When evaluating an outsourced service desk, understanding the underlying infrastructure provides a glimpse into the approach of the potential partner. The organization’s contact center is a good place to start.

When we refer to the term “contact center” it can often mean two different things depending on context. It may refer to a physical site or the system-level infrastructure responsible for receiving and delivering calls. From the perspective of a site, there are two distinct types of contact centers: brick-and-mortar or virtual:

  • A brick-and-mortar contact center involves a space staffed by a team of agents all working in close quarters to receive incoming contacts.
  • A virtual contact center is one in which agents can be distributed around the world and are connected back to the central “hub” or server infrastructure by a VOIP softphone client.

Advantages & Disadvantages to Brick-and-Mortar Contact Centers


A physical contact center enables better team engagement as they are working alongside others. This can include casual socialization that improves morale and establishes a sense of unity and being a part of a team. It also allows for more personal interaction between direct managers and agents for more immediate feedback on performance.


A key disadvantage is potential outage scenarios. If the Internet connectivity to that site is offline or if inclement weather impacts power or the ability to access the building, the contact center is now effectively shut down.

Advantages & Disadvantages to Virtual Contact Centers


virtual contact centers allow for a distribution of agents across the world which limits the impact of any individual outage.  If a particular agent is offline, this generally does not impact the rest of the team in other geographic locations which enables consistency of service.

A recent real-world example of a virtual environment advantage was COVID-19. When employees around the world were forced to shelter in place, the continuity of a well-established virtual contact center remained intact.


Working virtually can create a sense of isolation from one’s peers and less personal interaction from direct management. A virtual agent may also not be able to engage in the same socialization that takes place during an in-person environment. This could have the effect of limiting morale and job satisfaction.

Whether brick-and-mortar, virtual, or both, an outsourced service desk’s contact center is a critical piece of infrastructure. Understanding a potential managed service provider’s approach to end-user support differentiates groups offering similar services.

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