Outsourcing, good and bad.

In all walks of life, services are being sold out to private contractors, IT support is outsourced, and customer service is taken out of the country on a regular basis and taken on by call centres in parts of the world where they have probably never seen the products they support nor do they understand the culture of the people who use them.

Our local council outsourced its refuse collection service in a bid to save money. I am bemused how a costly service can be put out to tender to an organisation whose primary role is to make money. I can't see how they can offer a good standard of service for less than the local council can and make money at the same time. IT support that is outsourced becomes just another job for the company taking on the role. They don't have the same level of involvement that a primary supporter would have.

In British National Health hospitals cleaning services have been outsourced to private contractors. In order to make money these companies have to set near impossible work schedules and pay rock bottom wages, as a result the work is often shoddy.

When a company contracts out their help desk support, the first-line first-time fix becomes a thing of the past.

Help desks are often reduced to the level of call takers; the people work from scripts and seldom if ever resolve an issue on the first call. To me, the prime reason for help desks is to get people working again as quickly as possible, in order to keep people productive. The help desk shields the more technical departments from constant interruptions so that they can get things done.

They are also a filter, keeping the trivial and easy to answer questions away from the other departments. I've said before that when I worked the helpdesk we had a first call resolution rate of over 95%. We did the password resets every Monday morning, for those people who had hurriedly changed theirs as they left the building on Friday afternoon, then promptly forgotten them.

We collected all the messages about network problems and passed just one call to the network team, then fended off further questions. Now it seems that every call is logged and passed through so that the network team has to fix the fault then spend the rest of the day closing off all the other tickets, not a great use of anybody's time.

Yes, outsourcing can save money at a superficial level, but I don't believe that it is an efficient way of solving problems and the hidden costs should be more than enough to persuade the powers that be that they should seriously consider going back to the old ways.

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