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FAQs

USA Contact

Costs

Fitting Agencies' Needs

Getting Started

Standards

Relationship between USA Services and GSA

USA Contracts

Q: What is the USA Contact contract?

A: The USA Contact contract is a vehicle that affords government agencies a way to secure more timely, cost-effective and efficient means of responding to public inquiries.

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Q: Who can use the USA Contact contract?

A: Potential clients include:

  • Federal agencies
  • American Indian tribes and tribal organizations
  • District of Columbia government agencies
  • Wholly-owned government corporations
  • Qualified nonprofit agencies

If you have any questions or need additional information, contact Barbara Walton or call (202) 208-0568.

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Q: Why was the USA Contact contract created?

A: Our goal in creating this contract was to streamline and simplify the process of procuring contact center services for government agencies.

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Q: How will this contract improve citizen service?

A: The availability of this contract enables agencies to obtain high quality, state-of-the-art, cost-effective contact center solutions in a timely manner to better serve the public.

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Q: How does the USA Contact contract accomplish this?

A: The General Services Administration has prequalified a pool of nine highly skilled and experienced contact center companies you can choose from; these nine Solution Partners can tailor contact center services to meet your needs.

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Q: What is an "indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity" contract?

A: An indefinite-delivery, indefinite quantity contract is used to acquire supplies and/or services when the exact times and/or exact quantities of future deliveries are not known at the time of contract award.

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Q: What is a multiple award contract, and why is it better than other contract types?

A: A multiple-award contract confirms that multiple companies have the basic qualifications to perform a general type of work. This type of contract puts into effect the government’s preference for multiple awards for IDIQ-type contracts in order to maximize competition and choice for specific supplies and services.

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Q: You contend that this approach will save me time and resources. How is that possible with nine firms to learn about and choose from?

A: The contact center services industry is competitive. It is not uncommon for you to receive bids from more than 20 vendors if the procurement is done through a full and open competition process. The amount of time and resources needed to support a procurement effort through a full and open competition process is greater than through the streamlined competition process our new approach affords.

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Q: How is this award different from a GSA schedule?

A: The awarded contract is designed for contact center services; the GSA schedule is not.

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Q: Would the contracting officer and contracting technical representative responsibility remain with my agency?

A: The contracting officer and contracting officer technical representative responsibility is retained by your agency. Most agencies prefer to retain control of the contracting officer administration role. 

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Q: Can I fulfill my agency requirements for small business and disability hiring if I use this contract vehicle?

A: For small business considerations, the USA Contact contract specifies that 29 percent of the work authorized must be completed by small businesses, and our Solution Partners all subcontract to ensure this requirement is met. Since your agency administers the task order directly (pays the contractor directly), then your agency’s appropriation number is assigned, and your agency will receive credit for this small-business requirement.

USA Contact specifies all partners must comply with a 5 percent disability hiring provision. It does so not to meet a hiring requirement, but rather to demonstrate support for the government’s “hire the disabled” initiatives. In order to receive AbilityOne (formerly JWOD) credit for hiring the disabled, an agency must contract directly with the disabled individual or business. As such, a task order obtained through this vehicle will not help an agency meet its requirement for hiring the disabled.

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Costs

Q: How much will this service cost my agency?

A: Your agency’s needs are unique, and each vendor’s proposal for filling those needs is unique. Once an agency defines its needs in a statement of work (SOW) [Word, 84k], we submit the SOW to the nine prequalified vendors. Each vendor proposes a solution and its associated costs in response to the SOW. From those proposals, you choose the vendor proposal deemed to be of greatest value. Because requirements will vary greatly from one agency to another, and costs will be dependent on the proposals submitted in response to those outlined needs, there is no way to standardize costs.

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Q: How are prices determined? Are they per minute or per call/e-mail? About how much would it cost based on our SOW?

A: Prices are determined based on factors such as:

  • Project start-up complexity
    (How complex it is to set up the knowledge base and how long it takes to train the customer service representatives to perform the work)
  • Work complexity
    (What customer service representative skill level is required to perform the work)
  • Work volume and average processing time
    (The higher the volume and average processing time, the more customer service representatives will be required)
  • Project management
    (How much support and oversight are required, the level of effort of keeping up the knowledge base, and the reporting requirements)
  • Technology management
    (How complex is the technology solution and the number of workstations required)

Because there are so many variables, we suggest you have one of our technical representatives discuss your specific needs to come up with a good cost estimate.

