Digital Manager Antony Theobald on how improving our internal support processes will ultimately benefit users of our website.
Here at the University of Bristol, we operate a devolved publishing model for web content.
‘Devolved’ publishing for us means we have nearly 2,000 web publishers creating and updating content across hundreds of sub-sites and pages under bristol.ac.uk.
For us as a digital team, this has some pros and many cons.
Without going into all of those here, we’ve recently started addressing one of the major cons: one small team supporting a vast community of publishers.
This support includes things like:
- dealing with basic ‘I’ve forgotten how to add a link’ type requests
- administering user access for our content management system
- fixing broken page layouts
- advising on content design
- updating ‘advanced’ content areas
- setting up analytics reports
Using our time more wisely
The time we spend answering such a huge range of enquiries on an individual basis is considerable, keeping us entirely preoccupied on a never-ending supply of detail.
What if instead we spent this time analysing the top tasks our visitors want to complete, and then used that analysis to improve the content right across our website?
If we had more time for this, we’d be able to address some of the core issues our devolved publishers attempt to ‘fix’ through creating their own content. Then:
- we’d need fewer devolved pages
- meaning a smaller number of publishers
- resulting in fewer support requests
- giving us more time to improve the user experience
- meaning fewer still devolved pages, and so on.
The first step in this journey was to look at the way we were answering support enquiries. Most of our publishers contact us by emailing our shared mailbox which logs their enquiry as a ‘ticket’ in a service desk system.
Until recently, we’d take turns to daily monitor the service desk queue and distribute tickets almost immediately to appropriate members of our team.
Dealing with disruption
This was disruptive to everyone. The person monitoring the mailbox was unable to devote time to other projects. And the people being assigned tickets were distracted from their work with continual task-switching.
We couldn’t ignore these requests, but we could prioritise them.
To make requests less disruptive, we decided to devote a single day a week to dealing with them.
On our ‘Fix-it Fridays’ (we ended up picking Wednesdays for logistical reasons, but have yet to come up with a name as snappy) we work as a team to get through the week’s backlog of tickets.
We still take turns to keep an eye on the mailbox for the rest of the week, but only three times a day to pick out genuinely ‘urgent’ requests. Everything else is left to deal with on Wednesdays.
On Tuesday afternoons one of us spends an hour triaging the backlog, ‘scoring’ each ticket to indicate roughly how long it will take to deal with.
On Wednesdays the team assign themselves tickets totalling a set score, work through those tickets and if there are any left over, pick off the remaining ones.
Enhanced team spirit
This process has been in place for just a few months and is already working well. We all enjoy the enhanced team spirit of working to one goal on Wednesdays, and the rest of the week is freed up to concentrate on project work and strategic stuff.
The house hasn’t burned down
Our publishers may have to wait a little longer for their issue to be resolved, but all the feedback we’ve had so far has been positive. Because we catch anything urgent when it comes in, the big items can still be dealt with swiftly.
Freed up some time to plan and improve
The number of support requests is roughly the same each week, but we aim to address that through a series of publisher workshops, drop-in clinics and improvements to our self-help guides.
Watch this space for news on all those and more…