iCore Ltd

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Trials and Tribulations of Service Desk Outsourcing


The process of outsourcing an organisation’s service desk has always been an eventful and eye-opening experience for those going through it for the first time.

The outcome is one of two extremes on many occasions, with organisations either entering into partnerships and agreements that help them grow and improve, and others ending up with agreements that do not deliver what was expected.

With the events of 2020 having added extra complexities for customers and outsourcers, both must now be more careful than usual when entering into new agreements, to ensure `win-win` outcomes and positive partnerships.

This raises the question – what are the key factors and measures of success that first-time outsourcers, and suppliers alike, must abide by when entering into new agreements?

Many of our consultants have been through the `trials and tribulations` of service desk outsourcing and have seen things from both the customer and the outsourcer’s perspective, so we asked six of our consultants to share their experiences and insights in relation to the following:

What are the most critical things that outsourcers should know from their customer?

What are the most critical things that the customer should know from their potential outsourcer and factor into their thinking?


The key success factor for outsourcers is to ensure customer satisfaction whilst maintaining profitable agreements. With profit margins being squeezed more than ever, and a competitive marketplace, outsourcers need to be `razor-sharp` in all areas of the customer lifecycle, from winning a contract, to onboarding and delivery of the service.

Reputation is now won and lost much more quickly than it was only 34 years ago, and one bad customer review can have a negative ripple effect.

So, what are the key points that outsourcers need to focus on?

Going back to basics & understanding your customer

Going back to basics is crucial and fully understanding your customer’s needs and values.

If your customer trusts you and thinks that you have their best interests at heart, then you have automatically put yourself in a positive place in their mind. If not, your chance of winning the business deteriorates, as you are simply bidding on price, and you could end up entering into an agreement that your customer does not value.

  • What is the driver for your customer seeking an outsourced service desk?
    What does your customer think an outsourced agreement can deliver that an internal solution cannot
  • Most importantly, what does the customer expect and envisage the agreement looking like? 


By making sure that you can walk in your customer’s shoes, you are following an optimised approach and building a solid foundation for a valued and profitable agreement.

Be honest & transparent

We have heard the phrase `it was not what was promised to us` from unhappy customers referring to their service desk agreements on more than one occasion.

As a service provider, you may think that what you are discussing should be common sense to the customer, but it is not. Remember, this is all new to them.

Be clear, and concise in articulating to your customer what they will receive from the agreement, as well as their responsibilities in making it successful.

A positive relationship is a two-way street and assuming that your customers know what to expect, and what to do, is a major cause of relationships starting off, and remaining on the wrong foot.

Identify possible risks and raise them

As much as we like to talk about customer success, potential risks also need to be uncovered, discussed, and mitigated. What are the current issues facing your customer’s business, and what are they likely to be over the course of the agreement?

By knowing this, you can ensure that adequate research and risk analysis is undertaken prior to the start, then as an on-going activity, so that you are fully aligned with your customer on every level.

This will put you in a strong position to retain your customer’s business at the point of renewal.

Clear and meaningful reporting

When it comes to customer reporting, the green, amber and red system is one that is widely used by service providers. The problem with the green, amber and red system, is that unless it reflects what is important to the customer, and provides meaningful information, then it is effectively valueless.

Reporting on the number of tickets resolved and mean time to resolution may be effective internal measures, but using these in customer facing situations, with no context, tells your customer that you do not understand their drivers and service delivery goals. To be successful in today’s world, this is a fundamental issue that needs attention.


Choice, choice, and more choice. The outsourced service desk market has never been more buoyant in terms of the number of providers and services available.

With so much choice and so many possibilities, it is important to focus on the fundamentals, rather than the art of the possible, and building a platform for success.

By getting caught in the headlights and focusing on the `nice to haves`, you are reducing your chances of success. Sanity is more important than vanity when entering into a new agreement.

So, what are some of the key considerations for organisations entering into an outsourced service desk agreement?

Is the supplier what they claim to be?

Can the supplier practice what they preach? Of course, they are a well-known company. Never assume that this is the case and always do your homework.

By requesting references, testimonials, and by speaking to existing customers of a similar size and sector, you will know quite quickly if a supplier is a good fit. Also, by asking for referees who had similar drivers for outsourcing to the ones you have now, you are covering all bases and can compare `apples with apples` when evaluating a supplier’s capabilities.

Also, it is important to know if the outsourcer is `healthy`? What does their order book look like? What percentage of existing customers renew? Again, by seeking these fundamental truths, you are ensuring that you have a clear picture of the pros and cons of each potential supplier.

Can the supplier change when you change?

Can the outsourcer scale and change in line with your business demands? If your business operates in a fast paced, ever-changing environment, the outsourcer needs to be fully aware of this, so they can quote for and propose a delivery model and service that supports this.

Crafting out Critical Success Factors (CSFs), based on this, and sharing these with the supplier will help ensure that this important box is ticked.

Will the transition be painful?

Asking how the service desk will be transitioned, integrated, and managed to operate globally, regionally, and locally, including local language support, is also fundamentally important, along with an understanding of how the outsourcer will help you deliver improvement and innovation. This will be an essential element of the on-going maintenance, management and governance of the agreement.

Will the tools being used be fit for purpose?

If the outsource partner will own the ITSM tooling and the service desk analysts will be part of their organisation, you will need to understand the usability/functionality of the tool they are using.

Your retained IT department and user population may require a level of access to the tool, so please keep the following things in mind:

  • Process and Ease of Change (Features, not Change Management)
  • Maturity of Self Service and Reporting capabilities
  • How Customer Satisfaction is obtained, managed, and actioned (measured)
  • By asking for a demonstration of the product “in action”, with informed SME’s to answers your questions and queries, you will get the clarity and visibility you need. After all, it will be used and interacted with by numerous people daily, so any concerns need to be aired promptly.


What we have discussed in this paper are some, but not all the critical, yet basic factors that Outsourcers and Customers need to consider in today’s world.

All too often, we see customers and outsourcers alike focus on the wrong things and ending up at a point of no return.

By concentrating on getting the foundations right you are building a platform for mutual success.

If you would like to discuss the points in this paper in more depth, or other key factors for success, please get in touch and we will be happy to talk to you.