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

4 Tips for Optimizing Online Customer Service

Digital Online Customer Service

Micah Solomon, best selling business author and named by the Financial Post "New Guru of Customer Service Excellence," wrote about an important principle of customer service titled the BUBL method in his informative article, "The One Customer Service Training Secret You Need To Know". The simple acronym stands for Begin immediately, Uncode, Break Your Schedule, and Leave Room For More:

Begin Immediately: This means giving immediate attention to the customer. Keep in mind they are here for your service; their needs are your priority.

Uncode: Be receptive to the body language, tone, and verbal cues of your customer to decode their persona and adjust your attitude accordingly.

Break Your Schedule: Throw your to-do list out the window. Customer service entails tending to customer needs as they are needed, so assure your schedule is their schedule.

Leave Room For More: Lastly, leave your interaction open-ended. In other words, make yourself available for future assistance.

These four practices are essential to successful customer service interactions.

But how do you provide helpful customer service when you are not physically present? Excellent online customer service is equally possible; however, business methods must be adapted to digital spaces:

  1. "Beginning immediately" is no longer an issue in an online environment where the desired information should be readily available. A customer service representative or associate may not be present, but providing a Frequently Asked Questions page in your navigation can substitute as a reliable resource for any business-related questions your customer may have. Additionally, a search feature will assist users in navigating your website for any specific questions.

  2. Uncoding a customer's presence online may not be possible , however, knowing what your customers find helpful or unhelpful is critical to the success of your business. To quote Bill Gates, "We all need people who will give us feedback. That's how we improve." Encouraging customer input by Including a survey or feedback form is a simple and effective way to gain that feedback. Consider using websites like Survey Monkey.

  3. Navigating a website is a self-serving practice prohibiting you from personally tending to the customer's schedule. Instead, implement an analytics program to view the effectiveness of your website. By tracking metrics, you can gain a comprehensive look at customer interactions and pinpoint what areas of your business need improvement.

  4. With regard to leaving yourself available for further interaction, be sure to provide a customer service phone number and email address in a clearly visible area should a visitor have additional questions or concerns. Regardless of the efficiency of your website's navigability or helpfulness, customers will always genuinely appreciate the option to communicate with a live person.

The online customer brings different challenges to the customer service environment, and successful organizations will find creative ways to closely interact with them, even if it is through "personal" virtual means.

The Giva Challenge: Customers are Talking! Santé Health System

Santé Health System

Bedside doctors of old were sure to have a reputation in the local community. That reputation was determined by qualities that still exist in our current fast-paced world. Today, delivering the highest quality health care is as important now as it has ever been. According to Leonard S. Feldman, assistant professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, "Basic things make a difference in patient outcomes and they're not being done to the extent they should be" (5 Ways New Doctors Fail At Bedside Manner). Just as it is for doctors, great customer service should be top priority for businesses. Giva customer Santé Health System understands this and endeavors to make certain that their customers in the medical field are satisfied.

Santé Health System provides IT and technical support across sixteen geographically dispersed healthcare sites. They provide technical support to physicians who in turn need quick answers in order to give great patient service. They were having difficulties that needed to be addressed. “Before Giva, we used FrontRange Solutions HEAT. However, significant IT issues were falling through the cracks over and over again. This is not tolerable in our organization given our goal of delivering the highest quality medical care possible” (Juan Carlo Muro, IT Director). After researching their options, they found the solution that would improve their customer service.

Santé Health System turned to Giva in order to solve the problem. “We were intrigued by Giva's cloud based service right from the first time we began evaluating it. It was very easy to get started, and we worked with a technical specialist for only just a few days in order to fully customize Giva the way we wanted it. Giva is more intuitive, easier and faster to customize, more functional, and has outstanding reports and dashboards.” The numbers show just how much they have improved:

  • They experienced a 50% increase in productivity by using Giva's custom forms that are integrated with service requests to prompt technicians to ask important questions the first time they speak with users.
  • As a result of productivity increases, they also experienced a 60% increase in meeting their internal resolve-time service level agreements (SLAs).
  • The Giva dashboard made managers 80% more productive as compared to when they were using FrontRange HEAT as they can now see exactly what is going on across their 16 sites that they service.
  • Giva increased their technician productivity by over 40% for those that travel between their 16 sites.

