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Outsourcing a Winning Help Desk: 4 Service Desk Critical Success Factors


Adriana Bombaci

Faced with mounting pressure to deliver higher-quality assistance faster and more cost-effectively, outsourcing service desk support can be one of the most strategic moves CIOs make in a Work from Home world. But not every IT support service is created equal – and with so many models to choose from, how do you make the best choice for your organization

High-quality outsourcers offer instant access to the process maturity, tools, resources, talent, and proactive support that can transform an outdated help desk into a High-Performance Service Desk. When help desk outsourcing is done right, CIOs can expect their third-party provider to resolve 80% of user issues at the most optimal costs.

But choosing the wrong solution can have the opposite effect: decreasing customer service levels with miscommunications caused by cultural and language barriers, low-quality resources working shifts that align with U.S. time zones, and talent pools that lack adequate skillsets, multilingual capabilities, or familiarity with U.S. business practices.

Let’s examine 4 service desk critical success factors that enable you to outsource a winning help desk for your enterprise:

How to choose the right service desk support outsourcing model

Step 1: What service desk support model makes the most sense: dedicated or shared?

Outsourcers typically offer two models for help desk support: managed services and managed teams. In both scenarios, the best providers will function as an extension of your in-house team, utilizing the same processes in a remote format.

Managed services are ideal for standardized solutions, driving efficiency and cost savings by allowing organizations to share resources performing similar work. Help desk agents maintain general knowledge about end-user support; for instance, providing expertise in commonly used Microsoft products, hardware, and software.

The value managed services models deliver can also benefit global organizations that require support across different shifts and languages.

A dedicated, or managed team, approach works best for larger organizations that require more specialized skills, knowledge, or training to support users. Having resources dedicated solely to your account enables greater customization to accommodate more complex systems and procedures.

Organizations that choose this model must generate enough volume to support a dedicated team. It’s also important to weigh costs: Overly customized services are more expensive and dilute the leverage provided by shared teams.

In some cases, a hybrid approach makes the most sense. Exceptional outsourcers will customize solutions that provide managed team support during a key shift, for example and more cost-effective managed services on others.

Step 2: Determine the best pricing model – per ticket, user, or agent.

Pay Per Ticket: This pricing model requires you to pay for every ticket user create by contacting the help desk.

  • Pro: You only pay for what you need. 
  • Con: Users can feel pressured to utilize the help desk sparingly, turning first to less secure or reliable sources to solve their IT issues. It also requires more hands-on management by internal staff to monitor billing and review ticket resolutions. Some outsourcers will hide ugly surprises behind low cost-per-tickets as well, like poorly trained staff and frequent ticket escalations.

Pay Per User: In this scenario, you either pay for all IT users or all users of a particular application. Pricing stems from the expected number of tickets per month.

  • Pro: This model is an easy-to-manage solution for organizations that track key help desk KPIs (number of tickets per month, average first-call resolution rates, etc.) – building a strong understanding of their help desk needs. If IT staffing changes, they can easily predict help desk costs.
  • Con: Without monitoring key metrics, you could pay for support your users don’t need or fail to realize that paying per ticket is more cost-effective.

Pay Per Agent: Typically reserved for dedicated support, this pricing model charges a flat rate per help desk agent.

  • Pro: Paid agents can develop in-depth knowledge of your systems, generating higher-quality support.
  • Con: This is usually the most expensive option as you may have to have resources to cover every hour of support needed.

Step 3: Should you use your technology package or your partner’s?

ITSM software helps manage the end-to-end delivery of IT Services to customers, in this case, your internal users. A key consideration to outsourcing your service desk support is determining whether you have a robust ITSM system that should be part of your solution – or whether you want to utilize your partner’s technology.

For instance, you may have an ITSM system that other IT teams, like applications and infrastructure access as well, so you want your partner to use the same system. Or in other situations, you may not have a good solution so using the partner’s ITSM solution can be the best choice to getting a true ITSM solution.

Other key service desk tools that partners are usually able to provide as part of the services include:

  • Direct Inward Dialing (DID) local numbers and 800 numbers that are global, not just U.S.-based
  • Power BI dashboards for real-time access to performance and status information at any convenient moment
  • Technology that enables queues and different prompts
  • Chat capabilities
  • Self-service portals for viewing ticket status and opening tickets

Step 4: Identify the best location strategy based on your business footprint – onshore, nearshore, or offshore.

The location of your outsourcing partner matters to outsourcing success. Organizations with global operations may appear to have limitless options, but they need to look beyond the lowest cost to ensure the outsourcer they choose has a consistent track record for accommodating different time zones and 24/7 support.

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Onshore locations bring the highest costs and most difficulty finding quality resources willing to work night shifts. Not surprisingly, Latin America has emerged as a leading help desk location for North American enterprises, resolving many of the issues that plague distant, Asian-based offshore solutions:

  • Geographic proximity: Similar or shared time zones make it easy for Latin American teams to support U.S. organizations.
  • Highly skilled tech talent: Many nearshore locations have invested heavily into becoming technology hubs and developing tech talent. Costa Rica is so proficient in tech it’s been recognized as the Silicon Valley of Latin America. With two of the region’s most prominent tech universities, its nearshore providers benefit from a constant flow of IT graduates with cutting-edge expertise – helping to expand the country’s digital labor force by 17% annually.
  • Cultural affinity: A westernized culture and abundance of U.S. companies investing in top nearshore locations combine to create widespread familiarity with U.S. business practices. More than 350 multinational organizations have taken advantage of the deep pool of highly skilled talent in Costa Rica alone, including tech giants like Intel, IBM, Microsoft, and Amazon Web Services.
  • Strong English fluency: Gartner asserts that language and dialect differences can create a significant challenge for offshore help desks. Top nearshore locations provide resources with strong, American-flavored English fluency that minimizes confusion and miscommunication when interacting with U.S. staff.
  • Lower costs: Nearshoring enables U.S. enterprises to cut costs without reducing quality. For instance, nearshoring to Costa Rica delivers 30-50% labor arbitrage compared to hiring similar resources in the U.S.
  • Global capabilities: Latin America is more than the U.S. backyard. Top nearshore locations maintain highly educated, multilingual populations with a proven track record of global support. And while India’s IT sector has struggled with a staggering attrition rate of 21.5%, Latin America’s less competitive labor market makes it easier to find quality talent for every shift.

Outsourcing service desk support can upscale your end-user experience

In today’s fast-paced business environment, outsourcing service desk support is a proven path to modernizing IT support while freeing internal resources to focus on innovation. Investment in outsourced help desk services has surged from 25% to 50% nationwide – and, according to Computer Economics IT Outsourcing Statistics, 95% of companies already outsourcing support plan to maintain or increase their level of service.

However, building a solution that addresses the unique needs of your business and choosing the right partner is essential for success. An exceptional partner can help you weigh the benefits of each model – using this service desk critical success factors to build the right combination of people, technology, and costs to upscale your end-user experience.