The practice of off-shoring IT services is appealing from a direct cost point of view and works well for areas of IT spend where clear deliverables can be extracted. Examples of the benefits of this can be seen with development work and one off tasks such as application packaging. But does it really work for customer service led functions such as the Service Desk?
The answer is probably yes if you are willing and able to accept a generic, impersonal and at times low level 'log and flog' service but an absolutely indisputable 'no' if you require anything approaching what most users would expect in a commercially driven professional services environment.
Although the Service Desk is just a component part of IT as a whole, it remains the 'face' of IT and in most cases, the measurement point of both user perception of IT effectiveness and impact on the user's ability to carry out his or her job. A good or bad Service Desk will strongly influence the user's motivation to engage with it and ultimately, solve issues that are affecting productivity and therefore profitability.
The Service Desk has evolved rapidly in recent years becoming ever more technical and at present, with the use of remote tools, a decent desk will be achieving impressive levels of first time fix and service desk resolution. From a user's point of view though, the lack of face to face interaction can lead to a real trust issue and a feeling of discomfort with the service they are receiving unless the desk can create rapport with the user very quickly over the phone.
In recent times most organisations have changed their desktop significantly adopting Windows 7 or 8, perhaps virtualising, upgrading Office and Outlook and ever more complicated applications, as well as incorporating any number of scenarios involving personal devices. This means that users require coaching, reassurance and genuine old-school technical support to see them through periods of change and beyond without impacting on their ability to perform well in their jobs. This can only really be delivered by support staff who understand the user's business, his/her working environment, associated pressures and most importantly, can empathise and communicate with a user using knowledge of UK business pressures, local processes and of course an understanding the language to its fullest extent.
It has become clear in recent times that this level of service is not always deliverable from an overseas location. Many organisations with a large contingent of revenue generating employees have worked this out for themselves and are sticking with or returning to UK based highly technical, customer service led Service Desk models that extract full value from the working day of the user. Asking a Lawyer or Banker to put up with anything less than a first class service regardless of its reduced cost is a false economy - in fact, investing in the front line of IT can give valuable time back to the user that equates directly to the bottom line.
Regrettably, for some businesses that off-shored in a large scale, it may be too late. The cost in terms of business continuity, as well as impact on profit and loss is likely to make reversing the decision hugely painful if not completely prohibitive.
It is evident that there are many benefits to outsourcing, not least the direct cost savings. But, it is the indirect cost to a business that will really make an impact if attention is not paid to quality and responsiveness as it is here that money is saved or lost. Before making a decision with such far-reaching consequences, careful thought needs to be given to the overall impact on the business, with particular attention to how end users of the service will be affected by the choice.