No IT department wants to go down on record as ignoring the needs of its end-users especially when success depends on keeping them fully operational at all times. The problem is even the most diligent, process-oriented organizations that track and time stamp all support activities, may not have data on idle moments that end users experience before they connect with a live agent or technician. So it’s no surprise that those costs are out of sight if not out of mind as support operations remain status quo. Understandably, companywide network outages take center stage in the downtime discussion, but momentary interruptions in application level functionality and the lack of available IT resources to resolve those issues can add up and be just as costly over time. Nonetheless, most IT organizations tend to tolerate end-user downtime in small doses, because they don’t consider it as urgent as client facing or companywide issues until they do the math.
The direct costs associated with the loss of productivity for the impacted employee can be calculated with a simple formula:
Cost of Downtime (per hour) = end user hourly compensation x utilization percentage (percentage of job functions that can still be accomplished without the affected application(s)).
That loss of individual productivity may be just the tip of the iceberg from an internal cost standpoint. For example, if the impacted end user is temporarily deterred from revenue-generating activities whether it be processing medical enrollments, ordering parts for manufacturing, or performing any customer-facing duties, those costs are further compounded. Using a seasonal example of George Bailey from “It’s a Wonderful Life”, we rarely understand the ripple effect of how one person can impact another. The reality is, unless one end user’s job functions are completely self-contained, meaning no one else depends on their timely execution of those tasks, there will be an organizational chain reaction caused by an interruption in workflow.
One key indicator of end-user downtime is high abandon rates. Those are the percentage of inbound contacts in which end users hang up after waiting too long for an answer. High abandon rates are often the result of an insufficiently staffed service desk staff that cannot scale up for peak periods, after hours, or unscheduled absences. It could also be the result of an insufficient support model, namely using IT staff for double duty remote and on-site support tasks. In such instances, end-user downtime rises dramatically when service desk agents are dispatched for projects away from their desks and are unavailable for inbound phone contacts. While it is assured that IT Managers and CIOs have an idea that abandon rates may be inordinately high should agents be deployed for desktop Installs, Moves, Adds, or Changes (IMACs), they perceive them as a short-term hiccup in the monthly target metrics. So even if they conduct internal operational reviews, they tend to focus on big-picture items such as upcoming rollouts and upgrades than add up all the minutes their end users sit on hold.
It’s no coincidence that IT departments who remain behind the curve on addressing downtime don’t issue satisfaction surveys to the supported end-user population. Most admit they wouldn’t like the results.
While such organizations recognize frequent end-user downtime is a problem with albeit elusive financial consequences, finding a solution may not high on the list of priorities or the corporate wish list of IT expenditures for the coming year. When the conversation does become actionable, it often manifests into some function of adding more full-time staff either internally or through a third party firm. One option that is often overlooked is an overflow support model in which a service desk outsourcer provides a full team of Level 1 agents on a per incident basis only when internal IT can’t answer the phone within a predetermined number of seconds. In an overflow model, the client programs their telephony to route to the service desk provider’s dedicated line and ACD only when their team is busy. This is often a less expensive and more scalable alternative to hiring a few more full-time employees but remains an often overlooked alternative.
ABS Director of Operations Hector Gonzalez explains why. “Most IT management teams are afraid to approach outsourcing vendors for help because they are used to being presented with an all or nothing solution. Although they may get proposals offering support on an after-hours basis, a less than flexible MSP may not be interested in sharing end-user contacts with client IT staff during the same coverage period. So what ends up happening is clients stick with the ‘devil they know’ until they can budget for more FTEs. And when those resources are stretched to capacity they repeat the cycle, favoring those finite resources over a scalable, shared staffing model that most service desk providers offer.”
Regardless of the solution, so long as the number of available IT support resources aligns with the end user demand, downtime should only last as long as it takes the next available agent to answer the phone. When that happens, IT departments can go back to conducting end-user surveys and see the results reflected in their feedback, not to mention their operational costs.