Contracting an outside organization to provide technical support is one of the most widely used forms of outsourcing. But any business looking to outsource help desk services needs to understand the pros and cons and set outsourcing goals.
While outsourcing is often discussed in financial terms, the impact of help desk outsourcing is much broader than that. When used as internal support, it can have an impact on productivity at both the management and rank-and-file levels. As a customer service resource, an outsourced help desk can be a key driver of customer satisfaction and retention. In short, the potential impact of an outsourced help desk, for better or for worse, is so broad that careful goal-setting and selection can be vital to a company’s success.
The following are some pros and cons that have emerged in connection with help desk outsourcing:
- Financial leverage: Outsourcing reduces fixed costs and thus can boost return-on-investment.
- Focus on core competencies: Help desk outsourcing frees up management to spend time on areas where the company is best positioned to add value.
- Flexible capacity: Help desk call volume can vary greatly for seasonal and other reasons. Help desk outsourcing creates flexible capacity for handling these changes in volume.
- Continually updated training: Firms that specialize in help desk services are better positioned to keep training current.
- Loss of control over training: Firms may be concerned that some nuances can be lost when training is outsourced.
- Lack of concern for customers: A help desk can be the first line of contact with customers, and if representatives are not professional enough, this can reflect badly on your company.
- Remote personnel: While outsourcing can take advantage of global capabilities, a more local touch can avoid cultural differences.
Many firms have outsourced help desk services in search of the positives only to be blindsided by the negatives. The existence of these negatives should not turn an organization against help desk outsourcing because the benefits are still legitimate. Rather, recognition of those potential negatives should serve as the first step toward managing and overcoming the obstacles to successful help desk outsourcing.
To accentuate the positive, that is, realize the benefits of help desk outsourcing without being overwhelmed by the drawbacks, consider these three components to planning a successful help desk program:
- Identify the fundamental mission: An outsourced help desk should have one of three fundamental missions: to provide internal technology support; to provide support for business-to-business users; or to provide support for consumers. Each constituency should be approached differently and it may not be wise to combine these service efforts.
- Set measurable goals: This can start with financial goals such as return-on-investment, but it should also encompass service goals. These might include response time, average length of call, percentage of situations resolved on the first call, customer retention, and customer/user satisfaction.
- Define the help desk search: The mission and goals define the broader mission and specific goals of a help desk outsource program. These definitions should then form the basis of the search for a help desk outsource provider. Different firms may offer different emphasis on internal, business-to-business, or consumer support, and past performance on relevant metrics can form a useful basis for comparing different firms.
The potential benefits of help desk outsourcing are as attractive as ever, and with a systematic approach that recognizes and deals with potential negatives, those benefits can be realized.