RFP Trend Update: The People Behind the Metrics

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1 RFP Trend Update: The People Behind the Metrics Making Technology Work for You

2 Introduction 2 Beyond the Metrics 2 Start Right with PEPP 3 Training & Career Path 5 Keeping Score with Metrics 6 People Factor in RFP 7 Conclusion 7 Introduction Developing a Request for Proposal (RFP) to identify a new help desk partner? Wondering what s changed since the last time you went through this process? Over the course of ABS Associates 30 year history, it s fair to say we ve seen more than a few RFP s, so we notice when new trends emerge. Carefully crafted, these requests typically contain exhaustive sections on technology, performance measurement, reporting, and more. Recently, however, the most sophisticated companies began including a new block of questions, focusing on the people behind the metrics. For the inside story and questions you should ask when selecting a help desk outsource partner, read on. Looking Beyond the Metrics The over-arching help desk goal is to get people back to work, quickly. Fast call-pickup, swift resolution, and caller satisfaction are all areas that your help desk provider can measure to demonstrate they ve achieved their mission. It s one thing to quantify the numbers, but how do you hit the numbers? Take call time. What reduces call time? How does an agent solve a problem as expeditiously as possible? Technical expertise, of course, but that only gets you part of the way there. A crucial difference between good and great in reducing call time is hiring agents that possess an inherent ability to draw information out of a frustrated and not always technically literate caller quickly and efficiently. 2 ABS Associates Making Technology Work for You

3 Further, getting back to work fast isn t just about the number of rings and length of the call. Companies have realized that the total customer experience impacts morale and is closely tied to how quickly their employees can regain full productivity. Think about it. Have you ever had a service incident when your problem is solved, but you re still irked or fuming after the fact? Employers want callers so satisfied that not only has their technology issue been resolved, but their level of stress has also been reduced by a compassionate person-to-person connection. The human factor, or the caller s connection with the agent, plays heavily into achieving swift, re-engaged productivity and a satisfied customer. As such, the most desirable agent is one whose personality, energy and professionalism successfully navigate not just technical challenges, but the entire experience surrounding the call. It is all about people helping people. Starting with the Right Agents in the First Place: The Hiring Process & PEPP So, what s the key to a swift resolution and happy caller? What is the magic behind the metrics that RFP s are now scrutinizing more closely? The help desk agents themselves! It may sound obvious, but it s been curiously overlooked, until recently. A successful help desk experience ultimately hinges on the person on the other end of the phone. In explaining what you do want in an agent, perhaps it s helpful to first explain what you don t want and why: Low-energy. A droning voice on the other end of the line. Indifference in the tone of the agent. Impatience. No one wants to feel like an idiot. All technical skills and no soft skills. Abrupt answers. Lack of professional courtesy or behavior that just seems off. Dead Silence. Without a little play by play from the agent working the issue, the caller may think nothing s being done to resolve it, or worse, their call has been dropped. 3 ABS Associates Making Technology Work for You

4 Naturally, callers hesitate to engage with someone they find less than compassionate or overly technical. Further, callers often interpret silence or short answers as criticism, and most employees would rather clam up than sound dumb. In the absence of personality, warmth, and compassion, information vital to the swift resolution of technical problems fails to be communicated. The calls are longer, and satisfaction levels dip precipitously. As the saying goes, you can t spin gold from straw. Starting with agents who naturally possess the right stuff in the first place is truly the secret ingredient for achieving rapid resolutions and caller satisfaction. Technical expertise can be taught, but personality, empathy, and enthusiasm cannot. An interview is similar to a help desk call; you don t really know the person on the other side of the table. As such, an interview is an excellent opportunity to evaluate how an individual will approach fielding contact from a variety of people. With the goal of hiring motivated, compassionate and professional agents, ABS Associates has developed a methodology it calls PEPP which serves as its guideline. The acronym outlines what ABS is looking for in a candidate: Personality: Does the candidate engage the interviewer with a natural ease and exhibit genuine interest? Is he/she alert, smiling, and confident? Look for interviewees with a lift to their voice and a natural spark. Most often, they prove to be valuable assets in developing rapport with callers which When Hiring, Remember PEPP Personality Energy Professional Presence tends to expedite issue resolution. Callers tend to warm to them more easily and readily offer information that can be helpful in diagnosing technical problems. Energy: Being on, call after call, takes remarkable enthusiasm and stamina. Does the candidate demonstrate a natural vigor in the first two minutes of the day s interviews? Is that get-up-and-go still there in the last few minutes of the last interview of the day? 4 ABS Associates Making Technology Work for You

