RIT ITS Preparedness and Covid-19, Part Two

RIT's approach to higher education was altered greatly with the onset of the COVID-19 Pandemic.  Many changes in approach to delivery and care for our students was suddenly in need of additional and non-traditional solutions.  Last month, we highlighted the efforts in technology, operations and infrastructure that geared up to support the new demands we all found ourselves facing.  Building upon the details shared previously, I turned to Kelly McLaughlin – Director of Enterprise Support - to provide additional information on how the ITS Enterprise Support teams continued to transition and move forward to our new reality.

Call Center – On Campus

As the realities of the pandemic started to impact the RIT Community, we knew we needed a very clear and intentional way to engage with students and their families, faculty, staff, etc. Students and their families especially, wanted to talk live with someone when they had a question. On Thursday, March 12, Dr. Watters decided that ITS would stand up a COVID-19 Call Center to assist those parents and students.  By combining the knowledge that had been gathered with the tools and customer service expertise already in use at the Service Desk, ITS was able to plan that new call center.  Amazingly, by Sunday, March 15th, that COVID-19 call center was live:

  • Physical Space - Clark A and the Bamboo rooms in the SAU provided the physical locations.  As most of you know, they were not labs or previously structured as workstation locations.  They did give us adequate locations that would adhere to the New York State spacing requirements at the time.

    • Clark A was the first to be targeted and ITS crews scrambled to meet a serious deadline.  The room was readily equipped with 6 workstations and phones, accommodating social distancing as best as possible. This was an all-hands effort by members of ITS.
    • The Bamboo Room was also transformed to serve as an overflow area. Telecommunications was able to deploy 20 additional phones in this space to provide increased Call Center Agents, as necessary.
  • Our partners in Marketing and Communications did an amazing job of standing up a Web site to post all COVID-19 updates and current information.  (COVID-19 Info)
  • The ITS Enterprise teams worked with colleagues in Dining, Housing, Student Financial Services, Financial Aid, Marketing and Communications, Academic Affairs and Human Resources to build knowledge and provide a single point of contact for students, families and employees who had questions.

COVID-19 Call Center – Remote Capabilities

As the restrictions for New York were enhanced, the need to remove staff from on campus to comply with state regulations made it clear that the Institute’s needs would last longer than a couple of weeks. That meant work needed to be done to allow the COVID-19 Call Center to function from anywhere:

  • Five9 phone system (an application already on deck as part of the overarching Enterprise Service Center project) was enabled within days to allow the agents to take calls from anywhere with an internet connection, using their computer and a headset.  This was an incredible accomplishment that would not have happened without assistance from our partners in procurement/purchasing and many areas within ITS.  It is a real testament to the overall efforts everyone at RIT was making to focus delivery on whatever was necessary, including the timing from a request to purchase to installation to live in less than a week.  (The first and fastest time in anyone’s memory)

Enterprise Support – Merging Covid-19 Call Center and Service Desk Operations

In an effort to efficiently staff and manage both the ITS Service Desk and the COVID-19 Call Center, work was done to streamline and bring together both service points.

  • In late April work began to operationalize the Covid-19 Call Center. The Service Desk Operations Manager, Kathy Marcus, officially took responsibility for the Center as part of her team, using many of the same resources.
  • Another milestone was achieved mid-May when the team retired Footprints, the old ticketing system that was used to manage work and requests from the business community. ITS cut over to the new tool, ServiceNow.  This new tool will offer the Institute a much more robust interface for members of the community to seek answers to their questions and work of ITS.

Covid-19 Call Center Statistics

Through the first week of June a total of 2,595 inquiries (telephone, website and email) have come in to the Call Center from the RIT community:

  • 94% of all contacts came from parents/guardians and students.
  • Housing was the most frequent topic, accounting for 50% of all contacts to the Call Center. Other high volume topics include Classes & Academics (12%), Financial Aid/Student Financial Services (11%), Dining (5%), and Employee Concerns (4%).
  • 62% of contacts came via telephone.  The contact form on the RIT Coronavirus Response website (22%) and email (16%) were the other contact methods available.

Supporting the Campus Remotely

In addition to the Covid-19 Call Center/Service Desk Operations functioning remotely, the Support team was challenged with best supporting the campus community in a variety of other ways. Some of the highlights in this area:

  • Using video chat tools to assist the campus community. A variety of members of the support team have turned to tools like FaceTime and Zoom to video chat with members of the community when walking them through resolution of support requests.
  • The team created a rotating on-call schedule. This allowed the team to provide on-campus support for those essential support requests, while adhering to the campus directive to have staff working remotely.
  • Many support technicians supported our colleagues with assistance as they acclimated themselves to working remotely.

What’s Next?

Expanding the users of ServiceNow.  Several groups at RIT previously had their own workspaces in Footprints.  ITS is working with Student Auxiliary Services to onboard Housing next month.  As the various teams join ServiceNow, it will align the Institute to finally have a centralized ticketing system and unleashing the power of an Enterprise Service Center.  ITS looks forward to migrating F&A Services, including: in Student Auxiliary Services (SAS Tech and Housing) Institutional Research, Timekeeping, Procurement, Travel, Accounting, Parking, and Human Resources Benefits to bring their services into the Enterprise Service Center model that proved effective for the call center achievements.

The Enterprise Service Center will continue to provide opportunities to strengthen the delivery of services to the RIT community by leveraging efficiencies, technology and the talent of our people.  We are excited for the journey ahead!