Try Before You Buy Service Desk Test Calls

As any consumer will tell you, the best way to remove buyer’s remorse from the purchasing process is to offer a money back guarantee. This typically applies to retail transactions that take place either online or in the store for any durable good that’s less than an ideal fit or not quite as advertised. The concept works well with products, but it’s less frequently offered with services where the commitment can have far-reaching, long-term consequences. But imagine if you could have a trial period with a service desk outsourcing solution and gauge the quality of the agents supporting your environment before you buy. Since they’re the ones who will be on the front lines communicating with the end users every day, it makes sense for them to give an advance preview of what that support experience is going to be like.  Potential clients shouldn’t have to make such a broad leap of faith before selecting a service desk vendor which is why test calls may be the ideal proof of concept.

Anyone who has ever called a help desk or call center understands that customer satisfaction is as much a consequence of the tone, personality, and professional communication skills of the agent as to whether or not the issue was resolved. What they say and how they say it are both of equal importance. More so for potential service desk clients looking to adopt a dedicated staffing model the significance is compounded when they know their end users will be talking to the same agents every day for the duration of the contract.

As part of the Managed Services Provider (MSP) evaluation process, the service desk vendor can set up a dedicated toll-free line for prospective clients to call during a specified period of time. This way they’re getting a truer to life version of their technical knowledge and customer service skills in real time. Once those service desk test calls arrive, they are received through the Automatic Call Distributor (ACD) system and routed to the next available agent. This is not to say that the agents wouldn’t be flying blind for those inbound test contacts. Any dedicated toll-free line would be received through the ACD which would identify the organization calling, but this is also consistent with how inbound contacts are handled post-implementation. The client IT Director, Help Desk Manager, or staff members of their vendor evaluation committee can present mock incidents requiring support and rate the performance of the agent in terms of call quality as well as technical acumen.

Some service desk outsourcing companies offer to play recordings of genuine client support scenarios; however, this might not be the ideal way to evaluate the capabilities of service desk agents for a couple of reasons. First, even heavily edited recordings may violate non-disclosure agreements putting data security at risk, especially if the callers inadvertently reveal Private Healthcare Information (PHI), passwords, or financial account records. Second, with selected recordings, the tendency would be for the potential vendor to cherry pick or create a “highlight reel” of carefully selected calls and short change a two-way dialogue.  With a live, test call setup, the client’s IT staff can ask technical questions specific to their technical environment which is not only a more effective way of assessing agent skills but a more realistic simulation of a live support scenario.

A major difference between a test and post go-live support scenario is the absence of client specific training on unique processes and proprietary applications. Such training is ordinarily conducted over several weeks during the implementation process once the client has made a contractual commitment; however, agents can easily troubleshoot standard office applications, provide “how to” support, or address access and connectivity or virus issues.

Some prospective buyers may be less comfortable with a contrived request for troubleshooting and prefer a blunt Q & A session. In such cases, the dedicated line can be set up for a remote interview to assess agent capabilities and communications skills as opposed to mock calls. Whatever the preference, part of the evaluation process is getting a clearer sense of the caliber of agents who come through the vendor’s hiring and training processes and seeing if there’s a culture fit. If that means potential clients can ask the same set of questions they would their internal IT staff, a positive match in technical competency and communication styles bodes well for the service desk solution working harmoniously over the long term. Though the sneak peeks of IT talent may not be the ultimate harbinger of perfection over the thousands of incidents handled over the life of the contract, future clients can at least make a much more informed decision based on direct communication with the people who would be supporting them. Incorporating test calls in the vendor selection process simply reduces the potential for buyer’s remorse and ensures your leap of faith won’t fall short.

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