Healthcare IT Service Desk: Driving Beyond Customer Satisfaction

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By Chris Wickersham | Feb 25, 2022

5 minute read Blog| IT Help Desk

Research on customer experience from the Service Desk Institute (SDI) supports what most of us already know – “Customer satisfaction is the most significant indicator of success on the service desk.”  

In the healthcare setting, satisfaction is much more than a score. Who stands in the gap when a patient is struggling to log in to their telehealth appointment? Who walks a surgeon through a technical issue in the middle of the night? Who sees to it that overwhelmed nurses in a COVID unit have system access? Healthcare providers simply don’t have time to wait on the phone for an issue resolution. 

When it comes to analyzing service desk metrics, satisfaction surveys are just one piece of the puzzle. The InfoTech executive brief Analyzing Your Service Desk Ticket Data concludes, “You cannot improve the user experience without meaningful metrics that allow you to understand the user experience. Different user groups will have different needs and different expectations of the level of service. Your metrics should reflect those needs and expectations.”  

That means you have to look at a range of metrics – but which ones are most meaningful for improving satisfaction and optimizing healthcare IT operations? 

Analyze meaningful metrics 

From our long history of healthcare IT operations, we have a process of helping health systems evaluate the performance of their IT Service Desk starting by identifying the right metrics. Here are our top three recommended metrics to analyze when you’re looking for ways to examine IT service desk satisfaction.

1. First Contact Resolution (FCR). FCR shows you how often end users were able to get their question answered or their issue resolved during their first interaction with your help desk agent. The more often users are getting their issue resolved the first time – the faster they are able to get back to patient care or another important task. FCR also indicates how well your help desk operates overall, if your agents have the right level of training and access to resolve the most common issues. Improving help desk operations is a reliable strategy for improving user satisfaction.  

When it comes to FCR metrics there’s a nuance to understand between actual FCR and in-scope FCR. Actual FCR is the truest indicator of how many incidents you are resolving on the first contact. In-scope FCR depicts the resolution rate for incidents that you have the ability to resolve on first contact, which means that issues known to be level 2 or 3 issues are not included in the metric.  

The value: Understanding FCR metrics helps you get a glimpse into the number of interactions required for help desk agents to help a clinician or hospital staff resolve a specific issue. Extrapolate the interactions with the cost of clinical staff time and the impact to patient care. The more issues that can be resolved on first contact, the greater the cost savings, improved productivity and more likely to deliver a positive user experience.

2. Ticket reassignment. Do you have a smooth, efficient process for routing issues to the most qualified resource at the correct level in your help desk (level 1 vs. Level 2 or 3)? No more than one percent of tickets should be reassigned. If you do, take a look at your processes and training for agents.  

Data collection could be part of the problem. Do your agents need more training or resources so they obtain the information that level 2 or 3 technicians need in order to resolve the issue once it’s reassigned? 

If tickets are not being resolved quickly or are being passed around from one resource to another, users may begin to lose trust in your help desk’s ability to solve problems. Each time a ticket is reassigned it delays the incident resolution by an average of four hours. Consider your physician who experiences a four-hour delay in getting an IT issue resolved, and how mounting frustration from ticket reassignment can damage your reputation with users.  

The value: Reviewing processes around ticket reassignment and helping ensure that ticket assignment happens correctly 99% of the time not only helps your service desk operate more efficiently but it goes far in improving user satisfaction, not to mention perceived helpfulness of your help desk. 

3. Call abandonment rate and average speed to answer (ASA). Has an issue ever escalated to you when a physician was on hold for too long? Most often the call abandonment rate is tied to staffing levels of the service desk – which is even more challenging in today’s competitive hiring market.  

Do you know what the sweet spot is for staffing your IT service desk? If you staff your help desk with too few agents, your call abandonment rate will be high. If every call is answered quickly but not resolved, the cost of staffing and satisfaction probably won’t be worth the investment. Staffing a 24x7 help desk is a juggling act, especially if your hospital system is tackling large system implementations or mergers and acquisition activities. 

In working with Ardent Health Services, we were able to help them with their staffing levels in a number of ways, like when they were transitioning to a different EMR and during a period of growth. Rick Keller, SVP and CIO Ardent Health Services, says, “A key value CereCore is able to provide is being able to flex staffing up and down as we need it. When we were managing the help desk ourselves and having dedicated full-time employees it was hard for us to expand and contract.”  

Keller goes on to say, “In our situation, there was a diminishing level of return if we were too quick to answer for the price point to achieve immediate responses. We discovered that our best practice was for 80% of our calls to be answered between 60 and 90 seconds to maximize value and customer satisfaction. CereCore consistently performed within the best practice of 80% calls answered within 60 seconds. As we were able to trust that performance, we continued to add more services to our contract with CereCore to help us achieve our goals.” 

The value: When you analyze both the call abandonment rate and the average speed to answer, you are able to determine the tipping point, likely between 30 and 60 seconds, so that you can manage to contain costs for staffing the level of resource skilled enough to resolve the issue and offer a positive user experience. 

Apply an automation strategy 

Have you considered how automation could help solve call abandonment issues? Stop the domino effect of abandoned calls and unhappy customers with queue manipulation and call prioritization. 

By prioritizing calls from physicians and patients and manipulating the queue so those users are routed to more experienced resources, you can improve physician productivity, physician satisfaction, and patient satisfaction. 

When we applied this strategy with Ardent, physician calls were answered three times faster than calling into a standard line. As a result, physicians were more satisfaction and addressed the probability and possibility of reporting on issues that impact patient safety. 

Another example of this strategy is segmenting a call queue and team who will help patients calling in to set up their Epic MyChart accounts.  

Using the data obtained in your Service Desk operation, you can mine for additional automation opportunities. In fact, your Self-Service Portal may be your best source for automatically routing incidents directly to second level resolution groups. The key to uncovering opportunities for increased efficiency is to look for patterns and target high volume/low resolution incidents.  

For example, we recently auto-routed medication formulary updates into Epic directly to the Willow (Pharmacy) support group. Service Desk analysts do not have the expertise or access to perform this type of update. However, by routing this request directly to the second level support group, we cut out the middle man, improved the resolution time, and decreased the cost of support for this type of request. 

The value: Looking at automation as a valuable strategy that supports physicians and patients to resolve IT issues first helps you drive efficiency and satisfaction for your health system. Properly prioritizing the calls of physicians and patients is another way to ensure your health system delivers excellent patient care. 

Learn more about the CereCore difference

Wondering how to uncover actionable insights from your help desk metrics? Struggling to implement process changes? Finding it difficult to manage a 24x7 help desk that meets the needs of physicians, patients and stakeholders? At CereCore, our support services experts have answered more than 400,000 (and counting) calls through our IT Service Desk, resulting in a consistent 95% user satisfaction score from our clients. Take a peek at these best practices when you download our ebook Diagnosing Your Health System’s IT Support Desk.

About the Author:
Chris Wickersham

Sr. Director, Customer Support, CereCore

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