New help desk achieves quality rating of 96% UMassOnline, Massachusetts

New help desk achieves quality rating of 96%


Online education division credits help desk with improving efficiency

UMassOnline, the online education division of the University of Massachusetts, was established in 2001 to increase access to the university and meet community educational needs. It supports all five of the university’s campuses—UMass Amherst, UMass Boston, UMass Dartmouth, UMass Lowell, and UMass Medical—as well as state-funded programs such as the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

The help desk at UMassOnline has a critical—and challenging—role to play. Serving between 72,000 and 74,000 users, UMassOnline is experiencing near double-digit growth. Its diverse population of users is composed mostly of adult learners. The help desk must meet the technical support needs of this large heterogeneous population across all of UMassOnline’s campuses and programs.

According to Kevin O’Brien, principal application specialist/technology operations manager, UMassOnline, the help desk provided by the division’s previous vendor was “more or less a glorified answering service.” As a result, most of the eighty campus administrators were spending at least three or four hours a day handling tickets.

Deciding to partner with Pearson’s Help Desk Services in 2013, UMassOnline gained a proactive help desk that provides effective technical support in a timely manner. Students gained “just-in-time service,” according to Jeff Marshall, elearning LMS administrator, Division of Continuing and Professional Education, UMass Amherst. And campus administrators soon found that their time was freed up, enabling them to focus on their key responsibilities.

“We don’t spend all day troubleshooting tickets that could be resolved by somebody else,” explained Marshall. “When things get escalated to us, 98 percent of the time, maybe 99 percent of the time, they should have been escalated.”

A strong working relationship characterized by open dialogue has helped make the partnership productive, and UMassOnline has been pleased with the high level of service it has received.

The escalation rate is incredibly low; the student and staff satisfaction rate is through the roof. The level of knowledge and understanding from the technicians and the training level are stellar.

Kevin O’Brien, Principal Application Specialist/Technology Operations Manager, UMassOnline

UMassOnline has experienced a dramatic reduction in the escalation rate of incidents since partnering with Pearson. With the previous vendor, the escalation rate was 75 percent. With Pearson, the average escalation rate in 2013 and 2014 was 17.5 percent. The rate was 8.8 percent in the first quarter of 2015.

Help Desk’s Escalation Rate


From 2013 to 2014, the first call resolution rate for both UMassOnline and UMass Amherst ranged from 81.2 to 86.3 percent. In the first quarter of 2015, the rate jumped to over 91 percent after new processes reducing the number of calls sent to the institution were implemented.

Help Desk’s First Call Resolution Rate
UMassOnline & UMass Amherst


The response time to email requests has also improved. For UMassOnline, the response time decreased from more than an hour in 2013 when the help desk received 694 requests to approximately 41 minutes in 2014 when it received 968 requests. Receiving 261 requests in the first quarter of 2015, the help desk had a response time of approximately 38 minutes. UMass Amherst similarly experienced a reduction in response time.

Surveys show users’ satisfaction with the overall quality of Pearson’s Help Desk Services. In 2013 and 2014, an average of 91.5 percent of respondents rated the services for UMassOnline and UMass Amherst as good or excellent. The rate was close to 96 percent on surveys in the first quarter of 2015.

“Our users are happy,” said Marshall. “We are happy.”

To learn more about the help desk services at UMassOnline, read the full success story.

Read the full success story