Comparing Service Desk Outsourcing Vendors and Their Proposals: Part 1

Proposal pages

So you issued an RFP and now have pages and pages of responses to review. Before going any further, please read below. We have listed five critical areas to focus on and will add an additional five in our blog article next week.   

Although many prospective clients tend to downplay the importance of cost in their RFP, when you consider the sheer number of proposals they have to review, it’s understandable that pricing is often the most logical point of elimination. As if managing day to day operations isn’t time consuming enough, a thorough assessment of a 50 page RFP response from a dozen different vendors is not a realistic option. After all, in-depth analysis of the service that’s being proposed can be a futile exercise if the price tag associated with all service components is out of budget… unless of course it’s negotiable. While people on the market for a new vehicle rarely call Mercedes, Honda, and Ford and ask “how much is your car” without at least discussing the models and features, when comparing service desk outsourcing vendors this is essentially the brunt of the conversation and, for better or worse, where it often ends. As a result, potential clients who take this transactional approach engage in minimal dialogue apart from the total price. Consequently, commoditizing a very customizable service with various options tends to (excuse the pun) short-change informed decisions. So, absent of that ongoing dialogue about deliverables, related pricing, and ultimately what you’re really getting for the money, we’ve assembled the below checklist as a point of reference for your service desk vendor selection process.

1.Staffing models

There are advantages and disadvantages to both so knowing which model better suits your business goals makes the choice easier. While the dedicated model encourages depth of focus and subject matter expertise in one account, it is not scalable to call volume spikes and peak periods with the finite resources. On the other hand, if the dedicated model is charged on a monthly per agent basis, paying for idle time during slow periods may be just as costly. In a shared model, support is delivered by a pool of resources that include primary agents with in-depth knowledge of specific accounts and additional agents who are available when the primary resource is occupied. This model offers more scalability to peaks and valleys in call volumes. Since shared staffing models are typically charged on a per incident basis, clients are paying only for what they use. Another alternative is the hybrid model which offers the best of both options: A dedicated team that handles contacts during standard business hours with a shared team handling overflow when calls spikes and/or after hours when call volume drops.

2.SLAs and KPIs

Here the quantifiable parameters make comparison much easier so long as the terms are adequately defined: the speed of answer on voice calls, response times on email, texts, web forms, resolution rates, customer satisfaction scores. Assuming your prospective vendors are measuring their performance using all of these metrics along with individual agent KPIs, they should all meet or exceed your target numbers. What is the agent’s average handle time for each issue? If the team averages much more than 10+ minutes, this is generally an indicator of high staff turnover or insufficient training.

3.Pricing models

Are you paying per incident, per call, per minute, or per agent? The pricing option you select may significantly impact unanticipated costs over the long term. A per call model is fair in that it is usage based, but can be assessed multiple times for the same issue if the end user needs to call back with more information (authentication data) or check the status of an open issue. Per minute pricing offers a unique motivational contradiction that requires some probing questions. First, what is the incentive for the agents to resolve the issue quickly if the longer they talk the more revenue they generate? Although this model is designed to encourage more in-depth troubleshooting through resolution, how are additional inbound contacts handled when all agents are busy? Per agent pricing, commonly though not exclusively associated with dedicated staffing, is beneficial to CFOs looking for predictable costs; however, as mentioned above, there can be incalculable costs tied to SLAs when call volumes spike or idle time during slow periods if the estimated number of agents delivering the support is not accurately forecasted. Which leaves per incident pricing; these fixed fees are normally assessed one time for one issue no matter how many times the user calls back or how long the agent spends on the phone. Most organizations find this the ideal choice because it’s usage-based like per call and per minute, but eliminates the risk of additional charges for that same incident.

4. 24 x 7 x 365 Coverage

For larger or more globally dispersed organizations a helpdesk that never sleeps is a must. But in terms of service delivery, is it an onshore staff with a skeleton crew after hours or are agents offshore in various time zones following the sun? When an urgent companywide issue like a network outage arises, how does the service desk handle alerts, notifications, and escalation procedures? In a standard business hours only model, do callers go directly to voicemail and have to wait the next business day for a response?

5.ITSM Platform and Reporting Package

Is the service desk brand neutral and experienced with every ticketing system from Footprints to ServiceNow or are they promoting their own ITSM platform? If the latter, are there any access or licensing fees for client’s IT admin or end users? What standard reports are included in the package? In addition to incident metrics and contact statistics, is customer feedback reported? How detailed are the reports? Are they available in real time in a downloadable electronic format and do they help to detect trends, root causes, and user training issues? Does the service desk offer ongoing operational review meetings including a thorough interpretation of the reports in the context of service improvements and lowering costs?

As you can imagine there is a lot to review and a lot of questions to answer so we decided to split this post and give you a break. Feel free to check back for the second half of this post next week where we’ll be comparing onshore and offshore staffing, cost reduction methods, and more.