Custom Services, Open Communication Bolster NITAAC Success
Superior customer service is one of the hallmarks of the NITAAC program, which offers a number of value-added services to its customers in an effort to assure satisfaction. This includes customized support from Contracting Officers and IT Specialists during any phase of a procurement, said NITAAC officials. If customers have technical, contractual or procedural questions, they are routed through a central Customer Support Center.
“We guarantee that we will respond to questions or inquiries within one business day, but our goal is to respond within one hour,” said Robert Coen, NITAAC Deputy Program Director, adding, “Right now, our average response rate is less than an hour.”
Statements of Work, Statements of Objectives or Performance Work Statements submitted to NITAAC are put through a complimentary, comprehensive assessment process and are returned with recommendations within 24 hours. “Every requirements package is evaluated for scope, clarity, source-selection criteria and terms and conditions, among other factors, before the package is sent out to contractors. “If we see issues, we will tell the customers about the potential problems and provide advice,” Coen said.
“One of the keys to the NITAAC program’s success is our customer service, along with our flexibility and collaboration with industry.”
Diane Frasier, Director of the NIH Office of Acquisition and Logistics Management and Head of the Contracting Activity.
NITAAC officials emphasize that agencies still manage the ordering process and decide how to structure their procurements. “We review the RFP package but don’t change it,” Coen said. “We just offer advice to add value to the process. “ But the advice and guidance provided by NITAAC officials and the ordering systems and tools have helped customers achieve increased efficiency and effective procurements that steer clear of potential problems.
Customer Service: ‘Not a Numbers Game’
NITAAC’s Customer Support Center offers multiple avenues for communication. People can access help via e-mail or phone calls; and the program soon will be adding a live chat feature. The help-desk system is fully automated, so that inquires are ticketed and tracked from start to completion. And the entire NITAAC staff participates in answering questions, even the Program Director, depending on workloads and the nature of the questions, said Michelle Street, a Program Analyst who oversees the Customer Support Center.
“We don’t want to have a situation where customers have to rely on only one or two people to answer questions,” Street said, and so NITAAC staff members see all of the tickets that are relevant to their areas.
Although NITAAC officials strive for a quick response, they will take the time to research and gather information, keeping customers informed of the status of their inquiries along the way. “We don’t just churn out responses to meet a turnaround goal. It’s not a numbers game,” Street said. “We want to provide clear and responsive answers.”
If a problem arises between an agency and contract holder, NITAAC officials work with the two parties to resolve the issue. “We are here to support customers if they have an issue, and we will intervene in the process if they want us to,” Coen said. “We find a resolution 99.9 percent of the time.”
NITAAC Systems and Tools
NITAAC provides secure, web-based online ordering systems—the Electronic-Government Ordering System (e-GOS) for CIO-SP3 and the Request for Quote (RFQ) System for ECS III— along with tools and templates to help agencies create SOWs, Quality Assurance Survey Plans, and other procurement documents. “Our ordering systems give customers step-by-step guidance to help them comply with Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR) for Fair Opportunity,” Street said. “Our systems make sure that due diligence is being done and customers are aware of their responsibilities under the FAR.”
“One of the keys to the NITAAC program’s success is our customer service, along with our flexibility and collaboration with industry,” said Diane Frasier, Director of the NIH Office of Acquisition and Logistics Management and Head of the Contracting Activity.