5 Steps to Lowering Mobile Support Costs

By Brian C. Reed, Chief Product Officer, BoxTone — December 09, 2013

Hardly a week goes by without another big story in the world of mobility.  From new product releases to acquisitions and turnover, mobility is always a hot topic.  And with good reason, top analysts project that by 2015 mobile devices will overtake the PC as the primary business device and that mobile apps will increasingly overtake PC apps for many functions in the enterprise. 
However, lost in all this noise, is a simple question.  How are you going to support mobility as it becomes increasingly core to business operations?  IT organizations have spent years honing their service desk and IT operations around the desktop. 
Now with mobile extending and in many cases replacing the desktop, BYOD diversity replacing standardization, and dozens of mobile apps replacing a handful of desktop and web apps, the old playbook is out the window.  Standardization is effectively dead, a causality of BYOD.
So how can you make sure mobility doesn’t crush your service desk?  A good place to start is with these five steps:
1.Start tracking mobile support calls:  Few organizations are tracking mobile smartphone, tablet and app issues independently, and fewer still are developing effective metrics for their mobile service desk calls. Recent survey data from Gartner shows that 48% of those surveyed did not even track mobile issues, leaving them totally exposed and in the dark.

Of those that are have been tracking them, over 82% report an increase in support load and costs.  Diving deeper into their metrics yields pretty frightening results.  Many report an average of 2-4 issues per mobile user per year. Mean-time-to-resolution (MTTR) averages 1 hour or more. Up to 80% of mobile issues result in escalations.  Mobile support costs are the elephant in the room, and if you don’t measure the right metrics and figure out these costs, you can’t manage them. 

2. Revise your chargeback model:  After you’ve started tracking your number of mobile support calls and various mobile call metrics, the next step is to charge departments appropriately. 

Using principles of activity-based costing, profile your users and determine the cost of supporting a mobile user by device, apps and service levels to create a tiered portfolio. Allocate the fixed cost of fully loaded support resource to the activities they perform.  Mobile call duration and costs will generally exceed PC call durations due to lack of tools and standardization. 

Once you have your portfolio, charge your internal departments appropriately.  An effective chargeback model can steer behavior. For example make the device/apps that you want people to use cheaper (e.g. iOS with email might be a low $20 per month chargeback) and make the complex edge cases more expensive  (e.g. Android with custom app might be $50 or $100 per month chargeback). In this way you can provide diversity of support while steering through costs.

3. Build a knowledge base:  As mobile call volumes increase, you will begin to find common patterns.  Document these meticulously and begin compiling a knowledge base.  Many companies already have knowledge base infrastructure for their users for PCs.  If you do start by adding sections on Mobile. This knowledge base can be used both by your support staff and users, enabling them to resolve their own issues.  This is the first step to moving beyond understanding your costs to driving them down.  By compiling this knowledge base and promoting widely, you can reduce support load while improving user satisfaction.

4. Enable peer-to-peer support:  While mobility presents a number of unique challenges for IT, it also provides a unique opportunity.  Unlike most enterprise systems, mobile users tend to resemble hobbyist more than passive users.  They love using their phones and expanding the possibilities for use.  Tap into this.  If users can choose their own phones for BYOD, then why not empower them to fix them too?  Give them user self-service tools that enable them to FYOD – fix your own device.

They also like to share the latest tips and tricks.  Create peer-to-peer support communities.  If your organization uses a social collaboration platform such, utilize this existing tool.  Otherwise, consider adopting one.  Encourage users to ask questions for non-urgent issues on this platform. 

Many organizations that supported Macs successfully utilized peer-to-peer support approaches.  Mobility provides an even greater opportunity.  Use this to reduce further reduce call volumes.

5.  Enable your support staff and users with a purpose-built mobile support solution:  Perhaps most importantly, begin to consider what sorts of tools and capabilities your support staff needs to successfully navigate multiple mobile OSes, dozens of OS versions, hundreds of device types, and dozens of mobile apps.  Make sure they have actionable intelligence to quickly identify and resolve support issues across this cacophony of technologies and platforms.

Expand from a simple knowledge base to a full user self-service portal so that users can resolve issues themselves without the costly support call. Consider mobile service management solutions that complement and go beyond the MDM products you may already use.

Make sure to monitor the end-to-end mobile service quality and provide real-time status to your teams. Ensure teams can interrogate from backend systems through the carrier network to the device.  Ideally the solutions should provide automated troubleshooting diagnostics, embedded expert knowledgebase and remove fix capabilities for IT support staff to quickly identify and resolve service issues. 


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