engagement perspective, I’ve almost forgotten how to have my problem dealt with where there isn’t a chat feature, and that’s a great place to be. We’d love our employees to be in the same place. But yeah, it’s weird when there isn’t one and you kind of get a bit lost.
Chris: Andrew, have you found that you take inspiration or ideas from things that you see in your personal life that are good support experiences?
Andrew: Yeah. I mean, I think we can all think back to it. An example of a fantastic experience that we’ve had, whatever kind of company that may have been with, and obviously we want to emulate that in what we do. At the end of the day, as Joey said, we’re here to serve our customers in whatever way that—whatever they need. And it’s good to think back to that best experience that you ever had and think, okay, how can I make that a reality for each and every one of my end users, and who wouldn’t want to do that for their users at the end of the day?
Chris: A couple more things I wanted to get to. Joey, this question, I think, is for you specifically, since you’re working in product development for a service desk product, and you’re talking with people and they try the features and they give you feedback and that helps you figure out how to make this the best way that can help them solve their problems. What do you think are the big problems that organizations are trying to solve in terms of the experience they provide to employees? What’s at the top of people’s list today?
Joey: That’s a great question. And the main things are trying to automate as much as possible. Automate is the—it’s been a buzzword for a couple of years now. Artificial intelligence, automation are the two biggest buzzwords kinda right now in the industry. And that’s what we’re mostly seeing is, how can I make it to where my agents can spend the most time on the bigger ticket items, servers going down, things like that, than somebody’s potential password reset. So that’s the thing that’s on top of everybody’s list. So then we take that and we break it apart as a product team. We say, how can we bring automation and artificial intelligence to not just the agent side where they can potentially get their job done quicker, but also on the end user sides where how can we assist them quicker or make them more affection… Efficient.
Chris: Or affectionate.
Joey: Or affectionate. Yeah. I’m making up words. I’m from South Carolina. I just make up…
Andrew: Oh no, it’s definitely a word, affectionate is definitely a word.
Joey: Yeah, well.
Chris: They’ll be nicer when they come to the portal or the chat.
Andrew: More of a face-to-face service.
Joey: We’re trying to figure out how we can make them do that.
Chris: Did we totally throw you off your train of thought, or no? So, part two of that question, I would say we’ll go back to the beginning and we said this is a shared success metric for HR and IT in a lot of organizations. How does IT show that they’re being successful in terms of engaging employees, in terms of the experience that they provide? It’s a field where it’s dependent on metrics and data and numbers, and this is a feeling that I’m giving to my employees. So how can you demonstrate success?
Joey: Surveys. Surveys are one of those things that, as we all know, we usually click out of them. There’s two times that somebody will take a survey. One, they had a horrible experience. Two, they had an exceptional experience. Those are the two times. Anytime that you get in the middle, a mediocre experience, most people aren’t going to fill those out. So, surveys. Surveys are a great way to collect that kind of feedback to make sure that you are giving your employees those levels of ways of being able to get taken care of. Another way that we found it, and it’s a little bit old school, is to talk to your end users. As a manager or supervisor or director, whoever, walk around and talk to the people who recently opened up tickets and get their feedback. And that is just even more concrete data that you can then take and show that you are improving the way that people are getting their issues taken care of.
Andrew: Is that where the affectionate side comes in, Joey?
Chris: There you go. Full circle. Andrew, anything you can add to Joey’s point about satisfaction surveys, just in terms of what you guys use to track IT’s performance, find areas to improve, and ultimately provide that better experience?
Andrew: Yeah, I think as Joey said, it comes down to that satisfaction survey in terms of, how are we performing as a department to serve our customers? There are other things you can use as reports, so how quickly did we resolve? How many first-time fixes do we have? What’s our speed to resolution time? So they’re good indicators of how quickly we’re serving those customers, but they don’t necessarily tell me, am I serving our customer in the right way? So the only way I’m going to know that, as Joey said, is to go out there and ask the questions. How did we do, how great was the service you receive, what could we do better next time round, so that we can start to develop and build on what we’re doing so that the end user gets the best service that we can possibly give at the end of the day.
Chris: All right, I’ll wrap it up with this one for both of you. As far as anything that we haven’t covered or anything that you had additional thoughts on, advice that you would give to anyone making decisions about a service desk experience in terms of what employees are looking for and what IT should provide, what would be your best advice you could give, Andrew?
Andrew: Probably, as I think I’ve said a few times, keep it simple, keep it easy, make it approachable so that the end user can just go somewhere quick and easy, be that chat, be that portal, and tell them what the issue is. And then I can deal with that as quickly as I can, so that then the user feels like they’ve been listened to, they’ve got the problem solved and they’ve got on with their job. Because at the end of the day, we don’t want downtime. We just want maximum productivity from our team. So keep it simple.
Chris: Anything to add, Joey?
Joey: Not really. I mean, he kind of just nailed it on the head. So keep it simple. Find the things as like, again, you’re providing a service to somebody. So think about yourself as a consumer of that service, because what’s also great about ITSM or just employee engagement, employee service as a whole. It’s not just IT and HR that are using these products. So think about purchasing this product or using this product and setting it up, at some point that you could be consuming a service also from this product. So make sure the product does exactly what you would want as a consumer also.
Chris: Well Andrew and Joey, thank you guys for joining us on SolarWinds TechPod. It’s been a pleasure. Thanks so much for the time.
Andrew: Cheers, Chris.
Chris: And thanks everyone for downloading and listening to the podcast. Be sure to subscribe, rate, and review. To learn more about SolarWinds Service Desk, visit solarwinds.com/service-desk.