D'Arcy Gue

How to Calculate Your Healthcare Service Desk Cost-Per-Contact

June 14, 2015

Healthcare IT, IT Service Desk 5 Minute Read

Cost-per-contact is one of the primary Key Performance Indicators (KPI) used to measure the success of your Service Desk. As a health IT professional, do you know your hospital’s cost-per-contact as it relates to your Service Desk? Does your brain go into a tail-spin when you try to calculate the cost-per-contact? After many years of consulting on Service Desk operations in a variety of industries, I’ve found that most clients consider very different inputs when calculating their cost-per-contact. Not surprisingly, the value of their work varies with the effort expended.

assessing costs, service desk costEvery hospital has a different approach and process when it comes to this KPI. One  will compute its cost-per-contact at $8.20 and say they feel this is too high while another will be proud that their cost-per-contact is $22.40. How can this be? Are we comparing apples to apples when discussing cost-per-contact statistics across the industry? It seems more like we’re comparing apples and grapes.

Some hospitals use the actual budget of the Service Desk to calculate their cost-per-contact because they realize this is what it costs for them to operate the Service Desk. Some take the more comprehensive approach of looking at the Service Desk as a separate business, and consider every cost required to operate as such. This approach allows them to periodically compare their cost of operating the Service Desk against the cost to outsource.

Which cost-per-contact model is correct?  If you’re only using statistics to benchmark the monthly cost-per-contact of the Service Desk, then the Service Desk budget may be your only input. However, if your stakeholders want the Total Cost of Ownership version of the cost-per-contact then you will need to identify every support aspect involved in running the Service Desk.

Factors to Consider When Looking at Cost Per Contact Statistics (And Why They Vary)

What type of support is the Service Desk providing its customers? Does the Service Desk provide internal support, external support, and / or clinical support? Consider the differences:

  • Internal support is more predictable and usually lowers your cost-per-contact.
  • External is less predictable and has a tendency to increase cost-per-contact.
  • Clinical is focused on the patient safety and restoration of services to clinicians quickly, and will typically increase your cost-per-contact.

What level of service is the Service Desk providing?

  • Is your Service Desk a “catch and dispatch” or does it provide a high first-contact resolution to their customers?
  • Is the Service Desk providing support by other means than the phone, such as email, voicemail, chat, drive-by’s, or intranet submitted request?
  • Are users able to access self-help (eSupport) and receive resolutions to their routine questions?
  • Is the Service Desk supporting multiple locations, multiple time zones, international customers, multi-lingual support, as well as providing 24 X 7 access?

Each of these factors has the potential to increase your cost-per-contact.

What type of contacts does the Service Desk receive? Each of the scenarios below will impact the final statistics when calculating cost-per-contact.

  • Does the Service Desk provide support just on shrink-wrapped software? Or, is support required for more complex proprietary database or clinical applications and production applications?
  • Does the Service Desk resolve a large number of password-reset calls? If so, their cost-per-contact will be lower because such calls are usually resolved quickly.
  • Does the Service Desk support legacy mainframe applications or systems?
  • Does it support “How to” types of questions that take additional time to answer?

What additional support activities or services are included?

  • Consider resources such as field service technicians – are they included in the cost-per-contact since they are periodically involved in resolving the issue or request? Calculating cost-per-contact can include: field service resources; shipping charges (if, for example, a new monitor must be shipped to a remote location); a network engineer’s time, in the event of a server outage; etc.
  • You may determine the calculation only includes the costs associated directly with the Service Desk agents answering the phone. Does the Service Desk have a support staff responsible for knowledge management, quality monitoring, training, documentation, or reporting?  Are these additional support costs included in the cost-per-contact?

What hardware and software costs associated with the Service Desk are included in the cost-per-contact? 

  • Does the Service Desk use remote control?
  • Do its agents have a knowledge base?
  • Do they have access to system or network monitor applications?
  • Does the Service Desk use reader boards, or wireless headsets?

Remote control software and knowledge bases can significantly reduce cost-per-contact but the cost of the software must be included when calculating the cost-per-contact. A knowledge base that is available to customers can improve customer satisfaction, but increase cost-per-contact because the customer is able to resolve a large number of the easy problems themselves. As a result, the reduced incoming call volume to the Service Desk will cause an increase in the overall talk-time.

What telecommunications software and hardware cost are included? 

  • Are the costs of the ACD, IVR, Workforce Management and CTI technology included in cost-per-contact calculations?
  • Are the employees who are providing this technology allocating some of their salary to supporting the Service Desk?
  • Is the cost of providing this technology to the Service Desk included in the cost-per-contact?

Have the facilities costs been included in the cost-per-contact?

  • Have you considered floor space, cubicles, workstations, phones, and utilities?
  • Does the facility have a backup generator that the Service Desk depends in the event of an emergency? If so, is a portion of the cost of the backup generator included in the cost-per-contact?
  • Is the Service Desk included in the planning for a disaster recovery/business continuity recovery in the event they are unable to operate at their current facility? If so, is the Service Desk responsible for a portion of these costs?  Are the costs of this alternate facility included in the cost-per-contact?

In our industry, there are an overwhelming number of measurement factors to be considered, but the effort could have a significant impact, including signaling potential needs for change or improvement in areas such as staffing, processes and tools.

Industry average for cost-per-contact (fully burdened) within the Service Desk is $20 – $40. As a hospital service desk outsourcer,  Phoenix is able to leverage our onshore service across  many hospitals, 24 X 7,  thereby typically reducing that average cost that by half, inclusive of network monitoring. 

Determine what your cost-per-contact rate is and document the costs included in your calculations. If you’re not happy with what you see, let us know.

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