Should MSPs Outsource Their Help Desks?

Should MSPs Outsource Their Help Desks?

As the managed services market grew up, a healthy number of MSPs decided to outsource their help desks to third-party partners. But now, ConnectWise CEO Arnie Bellini is calling on MSPs -- even small MSPs -- to build their own help desks. By having a help desk in-house, small MSPs can build person-to-person relationships with end-customers, while more closely monitoring trends and needs within their SMB customer bases, Bellini asserts. So, what's the upshot for MSPs?

Once again I'm not choosing sides. But it seems like there are two clear help desk mindsets in the MSP market.

On one side of the fence: MSPs that outsource their help desks and/or NOCs (network operations centers) to third-party providers. Help desk and NOC service providers include distributors and specialists like Live Virtual Help Desk, NetEnrich and Zenith Infotech and master MSPs like Do IT Smarter and MSP Services Network. By leveraging third-party help desks and third-party NOCs, MSPs can focus on more strategic, higher-margin services, proponents say. NetEnrich GM and Senior VP Justin Crotty says MSPs that hold onto their NOCs are dung beetles -- doing dirty work that they don't really need to be doing.

On the other side of the fence: Bellini and scores of small MSPs that keep their help desks entirely in-house. True believers include Steve Winter, CEO of Ergos Technology, an MSP in Texas. During an MSPmentor Live webcast earlier today, Winter described how his in-house help desk managed all client needs -- everything from handheld devices to desktops, servers, voice and video conferencing. Equally important, Ergos maintains complete documentation of each client's environment. The documentation, coupled with vendor management services, allows Ergos to upsell and cross sell new solutions to each customer.

Of course, I'm over simplifying the market. There are certainly some areas of overlap. For instance, CharTec -- the hardware as a service specialist -- has partnered up with Live Virtual Help Desk. CharTec is a ConnectWise Capital portfolio company.

Account Control

Regardless of where you stand, it's hard to argue with Bellini's key point: As big IT vendors sell cloud services directly to end customers, it's critically important for MSPs to build stronger working relationships with their end customers. Day-to-day help desk interactions allow for that.

So for some MSPs, that means keeping help desk in-house and learning absolutely everything possible about the customer's day-to-day IT issues and needs. For other MSPs it means outsourcing help desk services in order to focus on new or emerging opportunities that offset potential cloud rivals.

Either way I'm surprised how much chatter help desk services generate in the MSP market. For such an old service it seems to be more critical than ever.

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