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Q: What type of pricing model does USA Contact offer?

A: USA Contact is a firm fixed price, or time and material contract.

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Q: How can the USA Contact contract be both firm fixed price and performance based?

A: With a firm fixed price contract, the vendor agrees to provide products or services for a predetermined cost. The vendor measures against how well it delivers on these products or services. Compensation is contingent on the accuracy of responses, as well as the number of inquiries processed; this provides a disincentive to rush through calls in pursuit of profit. If the vendor doesn't perform as agreed to in the contract, there are steps taken to bring them into compliance with the contract and/or reduce payment.

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Q: Is there an administrative fee associated with using this contract vehicle?

A: We do not charge an administrative fee for using USA Contact.

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Q: What is meant by "volume band"?

A: Volume bands represent a range of work volume that the vendor can provide for a fixed price.

For example:
0 to 1,000 calls a month = X dollars
1,001 to 5,000 calls a month = Y dollars

This method of pricing enables the government to get a fixed price for each specified range of work volume. Most contracting officers prefer this fixed price arrangement over time and material pricing.

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Fitting Agencies' Needs

Q: How can the USA Contact contract fit my agency's needs? Can I separately buy individual contact center services (for example, fulfillment, web services, and correspondence management) through this contract?

A: Yes, you can purchase individual services. You don't need to buy services that you don't need. For example, if you already have a customer contact center, and you just want to add a hosted FAQ solution, you may purchase just that particular solution and the associated support.

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Q: Can I buy contact center technology insertion (for example, desktop, speech recognition, interactive voice response) for our existing contact center operation?

A: This contract provides turnkey solutions and allows technology insertion only if the technology insertion has services associated with it. For example, you may purchase an interactive voice response solution, as long as the purchase includes telecommunications support. Or you may purchase just Web Chat with customer service response support.

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Q: Can USA Contact help me meet my agency’s ever-increasing and dynamic event-driven volume of inquiries?

A: Yes, because our Solution Partners can staff appropriately for fluctuations in call volumes. They’ll draw on a pool of trained information specialists to handle your seasonal or predictable changes, your sudden or short-term surges, and your gradual long-term increases. Agencies that use contractors to respond to public inquiries have flexibility in redeploying their own knowledgeable employees to address more complex issues. We anticipate this flexibility will become even more important as retirement attrition has an ever-broadening impact on the federal work force.

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Q: Will the different contractors all provide the same services, or will they each specialize?

A: All of the selected contractors are required to show that they provide the same suite of services. However, an individual contractor may elect to bid only on certain types of work.

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Q: Can I be assured that if I use the USA Contact contract my contact center will not be located in a foreign country?

A: Unless you (with the requirement) specify otherwise, all contractor-provided, operated, and managed contact centers shall be within the contiguous 48 states. Any deviation from this policy must be approved by our program manager in advance of such placement.

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Getting Started

Q: How do I get started?

A: There are a couple of ways to get started, depending on your needs.

If you know what services you want and have drafted a statement of work or other procurement document, we will help you finalize the procurement package.

If you are unsure of what you want, we will discuss your needs with you and help you develop a procurement package.

Either way you choose to go, our team will review the procurement package, obtain contracting officer approval, and issue the package to the Solution Partners for competition.

Once you receive the proposals, you will have a choice in the way the selection process is managed. You may handle the entire process yourself, or we may assist you with all or part of the process.

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Q: What does a typical statement of work look like?

A: A statement of work is tailored to the agency’s requirements. However, all orders require these fundamentals:

  • Program description
  • Services required
  • Period of performance
  • Performance standards and reports
  • Billing and payment procedures
  • Workload volume data
  • Instructions for submitting proposals
  • Methods of proposal evaluation.

A copy of the National Contact Center Task Order/Statement of Work shows the content required for each element and may serve as a guide for you in preparing your own SOW.

Through our Federal Citizen Information Center team, we handle the mechanics of reviewing the task order, obtaining contracting officer approval, and publishing the task order.

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Q: What is the difference between a statement of work and a statement of objectives (SOO)?

A: When you know what you want, you can prepare an SOW, which is a narrative description of products or services to be supplied under contract. If you are not really sure what products or services are needed, you may prepare a “SOO.”

