Hospital IT leaders have always carefully balanced support costs along with transforming the delivery of care with new solutions. And as we begin defining the effort for recovery from the COVID-19 crisis, cost control and sustainability have never been more critical. Typically, Service Level Agreement metrics have been the framework for balancing costs and support levels.
While health systems should view their SLA metrics as indicators that lead to driving greater efficiency it is important to understand how certain metrics impact the cost more than others. Whether your hospital system is utilizing an outsourced IT help desk or managing support internally, the labor costs add up in either scenario.
Speed to Answer
Of all the metrics that impact support costs, this is the one that weighs most heavily from a direct cost-perspective. Whether you are measuring the average speed to answer in a MM:SS (minutes: seconds) format or via the percentage of calls answered within a particular time, as the aggressiveness or speed to answer increases, the cost increases at an exponential rate. Therefore, it is very important to find a correct balance between cost and acceptable hold times by your end-users. At the tipping point, customer satisfaction will plateau and the additional costs spent to achieve an aggressive speed to answer SLA will far outweigh the benefit to your organization.
In our experience, time to answer does not directly correlate to the satisfaction of an end-user’s experience. This metric is simply a part of the overall equation that generates user-satisfaction. For example, a user is much happier to wait on hold for one minute if he or she has the confidence that the issue will be resolved when reaching the hospital Service Desk agent as opposed to getting an agent immediately, but having that issue be captured and sent on to the next level of support for follow up.
We recommend a speed to answer within 60 seconds for 80% or more of all calls. This can achieve increased customer satisfaction without the extreme costs to meet a more aggressive SLA. The caveat here is that Speed to Answer is a quick-fix to address satisfaction issues, but other metrics play a bigger role in long term savings and satisfaction.
First Contact Resolution
First Contact Resolution is the best metric for achieving long-term cost savings and return of investment on your service desk. A higher first contact resolution rate drives cost savings in two different ways:
- The cost of support remains lower as a higher-level resource does not need to be engaged.
- Unproductive time is minimized for a highly valued resource such as a physician, as an agent can get them back to work immediately.
According to the Help Desk Institute (HDI), the cost of resolution increases dramatically as an incident transitions through the next level of support as seen in the image below:
Additionally, First Contact Resolution is the largest driver of end-user satisfaction as it relates to Service Desk operations. When end-users pick up the phone to reach out for support, hanging up with a resolution is more important than how long the user waited to have the phone answered (as long as it is answered within a reasonable timeframe).
Another key benefit of a high FCR from a Service Desk is that it frees up your higher-skilled resources to work on projects to optimize and transform your business as opposed to performing “keep-the-lights-on” work. You will notice a higher return on investment for your second/third level resources based on the output to complete projects on time.
Demonstrating Real Value from Support Services
The real value and effort in deriving value from support services is found in shared responsibility between the Service Desk and the healthcare organization. It takes a true partnership between the two to create a high-functioning hospital IT Service Desk – whether that desk is internally managed or through a managed services provider. The hospital organization is responsible for providing the access and knowledge to resolve incidents within a healthcare environment, where the Service Desk is responsible for creating and executing processes with the knowledge/access in order to obtain desired outcomes.
Service desk metrics are never “set it and forget it”. There is continued value in a life cycle that drives improvement. As health systems move into a new normal post the COVID-19 crisis, there are new factors at play: physicians and non-critical care centers will come back online, new integrations such as telehealth will need to be supported, and support teams themselves will need to balance being remote-ready with a predicted increase in call volume and complexity. A close examination of your service desk metrics is an important step in the recovery effort.
Dive deeper into the impact of SLA metrics on costs and customer satisfaction on our upcoming webcast: Diagnosing Health IT Help Desk SLAs.