Commonality is the road to commodity
In my experience of outsourcing the helpdesk with two different MSPs, I conclude the better option for MSPs is to build and operate their own. Especially those that strive to stand out from the crowd.
All MSPs need supporting vendors. However, MSPs must also differentiate themselves in a crowded field.
Vendors who support MSPs are tools to help that MSP deliver better experiences to their end users. MSPs must search and explore all that can improve on what they do, making them unique. They have to hone their uniqueness and build a model which allows them to increase their added value. However, an MSP's uniqueness conflicts with the master service providers who aspire to scale commonality.
Dependency on others always causes unawareness to possibilities and leads to complacency.
Master service providers live in the world which works for them, and the MSP is forced to live in that world with them. Unfortunately, the MSP's end-user customer lives in a separate world. The bottom line: outsourcing your SLA's first line of contact (the helpdesk) to a master service provider is a significant risk in controlling your customer's experience. All the noise that a customer directs at the helpdesk goes unheard by you; the local MSP the customer contracted.
This silence prevents the MSP from learning things through the customers' conversations. The MSP is then limited to generic reports of the number of calls, the number of tickets cleared, or the number of calls still on hold. Everyone in the industry understands these generic reports and sharing them with your customer executives is a complete waste of their time. Soon they can contract with Amazon, or another enterprise provider and get a report online live.
The more generic in reporting an MSP is, the more commoditized their deliverable becomes. MSPs must add more value to the conversations with their customers.
Those who call the helpdesk you outsourced to are the internal customers of the decision maker who signs and renews your contracts. Think about the information thst is readily available from a caller to the helpdesk. Your customer's internal customers are a wealth of information for those willing to listen and, when appropriate, have the time to be inquisitive.
No outsourced helpdesk can understand the peculiarities of all your clients better than you, and an outsourced helpdesk will not take the time to be inquisitive.
Outsourced helpdesks are built to close calls quickly, and they cannot engage the caller in a way the local MSP can. The master service providers will not hire staff based on the MSP's culture, and master service providers who believe they can commoditize their culture are sadly mistaken.
Successful MSPs who have internal helpdesks built them to service their customers based on their own culture; the internal helpdesk will always be closer to the customer than an outsourced one could ever be. MSPs with complicated customers will clear through the complexity much more efficiently than the master service provider can.
The commoditization of deliverables happens when the deliverable or service is common.
Remember, master service providers can only scale commonality. This commonality approach is deadly to the uniqueness an MSP must have to differentiate themselves from a crowded field.
Master service providers cannot scale without being common to those they serve. So delivering services to customers with peculiarities outside the majority of the customers they serve is impossible, or extremely challenging at best. The more a master service provider influences commonality, the bigger the threat to an MSP's uniqueness. MSPs must become unique to outpace the commoditization of the deliverable. Customers won't pay more for what they deem to be the same as the many others who deliver cheaper.
What can an internal helpdesk do that an outsourced one can't?
The noise of the customer is critical to the awareness of opportunities, and potential pitfalls, which may affect customer experience. Your helpdesk is your uniqueness - don't let it be a commodity.
Of course, those MSPs that outsource to master service providers probably experienced it first-hand.
Your customer calls your outsourced helpdesk. This customer has an issue with a third-party software they use, or the customer is using a thin client. Both of these things are everyday occurrences with your customers. However, these things are a minority experience of the outsourced helpdesk which services thousands of customers. The helpdesk technician answering the call has limited understanding of thin clients and they struggle to understand a proprietary software or your customer's application. The conversation that proceeds will be a fact-finding odyssey which will challenge the patience of most seeking immediate help.
Requests outside the normal scope are challenging for the master service provider's helpdesk. The technician will simply do what they can, but rarely will they have the ability or the desire to act outside the master service provider's box.
In today's commoditization of IT services, MSPs must look to differentiate themselves and strive to then deliver above and beyond customer expectations. They do this by becoming intimate with their customers.
It is through customer intimacy that value is determined.
Remember, master service providers did not sell to your customers, they did not walk through their facilities, they did not witness their workflows, they never sat face to face with the people they will serve, and they will never be as intimate with your customers as you are.
Status quo is the killer of all that will be invented.
Ray Stasieczko is the CEO of Teasra, an IT channel consultancy and education firm based in St. Louis, Missouri.
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