5 Professional Presence: Is the candidate s manner and comportment well suited for an office environment? Is there a maturity and ability to sense social queues and react appropriately? Companies vary from one to the next with some more formal and others less so. Candidates who can perceive, adopt and project the nuances of specific corporate cultures possess the soft skills necessary to help them connect with callers. In the hiring process, the ideal candidate can successfully demonstrate PEPP to interviewers from different levels of corporate hierarchy. Think about it. Just as callers, ranging from administrative staff to senior officers, will interact with a single help desk agent, a representative mix of interviewers should participate in evaluating candidates for the support positions. For example, candidates hired by ABS have successfully interviewed with individuals from multiple levels within its organization, including ultimately ABS s president. Professional Development: Agent Training and Career Path I m amazed by our agents. They have the hardest job in the company learning multiple systems, clients, and escalation procedures. Every day they face new challenges and have to multi-task while engaging and maintaining warm chatter with the callers, commented Rosemarie Mitchell, CEO of ABS Associates. Preparing these highly valued employees for success begins with an initial three weeks of new agent training. During this period, Mitchell personally meets with each new hire. I tell them they have the most important job at our firm, and they really do. They talk to our clients thousands of times in the course of a month, and each conversation is important. What they say or do in a call can have huge ramifications. Their efforts determine how the help desk is perceived and ultimately whether or not we succeed in an account, she commented. Classroom instruction prepares the new agents for shadowing. Then they receive hands-on experience I m in awe of our agents. They have the hardest job in the company. Rosemarie Mitchell CEO, ABS Associates with ongoing evaluations as they 5 ABS Associates Making Technology Work for You

6 learn the systems, protocols, and specific expectations of individual ABS clients. Throughout their career, ongoing training plays a role in adding certifications and relevant skills to the employee s knowledge base. Employee retention translates to continuity of a quality, trained workforce. Key to keeping turnover down is development of a documented, targeted career path for each employee. It s not a dead end job, says Mitchell. ABS employees work with their management team to develop and track progress towards advancing along a personal career path. Achievement in the agent s current position leads to greater responsibility and compensation. Providing agents the opportunity to advance helps us not only attract quality people in the first place, it Retention by the numbers: Industry turnover avg. 18% ABS turnover 8% ABS employees with 5+ yrs with ABS 35% ABS employees who left but then returned! 12% helps us retain trained, experienced employees who serve our clients well, continues Mitchell. It pays off. While industry turnover hovers at 18% on average, ABS has kept turnover dramatically lower at 8%. Keeping Score with Metrics You hire the right people. You train them for success. You reduce turnover in trained, experienced employees. Does all this effort translate into better help desk metrics? The only way to know is to measure, measure, measure! Look for a help desk provider that keeps score on everything! Call pickup, talk time, abandon rates, satisfaction levels, and more! At ABS, for example, each call is rated on a series of key performance indicators. Yet another important factor in using metrics successfully? Tracking metrics right down to the agent level to identify those succeeding and those where additional training, supervision, or intervention is needed. And finally, pick a resource with extensive reporting capabilities. There is no value in gathering all the metrics if it disappears into a black hole. The data needs to be easily accessible, formatted and converted into 6 ABS Associates Making Technology Work for You

7 useful information. With ABShelp, ABS supervisors and management can follow the results. The clients can track them too, daily, and so can the agents. Not surprisingly, agents who are doing well love to see their scores and check them religiously. Remember looking forward to that report card when you knew you were doing well? Adding the People Factor to Your RFP Increasingly, RFP s are designed to learn more about the people behind the metrics. If your firm is going through the outsource selection process, a block of questions on this topic could include the following: What are the key attributes you seek in your help desk agents? What s the help desk agent interview process with whom do they meet? What is your training process for new agents? How do you monitor their performance on an on-going basis? What type of additional training do you offer, including required certifications? Can I meet some of your agents who would be working on my account on a site visit? (And, when you meet them, do you think they meet the PEPP benchmarks?) Conclusion When asked about motivating employees, ABS CEO Mitchell says, I m not sure you can motivate just anyone. You can hire smart, enthusiastic people, train them and give them opportunities to shine, but they re the ones who get credit for their successes, not us. ABS holds regular employee recognition events where the company salutes winners of the fastest call pickup, best comments, highest client satisfaction scores, and other categories for their achievement in front of their peers. At the end of the day, it s all about results. What does hiring with PEPP, investing in training, offering opportunities to advance, while undertaking continual measurement mean to ABS clients? A client satisfaction rating of 98%. 7 ABS Associates Making Technology Work for You

8 About ABS Associates Founded in 1982, ABS Associates is a global IT solutions provider of helpdesk, desktop, managed hosting and network support and services. The mission of ABS is to make technology work for its clients, whether that means implementing an onsite or virtual helpdesk, hosting complex applications, or resolving problems with servers. ABShelp, the company s web-enabled global knowledge center, assumes the burden of IT support, eliminates distractions, and allows firms around the world to concentrate on achieving strategic business objectives. ABS delivers a 98% satisfaction rate and serves clients throughout North America and in 14 countries around the world. 8 ABS Associates Making Technology Work for You

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