The Risks Involved When Outsourcing Your Helpdesk

There is a lot of debate in the industry about whether solution providers should outsource their helpdesk. Just this week I was at an IT Conference and I heard some providers that were hard core fans and some that were aghast at the idea of outsourcing. I have seen and experienced both sides of the outsourcing coin. My advice about whether to use an outsourced helpdesk is Yes …and No.

I believe small organizations that are struggling with scalability should absolutely outsource their helpdesk. For larger organizations, it depends on various factors, but it comes down to the ability to scale vs. the cost to do so. For smaller organizations, and often larger ones the cheaper and only alternative to building a helpdesk yourself is to outsource it.

So if you are going to test the waters of an outsourced helpdesk, here are some risks to keep in mind.

  1. Time: It is a little bit ironic that in order to save time in using an outsourced helpdesk you are going to have to burn a significant amount of time in onboarding. Onboarding often involves filling out lots of documentation so the helpdesk knows what to do and not to do.  You need to be thorough in this documentation, but be prepared that with many outsourced helpdesk providers; this documentation can be akin to doing your taxes, by hand…
  2. Know Your Limits: Many solution providers assume that an outsourced helpdesk provider will also do maintenance. This is not always the case. That is just one example. You need to read the fine print and understand what the hard edges of their service are. Otherwise you may find yourself not having all that extra time you thought you would have.
  3. Documentation: I strongly recommend using a helpdesk that integrates with your PSA, or at least one that uses your RMM tool that is already integrated with your PSA. It is difficult enough to get a technician that you see every day to do proper documentation; it will be a lot harder with a no-name technician across the country …or world. By having integration, you will see all the notes and what work was performed, the adverse could result in a billing nightmare and poor client communication.
  4. Communication: Spend some time before you sign your contract to talk to the helpdesk. Notice their accent, whether it is Texan, Canadian, or Indian ….if it bothers you, it will probably bother your clients. Pay attention to how they answer the phone.  Most solution providers fear that others will not be able to communicate and fix problems like you will. While that is factually, not true; it still is a good idea to make sure you understand the client experience.
  5. Process Change: This is only a risk in the sense that using an outsourced helpdesk will likely require several process changes on your part, and possibly your client’s part. If you do not take this into consideration and make those changes, you run the fear of alienating your clients by providing a poor experience.

It is always a good idea to test the waters with one or two small clients before going all in. The decision about whether to outsource your helpdesk can be difficult, but it really comes down to scalability vs. cost analysis. Smaller providers WILL NOT SCALE, without the help of an outsourced helpdesk.

Please share your experiences and fears for outsourcing your help desk by leaving a comment below.

This post was written by Todd Nielsen. Todd has served as CEO, COO, President, & Vice-President, of various IT & Telecommunications companies over the last 15 years. You can read more about his leadership experience at his blog: .