"Selecting Giva was an excellent choice for Santé Health System. After a support request is opened, Giva contacts us for more information, if needed, and consistently nudges and reminds us to follow up and provide all the information they need, so that our questions can be resolved in as timely a manner as possible. We never get this kind of focus and deliberate follow-up from other software vendors, and so we are extremely pleased."

Read more at about how Giva helped Santé Health System in their case study.

What is your challenge? Let Giva be your solution!

World Changers: Giva Salutes The Annie E. Casey Foundation

The Annie E. Casey Foundation

Here at Giva we search for organizations, large and small, that are doing a great job of changing the world around them for the better; and we are pleased to salute them here.

The Annie E. Casey Foundation

Giva Salutes the Annie E. Casey Foundation (AECF) for their work to improve the lives of children at risk of poor educational, economic, social and health outcomes. To elevate at-risk children to brighter futures where they can be self-sufficient, successful and civic minded-members of their communities is no easy feat. AECF recognizes that there is a complex system of indirect and direct forces that can contribute to a child's success or failure. AECF has developed a refined and thorough approach that addresses the contexts in which at-risk children live and grow. Their work and research aim to improve and strengthen communities, families and access to opportunities for at-risk children throughout America. Giva Salutes AECF for their steadfast commitment to developing and implementing evidence-based strategies to improve at-risk children's lives and futures. We honor their work in advocacy and policy reforms and their leadership in the world of child welfare.

There are hundreds of mission driven organizations throughout the country that target their work to focus on child welfare and supporting at risk youth. Unfortunately, many of these organizations have high need, but minimal resources and funding. The AECF works to alleviate issues of inadequate funding through their grant program, which helps "federal agencies, states, counties, cities and neighborhoods create more innovative, cost-effective responses to the issues that negatively affect children: poverty, unnecessary disconnection from family and communities with limited access to opportunity" (About Us). In 2013 AECF awarded $87 million dollars in grant funds to 552 organizations throughout America. AECF chooses recipients carefully so as to contribute to organizations, programs and initiatives that are sustainable and creating measurable impacts.

Mission driven work is, by nature, virtuous and incredibly important, often targeting the most pressing social and environmental issues. Such imperative work warrants sound strategies that will be sure to create a legitimate and far-reaching impact. This is why the Annie E. Casey Foundation places high importance on utilizing research to develop and implement sound, evidence-based approaches and policies for improving the lives of at-risk children and the general state of child welfare in America. AECF funds a nationwide initiative called KIDS COUNT, a network of organizations that collects and utilizes data to inform smarter policies and more effective programs geared toward issues of child welfare.

The AECF Child Welfare Strategy Consulting Group (CWSG) provides intensive consulting to child welfare agencies, practitioners and policymakers. CWSG consults with organizations to strengthen their management, finances, operations, policy and advocacy work so that they can provide more effective child-welfare programs and have greater impacts in their communities. AECF recognizes that child welfare is an issue that requires partnership and collaboration; when one organization can better support and advocate for at-risk children, strengthen communities, and influence effective child-welfare policy, everybody wins.

Grant-making, KIDS COUNT and the Child Welfare Strategy Group are just a few examples of how the Annie E. Casey Foundation is helping to improve at-risk children's lives and futures. Other areas of the Annie E. Casey's work around children include: juvenile justice, poverty and economic opportunity, education, community partnerships/community development, and a wide array of research and policy reform initiatives.

Communal support and nurturing is at the heart of philanthropy. It is a cornerstone of the Annie E. Casey Foundation's work to strengthen communities so that children from all backgrounds and circumstances can be cared for and nourished into healthy, happy adults. When we care for our children and the children in our communities we are helping to grow a generation of healthy, strong, civic minded adults; a generation who will "pay-it-forward," continuing to strive for social, political, economic and environmental progress.

20 Tough Questions to Better Select, Compare & Evaluate Any Software / Cloud Vendor

Questions for Software Vendors

There is nothing more frustrating than signing on the dotted line and then regretting it. Selecting a software or cloud vendor is a major decision for any company and Giva has designed a whitepaper to assist you in becoming more informed and educated by reducing the complexity of the cloud or software vendor selection process.

