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Help Desk, Customer Service, Cloud & Security Insights, with a Side of Altruism!

Measuring Service Level Agreements- Mutual Expectations

Service Level Management is a formal way for setting customer expectations BEFORE the customer has the need to request service. It is a methodology for introducing and implementing reasonable expectations between you and the customers you support. These are most often contained in a document called a Service Level Agreement (SLA). The SLA establishes a two-way accountability for service, which is negotiated and mutually agreed upon. It is really a contract that documents operational and interpersonal relationships, establishes mutual expectations, and provides a standard to measure performance.

Without SLAs in place, you are effectively telling your customers that you will provide support to them, at any time, under any conditions, without any limitations to the systems and services they have. However, this is not the worst part. The worst part is that you cannot possibly ever meet your customers’ service expectations because every customer will have a different expectation and that expectation will change every time they call.

Here is a great White Paper on Implementing Service Level Agreements. See https://www.givainc.com/white-papers/index.htm 

Select Implementing Service Level Agreements: "The Critical Element in Service Delivery"

Is My IT Help Desk Service Level Management Working?

There are a lot of reasons why service level agreements may not work. Here are a few lessons to remember as you make progress with your IT help desk or service desk organization.

Gotcha! Service Level Management: Why it fails1

1. Too Complex. The most common pitfall is that the SLA documents are too complex. These documents should be short and very precise in defining the services you provide and the level of service you and your customers agree on. If they are longer than 3-5 pages, then you are doing it wrong.

2. No measurements. If you do not have the technology and tool sets to track and report the timed-service events by responsiveness and resolution for the various severity level classifications, then SLAs will fail. Without continuous feedback on performance, the loop is incomplete and the SLAs become documents and nothing more.

3. Unrealistic management expectations. Often management does not acknowledge the amount of time needed to implement service level management, and therefore they do not staff it adequately. This cannot be a part time job! It must be managed full time.

4. Unrealistic objectives and goals. Frequently, IT management and customers set unrealistic objectives and goals. This usually happens because there were inadequate measurements done prior to implementing the SLA. It is critical to baseline the current service performance prior to beginning to negotiate the SLAs with customers.

 

1 Original article by Char LaBounty of LaBounty & Associates, Inc.

Here is a great White Paper on Implementing Service Level Agreements. See https://www.givainc.com/white-papers/index.htm 

Select Implementing Service Level Agreements: "The Critical Element in Service Delivery"

Establishing Service Level Agreements (SLAs)

Here are a few more thoughts on how to get started establishing service level agreements in your organization.

Know your current support metrics. One of the biggest objections of those that provide service is an unwillingness to commit to service goals that cannot be met. The biggest objection of those receiving service from you is that you take too long in delivering the service. Both of these objections are based on “gut feelings.” If you have actual cycle times (time to resolve cases) by severity levels, then both of these objections go away. That is the power of real numbers. If you do not have a process in place for setting severity levels for cases, it is better to postpone the start of the project until you have done this. Set up your own guidelines within your Support Center team and then religiously assign severity levels for every case. You do not even have to tell anyone outside of the Support Center. You will be surprised by how much informal severity level setting is already taking place. This is also a good time for a customer satisfaction survey. It will provide a baseline for measuring improvements.

Can your IT help desk software measure time to respond and time to resolve Service Level Agreements? Your help desk software application will need to do this for you to be successful with managing service level agreements.

Team meeting. Hold a project team meeting to explain the goal and determine tasks and timelines. It is in the team meetings that many of the fears come out. If a support group says that the Support Center can not be accurate in setting the priorities, then ask them the following. Ask them to create a document with the types of cases they normally receive, the type of questions and documentation they need in the case and what the priorities should be by case types. This will be used to instruct the Support Center on setting priorities. When the Support Center does not set priorities correctly, you will want a process for notifying and training the individual who handled the case.

