When I meet with clients struggling to maintain a successful IT support model, they fall into one of two categories: 1) they have a dedicated internal team but are struggling to cost-effectively meet their demand and resolve issues, or 2) they have an outsourced service provider because they don’t have the time to manage IT and/or don’t know how to do it in-house. At least, that’s their goal. Regardless, IT help desk is not easy to manage, whether in-house or outsourced, and a lot goes into developing a successful model for either approach.

On April 4th, a group of our subject matter experts joined me in a webinar to walk listeners through the top five items to consider when outsourcing the IT service desk.

Watch the Full Webinar

Key Terms

The first questions we often hear when meeting with a new client can be summarized with, “How can we do this better?” To kick off the webinar, I provided an introduction to the common acronyms and verbiage you’ll hear when working with a managed services provider (MSP). Some of these include:

  • IT Service Management (ITSM)
  • ITIL, or Information Technology Infrastructure Library
  • Level 1 support
  • Level 2 support
  • Level 3 support
  • Service Level Agreement (SLA)

Of all the keywords to take away from the webinar, though, remember the “service desk.” Also known as “help desk,” service desk support consists of a team of agents who field calls and emails. These agents work to resolve the issues within their domain of expertise, hereby removing the more tedious and mundane IT activities from your higher-level IT experts. Outsourcing your service desk will free up your internal IT resources to focus on business-critical strategies, and increase your organization’s overall productivity.

The Top Five Items

This leads us into the top five items to consider when outsourcing your service desk. Each item includes questions you should ask yourself that will help you answer the primary question posed in this webinar: “Is outsourcing IT service desk right for me?”

#1 – User Downtime and Support Costs

Consider the cost of the pain-points your end-users and internal IT staff currently face. Are end-users facing a lot of downtime? Is your IT support team under-staffed to handle high ticket volume? Are higher-paid IT experts being utilized to resolve basic level issues? When weekends, holidays, and sick days come up – are you struggling to backfill, and are your users losing productivity due to support issues?

If you answered yes to any of the following, you may want to consider an outsourced service desk provider as a supplement to your internal IT team.

#2 – Quality of Level 1 IT Support

Our clients are surprised by, and learn too late, the two key factors that contribute to the quality of their service providers: the breadth of knowledge and qualifications of an MSP and if any language barriers exist. Imagine – your users are already frustrated with an IT issue and then they call a service desk provider whom they cannot communicate with. Not only will this add on to the frustration, but it also leads to further downtime. Is that the type of situation you want to perpetuate? If you outsource your IT support to a company that cannot effectively resolve your needs, then they turn into an overpriced answering service. Avoid this frustrating situation by asking questions about the help desk agents’ qualifications and language backgrounds to ensure your end-users’ IT needs will be met.

#3 – Tracking the Right Metrics

At this point, you may be asking, “How do I measure the value and success of an MSP?” That leads us to the metrics to track. Is your IT provider solving your problems or simply treating symptoms? Do they use a tracking system and provide progress reports? An effective provider will not only attend to incidents but perform a root cause analysis of ones that are happening more often than others in order to provide a long-lasting solution. These metrics will help you determine pretty quickly whether your help desk is an answering service or actually meeting your goals.

#4 – Difficulty with Level 1 Staffing

The next consideration is more HR-related, but it can drastically impact the success of your help desk. Does your provider have an adequate staffing model to retain service desk agents and back-fill on holidays and weekends? What good is an MSP if there aren’t any agents to help you when you need it most? This question might also help you determine whether an in-house service desk solution is right, or even feasible, for you. If your IT team loses a single person, what are the implications of the lost capacity? This struggle could also turn into a costly one when considering the hire-train-replace cycle.

#5 – Don’t Be in the IT Support Business

And lastly, your service desk support should be thought of as and work as a utility to your organization. Like water or electricity, basic IT services should just work or be resolved quickly by someone else with a phone call. Rather than bogging down your IT team with regular calls about password resets or network connectivity, enabling them to focus on the profit and growth of your company. Let an outsourced service desk take care of those Level 1 tasks instead.

What to Look for in a Managed Services Provider

So you’ve gone through the motions and asked yourself the right questions, leading to the decision that outsourcing is right for your goals. How do you pick the right provider?

Here are the top questions to ask a prospective MSP:

  • What is their staffing model?
  • What is the incentive for the provider to resolve incidents quickly and effectively?
  • Are their agents on-shore or off-shore?
  • What metrics do they track? In what form and how often do they share these metrics?
  • What is their process for getting to know your existing workflows and policies?

I’ve left you with a lot of questions to both ask yourself and your help desk provider. This process doesn’t have to be overwhelming. By answering these questions, you will have a roadmap for designing and implementing an effective service desk solution that is right for your organization.

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