This whitepaper provides twenty penetrating questions to ask cloud vendors in order to become a more informed buyer. It provides practical "how to" advice to help avoid mistakes that even the most experienced professionals make, ultimately costing them a lot of time and money. Use these questions early in your selection process to poke and prod at your list of cloud vendors.

Some topics covered include:

  • Using uptime and support service level agreements to manage our relationship
  • How to qualify the reliability and security of a data center; SSAE 16 (formally SAS 70), Trustwave PCI Certification and SysTrust Compliance
  • Access to your data and rights in the cloud
  • Source code escrow rights and responsibilities
  • Termination clauses, contract term commitments, discounts and hidden fees
  • What if my company is dissatisfied?
  • What if my company finds better technology?
  • Deployment "out-of-box" vs. time and cost of customization/configuration
  • Preparing and comparing the total cost of ownership (TCO) of all alternatives
  • Most overlooked critical fine print in software maintenance agreements
  • Vendor product roadmaps and commitment
  • What are the costs for post-implementation customization/configuration?
  • What qualifies as routine technical support vs. professional services fees?

To view the whitepaper in its entirety, please see Twenty Tough Questions to Better Select, Compare & Evaluate Any Software or Cloud Vendors.

Saving You Money: Selecting The Right Help Desk Staffing Model, Part Two

Help Desk Staffing Models

To understand the financial impact of the various Help Desk staffing models discussed in Part One, the important question to answer is, "How many Help Desk staff are required for your call volume?"

The Meta Group and the Help Desk Institute have calculated the cost per call resolution at the various levels of support. These studies show the real financial impact of the different models. In all cases, the Generalist Model is about 48% more cost effective.

The following are methods of determining how many Help Desk staff are required for your volume:

  • Determining Direct Labor Requirements. How calls are submitted determines the biggest impact of labor requirements. The percentage of calls actually being resolved at the Help Desk have a direct impact as well.
  • Determining the Number of Potential Direct Labor Hours Available. It is unrealistic to think that anyone who works a 40-hour week will be available for all 2,080 theoretical hours in the year. When you factor in and deduct hours for company holidays, vacations, sick time, training, etc., the net number will determine the potential direct labor hours available.
  • Utilization Rate. This rate reflects the fact that inbound calls arrive randomly. Rarely does a new call arrive at the exact moment an open call is concluded. The level of service required of analysts determines an "appropriate" utilization rate.
  • Sample Formulas. Calculations to determine:
    1. Total numbers of hours required
    2. Number of potential direct hours available
    3. Actual number of direct labor hours available
    4. Gross staffing level

For these formulas and much more in-depth information, please refer to Giva's Whitepaper on Help Desk Staffing Models.

Saving You Money: Selecting The Right Help Desk Staffing Model, Part One

Help Desk Staffing Models

Studies indicate that 80% of the typical help desk budget is salary. Frequently, Help Desk managers worry about staffing levels more than any other matter. These managers need a methodology to determine said levels. The usual Erlang formulas from queuing theory do not always work because of the wide diversity of Help Desk entry points (phone call, e-mail, fax, etc.). This theory is helpful for some call centers but not for the more complex Help Desk environment. Therefore, staffing appropriately has a major impact on the business and the bottom line.

Understanding the Different Call Flow Design Models is Key

Gatekeeper Model

This model can be staffed with a single person or a few. It is designed to make it easier for the customer to have one phone number to call. In most cases, however, this model creates more problems than it solves; most often the "Gatekeeper" cannot solve the problem, creating a bottleneck instead, resulting in very low customer satisfaction.

Call Sorting Model

This structure sorts the calls into special groups using technology rather than people. Each call is then transferred to someone who can solve the customer's problem, a "specialist." With this model, additional staff is required in order to resolve the issues in each category; and, due to the fact that call volumes are not predictable, a lot of time can be wasted. Often, customers have more than one problem they are calling about which is a big drawback to this design.

