We hear drums, drums in the deep. They are coming.
One aspect of our mission to discover, develop and share knowledge is going to become very tangible again next week…
In many ways this past week has been a week of preparation, of anticipation and perhaps a little trepidation (and not just for the new students or their parents!).
There are few organisations who have an annual, near simultaneous 25% turnover of their users, many of whom will never before have had to independently interact with any complex organisation.
However, we have been preparing for Welcome Week and the start of semester since April, with our service readiness project. We have our change freeze in place to minimise service disruption arising due to releases – any emergency changes will be scrutinised by the Special CAB. We have automated monitoring in place, for example, Site24x7 polling of many of our systems, and scheduled daily check-up meetings with key stakeholders. And for the first time this year we have a fully featured Major Incident Process to aid resolution if anything does go spectacularly wrong…
Perhaps you’ll indulge me as I address only user-facing staff for a moment – I don’t doubt that this is the best prepared we have ever been for Welcome Week, but I will ask one further thing from you, and not an easy one at that.
Despite the crowds, the throng, the volume of enquiries, make each interaction about the student. Not about the students, about the student – the person standing in front of you, at the other end of the phone or on the other keyboard. As James demonstrated last week, whilst they are likely to be an undergraduate or taught postgraduate, from the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, this one might not. Despite asking the umpteenth question you may have had, this person, this individual is unique and has inherent worth. It takes singular skill to demonstrate this and assist each one with the same care, consideration and enthusiasm as the very first of each day.
Returning to the general readership – staff working on the frontline, the “service desk” in ITIL terms, are skilled in three domains.
- Interpersonal skills – with the ability to communicate clearly, to connect and to empathise.
- User understanding – often described as a “business” focus, yet it really means an understanding of how users interact with the services and what they wish to achieve.
- Technical understanding – knowing the answers to the user’s enquiries, through understanding the services, and accessing knowledge (their own, that stored in knowledge-bases and other’s knowledge).
High profile, high volume periods such as the start of semester bring service desks to the fore and demonstrate the real benefits of investing in and supporting them.
All of the University’s user-facing staff, in whatever role, will be instrumental in shaping each student’s experience over the next few weeks – perhaps aiding them in transitioning from school pupil to independent learner, from uncertainty to confidence, or simply from lost to pointed in the right direction.
Oh, and although the title quote correctly captured a mix of anticipation, excitement and trepidation, please don’t think of them as an orcish horde – that’s not helpful…