The Long-Term Costs of a Bad Help Desk

A professional looks angry while looking at his computer and is holding up a wand

Indeed, every helpdesk can be counted on to deliver a modicum of service and be fully operational on a 24 x 7 basis. So perhaps referring to one as “bad” is a subjective term, but even subtle differences in how those services are defined between the helpdesk outsourcing vendor and client’s IT management can have untold consequences both operationally and financially. Absolutely, pricing matters. If it didn’t it wouldn’t be the first question on every prospect’s lips, the first on the list of page view rankings, or the first point of elimination in the vendor selection process, often supplanting a thorough evaluation of the scope of the services being offered. If it’s out of the budget, what difference does it make? While this approach is entirely understandable, the problem remains that costs associated with operating a helpdesk don’t stop at the pricing page. In fact, when electing a budget-friendly option at the expense of service quality, your bottom line may cost you top dollar over the long term. So here’s what to expect before you least expect it:

Duplicate Effort is Duplicate Cost

Unanticipated fees can continue to mount the longer an agent takes to resolve the issue, especially it requires multiple contacts. Even if you’re using a per incident or per ticket pricing model, less than savvy agents may be creating duplicates for the same incident whenever an end user calls back. Does the helpdesk offer network outage notifications posted on the IVR or scrolling alerts on the end user portal or do they rack up the fees each time someone calls for the same issue? Does the end user have to call back multiple times for follow up on unresolved incidents or because they’re not getting proactive status updates? If you’re paying on a per call or per minute basis in these instances, you’re paying through the nose.

Log and Route Only Solution

If you’ve hired a helpdesk that merely collects the end user and incident information and delivers minimal to no troubleshooting and resolution, they’re shifting the burden and additional cost back to the customer’s on-site IT groups. While some organizations prefer the helpdesk to serve as that first point of contact in an administrative capacity and merely triage and escalate all incidents, if they’re not filtering out anything at Level 1, none of the actual troubleshooting costs are offset.

Death by Reputation

Similarly, if an underperforming helpdesk gets the reputation for being less than helpful, end users may develop the habit of bypassing the helpdesk and reporting an incident directly to their onsite team or walking up for assistance. Or, worse, they may waste valuable time researching their own solution. While this alternative does indeed avoid costs incurred directly at the help desk, what’s the point of outsourcing this service at all if it remains underutilized or there’s no added value?

Loss of Productivity

While costs associated with the service delivered may be relatively easy to tally, end-user downtime remains one of those rarely measured “intangible” impacts of the less than tech-savvy helpdesk. Anything short of a speedy restoration of access and connectivity to the applications that employees need in order to do their job means the clock is ticking on project completion. The time is money dilemma is further compounded when colleagues who rely on the impacted individual’s support are vulnerable to the chain reaction of workflow stoppage. Helpdesk metrics that best indicate how quickly your end users are back up and running are First Call Resolution(FCR) rate and Average Handle Time, not to mention abandon rate if the agents aren’t managing the call queue well.

When it comes to the people, you get what you pay for

Any organization that doesn’t offer competitive living wages in order to attract and retain competent service desk agents often suffers the consequences of poor performance or high turnover. Either way, the customer service experience ends up being less than what you bargained for if supported by an ever-revolving staff of trainees who are biding their time until a better offer comes along or substandard agents who just couldn’t find a job anywhere else. Even in an offshore model where agents may be compensated adequately relative to the local cost of living and language fluency is not an issue, more lucrative career growth opportunities remain elsewhere, making retention of talented IT professionals a serious problem.

Even when, on paper, everything looks well within budget and can be quickly approved by the CFO and/or CTO, the long-term costs of those short-term gains simply should not be ignored. So when evaluating helpdesk outsourcing pricing, the question becomes do you want to pay now or pay later?