Onshore vs. offshore IT service desk outsourcing

We’ve explored the benefits of outsourcing your IT service desk throughout this blog; the flexibility it offers, the scalability, the cost savings, and the 24/7/365 availability of expert technical support. This is one IT function that generally offers excellent ROI when outsourced, freeing up your IT team to focus on their core competencies that help your organisation fulfil its’ business goals.

However, not all IT service desk providers are the same! There are those that are small teams or one-man bands, and larger providers like ourselves. There are providers who focus solely on the service desk function, and others that offer a range of IT support and consultancy services. And there are onshore and offshore IT service desk providers.

Find out how much outsourcing your IT support could cost here >

In this post I’m going to look at pros and cons of onshore vs. offshore IT service desk outsourcing. What benefits does each model bring to businesses, and what are their failings?

Pros & cons of onshore & offshore IT service desk providers?

Cost savings: Both IT outsourcing models can save organisations money compared to running an in-house IT service desk. This is especially true if you need to operate your service desk outside of local business hours, for example if you have offices in different time zones, and if your organisation has a high demand for IT support – due to the economies of scale and lower staffing costs.

If cost savings are a significant priority for your organisation, the offshore model offers additional savings. These service providers operate in countries with lower salaries, such as Asia and Eastern Europe, and this is perhaps their biggest USP.

Company knowledge: IT service providers will have any number of customers for whom they provide service desk support. Here at Cloud Business we know that this can be disconcerting if the user calls and the service desk team do not have your company information at their fingertips. To have confidence in the service, customers need to know that the service desk analyst understands the business, and can support their users knowledgeably. They don’t want to feel like they’re just a number. While offshore providers may keep background information on their customers, generally onshore service providers are in a much better position to embed themselves within an organisation and get a unique insight into the business. With regular customer meetings and perceptive reporting, this is a factor where onshore providers beat offshore hands down.

Staff turnover: The ability to become part of an organisation’s extended IT team is another differentiator between onshore and offshore. Many companies want a single point of contact for all their IT issues and requests, someone who is knowledgeable about their business and understands instantly how their IT issues impact on this. In countries offering lower wages staff turnover rates can be high, as a small increase in salary with a different employer can make a significant difference to the individual. This means that it becomes difficult for the offshore service provider to maintain a consistent level of service in terms of single point of contact, and knowledgeable customer-centric staff.

Compliance: Another key area that must be addressed when weighing up the pros and cons of onshore or offshore. Those organisations operating in highly regulated sectors may find that offshore is not an option at all. Even if your organisation has no geographic restrictions on where you can outsource IT services, you may find your customers do – many regulated organisations need the companies they work with to be compliant too, otherwise they can’t do business with them.

Cultural differences: While service desk analysts working for offshore providers are highly trained, educated, have excellent English – often having had elocution lessons – there can still be a disconnect culturally. This may result in misunderstandings when a user asks for specific support and the analyst delivers that support off script rather than truly understanding what the user needs. However, if the support needed is predictable and rarely deviants from typical requests and issues, offshore can provide this in a cost effective way. Dialect can also be an issue if the user finds it difficult to understand the service desk analyst, or is unsure if they have made themselves clear. This is not an issue unique to offshore providers; regional dialects within the UK can also be a challenge!

While onshore appears to be the winner in this particular analysis, offshore does have its’ place. Cost is obviously the most significant factor, and if this is the most important consideration for your business the offshore model can help you make these savings. However, when it comes to value adding factors such as customer satisfaction, the ability to support more customer-specific IT issues, and working with a provider who becomes an integral part of your IT team, onshore delivers on all these fronts.

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