Key Challenges for Delivering Web-Based IT Support Services: The Provider Perspective

Key Challenges for Delivering Web-Based IT Support Services: The Provider Perspective

Vanessa Cooper (RMIT University, Australia), Sharman Lichtenstein (Deakin University, Australia) and Ross Smith (RMIT University, Australia)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60960-607-7.ch003
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This chapter explores the key challenges faced by IT service providers offering after-sales support services to enterprise customers via the Web. The chapter is based on insights provided by representatives of six multi-national IT service organizations. It considers how IT service providers use knowledge-based approaches to offer such services. The chapter highlights the trend towards the employment of networks of business partners to assist with the processes of support delivery. By exploring the perceived needs of the different stakeholders involved in IT support provision, and the transfer of knowledge across these organizations and individuals, the key challenges in IT support provision are identified. The chapter proposes a range of solutions to address the key challenges.
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Experts forecast that, post the recent economic downturn, a revolution in information technology (IT) services is on the way with the advent of cloud computing and software as a service (McCarthy & Matzke, 2010). They note that the IT services market brought in $450 billion in 2010. Other reports suggest that “managed IT services” are booming not only for large client businesses but, increasingly, small client businesses (Shukla, 2010). While lower costs for client firms are predicted as part of the coming IT services revolution, providers will also have very good opportunities for profit making (McCarthy & Matzke, 2010) with increasing leverage of IT and the Web being employed to deliver value-added customer services (Ragsdale, 2010).

The delivery of electronic services (“e-services”) to client firms via the World Wide Web (“Web”) has grown in the past decade as a novel way to realise customer service value (Hall, 2008). Web-enabled managed IT support, where IT support services are offered to enterprises via the Web, is a popular e-service and is the subject of this chapter. So far IT service providers have received little insight or guidance from scholars with regard to facilitating IT support delivery success via such approaches. For Web-enabled managed IT support, complex systems involving multiple stakeholders such as business partners and contact centres, are often used. Such systems have been termed “Web-based self-service systems” (WSSs) as customer self-service is an important feature of such systems (Cooper, 2007). WSSs reach out to many regions, each with its own laws and cultures. They leverage important evolving concepts such as knowledge-based IT solutions. As the complexities of offering IT support to enterprises via WSSs are considerable, IT service providers would benefit from having access to published guidelines and models that can assist them with their efforts.

As a first step, IT service providers would benefit from an understanding of the key influences and challenges for successful IT support delivery when WSSs are involved. There are four major rationales as to why the key influences on successful WSSs for managed IT support should be explored. First, traditional customer service influences such as quality of service have mainly been identified in the context of serving consumers rather than enterprises. Second, prior research has focused on exploring key influences for services delivered by traditional channels such as face-to-face or the telephone rather than the Web channel, or multiple channels with the Web a key channel. Of those that do investigate traditional influences on customer service in the Web-based context, these tend to focus on end-user consumers rather than enterprises (e.g. Udo et al., 2010). Third, with multiple stakeholders involved in IT support service delivery, issues surrounding networks and relationships may be more important than in the simpler contexts of yesteryear. Fourth, critical success factors (CSFs) for customer service delivery have mainly been researched from the customer perspective. Only now is research appearing that takes a provider perspective (e.g. Cho & Menor, 2010). Finally, industry-consortium based guidelines such as knowledge-centred support or “KCS” (Consortium Service Innovation, 2002) are available, however the key enablers and challenges for such a methodology are not available, nor are best practice implementations of this approach.

This chapter will identify the CSFs and key challenges for the use of WSSs for managed IT support. Success is conceptualized as the transfer of relevant knowledge along the chain of IT support service delivery via WSSs with a view to ultimately increasing customer satisfaction while decreasing the cost of support provision. As foreshadowed above, the chapter takes the service provider perspective. To focus this chapter, the provision of operational IT support services relating to (1) assembling and operating the core IT environment, and (2) providing key value-adding after-sales services such as the Service (Help) Desk, is examined (Peppard, 2003).

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