 

Here is a great White Paper on Implementing Service Level Agreements. See https://www.givainc.com/white-papers/index.htm 

Select Implementing Service Level Agreements: "The Critical Element in Service Delivery"

Service Level Agreements for IT Service Desks

Getting Started: Establishing An SLA

1. Understand the time commitment. Do not underestimate the time and commitment involved in this process. Your entire organization needs to be committed to implementing SLAs. Once you start this process, you are clearly defining your service commitment to your customers. The creation of an SLA is not just the function of the Support Center because it is not just an agreement between the Support Center and customers that call there for help. Ultimately, everyone in IT supports the customer through the Support Center. The Support Center will not only be setting customer expectations for cases it resolves, but also for those cases elevated to 2nd and 3rd level support groups. Everyone needs to be committed to the service goals of the SLA.

2. Understand your customers’ needs. Become familiar with your customer’s daily operations, processes, and business initiatives. Take time to develop a list of all services and products that require SLAs.

3. Identify participants. Identify all the stakeholders that should participate in the service management process. This includes your customers, as well as any other internal/external organizations that assist the Support Center in providing support to your customers. Be sure to include the decision-makers. While this task may seem daunting, this process is an excellent tool for building cross-departmental teams.

Here is a great White Paper on Implementing Service Level Agreements. See https://www.givainc.com/white-papers/index.htm 

Select Implementing Service Level Agreements: "The Critical Element in Service Delivery"

TCO-Call Center/Customer Service Cloud Software

The other day I talked about the TCO of Call Center/Customer Service & Help Desk Software-Acquisition Costs. The following is a listing of the important lifetime costs that you want to make sure you carefully quantify. Ask the vendors that you are considering to put together an analysis to show you what the TCO will be of their solution over 3 years. That is a reasonable time horizon. Most traditional software vendors will actually make you repurchase the entire application every 3 years or so. It is important that you understand this. Carefully read the software license agreements for this important detail. Annual Software Maintenance Agreements will only buy you incremental upgrades with moderate feature enhancements and bug fixes. They never include new User Interfaces and rewrites which are major product releases. How else do you think the traditional software industry has created so many billionaires and multimillionaires. Customers enjoying the economics of the SaaS model are saying the party is over. Are you taking advantage of this sea change or would you rather help your company pay for another software billionaire's yacht?

Here are the Lifetime Costs to consider:

Support Costs:

Cost for Support:

Call Tracking System and add-ons?

Database Support?

Day-to-Day Administration:

Average time to set up a security group?

Average time to add, change or delete users from their system accounts?

Average time to make changes to pull-down lists?

Can I make changes to the system during business hours?

Future Customization:

How much is involved and how long does it take to do a detailed design for changes?

Does any of the following require consulting services and average time to:

Add labeling to a view?

Resize a field?

Move a field?

Add a form?

Add a button?

Add a Menu?

Add a field to the database table?

Add a view?

Average time to modify views for display on different type platforms and monitor resolutions?

Workflow changes:

Average time to modify the way certain calls notify the service technician?

Does this require consulting programming costs or can it be done in house?

Average time to change the way certain calls are routed?

Average time to develop a feature that automatically creates multiple tickets (parent/child and predecessor/successor) based on workflow logic that is maintained by the service groups affected?

Average time to design, write, and debug triggers and stored procedures?

Average time to design, write and debug an application program integration (API) utility?

Average time to document changes made to the system and where are these stored?

Average time required for testing changes?

Are there utilities to help with the testing?

Once changes are made, average time for end users to review and gain acceptance?

Average time to move the changed functions from the development server to the production server?

Upgrades:

Are upgrades backward compatible?

Average time to test, and implement upgrades?

Do upgrades require consulting time? If so, what is the average cost?

People Costs:

Is the system reliable? How much downtime is anticipated a year?

Average time for a user to become proficient?

Ease of client installation?

Creating New Applications:

Do you have templates or down-loadable applications outside the help desk area?

If so, how much do they cost?

If not, how long does it take to create a simple application?

Network Costs:

Average time to log on and load the client program when close to server and from a distance?

