customer story

Aston University

calls logged in March 2020
of these calls logged via SSP
user feedback during this period

Utilizing self-service during the COVID-19 crisis

On 23 March 2020, the UK entered enforced lockdown to stop the spread of COVID-19. For Aston University, like many other educational institutions, this meant a new way of working: remote working.

Typically, the education sector isn’t set up for working from home. At most universities across the UK, students attend on-site lectures and seminars, and they are supported by staff on campus. The university experience is one of maximum human interaction.

The transition to remote learning and working, for staff and students, was therefore a big change. Aston University’s IT department recognized that supporting their users would be of utmost importance during this time, as technology is the key to a successful transition. They turned to their Self-Service Portal named ‘Solve’ to do just that.

With features such as news articles and major calls, we put relevant information about services and guidance directly in front of our users.

Stephen Colden, IT Support Manager

Introducing self-service to the institution

Stephen Colden, IT Support Manager, and his team, launched their brand-new Solve portal just a matter of weeks before the global crisis, and around six months after implementing TOPdesk. This served as a challenge for users, unfamiliar with the service and working from home, and the service desk team who were also in a period of adaptation to the new offering.

“As a digital services provider, we had the challenge of upscaling technology for all members of the university to use, while also supporting users that were unfamiliar with said technology,” explains Stephen.

“Through the Solve portal we were able to rapidly publish solutions and guides to help our users. By making information readily available on Solve, we could provide answers quickly and consistently with minimal operator time.”

Just two weeks into lockdown, over 32% of support requests were logged via the Solve portal. A clear indication of its initial success in supporting users during this challenging time.

Aston University campus

The key aspects of the high uptake of Solve

Introducing a Self-Service Portal alone is not enough to encourage users to head there to troubleshoot problems. The portal must be accessible, comprehensive, and coherent. Users will be inclined to use it based on the experience they have of the service.

All of this becomes even more important when users are faced with the confusion of new technology – a scenario that Aston University encountered.

“We made use of features such as news articles and major calls within TOPdesk to put relevant information about services and guidance directly in front of our users. This reduced the number of support calls to our helpdesk team as users are able to easily tell us if they’re impacted by things like ongoing broad service interruption,” Stephen says.

Other aspects of the Solve portal which directly impacted the high uptake, include:

  • A growing number of service requests available in the portal
  • Creating guides, solutions, and service request forms to empower users
  • Automated back-end processes which improved the speed of the service


Looking beyond the crisis

While the timing of the Solve portal release coincided with the transition to working from home, Stephen wants this change of customer habits to continue back on campus.

“While the Self-Service Portal usage has been fantastic, around 60% of incoming communication is still via email. Our goal is to continue providing quality information, access to services, and news via the Solve portal to drive continued change in our user behaviour,” he continued.

“There are clear benefits to both the customer and our service if we continue to leverage the flexibility of the TOPdesk Self-Service Portal.”