Whenever an organisation contemplates outsourcing part of its IT operation, the IT help desk is often first cab off the rank. Depending on the size and nature of the business - and on whether that IT support is purely to serve staff, or customers as well - running it in-house can throw up some fairly obvious pain points.
In a small organisation that cannot justify dedicated help desk resources, IT staff who have to answer questions from users might well, feel it to be a distraction from their ‘real’ work and they may also get frustrated answering what they consider to be ‘dumb’ questions. Also, technical people are not always the most adept at dealing with non-technical people struggling with technical problems.
With many more staff working out of the office there’s a growing need for out-of-hours support, but in many cases there will be insufficient demand to justify providing this. It’s also difficult for smaller organisations to ramp up help desk resources rapidly to meet demand peaks – and these are almost inevitable when, for example, an upgrade or a new corporate application is rolled out.
Outsourcing to a specialist provider has the potential to solve all these problems, and more. A provider of IT help desk services is dedicated to the job: it can select and train staff to do just this, not as some add-on to another IT role. It has the resources to meet demand peaks, and similarly to adjust to demand troughs.
As a specialist an outsource help desk provider can invest in the latest tools for remote support and, because it provides support to a wide range of organisations, is likely to be familiar with the sorts of problems that occur much sooner than any company providing support internally.
While many organisations contemplating outsourcing their IT support might weigh up the costs compared to in-house provision, a far more important consideration is trust, especially if customer support is being provided.
Poor support can impact employee satisfaction and productivity and, more importantly, customer satisfaction. Also, outsourcing support can weaken the business’ relationship with its customers, which is never a good thing.
Given the different priorities of internal staff help desk support and customer support, it’s best to consider the two as separate projects. However generally if it is done well, an outsourced service will deliver better results than in-house. The trick is to set goals and monitor performance to ensure that service levels are met, and maintained.
Goals should be specific: to provide internal technology support; to provide support for business-to-business users; or to provide support for consumers. Each has different needs, so adopting a one-size fits all approach may not be wise.
And goals should be measurable. They can be financial goals such as return on investment, or response time, average length of call, percentage of situations resolved on the first call, customer retention, and customer/user satisfaction.
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