What is the average length of time for a query to return 1000 calls when close to server and from a distance?

Average time to submit a call when close to server and from a distance?

If we go to multiple servers, what is the average cost for each server (Application, hardware, software, etc.)?

Will this take consulting to implement?

Do you integrate with network monitoring applications such as LanDESK or SMS?

What is the cost to integrate with a network monitoring application?

Future Application Integrations:

Do you have an Asset Management (AM) application? Cost to integrate?

Do you integrate with remote control/access applications? Cost to integrate?

Do you integrate with Autodiscovery applications to inventory software on the desktops? Cost to integrate?

Do you have a Change Management (CM) application? Cost to integrate?

Do you have a knowledge management application? Cost to integrate?

Do you integrate with enterprise financials such as SAP? Cost to integrate?

Do you integrate with Report Writing packages? Cost to integrate?

Do you integrate with two-way paging applications? Cost to integrate?

Do you integrate with palm computers such as Palm Pilot? Cost to integrate?

TCO Help Desk Cloud Software-Acquisition Costs

It is important to look beyond the "Sticker Price" for your Call Center/Customer Service or Help Desk software!! Your CIO or VP of Customer Service is very interested in the one time acquisition costs as well as the recurring costs which are also called lifetime costs.  The Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) industry is taking significant market share away from the traditional software vendors for good reasons. Many of the reasons are just simple economics. You will not have all of the recurring costs with the SaaS approach as you will with purchasing and deploying traditional software. The initial acquisition costs are also an order of magnitude lower with a SaaS approach.

Here is a list of Acquisition costs to that you should be considering.

Acquisition Costs

Application Cost:

What is the basic cost of the server software?

Licenses:

What is the cost for user licenses?

What is cost for customer licenses?

Is there a charge for creating and viewing records?

Up-front Customization:

If lacking necessary features, what is the average number of hours to customize the tracking system before it can be used? (Small, medium and large changes)

Consulting cost for customizing?

Server Requirements:

What are requirements?

Will we need a new server or an upgrade?

Cost for server hardware?

What databases are supported?

Will we need a new database or an upgrade?

Cost for database?

Operating system software requirements?

Cost for upgrade or new operating system?

What server applications are necessary for network connectivity?

Cost for network software?

Web Implementation:

Cost of Web application to allow customer submits and queries and users to close calls?

Web server hardware requirements?

Cost of Web server or server upgrade?

Operating system software requirements?

Cost for upgrade or new operating system?

What server applications are necessary for network connectivity?

Cost for network software?

Cost of licenses to have any customers use the Web tool.

Report Writer:

Does application have a built-in report writer so that graphical results can be distributed?

Average cost of report writer application?

Average cost to integrate with report tool?

Is there a real-time view of the information?

Development Environment:

Cost for a development server application?

Cost for admin licenses?

Cost of user license?

Cost of customer licenses?

Cost of operating system software?

Cost of networking software?

Cost of database and license?

Training Costs:

Cost to train administrators?

Cost to train uses?

Is there multiple training locations for my global company?

What are there the training options available for all the different needs I might have?

 

For a good White Paper on the topic, please see https://www.givainc.com/white-papers/index.htm and select

Looking Beyond Sticker Price: "What It Really Costs to Operate a Call Tracking System"

IT Cloud Software Needs Assessment Tool

Finding and acquiring any new software product to enhance your business operations can be a daunting task. How do you select the right one?

Giva has built a new 2008 Needs Assessment Tool with Help Desk, Customer Service/Call Center, Knowledge Management and Change Management software "Industry Best Practices". You can modify this sample template as you see fit. It contains Best Practice Product Features, Descriptions, Priority, Vendor Score, and a Priority x Vendor Score calculation field. If you are evaluating a number of vendors, then this is an excellent tool to download from Giva for free.

