As the saying goes, every problem has a solution. But what if you don’t really know what the problem is, how to define it, or what to ask for before reaching out to those who can help? Many companies are great at realizing they have an IT support need, but don’t necessarily conduct a formal needs analysis or document their criteria before evaluating Managed Service Providers or considering the internal options. What are the support tasks? Are they help desk (service desk), desktop, or network/infrastructure related? Should we add an internal position or outsource to a remote team? Should the roles be shared or dedicated?
Many companies gravitate towards an outsourcing model because they don’t have some or all of the internal resources required to execute effective IT support. Missing pieces of the solution puzzle may include subject matter experts such as agents, technicians, and management, documented best practices, and technical components such as infrastructure, telephony, ACD, and IT Service Management platform. MSPs that offer an honest, consultative approach will focus only on providing the missing pieces that improve operational quality and efficiency and not propose an all or nothing alternative. Given the variety of potential IT support requirements, the solution match can be equally diverse and nuanced. That being said the below list is not intended to be everyone’s magic bullet, but at least it’ll be headed in the right direction.
1. Volume Increases/Expansion in Coverage Hours
As organizations grow so do their IT support requirements. And unless they’ve merged with another company or developed some groundbreaking new product or service that corners the market overnight, they will likely experience growth at an incremental pace. Perhaps it’s a SaaS solution entrepreneur gaining momentum in the SMB market and starting to look for a service desk partner to deliver support and offload those duties from their internal developers. Or it could be a company with a mature IT department that is planning to expand support beyond core business hours. The problem is, as the demand for IT support rises gradually, organizations often get caught between maximum capacity of internal resources and the threshold contact volume that justifies a full-blown outsourced service desk solution. The truth is most MSPs aren’t willing to train agents on unique process and proprietary applications for the sake of a handful of calls a month and those that do generally assume the role of answering service or a log and route provider. Before determining whether or not a transition to service desk outsourcing is the proper course of action, organizations must first do an internal cost comparison. Are they tracking the handling time and time to resolve for each incident, salary and benefits for those performing the work, downtime for affected end users and ancillary tools and technology costs utilized in the solution? Getting a handle on the true internal costs may prove a revelatory exercise, but at the very least it will establish in round numbers at what point a switch to an outsourcing vendor might be more cost-effective. In the meantime, it just might make more sense to engage internal resources on an on-call basis for after-hours support or adding a full-time agent to address increased volume during core business hours. Running the numbers for all of the above scenarios may make the solution match easier than you think.
2. Recruiting/Hiring Challenges
Considering IT unemployment rates are currently 4.3%, attracting and retaining reliable talent that is a blend of technical guru and customer service star can be a tall order. When HR and recruiting teams struggle to find full-time employees who can consistently meet those qualifications, they turn to outsourcing companies. Though no vendor will refuse the opportunity to place an additional full-time resource on-site at a client’s location, if they’re not supplying the tools or processes, or performing any direct management there is little value add beyond a staffing solution. For any client merely looking to fill an open slot on a full roster, there are no long-term cost advantages to have that role filled externally other than saving on recruiting and training costs.
3. Shorthanded Service Desk Staff
Whether it’s due to frequent absenteeism or recruiting challenges, being understaffed often leads to high Average Speed of Answer at the service desk and low end-user satisfaction scores. When limited agent availability during peak periods adversely impacts SLAs, outsourcing overflow support might be the best option, especially if being shorthanded by several agents is more of a chronic condition than a rarity. In these instances, clients can program their telephony to route to a service desk outsourcing partner’s dedicated line after a set number of seconds. That way a shared team of available agents can handle overflow contacts routed through their ACD and identify themselves to end users as part of the client’s service desk team.
4. Contact Volume Fluctuations
Are inbound contacts steady or volatile (high fluctuations/peak periods)? Regardless of whether or not end-user support is outsourced or handled internally, the workforce management component of the solution hinges largely on service desk activity over the course of a 24 hour period. A predictable number of hourly contacts makes setting staffing levels for a specific number of dedicated agents possible, but for the majority of organizations that experience hiccups in demand, a shared or hybrid staffing solution can scale up or down accordingly. As with the previous example, organizations that find themselves shorthanded during peak periods, but can’t afford to take on more full-time agents should consider outsourcing overflow contacts.
5. Management Gaps/Thought Leadership
Internal guidance or outsourced management of resources? For organizations that experience turnover at the executive level, Managed Service Providers can offer consultative services and make strategic recommendations on large-scale IT initiatives on an ad hoc basis or take over IT operational management entirely. Even early in the sales process, MSPs typically seek input from their executive team on developing a solution for anything from end-user support to infrastructure assessments and management. Even when such leadership is necessary on an ongoing basis, MSPs can offer “virtual CIO” services or place those resources at client locations in the interim. Though most outsourcing solutions pertain to support and supervisory roles with management reporting to the provider’s headquarter location, key IT positions are not beyond the realm of possibility of an outsourced solution no matter how high up the org chart you go.