There are two perfect times to outsource your IT help desk: When the economy is doing well … and when it’s not.
When the economy is going gangbusters, outsourcing helps you increase coverage, keep up with increased ticket volumes, and scale your services. During downturns, outsourcing your IT support function helps you trim costs and reduce headcount while maintaining current levels of support.
Outsourcing your help desk can help future-proof your business during uncertain or volatile economic times. That is … if you don’t make one of five very common mistakes.
Here are some blunders to avoid when outsourcing your IT help desk during uncertain economic times.
Blunder 1: Laying Off Your Best Agents
One temptation when things get tough is to lay off agents. But trimming budget by reducing headcount is invariably a mistake. Why? Because bad economies are always followed by good economies.
Companies that lay off help desk agents when it’s snowing, so to speak, end up hiring again when the sun comes out and the days grow warmer.
But that comes with a huge risk – and a huge cost.
The risk is brain drain, and the drop in quality that results. Your most experienced, skilled agents are going to be hot commodities at other help desks. If they leave, you’re left replacing them with someone who might be good on the phones, but they’re still going to need time to get up to speed.
If that isn’t enough to convince you to hang on to your best people, consider this: It takes at least $12,000 to replace just one service desk agent in North America. (HDI, 2021)
Your better option is to keep all your level-one agents, outsource some of your help desk function, and use that opportunity to promote all your level-one agents to level two.
Think about it: They’re already trained on your environment and know all the ins and outs. So, moving them up a notch in the tier structure is a lot easier – and a lot quicker – than firing, and then hiring and training again when things pick up.
Blunder 2: Losing Your Best Agents
Shaky economies don’t send tremors through the c-suite only. They also cause alarm among help desk agents, particularly senior agents who are at the top of the pay scale – and potentially replaceable by less costly options.
Layoffs are really bad for morale. When agents see their peers and friends in other departments being escorted from the building with their personal things in banker’s boxes, it casts a long shadow – and everybody starts to wonder if they’re next.
When your help desk agents know layoffs are in the wind, they start looking for other positions. And if they find those positions, you’re short-handed.
The lesson is to not let a bad economy spook your help desk agents away from your company. If you have no plans to lay anyone off, make that known. Remove the mental uncertainty caused by economic uncertainty and your agents will reward your thoughtfulness by sticking around.
Blunder 3: Outsourcing to the Cheapest Option You Find
Boot up Google, go deep enough into the search results, and you will always find an outsourced help desk provider who is cheap and ready to take on your account. They aren’t busy because they deliver a level of service that matches their monthly fee—i.e., rock bottom.
Your help desk, outsourced or not, is the face of your IT department. And a bad-fit partner can sink your entire ship.
One type of vendor to look out for in particular is the Managed Services Provider (MSP) or Value-Added Reseller (VAR) that offers help desk services as an add-on. While there are plenty of great, reputable MSPs and VARs out there, the cold truth is that help desk services are not their primary focus. You may have somebody answering the phones, taking your calls, resolving some issues, but you may miss out on the in-depth help desk services, such as trending and analytics, that a dedicated vendor provides.
Blunder 4: Adopting an All-or-Nothing Mindset
When the economy sours and you are forced to trim your budget, your choices aren’t binary. You don’t have to choose between outsourcing everything or outsourcing nothing.
Instead, consider a third alternative, the hybrid model, where you reduce or reallocate some headcount, and outsource some.
For instance, let’s say your vendor typically fields 2,000 calls a month, but now they’re only getting 1,000 calls. Do you have to fire them – or be stuck paying for volume you’re not using? Absolutely not. There’s a much more flexible hybrid option, if you work with an outsourcing partner who’s flexible enough to scale up or down as needed.
Blunder 5: Not Doing Your Due Diligence When Picking a Vendor
Outsourced help desks come in every shape and size, but it can be difficult to know which one is best for your business needs.
Unfortunately, this is where a lot of companies fall prey to Shiny Brochure Syndrome. They don’t know what questions to ask, so they’re easily swayed by splashy sales slicks and impressive websites. And while we can’t knock a good marketing team, the real way to avoid buyer’s remorse is to conduct due diligence when screening vendors.
These three questions will help you unearth the most common red flags:
- Do you offer business analytics? The best providers help you make sense of your numbers. They track the KPIs that matter to your customers (Average Wait Time, for example) and the success of your business (Customer Satisfaction Score, for example). They look for trends, anomalies, outliers. They help you stay on top of your IT services by analyzing the numbers that reveal your level of performance.
- What is your First Call Resolution Rate? Outsourced help desk firms that resolve a large percentage of support tickets during the first call obviously have the right agents, expertise, training, processes and systems in place. It also shows that they track their performance – which demonstrates a commitment to quality.
- What percentage of your business is delivering help desk services? If you need heart surgery, it pays to lie under the knife of a cardiac surgeon, not a family physician. Your customers deserve an outsourced help desk that specializes in IT support and nothing else. And if they offer that support around the clock for you? You’ve got yourself a winner.
Someone once observed, “It’s a recession when your neighbor loses their job. It’s a depression when you lose your own.”
Economic downturns have a dampening effect on any company, any department and any level of employee. If you are considering outsourcing part or all of your help desk because the times are uncertain, avoiding the most common mistakes will help you find a partner who helps make your company’s economic future much more certain – and brighter.
Does your help desk need help? Read our guide to Help Desk Outsourcing.