Whether it's called walk-up service, walk-in service, drop-in service, a "genius bar," or by the most accurate generic term—tech bar—more enterprises are offering employees consumer-like convenience for resolving IT issues.
Modeled after offerings like Geek Squad service, Apple's Genius Bar, or Staples' EasyTech, corporate tech bars make it easy for employees to schedule fixes for common IT problems (and improve life for their IT pros as well).
An increasing number of enterprises are embracing the walk-up service / tech bar model. According to the HDI 2018 technical support practices study the share of organizations offering tech bar support grew from 35% in 2017 to 44% in 2018, and is projected to reach 49% in 2019.
The tech bar approach to IT service delivery offers several compelling benefits. According to IT feedback software vendor HappySignals, walk-in service has both the highest user satisfaction rating (88%) among common support channels and the least amount of lost work time—half the lost time as with phone support, and just a third of the lost time reported for email or portal support.
Despite these advantages, tech bars handle just 4% of IT issues today. While that's partly due to the fact that not every issue is suitable for walk-up service (e.g. printer repair, in-depth application error troubleshooting, etc.), this figure should expand significantly as more companies adopt tech bars, and enterprises with tech bars in place add more locations and capabilities.
The benefits of tech bars go well beyond these widely reported, high-level metrics. Based on interviews within organizations that have adopted walk-in or drop-in services, here are three lesser-know "hidden gems" of tech bars.
Implementing a tech bar enables you to provide live service before and after normal business hours, e.g., from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.. Employees can schedule a time to get their IT issues resolved before the first meeting of the day, or before heading out for the evening.
This does not necessarily mean you need to have IT professionals staffing the tech bar for all of those hours, however. Using tech bar software that enables users to schedule a time slot for their visit lets you optimize the time of your talented tech people. There's no need to staff the tech bar at 7:00 a.m. if the first scheduled appointment isn't until 8:00 (unless you want to offer true drop-in, first-come-first-served service during non-scheduled times).
Organizations like 3M Corporation and the Ottawa Police Department report that after launching their tech bars, all future IT projects went a little bit better.
Prior to having a tech bar, users felt they were just sort of sending their issues into the ether. They had no idea who was working on their problem. It's easy to complain about the unknown automaton on the other end of an email chain or chat session.
But walk-up tech bar service puts a face on IT, humanizing the department. These enterprises report that subsequent IT interactions of all types start to go more smoothly after the tech bar is in place.
In addition to becoming "the face of IT," the tech bar provides an environment for more consultative service. Employees may ask questions like, "I don't know who to talk to about a database issue—can you connect me with the right person?" It creates the capability for people to ask questions that they wouldn't even know how to ask any other way.
Across the board, companies said that prior to having a tech bar, they did a fairly decent job with IT service delivery. Their satisfaction ratings were generally in the 90 to 95% range, and negative comments (or more generally, any comments at all) were rare.
But these organizations are continually striving to do better, to keep the employee satisfaction level high and pursuing constant improvements. From universities to government agencies to corporations, every group reported that after implementing a tech bar, their satisfaction ratings went up.
Not only are the ratings up, but users are commenting—positively! 3M reported that since their first tech bar launched, they "get tons of great comments." For the regular IT help desk, they get survey results. With the tech bar, they get survey results plus great comments. People just really like it.
Implementing a tech bar can significantly reduce employee downtime due to common IT service issues. It humanizes IT, and helps all future interactions run more smoothly. It improves user satisfaction. And it enables IT groups to efficiently expand their service hours.
As more organizations embrace the walk-up /drop-in service model, they may discover more hidden gems from tech bars.