The Secret to a Successful IT Support Model
IT Lifecycle Management 9-Point Series: Blog #6 Service & Support
IT Lifecycle Management From Procure-to-Pay
In this nine-part series our experts will share insights on game-changing technology lifecycle management practices for IT, operations, and finance to set your business up for success.
- IT Planning
- Technology Architecture Design
- Service Provider Benchmarking
- Vendor Scorecard Access
- Built-in RFP Process
- Online Shopping Experience
- Price Comparisons
- Quote Management
- Service Order Approval & Workflow
- Contract Negotiations
- Aggregated Buying Power
- Pre-Negotiated Terms
- Project Coordination
- Order Placement / Provisioning
- Testing & Deployment
- Carrier Inventory
- Hardware and Software
- Technical Specifications Data
- Customized Attributes
SERVICE & SUPPORT
- Help Desk
- Moves / Adds / Changes / Disconnects
- Vendor Management & Trouble Shooting
- Network Monitoring & Notification
- Centralized and Normalized
- Consolidated Billing
- Invoice Workflow
- Bill Pay
- Audit & Dispute Management
- GL Coding
- AP Posting File
- Cost Allocation
- Budget Management
- Report Library
- Trend Analysis
It’s 3:00 am on Monday morning. You’re drifting in and out of dream state as you reach for your phone on your nightstand (should have left it in the other room), to hear the voice of your network engineering manager on the other line. There’s been a fiber cut to one of your main offices. Staff will be trickling in at 7:00 am, and she’s worried about being able to get services up and running in time.
Your Help Desk is engaged when your business is most vulnerable: a circuit outage impacting employee productivity; a missing functionality needed by your executives. We’ve all been there, and we want the best resource seeing that vulnerability to resolution as expeditiously and effectively as possible.
When people ask me why my team has been successful at managing thousands of outages across the globe on a quarterly basis, I can talk about their talent or highlight their dedication to customer service. I can mention their technical aptitude and prowess in learning over 30 different technologies while also mastering 100 different providers’ processes and systems. Yes, you have to have the technical chops and the problem-solving skills as table stakes. But in my view, the reason we have managed to earn an average 98% in Customer Satisfaction for ten years running, and successfully supported a growing number of Enterprise customers in their most vulnerable moments, namely during that outage or failed system, boils down to three main principles:
1) Arm your team with the right tools
An IT organization can’t effectively manage its assets without having a robust platform to do so. It starts with having a powerful and customizable asset management system for tracking all the technical information, and ensuring that the IT resources managing a fault scenario have access to that information right at their fingertips. To support a large number of organizations, while staying lean, we’ve chosen to build such a platform, and automate as much as possible to make the best use of our team’s time. And we make our platform accessible to our team and our customers securely from any web browser, or on the go on iOS or Android devices. It’s like having your entire IT environment right in your pocket and being able to manage a trouble ticket from the beach. You don’t even have to change screens to see your inventory; you can see all the detailed technical specifications right within a trouble ticket. The platform allows our customers to set the urgency of the ticket, and select all who need to be contacted. A single click shows our engineers the history of trouble tickets on a particular IT asset, to quickly identify any patterns or chronic issues.
Whatever system you use must alert your team every hour, on the hour, to escalate to the next level with the service provider. An automated escalation to the Lead and NOC manager must happen within a specified period after a ticket is opened. If a ticket is not picked up in time, an automated text and email-to-voice notification must be triggered to the right person(s). Where you can, you must actively leverage e-bonding, with providers, to cut down, or eliminate, the swivel-chair time to manually open a ticket and reduce call center hold times.
Our enhanced Monitoring and Notification managed service provides our NOC a head-start through proactive alerts and automated trouble tickets when system events occur, while also ensuring further visibility into the networks we manage. For example, when a customer experiences audio quality issues on their Unified Communications platform, our team has the ability run what’s called a MOS (Mean Opinion Score) test to determine the quality of the line to that particular provider. Our customers can log into the single portal, regardless of provider, and see those results along with a hundred more interactive performance reports.
2) Focus on communication
When an IT person complains about carriers, they’re typically not frustrated with the technology or the fact that it failed; they’re mostly frustrated with how a past failure was handled by the people managing it. At the crux of that handling, or mishandling is communication throughout that event. Who doesn’t hate sitting and waiting for a status update? Years ago, when we shifted from only communicating when we received new information, to communicating even when we didn’t have a new status update, we saw our Customer Satisfaction go through the roof, mainly because our customers felt that we cared and hadn’t forgotten about them. They literally thanked us after a ten-hour outage for keeping them apprised of status every step of the way.
We also made sure that we were not just relaying information back and forth, which ultimately could turn into playing the “telephone” game where stuff gets lost in translation. We ensured that we put the provider engineers at the data center on conference with the customer’s resources on-site, to work through the troubleshooting process. And in order to centralize all communications, our Email Processing Engine takes all the back-and-forth emails between provider, customer, and vCom, and parses them to the right ticket for reference during and after the incident. So, if you’re doing this on your own, train your team to communicate often with their “customers.” When in doubt, put all the right parties on the phone together to solve the problem. And make sure the ticket data is in a centralized database and available for reference down the road.
3) Escalation is tools and relationship-based
There are two key requirements to effective escalations:
- Again, it starts with the tools. Ensuring that you have the tools and the practice of updating escalation data is key to your ability to reduce the duration of an outage or failure. In our platform, we can track service providers’ escalation numbers, process, and resources. The assigned ownership and practice of verifying that data frequently ensures that the tool is up-to-date when needed most.
- It goes without saying that you should always treat people nicely. But it counts most during a crisis. Our team is constantly building relationships with people they work with, to leverage those relationships when that outage happens. They will even go as far as sending a personal gift to someone who goes the extra mile, to thank them and “pay it forward.” Our VP of Carrier Operations spends a significant amount of her time on the road, meeting with her counterparts at the Service Providers, to better understand their processes, discuss successes and lessons learned, and understand their capabilities and limitations. But most importantly, she’s focused on building relationships that will serve our customers when needed.
Technology fails. Networks go down. It’s not a matter of if, but a question of when. Hiring the right resources with the right skills and attitude is half the battle. Effectively managing networks requires time, resources and focus. The challenge that IT Leaders must overcome is ensuring that their team is armed with the right tools, the right focus, and the right approach.
Post your comments or questions for Sameer below to dive further into service & support.
Author: Sameer Hilal
Chief Operating Officer
Sameer Hilal is the Chief Operating Officer and co-founder of vCom Solutions. He effectively leads vCom to be a market leader in the implementation and support of advanced telecommunication solutions. In 2005, vCom was ranked as the # 1 Fastest Growing Private Company in the San Francisco Bay Area. In 2006, vCom was ranked as the #51 Fastest Growing Company in the United States (Entrepreneur). LinkedIn