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Reach Out and Fix Someone

HP wants to ease the burden of harried help desk folk with an automated offering that lets them remotely harvest end-user information.

The company Monday introduced a Web-based technical support offering, HP Instant Support Corporate Edition (ISCE). It said the product automatically identifies, diagnoses and resolves computing problems within an enterprise's distributed desktop computing and printing environment. The product is targeted at corporate IT help desk support teams, and HP claims it can help lower support costs by 10 to 30 percent.

The platform is part of the Palo Alto, Calif.-based company's HP Instant Support line, which offers automated, Web-based support for Pocket PCs, desktop computers, servers and storage systems.

"Traditional IT help desk support systems can't always keep up with the demand or adapt to the changing needs of end-users," said Dan Socci, vice president customer support and channels marketing, HP Services. "Our remote support solution keeps systems up and running by identifying problems quickly and fixing them the first time."

He said that ISCE's automated remote support with optional contact with support desk staffers from its global call centers can let corporate end users resolve problems more efficiently while cutting back call center use by about 20 percent. According to Socci, when compared to classic telephone support, ISCE provided a two to one increase in efficiency and let call agents close twice as many trouble tickets.

"For example, many people with an iPAC or Pocket PC call to say they've downloaded a driver and now can't use their peripheral devices or they say they have active sync problems," Socci said. "Instead of letting them wait on the phone, the person on the other end of the chat can guide them along."

The HP ISCE offering includes several "Instant Support" self-help features, such as automatic driver and BIOS updates, and diagnostic tests that users can run to find fixes and updates for printing, hardware or software configuration problems. HP's "zero footprint" technology allows installation and updates to take place on the server, rather than via individual client updates or software downloads.

Part of the process involves automatic remote harvesting of information from users' systems. HP said this allows tech support to provide system restores or to roll back a seriously messed up system to the previous day. Socci said that increasing the amount of information shared during help desk calls increases efficiency.

"We use the harvesting for internal purposes and keep each end user identified and see what activity they've done the last two times they've used the service," Socci said. "But the end-user is the traffic cop and they get to see all of the harvesting done during the session. The call agent can't get at more information beyond what is agreed to. It's like when you go to the doctor and have to get some tests done to find out what the problem is."

For those who are stymied and need to work with technical support staff, the product includes Active Phone and Active Chat Help Desk. These use ActiveX controls that transmit hardware information and customer history data to help support desk staffers troubleshoot the problem more effectively.

To run ISCE internally, HP said enterprises need a Web server and a database server running either Oracle Database or SQL server; two of each provides a fully redundant system. Pricing tends to be customized based on volume; it runs between $5 and $8 per seat a year.