Tier Structured Models:


  1. The Specialist Model is the filtering of calls, commonly known as a tiered specialist structure. Often, the Desktop Support group receives the calls in order to solve more customer problems on the first call. Because of payroll expense for the "specialist," phones are not manned 100% of the time prompting customers to leave a message.
  2. The Generalist Model is where the "generalists" answer the phone, e-mail, log the calls, answer what they can and transfer the rest to the second level (tier). This model resembles an ER triage process. This triage call handling process is the most effective for most help desk operations. The majority of good help desk analysts can solve 45%-65% of all calls allowing the second level (tier) to solve the more challenging issues. Customer satisfaction is often very high because the Help Desk operators "own" the problem even though they may not be the one to handle it, similar to the first nurse contact in the triage of an ER

In part two, we will discuss the financial impacts of various Help Desk staffing models!

For more in-depth analysis, please refer to Giva's Whitepaper on Help Desk Staffing Models.

Skills-Based Volunteerism, Part 2: Functional Coaching and Mentoring

Skillful & Knowledgeable Volunteers

Functional Coaching and Mentoring

Function coaching and mentoring can be defined as a for-profit business lending its employees to mentor and teach nonprofit partners essential skills and functional expertise. Does your company have individuals with expertise in change management, leadership development, or simply a knack for motivating others? If so, Functional Coaching and Mentoring may be an ideal route to go with for a Skills-Based Volunteering (SBV) program.

Functional Coaching and Mentoring Programs can focus on things like:

  • Diversity and inclusion
  • Transformational leadership
  • Change management
  • Assessing and utilizing organization/community assets
  • Strengths-based leadership
  • Working in groups and teams

The examples below show how businesses can provide coaching and mentoring to nonprofit partners, leaders of change, or groups that do mission-driven work.

Gap Inc. Leadership Initiative

In 2009, Gap launched their Gap Inc. Leadership Initiative, partnering with 25 nonprofit organizations each year to help leaders at these organizations learn skills to better manage their limited resources and manpower, and leverage their assets to create the most significant benefits for the communities they serve. Nonprofit leaders benefit from intensive learning workshops focused on a variety of things to increase partner skills, capacities, and effectiveness. Examples include: visionary leadership, staff development, and change management.

The mentoring Gap provides to its community partners is based on the leadership tools originally designed for training Gap Inc. executives. Their program is unique in that the mentoring provided is adapted to fit the needs of each individual community partner. "Moreover, the continuous nature of the relationships built between Gap Inc. leaders and the nonprofit program participants allows for a constant exchange of information and ideas in the context of a formal program" (Making Pro-Bono Work: 8 Proven Models for Community and Business Impact).

New York Needs You: Career Coaches

You do not have to create a program to get your employees involved in skills-based volunteering; there are many organizations that already employ volunteers for their specific skills, knowledge, and areas of expertise. New York Needs You (NYNY) offers a career-coaching program for college students across the city. Their "Fellow's Program Saturday Workshops" are a series of workshops where volunteer career coaches (professionals from a variety of disciplines and professional backgrounds) lead a structured career development curriculum for "Fellows," all first-generation college students.

Another opportunity for professionals to lend their specific knowledge and skills is through the Career Development Program (CDP) "Industry Insiders" Weeknight Seminars, where Career Coaches can teach students from community colleges about various routes to starting and securing a professional job and building a successful career. NYNY even offers their volunteers opportunities to contribute to young-adults professional development, without leaving the comfort of their homes. For their Technology Initiative's Online Program, "Career Coaches are part of an online pilot program to virtually help students with internship/job searches, resume review, and mock interviews" ("What is a Career Coach?").

World Changers: Giva Salutes SkillsUSA

SkillsUSA

Here at Giva we search for organizations, large and small, that are doing a great job of changing the world around them for the better; and we are pleased to salute them here.

SkillsUSA

The United States economy is displaying signs of a skills gap. According to statistics compiled by WorkBoots.com, 83% of companies report a moderate to serious shortage of skilled workers. These troubling statistics coincide with an increasingly prevalent fear of joblessness amongst young people. Fortunately, admirable organizations like SkillsUSA are addressing these concerns by inspiring young people to prepare for careers in trade, technical, and skilled occupations. For decades, SkillsUSA has provided direction and encouragement to thousands of young individuals in order to strengthen local communities and the workforce. Their efforts are worth highlighting.

