The Hidden Price of Low Cost Outsourcing

By Daniel R. Matlis

Recently, I have had a couple of encounters with outsourced tech support which inspired me to write this story. I’m sure you’ve had at least one similar experience.

Here is a recent “hypothetical” scenario (the names have been change to protect the innocent):

You are working remotely under a tight deadline. All of the sudden, the remote connection to the office drops and you are  dead in the water.

You try to easy stuff:

  • Make sure the lights on your modem are flashing in the right sequence
  • Release and Renew you IP connection
  • Make sure you can get to the internet
  • Shutdown and restart you machine

and still, no connection to the office.

It’s time to call the help desk. After a series of prompts and selections to get you to the right department, you hear the polite voice of the Help Desk Tech (HDT) on the other end. 

HDT: Hello, my name is Jane (not her real name), can I please have your name?
YOU: My name is Dan.
HDT: How can I help you Dan?
YOU: I am having a problem with my remote connection to the office.  I tried the following, without success:

  • Made sure the lights on my modem are flashing in the right sequence
  • Released and Renewed my IP connection
  • Made sure I can get to the internet
  • Shutdown and restarted my machine.

HDT: Let me see what we can do.
In your mind’s eye, you can see the tech’s computer “remote access issues” checklist coming up.

HDT: OK Dan, can you tell me which lights are flashing on your modem?
YOU: Jane, I tried that already. The power is on and the send and receive lights are flashing.
HDT: please click on Start then Run then type CMD
YOU: Done
HDT: please type IPCONFIG /RENEW
YOU: OK, I got an IP address
HDT: please check to see if you can access the office network now
YOU: NO, I already tried that; can you please escalate the call?
HDT: Not yet, I have to go though my checklist before I can escalate the ticket. Can you open your browser and type ? (Not an actual website)
YOU (Rather Agitated): Yes, I am at there.
HDT: OK let’s try one last thing. Please restart you machine. Make sure you are holding your breath and jumping on your left foot while you restart. (The last sentence is not uttered by the tech, but that’s what it feels like to you)
YOU: My computer has restarted and I’m still unable to connect.
HDT: It looks like the problem is our side; let me escalate your ticket to Level 2 support. Once I escalate your call, you should expect to receive a call from a level 2 tech in less than 8 business hours. Is there anything else I can help you with?
YOU: No, thank you. 

Before you hang up, you look at the timer on your phone, and it reads nearly 45 minutes.

After four hours, which seemed like an eternity, you get a call from the level 2 tech. 

You explain your situation to the level 2 tech.

HDT2: I see the problem, let me change this setting and you should be ready to go.
YOU: I’m back online. That took you 2 minutes.  Why couldn’t the level 1 tech take care of that?
HDT2: We have to follow the procedures. Level one techs can’t change these settings.

So let’s do the math. An issue that took the appropriate level technician two (2) minutes to resolve cost the company forty five  minutes of the level 1 tech’s time, four hours and forty seven minutes of your time, and two minutes of the level 2 tech’s time.

The true cost outsource tech support does not seem so cheap after all.

To add insult to injury, your deadline has not moved and you’ll be up until the wee hours finishing your work (on your own time), all because you could not get to the “right” level tech in a timely manner.
I am not implying that companies should stop outsourcing (remember, I am in the advisory business). I do suggest that companies determine that appropriate level of outsourced and internal services to provide the best possible support to their internal and external customers.

Level 1 support techs should be provided with straight forward “triage” tools to quickly and affectively assess the type of support the caller needs, rather than following procedures blindly.

Level 1 support may be fine for the technologically challenged, but it is often a waste of time for those who try easy stuff before they call.

In today’s competitive environment, no organization can afford to waste this amount of time.

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