With 15 years’ experience of providing outsourced IT services to retailers and more recently to hospitality and leisure businesses such as cinema chains and fast-casual dining brands, The Help Desk is well placed to discern changes in client buying behaviour.
“We’re starting to see a reversal in the trend for off-shoring,” says Dan Smith CEO, Managed Services of the provider. “What we’re effectively witnessing is in-shoring, where clients are bringing outsourced services back into the domestic market.”
In the nineties and noughties, off-shoring became commonplace. First technology and communications providers did it, then insurance and financial services took up the bat, with retailers following suit. Many took their service desk and customer interface operations to geographies where skills were obtainable cheaply relative to UK or European alternatives. It made for a compelling commercial proposition and provided an ‘open all hours’ service to businesses worldwide.
Continues Smith: “There has been a subtle shift back to our shores by UK retailers and hospitality operators. I don’t think this is due to a ‘Little Englander’ mind set. The services that India can provide, for example, have a lot to recommend them.”
“However, when it comes to Help Desk operations whose role is to support staff and customers in difficult situations, it can be stressful for customers to interface with individuals for whom English is not their first language, who struggle with easy social interaction and who have less cultural understanding of problem situations; be it a broadband failure, an insurance claim or, in our case, a frozen till at point-of-sale in the run-up to Christmas. It’s good too for all parties to be able sit round a table to plan and review, and a UK-based operation can offer that.”
Dan Smith is quick to stress that clients are not turning their back on outsourcing per se and taking services inhouse. He comments: “Our clients continue to give a resounding thumbs-up for outsourcing. That said, in the majority of cases our outsourced teams work alongside inhouse staff, which makes for the optimum combination. No, we are just talking about bringing outsourced support services back to the UK.”
To meet the needs of clients who want UK-based support for their global operations, The Help Desk has recruited staff with competence in numerous languages, from Polish to Mandarin. They also provide a round-the-clock service and work every day of the year. “We let them have Christmas Day off,” jokes Smith. “We’ve become a global company as our clients have become global brands.”
In a tough economy, Dan Smith argues that IT investment has to be looked at more creatively. “Whilst tangible gains are no less achievable than they were in a more bullish climate, gains other than turnover growth, such as an improved customer experience and increased staff satisfaction and productivity, play a more important role.”
Outsourcing offers clients economies of scale through access to common services and up-to-the-minute technical skills that would be otherwise prohibitive to invest in, so is ideal for Help Desk operations. By bringing home their support operations, UK businesses are keeping their systems up and running and giving both front-line staff and the customers they serve a greater sense of comfort.
In the first 10 weeks of 2014 alone, The Help Desk has taken 46,000 calls. It supports 12,500 tills installed across 5,750 stores (of which 250 are international). The operation prides itself on an average ring time of just 34 seconds and a first-time fix rate of 76%.
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