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How to know when it’s time to explore IT help desk outsourcing

How to know when it’s time to explore IT help desk outsourcing

Help desk outsourcing can be a lifesaver, but it’s not a one-size-fits-all solution. Costs, stringent security or compliance requirements, and other factors might make it hard to know whether you should consider outsourcing your IT help desk, keeping everything in-house … or something in between.

So, how do you know when it’s time to consider IT help desk outsourcing and whether it’s right for you? Start by looking at your current help desk situation and asking yourself questions like:

What Are Your Current IT Help Desk Costs?

First, you need to know how much your current support costs you. Help desk outsourcing is a big expense, and the price sometimes shocks prospective customers. But when you factor in the full expenses you’re paying for your current support, the overall picture may be very different. To start, consider these questions:

  • What’s your cost per ticket? 
  • Do you have expensive Tier 2 and Tier 3 agents handling Tier 1 issues? 
  • Are you paying overtime for extra coverage? 

If your current costs for support are more than what an outsourced help desk would cost, switching is a no-brainer.

(Need help figuring out your help desk costs? Our Help Desk Cost Calculator makes it easy to quickly assess your help desk expenses. Or, try our more in-depth IT Cost of Support Calculator to get the complete picture, including your Tier 2 and Tier 3 costs.)

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What Are Your Help Desk Needs?

Some help desk needs are pretty simple to meet in-house. Maybe you just get a dozen or so calls a day from people needing help resetting their passwords — one or two agents can easily handle that load. But other IT help desks have needs that are more complicated or expensive. Consider factors like:


If you have very complex or stringent compliance or security needs, you may have a hard time finding a help desk that’s trained to meet them. While help desks are trained in all aspects of security, some IT help desk partners are more experienced with the layers of security required when extremely sensitive information is at play.  Talk with a reputable partner about their protocols, so you can comfortably assess whether to leave some functions in-house where you can implement extra layers of control. 

Read more: Tips for Better Help Desk Security

Geographic Needs

You may need your outsourced IT support to be based in a certain area. Many U.S.-based callers, for example, prefer U.S.-based agents and often include that as a selling point in their marketing materials. Or, you may be dealing with callers from a certain region, say Japan, and need agents who speak the language and can work during business hours in Japan, regardless of where they’re based. 

Outsourced IT help desks can meet these challenges, but you have to select one that has the specific talent or capacity you need (or is willing to hire for it). 

Off-Hours Help Desk Support

Off-hours support can be another reason to consider outsourcing. If you start getting a lot of calls after your normal hours, you’ll need to pay your current employees overtime or hire another shift to take those calls. Outsourcing is an easy way to meet the demand without overtime, benefits, or other employee costs that can quickly add up. 

Your Company Is Growing

If your company is growing, the number of inbound support calls may grow as well. If this growth is steady and can be planned for, your in-house team may be able to handle the increase without too much strain. On the other hand, if you suddenly need a lot of support agents to handle new rollouts or system upgrades, an easily scalable outsourced help desk team could be your best bet.

Underground Support

Sometimes a help desk isn’t much ... well, help. So, if you have a lot of callers seeking underground support for their issues — because they aren’t getting it when they call your help desk — that could be a reason to outsource. Your team might not have the knowledge base they need to answer the questions they’re getting. Or your processes could be getting in their way. An experienced help desk outsourcing partner is going to be able to quickly gain the knowledge base and construct the processes they need to answer the questions and solve the issues they need to.

How Do You Tell When Help Desk Outsourcing Isn’t A Good Fit?

How do you know if it’s better for you to keep your help desk in your company rather than outsource it? Here are some telltale signs.

Your Processes Are Too Rigid

Help desks know how to do their jobs. It’s your job to get out of their way and let them. If your outsourced help desk has to stick to rigid processes that get in the way of giving your callers the best support they can, it might be a better idea to keep your support in-house, where you can control every aspect of it.

It’s Not in Your Budget

Help desk support doesn’t always come cheap. You might get some sticker shock when you see the price for support. It’s easy to think of it as an expense coming out of your department’s budget, instead of replacing payroll or overtime that comes out of the larger company budget. And it’s easy to think you can’t afford it if you don’t know how much you’re actually spending on support. (Refer back to our helpful cost calculators if you're not sure!)

Read more: Why you CAN afford to outsource your help desk.

But if the numbers truly don’t add up, outsourcing might not be a smart move for your business at this point in time. If, for example, the cost of outsourcing is more than your company takes in during a month, your only option is to keep your support in-house. But, that's not to say things won't change! Business moves fast, so reassess your IT support needs frequently, to make sure you're always ready for what's coming next.

