Help desk cuts costs, improves services via telework program

* PracticeWorks uses telework program to maintain a talented staff as well as to improve service to customers

IT departments hoping to keep valued employees longer might try implementing a telework program that lets help desk support staff stay connected while also enabling better customer service.

PracticeWorks Systems LLC, an Atlanta-based practice management, radiology and digital imaging software provider employs some 250 technical support representatives in an IT customer call center to ensure the reliability of the technology solutions it provides to 37,000 dental offices nationwide. Krista Ciccozzi, director of technical support PracticeWorks, says the company developed a telework program to provide a perk to talented staff as well as to improve service to customers.

"It takes us nine months to train an employee and get them up to speed on our technology so any time we lose someone it hurts. Keeping people longer is a huge ROI for us, so the happier our employees are the better it is for us," Ciccozzi says. "You know that old adage 'do more with less'? That is going to be a topic in many IT organizations."

When PracticeWorks looked to establish a telework program in 2007, the company needed to consider investing in technology that would enable help desk staff to assist customers but also equip the staff with tools that would improve service levels. The company decided on a virtual support product from Bomgar that lets IT representatives to securely remote control into a dental office's computer to diagnose and solve technology problems.

Using Bomgar Box, virtual support staff can control the remote desktop as though they were physically present. Bomgar works through corporate firewalls, and enables remote control of attended or unattended Windows, Linux, and Mac computers, the company says. The Bomgar Box allows customers to respond faster and eliminate the need to send support staff to remote locations to fix problems.

For instance, PracticeWorks established a four-day work week using Bomgar technology and a telecommuter program. With 30 of the company's 260 support staff personnel taking advantage of the telework program, PracticeWorks improved IT efficiencies by saving more than $5,000 per day and reduced customer support call time by 24%. The company hopes to expand the program in 2009.

PracticeWorks also uses Cisco VoIP phones to set up remote workers with a softphone or an IP proxy phone so that they are connected "like anyone at the office is connected," Ciccozzi explains. "We can see the remote support staff on an automatic call distribution system just like they were here, and from a management perspective, we know when they are on calls or not."

And for additional perks, Ciccozzi says employees save on fuel, an issue that came to the fore during a gas shortage in the southeast, and the company could eventually see savings on its own utilities with fewer employees consuming resources in the office.

"We have improved employee satisfaction, lowered our attrition rates and our employees are saving money by being able to work from home," she says.

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