Gareth Hollyman offers five tips for optimum helpdesk service.
04 April 2018 | Gareth Hollyman
1. Identify problems
The key part of a review into a helpdesk service is to identify either the problem that a helpdesk could solve, for example, poor customer service due to elongated response and fix times, or possibly to enhance brand/customer service by professionalising a key part of your customers' interaction
with your company.
Within a managing agent environment, coping with a multitude of properties, clients, tenants and suppliers over a large region, a helpdesk can be invaluable in providing a point of contact for all stakeholders and delivering an efficient, reliable and measurable service.
For all helpdesks, clearly defining their purpose and requirement is key. Be too prescriptive, and you can restrict the potential supplier base and may also hamper the suppliers in how innovative the proposed solutions might be, which could affect pricing.
When it comes to 'outsourcing' an existing helpdesk, historically, the driver for change has been cost, but more and more the proposition is adding value through improved service levels, enhanced management information and improved corporate profile.
2. Two-stage tender
Having identified the purpose and the requirement, I suggest you select possible suppliers for a tender through a two-stage process. First, through normal market research, identify a long list to ask for expressions of interest and brief capability statement. Second, interview a shorter list. While technical capability, experience and pricing are key, cultural fit and understanding your corporate ethos is possibly even more important. If potential suppliers 'don't get it', however experienced and capable they are, the likelihood of success is slim.
Having selected a tender list, detailed facts of service, use and performance, as well as clear KPIs and SLAs for the new service are vital to put the process on a comparability level, with suppliers able to challenge in their service solution to improve cost or service or both.
3. Take your time
Time spent visiting helpdesk locations and talking to staff and clients will prove invaluable in assessing the ethos of the potential suppliers, rather than simply evaluating their submissions.
Involvement of stakeholder representatives will also build trust in the proposed solution and improve the chance of a successful project. Having selected a preferred supplier, communication to all stakeholders is an important part of the process, as with all projects that affect the way they have to operate day to day.
4. Review the process
The new service, whether outsourced or resourced, needs to have been reviewed through the procurement process to achieve a measurable improvement with defined benefits to all stakeholders. It should not be too ambitious in the first 12 months - typical contract length should be at least three years, but preferably five - as the whole service can quickly become tarnished if stated ambitions aren't delivered.
A clear transition programme needs to be communicated and be realistic so that 'day one' launch is successful. Whether staff transfer or are recruited, they must be completely clear about what the overall objectives of the helpdesk are (other than the technical competencies), and recruited for attitude over experience.
The helpdesk, for many firms, is the 'voice/face of that company, so the people employed are vital to successful delivery.
5. Use information wisely
Finally, technology within helpdesks can provide a lot of management data and, in many cases, demonstrate the meeting of the contractual KPIs. Care needs to be exercised on how that information is used. While hard facts are important, experiential data is equally, important.
Regular stakeholder surveys are a necessity. Workshops to review and identify improvements should be held two or three times a year so that lessons learnt are fed into continuous improvement. Measurement of both hard-cost savings and opportunity savings reinforce the original decisions made, and inform/remind any stakeholders of those benefits.
Modern helpdesks are not just call centres. If properly specified, they can play a vital part in improving customer service.
Gareth Hollyman is head of investor facilities management at JLL