How Scalable is Your Help Desk?

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One of the challenges many help desk organizations face is staffing the right number of agents at the right time. When contact volume increases either in the short or long term or you expand coverage to after hours, meeting SLAs feels like a moving target. So you make adjustments. Certainly, recruiting, hiring, and training additional agents dedicated to Level 1 support is one way to do it. And bringing on temporary staff to meet the needs of seasonal activities also works. Both address predictable and steady increases in the demand for support. But what happens when there’s a spike in inbound contacts due to server outages or unexpected incompatibility issues with a new software rollout? Those finite resources can still only handle one incident at a time and abandon rates begin to climb. What if the monthly incident levels are significant enough to max out your current staff, but not enough to justify hiring another full-time agent? In these instances, outsourcing to a shared team of agents is the answer.

A shared model typically incorporates primary agents trained on your processes and technical environment before being assigned to your account. In addition, a pool of secondary agents is equally trained to handle the contacts for 24x7x365 support, absences, and those otherwise unexpected peaks in volume. This model offers great flexibility and help desk scalability yet still ensures that your users talk to agents who know them as well as your organization’s culture and environment.

The solution is intended to fill in the gaps in coverage and complement your internal help desk, not replace it. How it is engaged depends on where those gaps lie. If you’re simply shorthanded during core hours, a help desk outsourcing company can merely handle overflow. In such instances a client would generally program their ACD and telephony to redirect inbound calls after a specified number of seconds so if internal personnel doesn’t pick up in time, a remote third party agent will deliver on that Average Speed of Answer requirement. For clients who are expanding coverage after hours to accommodate a globally dispersed workforce and to relieve sleepless on-call agents who are stretched to the limits, routing all media contacts to automatically route to the outsourcing vendor at a specified time is a perfect solution.

Simply put, a shared staffing model is designed to achieve consistency and essentially empower the help desk to scale up the number of agents with in-depth knowledge of the accounts they support and to leverage these shared resources whenever and however you need them. Another obvious advantage is the cost savings. For example, a client rolling out support after hours by adding internal agents has to compensate each staff member according to the hours they work. On the other hand, a help desk outsourcing company that offers a shared staffing model typically prices their service per incident or per ticket. So when those late night contacts taper off, you’re still only paying for what you use, not full salary and benefits to agents when utilization is low. Significant savings also come into play when leveraging a hybrid model (dedicated resources during for core hours and shared staff for after hours) or even overflow support, because you’re getting full utilization on your full-time people during busy periods and engaging shared resources only on a per incident basis.

As previously stated, if you’re using only dedicated team members, whether internal or external, they can only handle so many support requests over the course of an hour or day so any calls beyond the normal volume are typically addressed on a best effort basis. In such instances, letting a shared team come to the rescue is the ideal and most scalable help desk solution.