Ensure Successful Service Desk Partnerships with Preparation

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By Chris Wickersham | Nov 17, 2023

6 minute read EHR/EMR| Blog| IT Help Desk

Concerned about handing over your service desk to a third party? Rightfully so. Your service desk defines experiences with your healthcare organization and is critical to your user satisfaction ratings. That’s why it’s important to trust your service desk to a partner that fully understands healthcare and the technologies and workflows of your organization. Their intent should be clear: to provide services that support your IT team’s credibility, protect your reputation, and ultimately provide quality care to patients.

Preparation is the foundation for early success and ongoing optimizations.

Ensuring your service desk partner is ready to serve you and your users with the quality you expect depends on how they prepare before assuming responsibility for your calls. It takes time to prepare, and it’s worth the time it takes to be thorough when your department’s reputation and credibility are on the line. Partners who commit to taking responsibility for your calls in a matter of a few days or weeks may not have your best interests at heart. In reality, it takes time to learn from your team and to devise the plan for supporting them and your users with depth and efficiency.

Here’s an overview of the CereCore method for onboarding our clinical service desk approach at a partner organization in these phases: 1) pre-work, 2) kickoff, 3) knowledge transfer and relationship building, 4) technical design and preparedness, 5) training, 6) reporting, and 7) optimizing .

Phase 1: Pre-work for understanding your current state and your goals.

The CereCore service desk leadership team debriefs with our regional vice president of sales and others to understand the challenges you’re facing and the goals you have for this project and for your organization. To skip this step is to risk starting an engagement without full understanding of your current state and the path to the future state you have determined is best.

Phase 2: Kickoff for starting strong.

We involve a project manager with specific training and experience onboarding organizations onto our service desk services. This project manager’s first order of business is scheduling a meeting with experts and leaders from CereCore and from your organization.

Our team will arrive to the call with clear understanding of your goals, a project plan, and the major milestones for our work together. We will have the first action items ready for your team to assign to proper experts. We get started from the first meeting as our ambitious timeline aims for our service desk agents to take over the duties you indicate within 90 days of our kickoff call.

At this meeting you’ll meet the CereCore team assigned to your project including:

  • Project Manager
  • Service Delivery Manager
  • Client Success Lead
  • Project team members
  • Multiple leadership team members to ensure all the right CereCore parties are involved

Your Service Delivery Manager is your primary point of contact at CereCore. They will work with you through go-live and after to manage your partnership specifically. The Client Success Lead and project team members will interact daily with members of your team to understand your day-to-day operations and to learn how your agents address calls to your IT organization – including the tools, processes, and resources available for managing your service desk. From the earliest days of our partnership, our team studies your approaches, asks questions, and makes recommendations as we work to make your help desk even better than it performs today.

We learn much of what we need to know from an in-depth questionnaire that we ask your team to complete. Our questionnaire, called a Level 1 Support Assessment, is very comprehensive and captures information including:

  • What ITSM are you using (if any), where is your knowledgebase, what are your downtime procedures, and ways your users contact you (phone call, email, etc.)?
  • What data do you have related to your current service desk operations (call data, incident data, etc.) that will develop our understanding of current expectations and workflow?
  • What remote connectivity is offered by your organization?
  • How is user identity verified when they call for support?
  • What are your organization’s Active Directory specifics (user name format, password complexity, generic login usage, password reset procedures, etc.)
  •  What are the access management procedures in your organization; both for onsite and remote users?
  • What EHR and other  clinical applications does your organization use and who are the application owners? What about business and revenue cycle applications?  (We’ll ask about your highest call volume applications and can catch up on the rest later).
  • What software does your organization use for email, internet filtering, etc.?
  • What hardware does your organization use as far as printers, scanners, and medical devices?
  • What telecommunication tools does your organization use for voice mail, wireless, pagers, conference bridge lines, and even patient phones/tv service?
  • What are the existing escalation and notification procedures utilized at the organization. CereCore will provide a best practice as a shell and customize to fit the needs of each healthcare organization.

The Level 1 Assessment informs so much about the services we provide your organization. When we spend time working together to complete the assessment before go-live, your team, and your users, feel the benefits from the first call we manage for you. We will continue to learn and improve, but we start strong with your help completing the assessment. This is where we differ from many IT service providers who will attempt, with varying degrees of success, to support your users before they know the details required to answer faster, with more accuracy, and with the intent of creating positive experiences for all.

