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Selecting the Right Help Desk Outsourcing Partner


Alvaro Prieto

Senior Managing Director of Technology Services, Founder

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When a company chooses to outsource its IT help desk, it must take care to investigate providers completely. Things that look attractive on the surface — like cheap level-one ticket servicing, for example — could hide ugly surprises, like poorly trained staff and frequent ticket escalation. It is important to find an outsourcer committed not just to excellent ticket servicing with minimal escalation, but also prevention of issues and continuous improvement. 

Some features to consider when selecting an outsourcing provider for the IT help desk include: Pricing model; resolution rates, number of tiers serviced; service level agreements; knowledge management; documentation; quality assurance controls; reporting and metrics; and customer satisfaction ratings. These can vary a little or a lot among different outsourcing providers. It’s important to note that even seemingly small differences can impact the experience of end-users and customers, as well as general business outcomes. 

We’ll now examine some important features in detail, and compare poor versus good practices to look for when selecting an IT help-desk outsourcing provider.

Tiers of Service

Employees in an organization call in and/or send tickets to the IT help desk requesting assistance with technical issues. Service levels are usually organized into two or perhaps three tiers; sometimes tickets escalate to third-party technology vendors. 

The tiering system of the IT help desk should be well organized and service based, not people based. Many companies have employees directing too many calls to one highly-skilled but overworked help-desk professional — a common problem with people-based systems lacking clearly-defined service tiers. When these companies outsource the IT help desk, they should look for a provider that organizes and escalates tickets within a service-based tier system. 

Beware outsourcers who promise to service three or more tiers all outside of the clients’ organization. The case may be that service at level one is rather limited, and tickets tend to escalate rapidly to levels two and three, where the facility’s limited staff possessing high-level skills work. 

A better model is one where a greater number of issues are resolved at level one. Then, when issues become more complex, they escalate to levels two and three, where the outsourcer, the client or perhaps a third party will be responsible for fixing them, depending on the terms in their contract.

Resolution Rates

Looking closely at resolution rates is critically important when choosing an IT help-desk outsourcer. No matter how many attractive features a provider may have, none count for much in the final analysis if it can’t resolve a large number of tickets in a short period of time. 

L-1 resolution is the name of the IT help-desk game. Some shoddy outsourcing providers may tout low L-1 prices to attract customers. Once in a contract with the provider, clients find that tickets often escalate to levels two and three where prices are higher. They wind up locked into a years-long contract, paying significantly more than they originally anticipated. 

Even if a provider advertises high L-1 resolution, this may conceal the fact that L-1 service is confined only to very easy-to-fix issues. Clients may mistakenly believe that most tickets will be resolved at L-1, but then find tickets — and costs — creeping upwards even for tasks of moderate difficulty. 

Companies should look for an outsourcing provider that achieves high overall resolution rates and an excellent level of service at tier one through well-documented procedures, a robust knowledge base, clear understanding of ticket prioritization, etc. It’s important to know exactly what types of issues are covered at L-1, L-2, and so on. Only then can a company decide if a provider’s service at each tier will cover a big enough, or difficult enough, batch of employees’ tickets to justify the cost.

Overall Customer Satisfaction

Don’t make the mistake of reducing IT help-desk outsourcing to ticket resolution. There are a number of factors beyond tickets that contribute to customer satisfaction. 

They include:

  • Service Levels. Do not rely on “good faith” in the delivery of service. Companies that make this mistake may find that their provider cannot or will not fix issues that it once intimated that it would, punting them unexpectedly back to the ill-equipped client. Get service level agreements for each of the key activities and types of support for which you are engaging the IT outsourcing provider in writing in the contact. 
  • Industry Knowledge. It may sound fluffy, but real life cases prove that it’s not: Find an outsourcing provider that understands your industry, its rules and regulations. Businesses who fail to do so may find important information — regarding compliance and audits, for example — gets lost in translation, resulting in penalties, fines, slowdowns, etc. 
  • Continuous Improvement. A help-desk outsourcing partner must learn about a client’s IT environment, and do more than wait for things to break so it can come in and fix them. Some shoddy outsourcers may have little motivation to prevent problems in the first place or contribute to the improvement of the IT department. Lacking the ski