SkillsUSA is a partnership of students, teachers and industry working together to prepare students for careers in skilled trades. The organization is divided into thousands of student-led chapters responsible for running a variety of activities. Each chapter focuses on professional development and the specific skills required to join a profession. This often means meeting with local businesses in that field (job-shadowing), attending workshops dedicated to teaching industry lessons, and listening to feedback provided by the chapter’s teachers and mentors. Students also assume other responsibilities. Each chapter must participate in a series of community service events, fundraising activities, and team building exercises. The goal is to provide students with intangible skills like leadership and teamwork to complement the professional skills they are also learning.

Each year chapters meet to celebrate this professional development at skills competitions and at the National Conference. Skills competitions are designed to showcase the professional skills of their participants, and students are given the opportunity to thrive in a public setting. Often participants leave the competition with a renewed passion for their trade and the additional confidence that comes from competition. Chapter members are also given the opportunity to attend a series of presentations at the National Conference. Information on professional development, legislative updates, occupational and technical career trends, and program overviews are explained to members over the course of the conference. This national meeting gives members the opportunity to reflect on their progress and identify future goals while enjoying the company of other SkillsUSA supporters.

From its founding, SkillsUSA has been an organization dedicated to strengthening local businesses, communities, and students. Local businesses are given the opportunity to connect with skilled and motivated workers while communities enjoy the benefits of a stronger economy with more engaged stakeholders. Most importantly, students are able to find a professional passion and pursue it with support. They leave the program as leaders, ready to contribute to their local community and start their professional lives. SkillsUSA facilitates all of these actions, and their efforts deserve our praise.

To learn more about SkillsUSA or to join a local chapter (as a student or mentor) visit http:/www.skillsusa.org

Skills-Based Volunteerism, Part 1

Skillful & Knowledgeable Volunteers

What is Skills Based Volunteerism?

Put simply, skills-based volunteerism is when an organization utilizes volunteers for their specific and unique talents, skills and knowledge. Skills-based volunteerism is often compared to pro-bono services and consulting. Philanthropic causes, events, programs or initiatives can reap great rewards by skilled volunteers contributing tools, knowledge, and resources that can help to increase the impact and scale of a cause; refine internal standard operating procedures; implement tools and technology to streamline an organization's functions; and much more. Skills-based volunteerism is a rapidly growing strategy for improving volunteer engagement. According to the Committee to Encourage Corporate Philanthropy's Giving in Numbers: 2014, businesses employing pro-bono/skills based volunteerism has increased from 30% to over 50% in six years.

When done right, skills-based volunteerism has significant long-term benefits for the nonprofits and organizations or programs employing this strategy. Taproot Foundation's guide, Making Pro-Bono Work: 8 Proven Models for Community and Business Impact, states, "The true value of pro bono service is its ability to deliver to nonprofit organizations the powerful resources that help make private sector businesses successful." It also increases volunteer retention. When volunteers are able to more readily realize how their work and contributions are making a difference, they are more likely to continue to volunteer. Continued volunteerism allows for volunteers to foster deeper relationships and bonds with the organization with which they work, and deeper commitment to the organization's purpose.

Types of Skills-Based Volunteerism

Part 1: Loaned Employee

A loaned employee is when a company grants an employee a sanctioned and compensated leave of absence to pursue skills-based/pro-bono volunteerism for a mission-driven organization, project, etc.

Loaned employees can offer their skills and expertise for a variety of things, such as:

  • Creating strategic models aimed at improving a program's impact and scale
  • Streamlining organizational operating procedures to improve efficiency
  • Leading trainings to teach non-profit employees new skills (e.g. book-keeping or budgeting) and competencies (e.g. using CRM software)
  • Providing executive oversight on a project.

Many successful loaned employee programs deploy more than a single employee to do SBV for a non-profit, as you will notice from the two examples below.

Example 1: IBM's Corporate Service Corps

IBM's Corporate Service Corps is pro-bono volunteerism program that sends out 500 "IBMers" each year to take part in 6-month long community-engagement projects that provide assistance to local governments and community organizations. The program helps communities around the world to solve critical problems while providing IBM employees unique leadership development opportunities. By sending groups of 10-15 individuals to different countries for community-based assignments in emerging markets, the program has helped over 140,000 people since its inception.

