Today’s customer expectations are higher than ever, and that’s just as true when it comes to help desk support as general customer service.
As a result, more and more companies are turning to outsourcing to manage their help desk service. And doing so is a great idea. Outsourcing your help desk can deliver massive benefits, such as:
- reduced operating and overhead costs
- improved service levels
- more consistent service delivery
- improved flexibility and scale
- greater customer satisfaction
- more focus for your internal IT department
- and more!
But in order to reap the benefits outsourcing can provide, you have to be able to effectively evaluate and choose the right help desk service provider. Doing so can be difficult—but we’re here to walk you through everything to consider and ask before signing the dotted line, so you can make a decision you feel good about for years to come.
The first place to start is with yourself.
Understanding Your Help Desk Needs
Before you can pick the right provider, you have to look inward and understand your company’s own needs, goals and requirements. Start with these steps when it comes to figuring out what you need:
1) Your business requirements. What requirements does your business bring to the table, and what do you need? Your business size, industry, audience demographic, growth trajectory, product and location will all factor into what you need to look for in a provider. Bare minimum: a provider who has experience managing help desks for companies with similar backgrounds as yours.
2) Determine what support channels you need or want. Today’s help desks can do a lot more than just phone—although that’s still an important channel. Email, live chat, social media, chatbots and more are all on the table. Figuring out what’s important to your audience and based on your product type will help you determine the best support channels for your customers.
3) Assess your integration needs. Your provider needs to be able to integrate their technology and systems with your internal systems. This includes platforms like a CRM, ticketing systems, telephony systems, databases and so on. Any channels used for customer communication, data or analytics should be integrated—whether they’re used internally or by your provider. Look for a provider who can easily integrate into your existing tech stack.
Evaluating Provider Capabilities
Once you know what you need from a provider, you can more easily evaluate a provider’s capabilities and see how they line up with your internal requirements. Continue your evaluation with the following steps to understand provider capabilities:
4) Evaluate technical expertise. If your provider doesn’t have the technical expertise to navigate your help desk requirements, it’s not going to work—so start here. Be sure they have deep knowledge of the software, hardware and network requirements necessary to run your help desk, as well as skilled agents who are able to effectively provide Tier I technical support on your product.
5) Evaluate scalability and flexibility. As your company grows, your needs may change quickly. Does your potential provider have flexible options that allow them to grow with you? Can they scale up or back as demand dictates? How large is their team and how difficult would it be for them to scale with little notice? There’s no right or wrong answer to these questions, but knowing your own company and growth trajectory will help you ensure you find a provider who can grow with you.
6) Evaluate availability and uptime. When it comes to technical support, you want your customers to have access to service more or less anytime they’re using your product—which is probably just about anytime, especially if you have a global audience. 24/7 service can make a huge difference in customer satisfaction, so ensure that your help desk team can cover you even after-hours. Similarly, get uptime guarantees in writing to ensure that your customers are covered without major delays or outages in service availability.
7) Evaluate security and compliance. Finally, ensure that your provider has the ability to protect your customer’s data and comply with any relevant industry standards. At the minimum, help desk providers should have SOC-2 compliance for data privacy and security, and PCI compliance for any call center who may be handling payment info. In addition, your help desk service providers should have regular monitoring and processes for ensuring that data privacy and security standards are maintained and improved as needed.
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Considering User Experience and Support Quality
If the provider’s basic capabilities meet your needs, it’s time to continue evaluating your provider—but this time through the lens of the customer experience. If your experience with them is good, what about your customers? Look at the following areas:
8) Evaluate the quality of customer support. More than almost anything else, customer support quality and service levels are an essential qualification for a good help desk provider. After all, if you can’t guarantee a good level of customer support, what are you paying for? As a result, this should be an area where you do a very thorough level of evaluation.
One of the best ways to evaluate quality is to look at their service level metrics from previous or current clients, as well as case studies and testimonials. Some metrics to consider include:
- First Contact Resolution (FCR) rates
- Time to Answer rates
- Average Handle Time
- Average Abandonment Rate
You can also consider looking at CSAT and NPS improvements, as a marked improvement in CSAT often relates to improved customer service levels. Agree to set SLAs (Service Level Agreements) from the start so that you can be on the same page about what quality service looks like.
9) Consider the ease-of-use of their tools. While this may seem like a small thing compared to other items on this list, evaluating the ease of use of their tech stack can help you evaluate productivity and other optimizations they might be able to offer you. If they’re using clunky, outdated, and hard-to-use software, it’s a good sign that agents might not have what they need to do a great job and work efficiently. However, if they’re using modern, streamlined and easy-to-use software, agents will be able to work effectively and provide great service.
10) Find out how customizable their solutions are. Help desk support isn’t one-size-fits-all. That’s why at Global Response we have fully customizable solutions that cater to your business needs. Flexible, customizable solutions help ensure you get exactly what you need for your goals, which means we’re able to deliver more efficient results than many other providers.
