NASA looks to make SEWP IV even more useful
Quote request, help-desk ticketing systems make life even easier
Officials with NASA’s Solutions for Enterprise-Wide Procurement (SEWP) IV program are testing and introducing new features to help federal agencies obtain the products and solutions they need through the SEWP IV contract. They get many of their best ideas from their agency customers and contract holders, gathering information and soliciting suggestions at training sessions, quarterly meetings, surveys and, most importantly, the Annual SEWP Conference.
“We listen to people and try to give them what they want,” said Joanne Woytek, SEWP IV program manager.
Currently, SEWP IV officials are working on improvements to the Request a Quote tool to enable agencies to obtain price quotes and product information more quickly and easily from the catalog. In addition, the tool will provide more information to customers, such as special issues or problems that might delay delivery or affect product availability. Customers in the Department of Veterans Affairs and NASA are testing the new Request a Quote capabilities before they are rolled out to all agencies. “The goal is to provide transparency to customers and to flag any issues that we can at the line item level,” Woytek said.
One of SEWP IV’s most valuable customer service tools is its Help Desk Ticketing system, which was implemented about a year ago. The ticketing system, which is provided as software-as-a-service from Parature Inc., tracks all of the help-desk interactions, including live chats, e-mails and phone calls. The system improves customer service by ensuring that requests are monitored from start to completion and by providing information about recurring problems or issues that should be addressed. “Previously, any question-and-answer exchanges went into a black hole, but now everything we do is ticketed and reviewed, so we can actually see if there are any trends or issues underlying the problems that come in,” Woytek said.
The SEWP IV program also has implemented a live chat capability, which offers a quick way for customers to communicate with SEWP IV officials. The program office engages in about five live chat sessions each day.
A charming offensive
One of SEWP IV’s unique features is its Contract Holder Relationship Manager (CHRM). The program has two full-time staff members assigned as CHRMs who serve as a liaisons between the program management office, the contract holders and agency customers. They work directly with contractors, interacting daily to answer questions, resolve problems, inform them of new policies and ensure that the contract is implemented correctly. The CHRMs also assist customers and help resolve issues, providing mediation with contractors, research and recommendations. They act as advocates for customers but also provide a balanced perspective that helps parties approach problems collaboratively, said SEWP officials and contractors.
SEWP IV officials also use the quarterly meetings with contractors to keep them informed and aligned with the program’s objectives. “They get us all together in a room, at least quarterly, to hash out contract issues and changes they may want to make. They also ask the contract holders what works and what doesn’t, and help us work together to support the contract, so we’re not just competing with each other,” said Mike Cogswell, senior director of contracts and compliance for GovConnection.
New enhanced training
As a new training feature, SEWP IV recently began offering more in-depth training for customers who want to learn more about specific aspects of the contract, such as contract scope, or how to use the SEWP IV website and tools. “Enhanced training on request can be customized for agencies based on their needs,” said Marcus Fedeli, SEWP IV business manager.
The enhanced training would complement existing training venues, which include online training video and live training, which can be requested by agencies. SEWP IV officials, who conduct about 80 training sessions each year, will usually come to an agency’s location to perform the training. SEWP IV officials also offer training every day at the FOSE conference in Washington, D.C., the annual SEWP Conference, and a number of other events.
The training, which provides federal employees with two continuous learning points, typically lasts about two hours and is free. The topics covered include the general concepts and scope of the contract, customer service and the ordering process, the four SEWP IV contract groups and fair opportunity, and the SEWP IV website’s features and tools.