Pros and cons of an outsourced help desk service

The help desk is often the most understaffed and overworked segment of a company’s IT department. That’s why some organizations choose to outsource that area and turn to a help desk service provider. 

In one survey from last month, 12% of organizations said they planned to invest in an outsourced help desk service over the next 12-18 months.

That’s a significant number, but less than other areas — for example, 46% of respondents said they plan to outsource application development, while 39% will do so with web development. Many businesses may be reluctant to put IT support in the hands of a third party that may not fully understand the company and its users.

That said, an outsourced help desk service can offer several benefits, including:

  • Lower costs – It’s not always the case, but businesses can often save money by outsourcing the help desk. That’s especially true in geographic areas where finding skilled IT support staff is difficult, or when the company needs a lot of IT support outside of normal business hours.
  • Free time for other tasks – Many IT departments complain that they spend too much time putting out fires and therefore can’t focus on other areas, such as helping drive business growth. A third-party help desk service can give understaffed IT departments more time for those strategic initiatives.
  • Cutting edge skills – IT is a fast changing field, and it can be a struggle for IT pros to keep up. Therefore, many companies find that their help desk staffers aren’t up to date on new areas such as cloud computing or mobile technology. IT service providers have greater access to skilled professionals and training resources and can make sure they have employees educated in those areas.

Disadvantage of a third-party help desk service

Outsourcing IT support has some downsides, as well. As mentioned earlier, many companies are more comfortable putting issues in the hands of their own employees who have a greater stake in getting things done effectively. Also, the help desk is the portion of the IT department that the majority of the company will be in contact with, so it could beneficial for in-house employees to serve as representatives.

Security can be a concern, too, as an outsourced help desk could be able to access trade secrets and other confidential information.

Hybrid help desk

Help desk outsourcing doesn’t need to be an all-or-nothing proposition. Some businesses trying to decide if outsourcing the help desk is right for them might consider using a hybrid of in-house IT support and a third-party help desk service.

For example, a business may choose to have in-house IT staff provide support during normal business hours, while a third party handles emergencies at other times. That allows the company’s users to deal with the internal IT department most of the time, while the company avoids having to pay costly overtime for 24/7 support. Or, companies may choose to get additional help during and after extensive software implementations or other times when they expect an increase in calls from users.

What about your company? Do you outsource or augment your help desk? What are the pros and cons? Let us know in the comments section below.

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