Outsourcing help desk services to an offshore location may yield as much as 30% to 40% cost savings, but customer satisfaction must be a key factor when making this decision.
"Although offshoring an IT help desk may produce significant cost savings, IT management needs to determine whether that decision is right for the business," says Richard Matlus, research vice-president at Gartner. "For most IT organisations, the help desk is the primary end-user-facing organisation, so if end users are not satisfied with it, then it will have a negative effect on the IT organisation."
Based on informal client interviews, Gartner analysts found that offshore help desk service voice support services have experienced problems, particularly those located in India. The problems are focused on poor quality that can lead to significant customer dissatisfaction.
Four factors have been identified as the main contributors to the customer dissatisfaction:
* Client knowledge: When a help desk is internal, the client has its own employees supporting the help desk. These employees have access to internal communications which enable them to clearly understand their business and, therefore, support end users. When the help desk is outsourced, the service provider tries to capture the information into a knowledge database, but the information is not always kept up to date or easily understood.
* High turnover: A recent Gartner survey for all IT services showed that the worldwide attrition rate was 14,7 and offshore it was 22,1. Although this can be a problem anywhere in the world, it can be extremely prevalent in low-cost countries where many IT job opportunities exist and many IT help desk agents will switch jobs for a small salary increase.
* Cultural differences: If a client has a problem, he or she will relate the problem over the phone, but because of cultural differences, the help desk agent may not interpret the problem and react in the most appropriate manner. For example, a client employee may have a problem on a PC and want to know how to fix it. Instead of explaining how to fix the problem, the offshore agent may take control of the employee¹s PC and change the image without explaining how this was accomplished because the agent doesn¹t want to insult the client. However, the client employee may be dissatisfied because he or she doesn¹t learn what was wrong or how to fix the problem resulting in a need to call the help desk again in the future.
* Language dialects" Although Indian-based providers' agents speak English, they are generally trained in UK English and may use British words or a more formal context, format, tone and enunciation. Because many clients are from North America, this adds to oral communication problems. This can cause frustration for the client and the agent, and lead to dissatisfaction with the help desk experience. However, when a help desk problem is sent via e-mail or on a web chat site, this language problem is not a factor, and customer satisfaction is positive.
"Although quality in the first year of offshoring is likely to be poorer than domestic help desk solutions, if an organisation can be patient, quality and customer satisfaction can reach acceptable levels that are on par with domestic service," says Matlus.
"This occurs more rapidly with global clients that have a multinational presence. If a client has perseverance and end users are tolerant, then an offshore help desk can be successful."
Gartner offers key recommendations for organisations to help ensure the success of an offshore help desk service:
* Assess and validate whether the offshore provider¹s services can meet requirements;
* Review the service provider¹s offshore practice for building and updating its knowledge database;
* Review the provider¹s offshore service for cultural understanding, language proficiencies and employee turnover ratios;
* Talk to references using offshore help desk resources and ask what issues they may have encountered;
* Understand that the help desk may be the first line of IT support to your end users, so offshoring should not just be a cost decision; and
* Evaluate low-cost onshore alternatives as well. The savings available from low-cost onshore and ³nearshore² alternatives may negate the desire to go offshore.