Analyzing Costs and Return on Investment
If a provider has the right capabilities for your needs and offers quality levels of customer service, it’s time to move on to logistics such as pricing and ROI. Since pricing is a major factor for most businesses, we’ll turn to that next. Be sure to consider:
11) What are the pricing models available for this provider and service? In general, there’s five different help desk service pricing models:
- pay per ticket — a set cost for each help ticket that is completed
- pay per agent — a flat rate per agent dedicated to your help desk
- pay per minute — a cost for each minute that agents spend working on your help desk calls
- pay per call — a flat rate for each call handled by your agents
- pay per user — a subscription-based model based on the number of users of your platform, product or software
As you can imagine, each of these models has different pros and cons. Which is right for you depends on your call or ticket volume, how many users you have, how many tickets you process regularly, how much fluctuation in volume you experience and so on.
For example, companies who experience high ticket volume during peak periods and low ticket volume otherwise might opt for a per-ticket or per-call rate, which will decrease their costs during non-peak periods. Companies with a high call volume year-round may find better value with a per-agent or per-user rate. Companies who have a high number of users but a low user:ticket ratio would be better served by per-agent or per-minute rates.
Decide which model makes the most sense for your company and your needs, and then ensure that your provider offers a pricing model that works for you.
12) What hidden costs or one-time fees are required for this provider? Many providers have one-time fees or other hidden costs that aren’t included in service fees. These include things like:
- setup and onboarding fees
- training costs for agents
- technology upgrades
- unused services
Make sure you know exactly what is included in your service fees, and what isn’t.
13) What kinds of ROI can this provider guarantee for your investment? Every investment should come with some level of estimated ROI, and an outsourcing team is no different. Ask your potential providers how they measure success and ROI, and what you can expect as a result of your partnership.
The best providers will be able to demonstrate how your investment will have measurable business results, such as:
- improving efficiency in help desk resolution
- reducing the number of help desk tickets
- improving customer satisfaction or service levels
- increasing customer retention and loyalty
Researching and Comparing Providers
Finally, with all this information at hand, you’re ready to compare providers and evaluate your options to find the best provider for you. If you’ve done your work thus far, you should be able to compare your providers in several different ways:
14) Compare the features and services between providers. A side-by-side comparison of the different providers you’re considering can be revealing. Ranking the features, services and capabilities that are most important to you can also be helpful in making a decision. For example, is it more important that a provider be flexible and scalable, or offer industry expertise? Do you really need 24/7 service or is it more important to offer chatbots? A side-by-side comparison can highlight gaps in some providers while causing others to stand out.
15) Compare recommendations and results. Gather as many recommendations and reviews of your potential providers as possible. You can ask industry peers for recommendations, look at online reviews and testimonials, read case studies or ask some of their previous clients for reviews (if possible). Looking at these results and reviews side-by-side can help you understand the strengths and weaknesses of each provider—and which is best suited to get the results you’re looking for.
16) Do a demo or trial offer, if possible. If you still have two or three providers you’re deciding between, a demo or trial period can help you know for sure which one you want to work with. Testing your services before making a big commitment is a great idea, if possible, and it can also help you decide between two more or less “equal” providers. Regardless of how similar they look on paper, each provider will offer very different experiences, so doing a trial run first will help you make a decision you won’t regret.
Making the Decision
If you’ve followed all the steps above, making a decision should be easy. You have all the information in front of you, you know what providers can meet your needs, and you’ve done some side-by-side comparisons and trial runs of your front runners. What else do you need to consider?
Run through this checklist and make sure you’ve checked every area on the list:
Evaluating and Choosing Help Desk Service Providers: What to Consider
✔️ Your business requirements and goals
✔️ Your industry and audience demographic
✔️ Your provider’s experience and expertise
✔️ Ability to integrate with your existing tech stack
✔️ Technical support and expertise
✔️ Scalability and flexibility
✔️ Availability and uptime
✔️ Security and privacy
✔️ Quality of customer service
✔️ Customization options
✔️ Quality of agent training and tools
✔️ Pricing models and transparency
✔️ Pricing scalability and flexibility
✔️ Recommendations and previous results
✔️ ROI on your investment
Though there’s a lot to consider, doing your research on the front end will help ensure you make a decision that will be a good fit for years to come!
Finally, once you’ve chosen a provider, your work doesn’t completely end—make sure you implement a strong onboarding and implementation process to ensure your partnership gets off to a strong start. To start off strong, make sure you and your new provider:
- Discuss communication practices and processes for clear, consistent and honest communication and collaboration.
- Work together to design effective training for your new agents.
- Share any tools, analytics, customer data and product information to solve customer problems quickly and effectively.
- Implement a QA program to ensure continued quality and make ongoing improvements.
Feeling overwhelmed? For a help desk provider that won’t let you down, reach out to our team at Global Response. We’ve been managing help desk services for 40+ years, and have experience in a variety of industries with both Tier I and Tier II tech support. Our agents are highly skilled and carefully trained to become experts in your brand and product, ensuring high levels of quality service that customers will never be able to distinguish from your internal teams.
Connect with a Global Response expert today to see how our help desk services can meet your goals.
Help desk outsourcing has five main pricing models:
- pay per ticket
- pay per agent
- pay per minute
- pay per call
- pay per user
Your business needs, size, function, ticket volume, volume fluctuations and several other factors can influence the cost of each of these models, as well as which one will be most cost-effective for you.