Comparing Service Desk Outsourcing Vendors and Their Proposals: Part 2

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Have you just issued a service desk outsourcing RFP and now have pages and pages of vendor responses to review? Last week in Part 1, we listed five critical areas to focus on when comparing proposals. Here are five more:

  1. Is it a helpdesk or a service desk? Though the terms are often used synonymously, a helpdesk typically performs incident management while the service desk leverages the ITIL framework formally categorizing and managing the long-term solution driven benefits of IT as they are incorporated into every aspect of the client’s organization. In addition to the depth of troubleshooting and ownership, what consultative value does the vendor offer in term of process improvements and recommendations?
  2. Cost Reduction Methods. Apart from consultative services, what tools are offered that promote call avoidance (i.e. avoiding unnecessary charges at the service desk) and self-service? Are IVRs posted to notify callers of network outages or scheduled maintenance or do they have to talk to a live agent? If an ITSM platform is offered, does it include an end user portal with self-help features such as FAQs, Knowledgebase Articles, and web forms for internal requests that bypass the service desk?
  3. Optional services. It’s important to know the vendor’s capabilities beyond Level 1. Does the service desk offer additional support such as remote application installs, asset management, patch management, image management, and network monitoring? What expertise is leveraged by the infrastructure support team in terms of service desk implementation and integration as well as those additional offerings?
  4. Onshore or offshore support personnel? Cost is, of course, the major driver for this decision in comparing foreign labor rates with US-based IT professionals, but prospective clients are no longer overlooking the long-term costs associated with the ongoing service. Often language or dialect impacts average handle time and can leave callers frustrated, unable to understand to be understood regarding what is being communicated.   How do those agents respond to impromptu communication from the end user to get to the root cause of the issue or are formal scripts adhered to in all cases? Appropriately compensated agents delivering the service in the USA tend to make competitive pricing more of a challenge, but an efficiently run service desk will maximize utilization rates and minimize overhead with a flat organizational structure to keep internal costs down. And if agents are incentivized based on productivity and rewarded for outstanding performance with financial perks, team recognition, and home office/telecommuting privileges, customer satisfaction will yield those benefits.
  5. Implementation Deliverables and Customization. How much time does the vendor plan to spend to learn about the intricacies of your current state? Will they conduct an onsite discovery at your location, meet with key personnel, document processes and workflows, and integrate with the ticketing system and telephony? What upfront investment is the vendor willing to make to ensure a smooth transition and deliver ongoing service improvements that increase cost savings in the long run? What private label customization does the vendor offer to become an extension of your internal IT team? Do the agents identify themselves as part of your organization and follow your specific requirements? Are the end user portals, dashboards, IVRs, and 800 customized under your brand?

Of course, the primary benchmarks against which most prospective clients compare outsourcing offers is their in-house model currently handled by an incumbent team. In such instances, cost comparisons are certainly easier assuming any additional services offered are taken into account. Frequently, those organizations are open to outsourcing because their current IT staff prefers to address strategic departmental initiatives or deliver hands-on troubleshooting rather than deal with connectivity issues or new device requests. So outsourcing is the more appealing alternative to having desktop technicians and network engineers serve as that First Point of Contact for all issues. With a service desk performing that role, Level 1 issues are filtered out. So the client’s internal team only deals with properly documented and triaged Level 2 and level 3 issues through to resolution. They don’t have to worry about the call queue, abandon rate, and user frustration that arise when those skills are not segmented. In such instances, the service desk enhances instead of competes with in-house IT. Says ABS Founder and VP of Technology, Thomas L. Mitchell, “When you think about it what the service desk offers is really a partnership and the relationship is only as good as the people willing to invest the time in collaborating on the solution. Our most successful, long-term clients realize what they stand to gain from that ongoing dialogue because that ROI only improves when that greater understanding is achieved.”