Embedded Help Desk vs. External IT Support: A Comparison

By: Brian Yu, Helpt

So you’ve decided to outsource your tech support? That’s a smart decision! Perhaps the driving force behind this choice was your ambition to offer 24/7/365 support, a necessity in today’s always-on world. Or maybe the decision was influenced by the high costs associated with hiring and maintaining a full-time, in-house IT staff. Outsourcing is a strategic move that aligns with the need for efficient, responsive support, crucial for sustaining customer satisfaction and staying competitive in a fast-paced market. However, not all outsourcing is created equal, and making the right decision for your business can be the difference between losing customers and maximizing customer satisfaction and profits.

Let’s keep it simple and break up “outsourcing” into two categories: external IT support, and embedded help desk. Navigating the choice between the two is more than a decision—it’s a strategic move that can define the trajectory of your business. If you are a decision maker at a Managed Service Provider, a software vendor, or anything in between, you know that having great IT support is paramount to maintaining a high level of customer satisfaction and operational efficiency.

Understanding External IT Support
External IT support involves hiring an external company to handle technical support needs. This model has been a staple for many MSPs and software companies, primarily for its perceived cost-effectiveness and the ability to leverage external expertise. However, like any cost-saving purchase, there are definite pros and cons. Let’s dive in.

What is External IT support?
This model typically means that your tech support needs are managed by a provider who may not be located on your premises, often operating remotely. These providers range from local firms to global organizations, offering a wide spectrum of services from basic help desk support to comprehensive IT management.

Pros of External IT support
Cost Savings: One of the biggest draws is the potential for reduced overhead. Without the need for in-house staff, businesses can save on salaries, training, and benefits.

Scalability: Outsourcing allows for easy scaling of services based on your current needs, which is particularly advantageous for businesses with fluctuating demands.

Access to Diverse Expertise: Outsourced providers often have a broad range of skills and experience, which can be beneficial for handling a variety of technical issues.

Cons of External IT support
Communication Barriers: Remote support can sometimes lead to communication challenges, especially if there are cultural or time zone differences.

Less Personalized Service: Since the support team is not integrated within your company, they may lack a deep understanding of your specific business needs and culture.

Dependence on External Entities: Relying on an external organization can sometimes result in a lack of control over certain aspects of your IT support.

You Get What You Pay For
External IT support can be a valuable asset for companies looking for flexibility and a wide range of skills. However, the one-size-fits-all nature of many outsourced solutions may not align perfectly with the unique challenges and goals of MSPs and software companies. Often companies outsource to call centers in parts of the world where labor is cheap, which leads to large variances in the quality of service.

Businesses that choose to outsource forgo the option to hand-pick and vet their support agents, which leads to a lack of transparency and consistency. They place their faith into the hands of external entities which can ultimately lead to experiences that fail to meet expectations. It’s like choosing a cheap all-inclusive resort package, and when you get there you are met with dirty rooms and cold buffet food.

In the next section, we’ll explore the idea of an embedded help desk and how it contrasts with the outsourced model, particularly in terms of integration, customization, and impact on business operations.

The Case for Embedded Help Desk
Embedded help desk represents a paradigm shift in how businesses manage their technical support needs. This model involves tech support professionals working as an integral part of your in-house team, offering tailored solutions that align closely with your business operations and culture.

Advantages of Embedded Help Desk
Enhanced Integration with Teams: Embedded support staff understand your business intimately, leading to more relevant and efficient solutions.

Improved Efficiency and Responsiveness: With a deep understanding of your specific systems and processes, embedded support can offer faster and more effective responses to technical issues.

Higher Customer Satisfaction: As embedded teams are more attuned to your business’s nuances, they can provide personalized service, which often translates to better customer experiences.

Cost-Effectiveness Over Time: While potentially higher in initial cost than outsourced options, an embedded help desk can be more cost-effective in the long run due to its efficiency and effectiveness.

Challenges of Embedded Help Desk
Initial Setup and Integration: Integrating a new team into your existing operations can require time and effort, especially in the beginning.

Perceived Higher Costs: The upfront investment in an embedded help desk can be higher than traditional outsourcing, which might be a consideration for budget-conscious businesses.

Is an Embedded Help Desk Right for Your Business?
An embedded help desk is particularly beneficial for businesses that have specific, nuanced tech needs and a focus on building strong, long-term relationships with their customers. It is ideal for those who value a deep understanding of their business and a collaborative approach to problem-solving.

Choosing an embedded help desk over outsourcing to an external IT support group is like opting for a bespoke luxury travel experience instead of a one-size-fits-all vacation package. An embedded help desk allows businesses to be intimately involved in selecting and shaping their support team. This approach guarantees a level of transparency and consistency akin to having a dedicated guide who knows exactly what you need when you need it. It’s like having a travel experience where every aspect is meticulously crafted to align with your preferences, ensuring satisfaction and exceeding expectations.

For businesses with distinct, nuanced tech needs and a commitment to building lasting customer relationships, an embedded help desk isn’t just a choice; it’s a strategic alignment. It ensures that your tech support is not just an external service, but a harmonious extension of your business, fully integrated and deeply understanding of your specific challenges and goals.

Making the Right Choice for Your Business
Choosing the best tech support model hinges on several factors:

Business Size and Complexity: Smaller businesses or those with less complex needs might find external IT support sufficient. In contrast, larger businesses or those with specialized needs might benefit more from the bespoke approach of embedded help desk.

Long-term Business Goals: Consider your long-term objectives. If fostering strong, enduring customer relationships and having a tech support team that grows and evolves with your business are priorities, an embedded help desk could be the more strategic choice.

Budget Constraints: Evaluate your budget for both short-term and long-term perspectives. Outsourced support might seem more budget-friendly upfront, but embedded support’s long-term efficiencies and benefits could offer greater ROI.

Cultural Fit and Team Dynamics: Assess the importance of having a support team that understands and fits well with your company culture. Embedded help desk provides an opportunity for a more cohesive and synergistic relationship.

In conclusion, while external IT support offers benefits like cost savings and scalability, an embedded help desk excels in providing tailored solutions, quick response times, and a deep understanding of your business. Consider the unique aspects of your MSP or software business to determine which model aligns best with your vision for growth, efficiency, and customer satisfaction.