Supporting Customers Round the Clock

Feature Article | August 4, 2004 by admin

Mr. Hauck, are certain IT processes more suitable for outsourcing?

In general, all IT processes are suitable for outsourcing. The extent to which an individual customer outsources depends heavily, on the one hand, on their corporate strategy and goals. On the other hand, internal IT costs play a major role, since they form the basis for comparing with outsourcing costs.

Alongside IT consulting and HR services, TDS offers a broad portfolio of outsourcing services for SAP solutions, ranging from Remote Systems Management and Application Hosting to Full Scope Outsourcing. In the case of Remote Systems Management, TDS takes over responsibility for systems, from monitoring to operating them, but the systems themselves remain at the customer site. Application Hosting involves TDS ensuring that SAP applications run smoothly in its data center. In contrast, Full Scope Outsourcing enables customers to hand over the entire IT process landscape to the service provider. Depending on customers’ requirements, this can also include taking over the designated IT staff.
Thanks to a wide-ranging outsourcing portfolio, TDS can offer its customers the opportunity to direct more or all of their efforts into their main areas of expertise, while TDS provides contractually defined services according to fixed, agreed criteria.

Outsourcing is based on comprehensive service processes. What is the TDS approach to this aspect?

The CPC is the single point of contact for all customers, so it becomes the central repository for all requirements and problem reports. In order to ensure consistently high quality, TDS has mapped the service and support process in a central helpdesk system since 2001. Since 2001, all TDS service and support units use the service management and workflow solution Remedy Action Request System (ARS) as a central helpdesk system. All problem reports and service requests are captured, documented and processed in the ARS. An automated escalation management feature monitors the agreed reaction and processing times. In this way more than 6,000 inquiries, known as “tickets”, are processed and solved every month. Alongside fault reports, the CSC also administers time-controlled service tasks such as taking down servers for maintenance work or carrying out transports. Customers can register their tickets using the application’s Web client, and can also follow the current status of their tickets via the Internet. However, the majority of requests are captured over the phone by the CSC call agents or automatically read into the system directly by e-mail. Depending on the complexity of the request, it is solved directly in the CSC or in the downstream second level areas and the customer is notified of the result.

That sounds like a lot of work. How do you charge for this procedure?

There are different flat monthly rates for outsourcing services, depending on the extent of the services provided. However, particularly in the helpdesk area we also offer services based on flat fees with a time-based element. If we perform other services in addition to these, we bill them separately each month.

How many customers does the CSC support?

We currently have more than 250 customers who are supported by 25 staff in the CSC. We perform key user support for all our customers. The customer nominates one or more contacts (key users) whose details are saved in our system. Their inquiries are then processed in the CSC and, where necessary, forwarded to experts in the relevant sections. We’ve also recently launched SAP end-user support, which answers “how to” questions, provides help with operational errors and delivers module- and customer-specific services.

And are these customers always supported by the same contact at TDS?

No, we do not operate with named contact persons. Every incoming message is received in the front office. However, as time goes by, the customers and CSC staff do get to know one another. Many of our customers visit our offices to attend regular service discussions, and they are glad to take the opportunity to meet the CSC staff in person. This enables customers to put faces to the names.

With so many customers, how do you maintain the flexibility to ensure you meet the requirements of the various service levels on a continual basis and in a way that can be verified?

We create the basis for measuring and demonstrating that we meet the agreed service level as early as in the project phase, when we implement the IT landscape and the customer’s processes at TDS. The extensive parameters for monitoring and the automatic forwarding of threshold values or problem reports are mapped in TDS’ own system management solution. For example, the system management notifies ARS directly of system breakdowns. This system uses predefined formulas to automatically assign a priority to each report. The automated escalation management feature monitors the processing of reports and where necessary alerts the designated escalation manager according to a 4-level escalation procedure. This combination of system management and ARS enables us to anticipate problem situations proactively and take action before an actual breakdown occurs.

We have deployed a service level measurement system in order to provide clear documentation, to customers and to ourselves, that we are meeting agreed service levels. This system captures log data relating to various operational measurements and continually compares this with the agreed service requirements. The result is displayed online in bar charts or color-coded status diagrams per SLA which can be accessed by our customers. Our customers are delighted by this high level of transparency.

How do you ensure a 24-hour service with 25 staff?

We run a 3 shift operation in the Customer Support Center with additional on-call capabilities, and can in this way ensure that we are always available for our customers. Like the CSC, the second level operational areas are also available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

How do you verify the quality of the services you supply?

Informative reporting is very important to us. We document the entire solution history and the time we spent on the case in what we call a “trouble ticket”. Similarly, we continuously collect performance data in the different systems and evaluate it. The customer is informed of this data every month. The TDS Service Manager is responsible for this process. He has close contact with the customer, enabling us to implement quality improvements or optimizations when necessary. The ongoing operational processes are subject to continuous appraisal by this Service Manager. An operational concept that has been developed together with the customer can prove to be impractical in reality. Practicality is verified by the Service Manager in a continuous process of improvement. The goal is to serve the customer with demonstrably high quality for the entire duration of the contract. They supply the necessary figures to the controlling department. Analyzing the problems that have occurred each month per customer provides an indication of the quality of service given. This includes for example determining the first level solution rate or analyzing the incoming media of the trouble tickets such as faxes, telephone calls and e-mails. What we strive for above all is to leverage constant feedback and improvements to deliver the best possible service to customers. Certifications from numerous bodies, including ISO and the IT Security Certificate of the Federal Office for Information Security, and a comprehensive quality management system are evidence of this commitment.

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