Throughout this Q&A, Corbett Technology Solutions, Inc (CTSI) Vice President of Operations, Will Seifert dives into Customer Care as he discusses the characteristics of a healthy integrator-client relationship, the world as a service provider, and why analytics are becoming an increasingly valuable feature of today’s technology.
Q: Can you explain Customer Care’s role in Technology Integration and why it is such an integral part of the integrator-client relationship?
A: Customer Care supports our customers; understanding that people utilize the systems and the systems impact those people in the way that they work. It’s more than just service and maintenance, which in turn influenced our company to rename our service department to “Customer Care”. The department focuses on helping our customers, ensuring their systems are operating at the highest level of availability, and their systems are running at maximum potential. Our Customer Care team is fulfilled when end-users are successfully using our technology. We know we’re supporting critical missions and people’s lives through the businesses of our customers.
It’s hugely important for our clients. In the past, we were able to say that once the system was installed, tested, and users were trained, we were here for support and focused on the next project. Maintenance was a day 2 consideration, but we realized our clients wanted and needed a lot more. We formalized our maintenance offerings and developed a managed service offering directly addressing the requests of our customers. With the release of CTSI Subscription Services, the client pays a fixed monthly fee including hardware, software, installation, and support. Customer Care’s interactions with the client begin on day 1. This enables us to manage, maintain and improve systems throughout the lifecycle of the subscription term, regardless of the technology – nurse call, presentation, conferencing and collaboration.
Q:What do you think most clients are looking for from their Customer Care contracts & interactions? What are the key components for good Customer Care?
A: Most clients look for peace of mind. Effective communication builds peace of mind. Trusting that the system is going to work at its full potential, and if there is ever a problem with a system, that the integrator will invest their time and resources to ensure all issues are resolved as quickly and efficiently as possible. They’re affected directly by the missions that the systems support. Customers look for a provider that understands their business and uses that understanding when making service-related decisions and handling service requests. That is all a part of CTSI’s service philosophy and our Customer Care perspective. Our team asks – Who are the users? What would happen if that system wasn’t working? How can we best perform the work to resolve the issue? What’s really impacted aside from just the technology not working? What’s impacted by the system not doing its job? How do we address that?
Q: Are there any topics or discussions that clients and integrators should have earlier in the process in regards to Customer Care?
A: I think everyone is concerned about their systems performing, but the impacts of it not performing are often not thought about until the system breaks down. So, taking into consideration that it’s worth investing into system maintenance and monitoring and then understanding what it takes to support the infrastructure before problems occur, is critical to a successful project outcome. There’s that unspoken cost of downtime and/or inefficiencies of the system’s not performing as desired. Most people do not factor what it costs when a system is not functioning properly into the value proposition. For instance, if a hospital room is unavailable due to system issues, the hospital may see reduction in HCAHPS scores and/or revenue which really impacts the bottom line and healthcare quality. Another example may be with an AV collaboration room in a corporate environment. What happens when that room is not available or worse yet, what happens when you fill that room full of people and the system is not working. Now you’ve wasted that time, X’s the salary of every person involved in that meeting. You don’t want to waste the time of anybody, especially senior executives. While line by line integration cost discussions are important, remember to discuss the value of system performance and support.
Q: Can you tell us a little bit about the difference between Managed Services and Maintenance?
A: A Managed Service is when we handle operation for a client or kind of become an extension of their technology department. This could be an extension of the audiovisual support team, IT support team, or whatever team is responsible for our systems. CTSI is managing the solution that we’ve implemented to ensure that it remains up and running. Service level objectives frame a managed service. We’re not only responding to problems as they’re reported but getting out in front of problems BEFORE they happen. We advise the client what we’ve done to keep things up and going, while providing tracking from an analytics and reporting standpoint. Proactive monitoring, metrics and the analytics are the differentiator for Managed Services and higher-level Maintenance Agreements.
Q: You mentioned tracking systems by measuring and/or analyzing systems metrics and data. Has this served as a valuable feature for previous clients?
