Does your existing IT support provider deliver on these vital SLA's?

 

To assess how well your IT support provider is performing, transparency is essential. How effectively and efficiently are incidents being resolved? To what extent are user expectations being met? What areas are in need of improvement – and what form should that improvement take? Your organisation deserves a clear picture on all of this.

The good news is that with a modern, fit-for-purpose IT Support Management system, it has never been easier to drill down into virtually all aspects of the service you are receiving. Average speed of answer, handle times, first contact response rate (to name just a few) – even performance information on individual technicians: it can and should be possible to view data on all of this.

But when it comes to performance data, be aware that it is sometimes possible to have too much of a good thing. Asking for a report on absolutely everything can merely serve to confuse the picture – especially if you fail to ascribe an appropriate level of significance to the various metrics in front of you.

Instead, it’s important to isolate the metrics that really matter; in other words, those Service Level Agreements (SLAs) that relate directly to your objectives – i.e. what you want your IT support provider to deliver for your organisation.

The SLAs to measure will vary somewhat from company to company, based on business-specific priorities, the needs of users and the nature of the IT estate. That said, certain metrics are almost always worth tracking. With this in mind, here are the SLAs you should pay particular attention to.

Cost Per Ticket

Along with Customer Satisfaction, Cost per Ticket is one of the twin foundation metrics for IT support. This is because all the other key metrics that we will come to shortly ultimately feed directly into either the quality of the service provided (as measured by Customer Satisfaction) - or else containing your spend (as measured ultimately by Cost per Ticket). Some SLAs will touch upon both of these foundation metrics.

Cost per Ticket is usually your primary measure of efficiency. The calculation for it is simple enough: you take the monthly operating expense of the Service Desk and then divide it by the monthly ticket volume.

The expenses element tends to consist mostly (but not exclusively) of personnel costs. Typically, those expenses will include the following:

● Staffing costs relating to desk agent’s response technicians

● Staffing costs relating to support personnel (e.g. supervisory and managerial staff, schedulers, dispatchers and trainers)

● Technological expenses (e.g. computers, telecoms and software licensing fees)

● Facilities expenses (e.g. office space used)

● Travel, training and office supplies.

If Cost per Ticket is rising month by month, it could be a sign that you are paying for a level of support that exceeds your needs. When comparing one provider against another, just be aware, of course, that Cost per Ticket is not the be all and end all; especially if it seems likely that opting for the cheaper option will result in a drop off in customer satisfaction and service levels.

Customer Satisfaction

Whereas Cost per Ticket is the key measurement of efficiency, Customer Satisfaction is your go-to foundational metric for quality.

There is, as you would expect, no set formula for calculating it. But one tried and tested method involves asking customers to complete a follow-up satisfaction survey at the conclusion of a ticket. This should be standardised to cover key areas (e.g. speed of response, communication, ease of accessing the service - and, of course, whether the matter was completely resolved). It is also useful to ask customers to comment directly on how the service might be improved.

First Time Fix (FTF) or First Contact Resolution (FCR)

The FTF or FCR rate is the proportion of incidents that are resolved and concluded on customers’ initial contact with the service desk.

A high percentage of FTF is almost always a good thing: it demonstrates that Service Desk staff have the knowledge along with the technical and communication skills to fix problems at the earliest possible opportunity.

That said, just be wary of a sudden spike in FTFs all concerning the same or very similar problems: it could be a sign that through the better dissemination of information about a particular issue throughout the organisation might stem the need for Service Desk contact altogether.

Service Desk Resolution (SDR)

Let’s say a Service Desk analyst receives a call and logs a ticket. They are unable to resolve the matter on first contact (hence, it’s not classed as an SDR). However, that technician is able to go away, research the matter themselves, get back in contact with the customer, deliver a solution and close the ticket. This is an SDR.

As in the case of FTF, there is usually a strong correlation between high SDR and strong Customer Satisfaction rating. But crucially, this metric also directly impacts Cost per Ticket. This is because high SDR indicates an ability to resolve matters while minimising the need for costly escalation (e.g. in the form of field support or vendor support).

Service Desk Analyst utilisation

You would not willingly pay for a vast team of technicians - only for them to spend the bulk of their time merely ‘on standby’. This is why Service Desk staff utilisation is such an important metric: it is essentially the average time a technician spends on service requests and incidents per month, divided by the total number of work hours in the month.

Given the fact that personnel costs make up such a significant part of the cost of the support you are getting, it follows that where the Analyst Utilisation rate is low, overall personnel costs (and, by extension, Cost per Ticket) will be correspondingly high.

Mean Time to Resolve (MTR)

This refers to the average time it takes from when a ticket is opened until resolution of the issue. It is usually measured in business hours. There is usually a relationship between low MTR and higher levels of customer satisfaction.

Service Desk Analyst Job Satisfaction

Where there are engaged, fulfilled technicians, it tends to lead to lower churn rates, lower rates of absenteeism and a greater level of experience, skill and commitment across all levels of service.

When considering providers, look carefully at those companies that invest heavily in training and career development: if the signs are positive, you are likely to feel the benefit in the form of both lower Cost per Ticket and higher Customer Satisfaction.

Getting the Right Balance

Is our support provider delivering the service we need? To answer this, it is useful to have a single performance metric, drawing on the critical metrics we have identified (plus any others that are relevant to your particular organisation).

This is where the ‘scorecard’ approach can be useful. Take your metrics, ascribe a weighting for each one (depending on its relative importance), score each metric and then multiply the metric weighting by the metric score.

Using this method, you should have an effective way to benchmark your IT support performance.

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Pete Canavan
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