A statement of objectives describes what you are trying to accomplish and asks the vendors for their recommendations as to how they would arrive at this objective. It allows your customer to learn of many options and allows the vendors to offer creative solutions. Statements of objectives may be more difficult to evaluate because there are no predetermined criteria to benchmark against.

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Q: How quickly can I get a task order awarded?

A: It depends on the complexity of the requirements and how much you want to be involved in the procurement process. After completion of the procurement package, we could award within six weeks.

For example, USA Contact recently met a Federal Emergency Management Agency request to establish a call center immediately. In just two days, a solution partner was selected and began providing services to people in need of relief programs as a result of the crisis.

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Q: What happens once the task order is awarded?

A: Once the task order is awarded, you will work directly with the selected vendor to manage the program. Our experts will be available to help monitor performance measures and provide ongoing support.

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Q: How would I transition from the current handling of responses to the selected vendor solution?

A: Once the contract is awarded, the new vendor will need plenty of training and oversight. You provide the newly selected contract center vendor any approved frequently asked questions or formatted responses. You will want to conduct training for the new contact center employees at the contract facility as to how you respond to public inquiries. After the training, you will want to monitor the contact center employees for a certain period of time as they respond to inquiries to ensure they are handled correctly. After the center officially opens, the vendor should conduct periodic refresher courses for the contact center employees. New and updated FAQs and formatted responses should be added as needed.

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Standards

Q: How can I be assured that services provided by USA Contact meet our high standards for quality?

A: Our Solution Partners were selected, in part, based on their track record of providing high-quality service and maintaining superior performance levels. USA Contact affords you the ability to develop customized etiquette, protocols, and quality standards that meet your specific demands.

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Q: What is your selection of performance metrics based on?

A: The metrics available in USA Contact are those most commonly regarded as industry best practices. We can help you select the specific metrics and metric standards that will best assess the quality of your solution partner’s service.

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Q: How do you address security and privacy concerns?

A: All of our Solution Partners must complete a certification and accreditation process as specified by your agency and the National Institute on Standards and Technology. Information specialists are trained not to discuss sensitive and confidential information away from the work site. In addition, your task order will dictate the level of background checks performed on prospective employees.

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Q: How can I be sure your information specialists will respond correctly to questions about our subject matter or operations, particularly for those issues that are very complex?

A: Everyone struggles with this concern. Agencies that decide to augment their operations with contractor-provided services are pleasantly surprised with the result.

The key to a successful relationship is first deciding what questions are best answered by a contact center and what questions are best answered by your agency; then decide what should be the source of our information specialists’ answers. Careful crafting of a solid knowledge base with appropriate scripting, as well as an effective training regimen based on this knowledge base, will ensure a staff of customer service representatives well-prepared to promptly and accurately address your customers’ needs.

You can supply the solution partner with your own knowledge base, or we can work with you to develop one. As an alternative, you may feel your website FAQs and links supply a better source of answers for responses. Our Solution Partners provide responses using both as sources of information, depending on the client agency’s preference.

We also encourage your subject-matter experts to actively assist in the actual training of our agents, an excellent way to ensure the quality of responses offered. Finally, you can monitor telephone calls and review e-mail responses as often as you like, and you can receive inquiry/response reports as often as you feel necessary.

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Q: The information we provide to the public must be constantly updated due to changes in policy, public law and current events. How can the USA Contact Solution Partners keep up?

A: All of our partners use best practices and protocols, specifically attuned to their client agencies’ requirements, in maintaining and updating the body of knowledge that supports their information specialists. As appropriate to your program, the solution partner can either rely on your own ever-changing website as a source of answers, or can devote staff to researching and updating content for a scripted knowledge base the partner maintains. Our partners use software solutions that specialize in trending actual inquiries as a basis for adding, removing, and reprioritizing responses. Finally, as a client agency, you may choose to maintain and update the knowledge bases our agents use, ensuring our agents have real-time access to the latest information you have. The choice is yours.

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Relationship

Q: Will agencies contract with GSA or with the vendors directly?

A: Agencies who received a Delegation of Contracting Authority from GSA will be contracting with the vendor directly, not with GSA.

If you have any questions or need additional information, contact Barbara Walton.

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CONTACTS

Barbara Walton
(202) 208-0568


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