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

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.

Important Features to Look for in a Knowledge Base

Here are a few features that you should look for in a knowledge base.

Knowledge Base Accepts Attachments and Screen Shots

Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words. With a good knowledge base software system, files and screen shots can be attached to knowledge base records for further documentation. Attachments that are audio and video presentations of typical "How To" questions are excellent examples. The files are indexed by the knowledge base search engine and become part of the knowledge base software system.

Import Third Party Knowledge Bases for Agent and Customer Self-Help

This provides the ability to purchase knowledge bases from third party vendors and import for use in your own knowledge base software system. Assign security levels to knowledge records This provides the ability to assign a security level to knowledge base records, agents and customers. Accordingly, agents and customers can only view knowledge base records designated with the matching security level in their profile.

Knowledge Base Approval Process

All new knowledge base records must go through an approval process.

"Contact Me" option

After a customer reviews knowledge base records in a customer service self-help portal, if no records answer the query, the customer can request someone contact them. By clicking a "Contact Me" hyperlink, the knowledge base software application automatically creates a service request with the search criteria already tried by the customer. This service request also documents the possible need for new knowledge base information to fill voids.

 Technorati Profile

Senior Executives Should Meet With Customers

If you really want to impress an important customer, send a senior executive to the site when things are not going well. Every company sends executives to close the big deals. Your customers never see senior executives again until it is time for more deal closing. Senior executives as a group are not use to having demanding people talk to them. Everybody around the office treats them with respect and walks on eggshells when around them. They have isolated themselves into a corner office. If you are a senior executive or want to be one, understand that one important measure of your success is in your ability to turnaround situations. If you are a smart executive, hook up with a few top sales people in the company and let them use you as a resource when trouble strikes. Many of your peers will be hiding in their offices. Go out and face the music and take some responsibility for your company. Just simply listen to what your customers tell you. Bring that skillful listening back to your company and work with the appropriate teams to make the necessary changes.  Also, keep the customer informed on the status and what you plan to deliver to make them happy again. If you can turn the situation around, many people will hear about it.  Let your Division President know that you are trying to delight and amaze an important customer that is not very happy with your company. Simply taking initiative and trying to fix things will earn you a lot of credit while your peers shy away from this type of customer engagement. If you actually lead a turnaround success, all the more valuable you will become to your company. When senior executives are trying to figure out who adds the most value to the company your name will be on that list.

Thanks for reading. Here is a good White Paper on customer service best practices. See https://www.givainc.com/white-papers/customer-service-best-practices.htm

Why Do You Use Competitor's Products?

Within the marketing department, some companies have competitive intelligence gathering organizations. However, the customer service department is the best and the least expensive forum to obtain competitive intelligence. Agents can be trained to ask questions about competitive products. Your customers might be using your products along with competitor's products. You want to keep on making sure they use more of your products and services. Customers have friends and colleagues that are using competitive products. This is a rich opportunity for dialogue and it's dirt cheap. Just say no to the high priced market research firms and start a competitive intelligence program in the customer service department.  Better yet, talk to the the VP of Marketing and run this idea by them over lunch. When you explain that your agents can be leveraged for competitive intelligence and save the marketing department a lot of money, the VP better pick up the tab for lunch!

Customer Feedback Loops

On April 29th, I wrote about customer feedback loops. Here are a few more thoughts.

Your customers will be amazed when they are transferred directly to an engineer that works on the product they are using. It is a very satisfying experience for your customers to establish a dialogue with more than just the customer service department. There is nothing so quite as satisfying as to have a direct impact and effect on a product that we use. Customers will give the people who build your products and services the best ideas for enhancements and new products. Also, consider placing some of your biggest and most important customers on a Customer Advisory Board and invite feedback from them on a regular basis.

Listen to your customers! Encourage and invite their feedback. They will tell you things that will never occur to you or anybody in your company.

Here is a great White Paper that may interest you. https://www.givainc.com/white-papers/customer-service-best-practices.htm

 

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