Solving the MSP Help Desk Dilemma
MSPs intent on rapidly scaling their businesses must solve a tricky financial equation: How do you balance your growth with profitability by optimizing your help desk costs and technician utilization rates? Here's a closer look at the challenge — and potential solutions.
First, let's assume you keep your help desk in-house. As you grow your business you'll face three scenarios:
- You are under capacity: You have too many customers and too few help desk professionals to consistently deliver the expected level of service.
- You're maxed out: Your help desk has high utilization rates but not enough capacity to take on new clients. And if you lose an employee, service levels can be severely degraded.
- You've over-hired: You hire more techs for your help desk and increase capacity — but you're hurting your margins because you haven't signed up enough new customers to achieve full utilization.
In all three scenarios, you face a challenging balancing act — delivering high quality service while maximizing margins and utilization rates. Now let's assume you lose a big client. Your margins will immediately shrink until you scale back your own help desk costs or make up the lost revenue.
Making the Math Add Up: Strategic Partnering
Instead of trying to maintain this challenging balancing act, savvy MSPs are outsourcing their help desk (also called service desk) operations. Much like a SaaS or cloud business model, service desk outsourcing can enable MSPs to scale their service levels (and costs) up or down — on demand.
The trick is making sure you align with the right partner. Although not widely available, the ideal partnership will involve minimal (if any) upfront costs and no long-term commitments. Here again, the outsourcing relationship essentially mirrors a SaaS model, where the service desk provider earns the MSP's business each and every month.
Three additional reasons to outsource
- Lower costs: Third-party help desks can provide significant economies of scale, with industry estimates putting the average annual savings at more than 20 percent vs. maintaining an in-house operation.
- Constant availability: Support services are available 24/7, 365 days a year, around the globe so you can fulfill the demands of clients with nighttime and weekend support requirements.
- Technical breadth: Outsourcing to the right provider enables you to leverage a wide range of technical skills that may not always be available in-house. For example, you may come across a client with a complex Citrix environment, but don’t possess the right skills to support them in-house.
If you decide to outsource, be sure your strategic partner can seamlessly integrate help desk services with your day-to-day business management tools — including your RMM (remote monitoring and management) and PSA platforms. And remember that help desk and NOC services can be complementary. The right provider can weave the two together to provide an even better client experience and further increase MSP efficiency.
Rob Autor is senior VP of global service delivery at Continuum, a leading provider of managed service solutions powering MSP growth.