Phase 3: On site, knowledge transfer from your team to ours. It informs the path to success. 

We bring knowledge from completed sections of the Level 1 Support Assessment, the statement of work and our kickoff call to our first visit to your campus. We work to develop our understanding of your organization in context of all we know about managing service desks. We work to discover the assessment answers and details we haven’t uncovered yet, and we work to establish your team’s trust in our ability to manage a small part of your team’s overall responsibilities.

At this visit, some of our top objectives include:

  • Working through gaps or gaining additional clarification within the Level 1 Support Assessment.
  • Documenting what we learn in a knowledge-base we can all access to ensure consistency across our teams and to capture knowledge we will need to work as an extension of your team. Our documentation includes discoveries from the assessment as well as our own study of the internal procedures, workflows, and resources we will need to support your users. A knowledgebase is never really finished, so we continue to add to it as we learn more even well into our partnership.
  • Developing a training plan specifically for your team to understand our roles and responsibilities as well as those for your organization. The training plan ensures Level 1 support resources are successful and helps other levels of support understand their scope.

Phase 4: Technical design and preparedness.

Having knowledge is only part of the equation. It is equally important to ensure that our analysts have the appropriate tools and access to applications to drive resolution and support, as well as create a strong user experience when contacting the Service Desk. As part of this phase, key components are:

  • Establishing connectivity to the organization’s network by way of a site-to-site VPN, Virtual Desktop, or other means.
  • Optimization of the analyst workspace to promote efficiency and place commonly used applications at the CereCore analyst’s fingertips.
  • Telecommunications design where the telephony workflow and interactive voice response (IVR) are designed and developed to foster a strong front-end experience.
  • Identification of necessary applications and systems needed for support.
  • Appropriate provisioning of access for our analysts as well as a consistent role-based access request and termination process for CereCore.
  • Configuration of organizational reporting to align with strategic goals and service desk initiatives.

Phase 5: Train.

With previous phases complete, it’s finally time to train. We schedule training during the last two weeks before go-live. Any earlier than this and we wouldn’t be prepared, the training itself would be lacking necessary detail. This training is very hands on and could be described as a dress rehearsal with demos, tests, and checklists to confirm all is in order for real time support. This phase is a time to:

  • Test options for callers to select when they call.
  • Confirm caller greetings in all the pre-determined scenarios.
  • Practice caller scenarios and common resolutions.
  • Learn the new ITSM if applicable.
  • Confirm workflows and reporting.

Phase 6: Establish a meeting and reporting cadence.

Initially, your Service Delivery Manager and Client Success Lead will conduct daily touchpoint calls to analyze and improve processes. When you’re ready, we’ll move to weekly operational meetings followed by monthly leadership operations reviews to overview metrics and high-level opportunities. We also recommend a Quarterly Business Review with executive level leadership to discuss organization goals, major success initiatives, and ongoing continual improvement suggestions, and optimizations.   Goals for these touchpoints include:

  • Providing recommendations (training, shift to L1 from L2 or vice versa, system configuration adjustments, etc.) for addressing recurring issues.
  • Reporting results (how many calls were resolved, abandoned, etc.)
  • Collecting your feedback and making changes to improve our services.
  • Ensuring your confidence in our support services.

Phase 7: Introduce capacity and transform user experiences. Measure, report, and optimize.

It’s important to us to learn what we need to know and support your users as you have directed. We understand the speed of healthcare and the role of technology in the continuity and quality of care. We know our work expands the capabilities of your team and addresses user needs in an expert and efficient fashion, and we are honored by the trust of our clients to manage an important function of their organization.

The job of a service desk is never finished, so we schedule the necessary touchpoints to revisit the details of our services and adjust to ensure experiences that engage users and enable quality care. Some would suggest our preparation is more involved than necessary, but we flatly disagree. The preparation is the difference between mediocrity and excellence when providing service desk support and we won’t ask our partners to settle for less than our best effort because provider and patient experiences depend on it.

About the Author:
Chris Wickersham

Sr. Director, Customer Support, CereCore

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