Zendesk + Grapevine Colleyville ISD: Increasing efficiency amid a pandemic
By leaning into self-service and automation, the school district deftly adapted to a new reality by providing an omnichannel experience to students, parents, and educators.
“We’re so much more efficient with Zendesk. We’re able to work with families over email or chat and then follow up with them on the phone. Being able to toggle between channels enables us to answer questions so much faster."
"As we navigate this new normal, we envision expanding our team’s use of Zendesk. We hope to hire more help desk technicians and technical writers to keep our Guide up-to-date. Even our instructional design team has started using Zendesk."
Zendesk products used
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Grapevine Colleyville ISD (GCISD) is the kind of school district you wish you went to as a kid. Committed to educational excellence and innovative teaching and learning methods, GCISD not only supports students in becoming effective communicators, collaborative workers, and positive global citizens, but does it all with a culture focused on quality communication and empathy.
As an independent K-12 school district near Dallas, Texas, with nearly 15,000 students and 2,300 teachers, GCISD knows there is no one-size-fits all answer to education.The district has long been a proponent for preparing students for real-life, which means straying away from traditional teaching methods.
GCISD is a pioneer in the education technology space and has chosen a model that requires every student to learn from a device. Younger students start with iPads, graduate to Chromebooks, and eventually use laptops in high school.
Having technology at the forefront of the curricula helps with that real-life approach to learning, but of course it doesn’t come without its own set of challenges. With a student body as large as GCISD’s, technicians are stretched thin, managing over 46,000 devices across multiple campuses.
A help desk that couldn’t scale
Prior to Zendesk, the school district had an outdated ticketing system in place to help the IT team manage repairs. “The system was cumbersome and required a lot of manual effort, deterring teachers from placing requests altogether,” said Shylene Sanchez, director of technology support, Grapevine Colleyville ISD. “As support staff, we operate under the assumption that if there’s no ticket, there’s no problem. We realized pretty quickly that this wasn’t the case.”
Technicians struggled to obtain reports and gather data, which limited Sanchez’s ability to understand her team’s ticket volume and speak to its efficiency. Finding a solution that improved the team’s workstream while allowing it to provide quality customer service to students and faculty was a must, leading the GCISD to procure Zendesk in early 2019.
A customer support solution for Grapevine Colleyville ISD
When the district first rolled out Zendesk with Support and Guide, the first course of action was to promote self-service whenever possible. The district built two versions of its knowledge base, one for students filled with tutorials and how-to guides, and the other for staff. Students could now easily access the information they needed while staff and technicians both had their own spaces to reference.
In 2019, Dell provided GCISD with a grant funding the technical certification of 15 high-school students. Sanchez and her team piloted the “Tech Crew,” a program designed for the Dell-certified students. These students would receive additional training in how to fulfill intake requests using Zendesk, offloading some repair work for full-time agents. Doubling as a workforce development program, students benefited from hands-on training in both technology and customer support and were exposed to new career possibilities.
Using support analytics, Sanchez was able to show school administrators that even though ticket volume had increased, so had her team’s efficiency. It could now close out 70–75 percent of the tickets it received. That helped her make the case to shift five on-campus repair techs to the help desk, meaning more dedicated hands in Zendesk.
On campus to online, overnight
Although it made great strides in the first year using Zendesk, GCISD had to rethink its support strategy when the COVID-19 pandemic forced the district to suddenly shift to remote learning. Educators found themselves adapting lessons for online consumption while administrators had to navigate uncertainty and provide parents, faculty, and students with information and tech support at lightning speed.
Pre-pandemic, campus technicians fulfilled all service requests in-person, but now everyone was at home and needing more support than ever. The technology department began to receive an influx of tickets, forcing it to grapple with how it could reach everyone in a way that didn’t compromise the personal touch it was known for.
GCISD decided that focusing on the knowledge base would help ease the transition. The support team rebranded Guide, making sure that the version originally designed to aid students could also be of use to parents. Instead of requiring credentials to access the knowledge base, the revised version was now available to the public.
Despite making strides toward automation and self-service, many tickets still required customized support. With Zendesk’s skills-based routing, agents could easily direct Spanish-speaking parents to bilingual colleagues or redirect tough cases to the curbside assistance program.
“We’re so much more efficient with Zendesk,” Sanchez said. “We’re able to work with families over email or chat and then follow up with them on the phone. Being able to toggle between channels enables us to answer questions so much faster. We received a total of 8,700 tickets in August, solving the majority of them within the first 4–6 hours.”
What’s next for GCISD?
GCISD is kicking off the school year with a new synchronous approach that combines both virtual and in-person instruction. With students and teachers participating in classes from varied locations, tech support will remain in high demand.
To accommodate the anticipated surge, the team opened up a phone line that’s able to automatically convert calls and voicemails into tickets, leveraging Zendesk as an omnichannel solution. That kind of agility will allow GCISD’s support team to pivot when needed and level up its strategy going forward.
The team has also recently built upon the way it routes tickets. It starts every conversation by asking if the child is learning at school or at home, enabling the team to quickly determine the type of support needed and save time by immediately routing the ticket where it needs to go.
Using Zendesk’s scheduling tool, Sanchez and her team can monitor when and where technicians are needed for in-person repairs. That has an added advantage in the era of COVID-19. Administrators will be able to use the tool to supplement contact tracing efforts, pinpointing exactly who may have been exposed to the virus and for what length of time.
Today, GCISD feels more prepared for what’s to come.
“As we navigate this new normal, we envision expanding our team’s use of Zendesk. We hope to hire more help desk technicians and technical writers to keep our Guide up-to-date. Even our instructional design team has started using Zendesk,” Sanchez said. “We’ll also focus on introducing new tools to continue boosting our efficiency, which I hope will have a positive impact on our agents’ work-life balance.”