A: Yes, it has. The reason why I say that is because we have reviewed the data and received positive feedback from many of our clients regarding our managed services and maintenance reporting. For example, the CTO for one of our many healthcare clients mentioned, “If he could get his own people to document up to 50% of the level of detail that he’s getting from us, the organization would be 100% better than where it is today.” By tracking systems and providing metrics & analytics, our customer’s executive team can now see our service history, time to respond, and the time that it takes to restore their systems first-hand. They can see how many problems were solved BEFORE they were problems. We use Real-Time tools to not only measure our performance, but also help to make business decisions around technology improvements in response to recurring system challenges. With the ability to see a service history, our customer gains more insight into the IT operations of critical communications so that informed improvement decisions can be made. We also have a service delivery manager assigned. This manager works directly with the CIO to review quarterly reports during a formal quarterly business review. It’s interesting because the CIO holds us very accountable to execute at the end of every quarter and has provided nothing but positive feedback. The organization now has the tools, not just a gut feeling, to drive improvement. Now, real metrics are used improve his business. Our performance is also clearly measurable.
Q: As you said, Customer Care is always innovating ways to support systems built by other integrators. Where would you say the future is pointing to in order to deliver the best Customer Care possible?
A: There’s a lot of people out there that have systems integrated by technology experts other than us, and now we really bring them into the fold by providing support at the same level that we support systems that we have integrated. We intend to expand CTSI Managed Services for customers that have communication systems provided by other integrators to deliver those customers maximum uptime and minimum headache. This is where we will have complete visibility into all system functions and all system key metrics in terms of devices being online, connected to power, including all of its open communication requirements & metrics. This will become easier for everyone in the future. The more the industry adopts standardization; the more manufacturers will adopt standardization, in turn makes it easier for solution providers to support any system, even those installed by different providers. The Customer Care practice’s value will continue to escalate in the future.
Q: Let’s say an organization is trying to find the best system integrator for a large project. What advice would you give to a client who wishes to get the most value out of their technology solutions?
A: I suggest customers take the following into consideration when looking for a systems integrator.
- Analyze the integration support team’s talent, training, experience, and depth directly related to positive user experiences and value. Look for an integrator who will be around to see the project’s success versus someone who hires a third-party and will eventually move on to another integrator’s project after the installation is complete.
- Ask the integrator to define their service level objectives and what that could possibly mean to system down time or user frustration. The answer will illustrate their commitment to improving your business. Most integrators can “provide and install” hardware; few integrators can add value by assisting with the management and support to help your business be successful.
- Explain to integrators how the system will be used; who will be using it; and what could the impact be if a system crisis occurred. Once this is understood, both parties can find the best fitting plan & strategy needed to keep the system performing. First-level response might be a phone call. Next level response might be remote access for our engineering help desk, then a truck roll and a resource on site. For example, if you have a system where life safety is critical, you will need the highest level of support in terms of SLO’s. Often, clients anticipate that they need to have 24/7 maintenance response (which can be very expensive). But, if a system only runs one hour a week, once a week. A 4-hour type phone response and a 3-day response in terms of when somebody would be on site may be the best option to not only resolve the issue, but also to save money that can be allocated to more important business functions.
- Ask the following questions: How many Technicians are available in your region? What is their response time on site? Do they provide their Technicians with reliable transportation? What hours do those field experts work? What happens when I pick up the phone and call in? Am I working with the same person every time, or am I going to get a call center? Do they have call desk, engineers and technicians dedicated to service and customer care?
- At the end of any technology implementation, you should always make sure you have final project documentation. That might include drawings which illustrate how the components are put together, documentation of usernames and passwords, and the compiled working and most recent versions of the proprietary software programming that may have been delivered.
You can see the trend here. It really all boils down to understanding what the resources are behind that company and making sure that those resources are dedicated to Customer Care and not a resource that would get pulled off another task to help support your business. As part of your integrator decision, try to learn as much as you can not only evaluating the installation capabilities, but also the ongoing maintenance and managed services capabilities of the provider when making a final purchase decision.
Something to look forward to
The next discussion in our Thought Leadership Series will cover the evolution of mass notification and the critical role it plays in public safety, with Robin Nishiyama & Mike Wilson.