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A Day In The Life It Help Desk Manager Terry Collins


On the surface, The Pantry's IT help desk is the linchpin for keeping the retailer's 1,600 stores up and running. But under the leadership of Terry Collins, the IT help desk is more than that. Besides totally supporting the stores for all their point-of-sale and technology needs, the IT desk is becoming a knowledge center to help management better understand what is going on at the stores.

Collins is a North Carolina native who has worked in the help desk industry for 15 years. She started as a help desk manager in California for CKE Restaurants, operators of more than 3,000 fast-food restaurants including Carl's Jr. and Hardee's, before moving to a point-of-sale service provider — experience that gave her "a 360-degree view of the business," she noted.

Before returning to North Carolina to work for The Pantry around a year ago, Collins helped California-based Ameriquest Mortgage Co. set up a redundant help desk in its Denver disaster recovery center.

"The Pantry is a perfect fit," Collins told Convenience Store News. "I love it here. I love the fast pace and being involved in all the repositioning we've been doing."

In only four months, Collins, who reports to Vice President of Retail and POS Systems Ed Collupy, reorganized her entire department and helped change the entire culture of the company's help desk.

Under the current set up, 19 Level 1 and Level 2 specialists provide 24/7 coverage to resolve issues called in by the stores. Four senior specialists serve as points of escalation for matters that cannot be resolved easily by the first two levels. In addition, there are a couple of incident specialists responsible for reporting and analyzing metrics, and following up on priority 1 tickets, according to Collins. Priority 1 tickets are any problems that result in a 50-percent or more decrease in functionality. For example, if one out of two point-of-sale (POS) terminals in a store is down, it would require a priority 1 ticket.

A goal is to answer all calls within 60 seconds. "We're currently averaging about 85 percent of our calls answered within 60 seconds," said Collins.

Under Collins, The Pantry has begun to look more closely at metrics and trends on a store level in an effort to identify root causes of common problems. "We then report it to the operations department for further study or we identify a training issue with the help desk," he said.

The retailer also recently hired a knowledge specialist who created a soon-to-be unveiled self-help Web site for the stores that will enable them to get back up and running more quickly. The internal site includes FAQs and Quick Fixes that can be done at the store level, thus reducing the volume of calls to the help desk.

Besides the metric reporting and analysis, Collins believes the retailer will benefit greatly from an increase in training. "A lot of new training is happening here," she said. Help desk operators are put through mock calls with supervisors and the company is adding more soft-skill training in customer service. "The stores are our customer," noted Collins.

Collins is also a big believer in best-practice certification. Recently, everyone in her department completed a two-day training to receive HDI Analyst Certification. "All job functions will be certified through HDI [the world's largest IT service and technical support membership association]," said Collins. Collins herself will soon be going off-site to take special training from the IT Infrastructure Library, a best-practice framework for IT service management.

For the future, Collins said there's plenty to keep her busy on the help desk for the next two years. "I want to continue to implement best practices and I want to meet all guidelines of HDI so that we became an HDI-certified help desk," she said.

"I love the fast pace and being involved in all the repositioning we've been doing."

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