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

Does Your Business Need A Service Level Agreement?

Sample Service Level Agreement

Organizations prepare service level agreements (SLA) detailing the services provided to their customers. These agreements describe how the work of the service organization is prioritized along with agreed upon response and resolve times.

For example, In order to provide optimal first level support service to all departments, all problem and repair calls might be received by a central Help Desk. This first level provides a platform where:

  • All problems will be recorded
  • Problems will be resolved or assigned to the appropriate specialist
  • Problems will be monitored etc.

An SLA describes the factors influencing first level problem determinations, such as:

  • Number of customers affected
  • Effect on business mission
  • Context of problem etc.

Tables used to define severity levels describe how calls are prioritized and the associated response and resolve commitments.

Single point of contact responses can be determined using the following criteria:

  • Orders for new equipment provided by manager
  • Data entry service
  • System sign on request etc.

Does your business need a service level agreement? To ensure your SLA is consistent with best practices and contains all relevant topics and details, Giva provides much more in-depth coverage of this subject, using a help desk/customer service agreement as an example, in our whitepaper Sample IT Help Desk Service Level Agreement (SLA), which you can view online or download for free.

The Giva Challenge: Giva Customers are Talking! Miles & Stockbridge

Miles & Stockbridge

Saving time, in the long run, saves money. The new Apple watch discussed at TechCrunch is in the business of saving people time by making it easier to see important information throughout their workday without having to pull out their smart phone. This equates to precious time saved. According to Matthew Panzanaro at TechCrunch, "There are very few products that allow you to hand someone cash and be given back TIME."

Working around-the-clock to meet a client's needs is what a great attorney does. If that clock is slowed down in any way it costs extra money. Miles & Stockbridge P.C. has enjoyed a rich history of well-planned growth, enduring client relationships and loyal community leadership for over 80 years. They support approximately 500 employees in 8 offices across the east coast of the USA. "Since we are providing IT technical support to attorneys that work around-the-clock, we needed a solution that could be accessible anywhere and anytime by our staff. Our attorneys' time is our 'stock in trade', so we must keep the firm up and running and highly productive on a large number of applications and various hardware platforms in order to generate revenue." (Ken Adams, Chief Information Officer) They were spending a lot of time and money on managing and maintaining servers and software to host their previous application.

After researching their options, they found the solution to their time problem. "Giva's application suite is fast and responsive, and we have had 100% uptime. Any cloud application we use must perform this way, especially since we are working with attorneys that are always under tight deadlines and want to minimize the amount of time they are on the phone with us." Not only have they saved attorneys valuable time they have also experienced;

  • 70% cost savings when considering the total cost of ownership (TCO) over a 3 year period
  • 70% decrease in number of tickets that remain open from day-to-day
  • 60% increase in customer satisfaction of attorneys and staff
  • 100% application uptime and high application responsiveness

Miles & Stockbridge have taken the time to save their clients valuable time. According to Ken Adams, "With Giva, when I view any report, it always has real-time information. Furthermore, any of my staff can create, save and share reports, which allow us to retrieve pertinent real-time information at any moment without having to set up our own versions of a report. This dynamic nature of Giva's reporting engine is a tremendous advantage over all the others we evaluated."

Find more information at Miles & Stockbridge Case Study.

What is your challenge? Let Giva be your solution!

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!

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.

10 Tough Questions to Help Evaluate Software Vendors

Questions for Software Vendors

Customers interested in purchasing software or cloud services can encounter myriad of problems and obstacles during the purchase process. Your company can reduce the complexity of the software or cloud buying process by asking the following 10 penetrating and informed questions of your potential vendors:

1. Dissatisfaction with product: After my company pays for your software licenses, what if we become dissatisfied?

2. Better technology: What if better technology comes along after we purchase your software licenses?

3. Deployment "out-of-box" vs. time and cost of customization/configuration: How quickly can we be up and running on your product? Does it work "out of the box"?

4. Preparing and comparing the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) of all alternatives: What is the estimated Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) of your product over four years? Consider all the acquisition and lifetime costs of ownership.

5. Most overlooked critical fine print in software maintenance agreements: What exactly is included in annual software maintenance?