After you add to this Excel template as you desire, you can provide it to each vendor that you are interested in and ask them to “Score” themselves. This is a good way to get preliminary information. While they perform a “live” demo of their help desk or customer service software, you can ask them to show you each software product feature and you can revise the “Score” as you see appropriate.  After you discuss your help desk or customer service/call center software needs and requirements with your team, you can decide how important each feature is to you. You can place a “Priority” next to each software feature. We have also included a third tab in this spreadsheet. It has all the Acquisition and Lifetime costs that should be considered in determining the Total Cost of Ownership of customer service/call center or help desk software. When comparing vendors, besides focusing on your exact software requirements, you might want to ask some of the following general questions:

· How long has your organization been in business?

· What is the true total cost of ownership? When calculating the associated costs, include items such as costs of hardware, software, professional implementation services, and ongoing maintenance, training and support.

· What is the strategic plan for your organization within the next year? Do you have plans to develop new products/services?

· How many organizations have you worked with in a similar situation?

· Will your clients provide references?

· What types of support do you offer?

Read more about our Needs Assessment Tool and how Giva customers successfully used the Needs Assessment Tool at: http://www.prweb.com/releases/2008/05/prweb904544.htm.

Download the Needs Assessment Tool at: https://www.givainc.com/free-needs-assessment/index.htm

Thanks for Reading!

Treat Your Employees How They Should Treat Your Customers

Many companies treat employees like they are interchangeable parts. Companies that have the capability to amaze and delight their customers, always have an outstanding corporate culture that treats employees with dignity and respect. Make people feel like they are needed and important to your organization. It is a poor company culture to make people feel that it is a privilege to work at your company. You see, you want your employees to go those extra miles for your customers.  Some of your competitors will go AN extra mile. You want your people to go an extra FEW miles!!  This is what will inspire loyalty and commitment from customers. Don’t you want to inspire your employees to think outside the box and come up with innovative solutions? If you create a company culture of, "you're lucky to have a job at this mighty company xyz", then you will likely get that same exact attitude translated into how your employees treat your customers. The degree to which you treat your employees with dignity and respect with a great corporate culture will be the tone that is reciprocated with  your customer when you are not looking. That's what's important. How do your employee's treat your customers when you are not looking and they are left on their own to deal with a customer issue.  I guarantee you that they're going to treat your customers the same way your company treats them.

One of the reasons why JetBlue is a stand out in the airline industry is because of their unique culture of how they treat their employees. Unions never caught on at JetBlue...which is part of the very highly unionized airline industry.  How did that happen?  Think what you may about Unions, but organizers can only get traction within a company if there are seeds of employee dissatisfaction. In October 2007, JetBlue was named the number one U.S. domestic airline by Conde Nast Traveler magazine's "Readers' Choice Awards" for the sixth year in a row.  JetBlue has approximately 11,000 employees. Happy employees...make happy customers. Make a reservation with a JetBLue Agent or fly JetBlue and you'll get it. 

Amazed and Delighted Customers

After you have amazed and delighted your customers on an ongoing basis for a long period of time, it is appropriate to document some of these successes with pictures and stories. You have earned their admiration and respect. Your company is in a class by itself.  Now it's time to leverage this customer loyalty and spread the word around your company's brand and approach to customer satisfaction. Ask the customer if it is appropriate to jointly write a customer case study. Perhaps post a short video clip of the people who are featured in the customer case studies.  Utilize the power of the Internet in spreading your brand of customer service and satisfaction.  Ask customers for referrals. You want the world to understand what customer service means to your company. You'll be in a class all by yourself.  You can turn your important customers into walking evangelists for your cause.  That will translate into profits for your company, financial rewards for you, job security and the satisfaction of knowing that you practice your art of caring for your customers with great success.

Your Problems Are My Problems-Here's My Cell Number

Do you really want to impress a major customer with your brand of delight and amaze? If you are a senior executive or the head of customer service, give a major customer your personal cell phone number and tell them that you are reachable anytime. Your problems are their problems. How many of your competitors do this? If the Division President knew that you were doing this, what would this executive think of you? Do you just want to meet customer expectations? If so, you're not competitive enough and you're missing out on the joy of building long term relationships with important customers.

 

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