Example 2: Pfizer, Inc. Global Health Fellows Program

Pfizer is an American multinational pharmaceutical corporation that established their Global Health Fellows Program in 2002. The program places Pfizer colleagues and teams on 3-6 month assignments with leading international development organizations. Global Health fellows contribute their skills toward improving health outcomes in underserved areas in the U.S. and abroad, transferring "their professional medical and business expertise in ways that promote access, quality and efficiency of health services for people in greatest need" ("Global Health Fellows: Overview").

World Changers: Giva Salutes Back on My Feet

Back on My Feet

Here at Giva, we search for organizations, large and small, that are doing a great job of changing the world around them for the better; and we are pleased to salute them here.

Back on My Feet

There is a beautiful symbolism to running. Participants take one step at a time, striding to reach an end destination or goal. It is an apt metaphor for how to overcome the challenges we face in life. When Anne Mahlum founded Back on My Feet (BoMF) in 2007, she hoped to bring this transformative power of running to a group of men experiencing homelessness. Running had changed her own life. Now she was hoping it would give a group of homeless individuals the confidence and control necessary to regain their own lives.

Since the first run took place in July 2007, Back on My Feet has grown into a nationally recognized organization with 11 self-sufficient chapters around the United States. Each week, the various chapters host a series of runs for volunteers and Residential Members or those experiencing homelessness. Once the members have dedicated themselves to their running, they are given access to other resources like educational support, job placement, and housing resources. The hope is that members will graduate the program as self-sufficient individuals in control of their life and their goals. Thus far about half of Residential Members have been able to advance their lives with a job or housing. In August of 2013, the 1000th member found employment, a testament to the success of the organization. It shows just how empowering running can be for people experiencing homelessness.

The secret to BoMF's success is in the dedication required of its members. Each Residential Member signs a "Dedication Contract" agreeing to show up for runs on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 5:30 a.m., to be on time for each event, to respect oneself, and to support all other participants in the program. Members are also required to fill out a goals sheet and an evaluation. At first, the focus is on running. Members train and compete in local races together. If after 30 days in the organization members have at least 90% participation, they are placed in the Next Steps phase of the program. Here, members meet with BoMF staff to discuss future aspirations and potential ways to achieve an independent lifestyle. They also have access to BoMF's resources, like employment training and financial assistance. Financial assistance is crucial for overcoming upfront fees, such as security deposits and outstanding fines. Those who are able to achieve independence often remain involved in running as alumni members. Running remains an integral part of their lives, and the foundation of their strength.

There are a number of reasons why this model works so well for members. All behavior is voluntary. Members are not forced to show up for early morning runs or events; the initiative is placed squarely on the participants, preparing them nicely for an independent lifestyle. Members are also recognized for their hard work, where every mile and achievement is tracked by the organization. We all appreciate being recognized for our dedication, and BoMF incorporates this element nicely into their mission. Finally, running is an excellent way to teach dedication, perseverance and fortitude. As many members will attest, it is an introspective activity that has the potential to be truly transformational.

Over the last seven seven years, Back on My Feet has established itself as an exemplary organization. By harnessing the power of a simple activity, its volunteers have changed the way hundreds of people view themselves. Their actions are appreciated and serve as an excellent example for us all.

The Mizuno Baton

Mizuno is one of the many companies that have picked up on the great work being done by Back on My Feet. To help support the organization, it launched "The Mizuno Baton." The project was fairly simple: runners were encouraged to download and activate the Mizuno Baton app. They then had one week to run as many miles as they could. For every mile run, Mizuno donated 1$ to Back on My Feet. The initiative ended at the end of 2014, but it raised $87,458 for BoMF.

The project could point to a couple of reasons for its success. It was an exciting way to engage a number of people in the mission of Back on My Feet, and it was very easy to get involved. But most importantly, it targeted the close-knit and competitive running community in a positive way. Credit is due to Mizuno for capitalizing on something so close to its brand in order to help an excellent charitable organization. Although the challenge has ended, Mizuno says to stay tuned, as this was just the first step.

Congratulations again to Back on My Feet, and to Mizuno for their work with this beneficial organization!

To learn more about Back on My Feet or to help out, visit http://www.backonmyfeet.org/

 

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