6. Costs of post-implementation customization/configuration: Our CFO is concerned about commitments for ongoing fees. Can we stop paying software maintenance any time we want, but continue to use the software licenses?

7. Vendor product road maps and commitment: What is your road map for future development?

8. Using uptime and support service level agreements to manage our relationship: Does your company charge professional services fees if we have support issues that require reconfiguration?

9. Routine technical support vs. professional service fees: If we want to do additional customization and configuration work after the initial deployment, does your company charge professional fees?

10. Termination clauses, contract term commitments, discounts and hidden fees: Does your company provide Respond and Resolve Service Level Agreements for support service requests that your company is committed by contract to meet?

For a more in-depth look into these questions, see Giva's Whitepaper Ten Tough Questions to Better Select, Compare & Evaluate Any Software or Cloud Vendors.

Report Analyzes Extent of Data Breaches in California

Interesting reading from the NYT this morning:

"The constant drumbeat of data breaches won't cease anytime soon, according to a new report from California's attorney general, Kamala D. Harris.

There were 167 data breaches reported in California last year, an increase of 28 percent from the 131 data breaches reported the previous year. The information of more than 18.5 million California residents was compromised in 2013, a significant jump from the 2.5 million compromised records in 2012.

Those numbers were skewed by two widespread breaches last year. At Target, personal records for 41 million people were compromised, and at LivingSocial, hackers gained access to 50 million records. According to the attorney general, each of these two breaches put 7.5 million California residents' information at risk.

The majority of breaches — 53 percent — were because of malware and hacking, while a smaller number, 26 percent, was attributed to the physical loss of a computer or device. The report reiterates what many already knew: There is much more information to be stolen through hacking than physical loss. The vast majority of the 17 million records compromised in California last year — 93 percent — were attributable to malware or hacking, whereas only 1.15 million records were compromised by the physical loss of an electronic device."

 

Read more at data breach study in California.

Are your cloud applications HIPAA Compliant?

HIPAA Security For Help Desk, Change Management, Customer Service

Long before the commercial success of the Internet, Brian J. Fox invented one of its most widely used tools.

In 1987, Mr. Fox, wrote Bash, short for Bourne-Again Shell, a free piece of software that is now built into more than 70 percent of the machines that connect to the Internet. That includes servers, computers, routers, some mobile phones and even everyday items like refrigerators and cameras.

On Thursday, security experts warned that Bash contained a particularly alarming software bug that could be used to take control of hundreds of millions of machines around the world, potentially including Macintosh computers and smartphones that use the Android operating system.

The bug, named "Shellshock," drew comparisons to the Heartbleed bug that was discovered in a crucial piece of software last spring.

But Shellshock could be a bigger threat. While Heartbleed could be used to do things like steal passwords from a server, Shellshock can be used to take over the entire machine. And Heartbleed went unnoticed for two years and affected an estimated 500,000 machines, but Shellshock was not discovered for 22 years.

Many of the commercial tools that individual users and large corporations depend upon are built on top of programs that are written and maintained by a few unpaid volunteers in what is called the open-source community. That community, along with big companies like Google, adjusts and builds new things on top of older work. 

Sometimes there are flaws in that code. And over the years, the flaw becomes part of all sorts of products.

The mantra of open source was perhaps best articulated by Eric S. Raymond, one of the elders of the open-source movement, who wrote in 1997 that "given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow." But, in this case, Steven M. Bellovin, a computer science professor at Columbia University, said, those eyeballs are more consumed with new features than quality. "Quality takes work, design, review and testing and those are not nearly as much fun as coding," Mr. Bellovin said. "If the open-source community does not develop those skills, it's going to fall further behind in the quality race."*

Giva is a HIPAA compliant cloud provider for IT Service Management, Customer Service and Change Management. We reduce risk for companies by protecting their data and helping them exceed regulatory requirements. Naturally, we address vulnerabilities like Shellshock.

Give us a call to talk to one of our experts about how we address Shellshock and other vulnerabilities. Or, feel free to learn more about Giva HIPAA compliance on your own. 

* Attribution to the NYT

 

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