Monday, February 15, 2010

Play to your strengths! - The Question of Outsourcing Part III

Continuing my posts on Help desk Outsourcing - discussing some key decisions regarding whether or not to outsource your help desk.

Play to your strengths! - The Question of Outsourcing

Play to your strengths! - The Question of Outsourcing Part II

    Ready to Use: Confidentiality & Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDA) - Contract Samples on CD-Rom That Can be Customized to Fit Your Needs
  1. Location & Scale -  Despite the urge to keep your outsourced staff in-house (where you can keep your eyes on them and make sure that they're doing a good job!) its actually better to have them in another facility.  If you choose a vendor that is supplying multiple other businesses this is obviously self evident, but even for a smaller operation, by keeping your supplier "in house" you mitigate any potential cost savings that you could see.  By choosing to have your calls with a larger organization, you are also able to take advantage of "scale".  As these companies have to keep staff for other clients anyways, you will be able to utilize these resources when your business is busy and when other businesses aren't.  Working with larger organizations in this fashion ensures allows you to provide your customers with around the clock coverage at a fraction of the price you would have to pay if you did it yourself. Taking the outsourcing model to its logical conclusion implies Overseas outsourcing.  There are obvious cost savings to be had by utilizing resources in another country at an advantageous rate of change to yourself, however these savings must be weighed up against the infrastructure costs required to setup a center in this region (not relevant if you are approaching an established company), the training required for staff without the necessary local knowledge required for your customers and the potential negative backlash from your customers.
  2. Access & Tools - If you are going to do this right, the company that you are outsourcing to must have the same level of access to your systems and resources that an in-house department would have.  Putting aside the obvious legal ramifications based on sharing sensitive customer information with an outside group, without this level of access, this team just will not be able to deliver the solution that you are looking for. NDAs and Disclaimers must be in place to protect your client's information, but whether you enable the outsourcer to have access to your network through a VPN or otherwise it is absolutely mandatory that this level of access is granted.  The worst thing from a customers point of view is speaking to an "order taker" vs. a qualified help desk analyst that can resolve their problem.
  3. Training - Talking about qualified ... train the outsourcer to the same level that you would an internal employee.  If you have an existing helpdesk, use staff from that team to assist in your training.  At the very least you must ensure that you cover off the following:
    • Top 20 Customer Questions and appropriate Solutions
    • Finding Customer Information
    • Logging and Reporting Customer Information
    • Escalations & Escalation Matrixes
    • Basic Troubleshooting methodologies
    • Product Knowledge (specific to your company)
    • Products and Services (specific to your company)
    • Types of Customers
    • Technical Training (specific to your service): you can (& should) specify that staff supporting your product are trained to a specific standard or certification.
  4. Reporting & Oversight - Now one important thing is you cannot forget about the outsourcer once you've established a relationship with them.  Monthly (at a minimum ... in the beginning you probably want to have weekly) meetings are required to ensure that they are meeting your SLAs and reporting appropriately to you.  What reports and KPIs are you monitoring to ensure that customer service is not being missed?  Make sure that you document fully what you are expecting to receive from the Outsourcer and that you receive it at the agreed upon intervals.  However, you cannot take the information that they provide to you at "face value".  You are going to still have to conduct some sort of internal audit to ensure that they are actually providing you with relevant and accurate information - a good way of doing this is selecting a random sampling of the clients they have stated to have worked on and performing a customer satisfaction survey on them.  You will then be able to determine if the customer was satisfied with the wait time, the level of knowledge of the helpdesk representative and other factors!
Outsourcing the helpdesk can offer signficant cost savings and enable companies to deliver a high level of service to their clients.  With the right vendor, you could see some significant cost savings from outsourcing as your outsourced service department enables you to better focus on your core competencies.  Done wrong however, and you could lose your customers or face significant backlash as well as a loss of faith in your products and services as a whole.  Its a fine line to balance and I hope that this series of posts has given you some things to consider that might be of use in your decision.
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