Writing an RFP for Help Desk Services? Here Are a Few Smart Tips to Help


So, you have to write a Request for Proposal (RFP) for your help desk services?

Not to worry, Tracy Smith, Director of Service Support Operations at the University of Virginia, recently delivered a webinar about launching and managing a partnership with a support provider. During the webinar, he shared several important considerations to consider when creating an RFP including questions to ask providers, tips for content and key factors to keep in mind during evaluation.

Check out Tracy’s webinar.


Here are some of the key takeaways to help you create the smartest RFP for your unique needs and goals.

1. Let Them Know Where You Stand

“Your vendor needs to completely understand what you’re asking so they can deliver it,” says Smith. “For us, we started outsourcing because we wanted to provide 24/7 support for our customers and end users.”

That said, the first step is to tell your potential providers clearly and concisely what you want and how you want it. Define the specific business objectives you wish to achieve and the expectations that you have. For example:

  • If you want to improve first contact resolution rates, by how much?
  • If you are looking to reduce average speed-to-answer by a specific percentage, what is the range?
  • If you want to increase long-term customer satisfaction, what is the timeframe?

In short, your RFP should:

  • Describe what you need.
  • Define your requirements. What are your essential goals vs. goals you would like to achieve? Provide a budget range.
  • Tell providers how you’re going to evaluate the proposals. This includes the areas in which they will be scored, such as quality, scalability or anything else you might use in a weighted values matrix.

“Well-defined scope is absolutely a critical success factor,” adds Smith.

2. Sometimes, Saving Pocket Change Can Cost You More in the Long-Term

While keeping initial costs low may benefit you in the short run, selecting a proposal based primarily on price may prove to be more expensive over time. Purchasing services and technology a la carte tends to add up in unexpected ways, especially if it comes to managing and upgrading disparate systems.

Value will ultimately be your best guide to identifying the proposal that will help your organization the most—and prove to be a better return on your investment. As Smith points out in his presentation, “An exceptional outsource partner will work with you to implement best practices in your organization and help deliver value to your organization.”

To determine the value of a bid, you must first understand the complete cost base of the offered solution. Below are a few factors to ask about when creating your RFP:

  • Cost of vendor partner management
  • Training
  • Installation and integration
  • Quality management systems
  • Upgrades and configuration changes

3. Get the Opinions of Others

While you will ultimately be the decision maker on the RFP bids you receive, you’ll find it extremely helpful to discuss the proposal with both your colleagues and the potential providers themselves. Ideally you should do this both while you’re developing your RFP and after the providers respond.

Start by brainstorming with others in your institution, especially if they have gone through the RFP process before. This will help you to:

  • Clarify your objectives.
  • Hone your decision criteria.
  • Determine if you have communicated your business needs effectively.

It’s just as important to spend some time with your potential help desk services providers. This will give you an inside look at how they think and operate and can ultimately add value, even beyond the terms of the RFP. Some tips to consider:

  • Plan your meetings to be small and informal.
  • Start this process early. The more contact you have with providers, the greater their appreciation will be of your goals and issues.
  • Give suppliers as much data as you can about your current state. This will help you get a much better pricing submission.
  • Keep the process open and friendly—you’ll be more likely to gain valuable insights and candid advice if everyone is at ease.

4. Ask Lots of Questions

Don’t hold back. The main purpose of your RFP is to gather information so you can make an informed decision about choosing a services partner. There’s no better time to ask for the information you want than while you have your potential provider’s undivided attention. As Smith states, “The last thing you want to do is select a vendor partner and have them show up with immature processes. Or needing to create new processes to try them out on you.”

Below are some questions you might want to consider. While by no means exhaustive, these may give you insight into the way your potential providers think, operate, and ultimately deliver your services.

Ask about capabilities:

  • Who will provide incident tracking or ticket management systems?
  • What do they provide in terms of technical writing or knowledge management process? Who writes the knowledge? Who approves? Who publishes? What is the turnaround time for non-emergent or emergent knowledge in the future?
  • Do they have knowledge documentation expertise that you can leverage?
  • What is their Tier 1 training process? What is your part? What is their part?
  • What do they view as their role in managing the relationship with your organization?

Ask about implementation:

  • What are their transition processes if you become a customer?
  • What structure (people, process and technology) would they put into place to manage the contract generally?
  • How will they provide end-user training and education both initially and during the period of the contract?
  • What resource(s) would they supply to manage the implementation (and subsequent development) of services and how would they charge for it?
  • What other initiatives would they suggest that your company consider when adopting an agreement like this?

Ask about new service rollout:

  • How do they manage new service rollouts with their clients?
  • Do they assign an account manager or a technical lead or a separate project team?

Ask about quality assurance:

  • How fast do they address quality issues? Are they addressed in the same shift? Within 24 hours? Within a week?

Do they use a system to report the results of quality coaching sessions? How are you assured that just-in-time training has really occurred and that there are no additional questions for your team?

5. Finally, Be Open-Minded

If you’re looking for new ways to achieve better results for your organization through help desk services—increased customer satisfaction, faster response rates, improved support efficiency—you’ve already taken the first step by deciding to write an RFP. Your RFP will not only help you gather information to select a well-qualified services partner, but it will expose you to new ideas and ways for you to reach your goals. These new approaches may ultimately change the way you’re able to do business and the solutions you find may give your institution advantages you haven’t even considered.

For more insights, you can download the slide deck.