Service Desk Outsourcing

There is more to differentiate service desk outsourcing providers than the potential for reducing cost. It is critical to compare the services offered if one is to weigh up the options effectively.
IT Service Desk User Experience

Regardless of whether services are provided internally or externally, the cost of a service desk depends on many factors: service, response and repair times, the complexity of the IT infrastructure and application landscape and the structure of the company all have an impact. The important thing is to understand the objectives of the client in relation to the outcomes it expects from its service desk.

As a functional unit, the service desk is responsible for a range of support processes including problem and request handling as well as event management. Ultimately, the service provided is impacted by the design of the service desk and, of course, the volume of incidents with which the service desk has to deal. Service desk design must be driven by the requirements of the business – for example, if there is a need to operate a service desk around the clock, it may be appropriate to plan service delivery through a third party service provider.

A frequent client objective for its service desk – and one whereby the long-term success of the function can be managed effectively – is the continuous reduction of effort and expenditure. It is important to improve both resolution rates and resolution times, though a reduction in the actual number of calls is not always a positive indicator. While a reduction in “problem” calls indicative of flaws in process or training is always good, a decrease in the total number of calls may be a contra-indication and hint at a lack of acceptance of the service desk within the business.

What should the price/performance ratio be?

If the business is questioning whether it should operate its service desk internally, it is critical to compare apples with apples when considering an alternative offer from a third-party service provider. Not only must all the operating costs be factored in, but also all of the organisational costs of provider management. Nonetheless, the financial aspect should not dominate in a balanced decision, since a cost-focused strategy is too often characterised only by short-term advantages. Quality, customer satisfaction and the ability to perform are long-term success factors.

Regular benchmark tests can be used to review whether the prices and services are still in line with market requirements after a certain period. Moreover, customer satisfaction should always be measured: some IT organisations send out e-mails with a request to assess support service after each problem is resolved, whereas others ask users about their satisfaction on key dates. On the basis of these analyses, service desk and specialist area managers can establish where there is a need for action.

The most important difference?

In the case of internal IT, there is often a blurred dividing line between telephone and on-site support. Moreover, “actively experienced SLAs” – such as service times that exceed the agreed scope – have established themselves in many enterprises. External service providers, however, delineate their services and service levels more precisely.  Services that have not been agreed are provided via additional transactions, and this can lead to further costs. By contrast, service providers can generally be held accountable to a greater extent than an internal service desk.

The ideal charging model?

Many customers have decided in favour of consumption-dependent charging on a “per call” basis. With such outsourcing agreements, there is a risk that an external provider will not invest energy into improving service desk quality. It is rarely in the financial interest of a service provider to decrease the number of incidents. It may therefore make sense to conclude an agreement at a fixed price for each user supported with an unlimited call quota. This enhances planning certainty for both parties. Attention must, however, be paid to ensuring that it is possible to adapt the contract flexibly, for example, to significant client job losses. In this case it makes sense to agree on bandwidths and to conduct regular reviews.

Stefan Braune, Senior Consultant, Maturity

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