You Don’t Have Resources to Dedicate to the Transition

Outsourced IT help desks are experienced at quickly picking up the knowledge they need to answer your callers’ questions. But any transition in your business is going to take time, energy, and resources to implement. There are discovery calls, briefings, and behind-the-scenes meetings, all to ensure your callers never know that the person they’re speaking to isn’t directly employed by your company. If your company doesn’t have time to devote to the transition, it can’t be successful, and it’s best to keep your support in-house until you have more time.

What Are the Different Help Desk Outsourcing Models and the Pros and Cons of Each?

Now that you know if it’s time to outsource, let’s take a deeper look at how you might do it. When it comes to IT help desk support, you have three models to choose from: in-house, outsourced, and a hybrid model, where you retain some in-house agents but outsource others.

In-House Help Desk:


Perceived Control: As we’ve discussed, in-house support provides a sense of control over operations that might be important to some businesses. 

Security and Compliance: Maintaining support in-house allows control over security and compliance, which is crucial for businesses with specific requirements. While IT help desks are well-trained in security, extremely stringent security protocols are better left in-house. 

Specialized Knowledge: IT help desks can learn what they need to answer questions quickly. But super specialized knowledge, like extremely technical information or proprietary applications and processes, may need to remain in-house where you can train employees to meet your needs. 


Lack of Prioritization: In-house teams may struggle to prioritize certain tasks, especially if they’re also assigned to non-help desk tasks like data entry.

Wasted Skill Sets: If your employees are handling multiple roles, skilled help desk agents may not get funneled to the complicated questions they’re well-suited to answer, reducing efficiency.

Longer Wait Times: Limited agent capacity and competing responsibilities can result in longer wait times for callers, increasing frustration and underground support.

Impact on Project Focus: Employees who aren’t solely answering calls may find less and less time to complete their other tasks, which can negatively affect your business goals. 

Outsourced Help Desk


Focus on Core Business: Outsourcing lets you get the help desk aspect of your business off your plate so you can focus on your actual goals. 

Additional Capacity: Outsourcing is an easy and fast way to increase your help desk capacity, especially during off-hours, without a huge increase in payroll costs. 

Cost Savings: While the upfront price tag can seem like a tough pill to swallow, outsourcing is often very cost-effective, especially when considering payroll, capacity gain, and cost-per-ticket.

Read more: 5-Step Help Desk Transition Plan


Perceived Loss of Control: When you’re working with contractors or outside agencies, you sacrifice some level of control. If you need to control every aspect of your help desk operations, outsourcing isn’t for you.

Security and Compliance Concerns: Companies with extremely strict security or compliance requirements may have trouble finding a help desk outsourcing partner that can meet them, or may feel more secure having complete control over the help desk operations.

Hybrid Help Desk Model


The best of both worlds: A hybrid model can be a great solution to a lot of help desk concerns. If you don’t have the budget to fully outsource, outsourcing only off-hours (as one possible example) can be a cost-effective solution that keeps you from paying overtime. If you have strict security requirements for some aspects of your business, your in-house agents could take those calls while outsourced agents handle simpler issues, like password resets. 


Alignment of Teams: When you have two sets of teams taking calls, the caller should never know it. It’s important to ensure both teams have the same security and compliance measures, knowledge base, and levels of access to provide a seamless experience for all callers, regardless of who picks up the phone. 

Communication and Turnover Processes: Having in-house and outsourced teams means it’s important to have clear communication between them. If problems develop on one shift, the next shift should know about them so they can adapt, regardless of whether they’re employed directly by the company or by a contracted IT help desk provider.

Overflow and Staffing Capacity: You’re always going to have callouts. People get sick. Family emergencies happen. And if the outsourced help desk is supposed to be handling the overflow, they can suddenly find themselves scrambling to cover multiple unexpected time slots due to agents missing their shifts. Solid communication between the two teams can help make sure the outsourced team has the capacity to cover extra shifts when needed.  

When it comes to outsourcing your IT help desk, it's like finding the right puzzle piece for your unique business situation. 

Take a good look at what you're paying for your current support, think about all your needs, and consider factors like security, where your customers are calling from, and whether your company is growing. Tight budgets, lack of resources for a smooth transition, and processes that are as flexible as a sheet of cement might be telling you to stick with your in-house team for now. Or, perhaps a hybrid approach is your best bet.  In the end, it's all about finding that sweet spot that works with your business goals and keeps the IT support train chugging along smoothly.

Not sure what the right option is for your business? We’re happy to answer any questions you have.

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