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No matter what business you’re in, the term “cost-effective” has likely become an important descriptor for your operations and a standard part of the company’s vernacular. Lean isn’t just a word used by marketing consultants!

The average helpdesk/tech support specialist earns between $54,000 and $59,000 annually, according to the 2013 Salary Survey by Computerworld.

When taxes, worker compensation and a range of fringe benefits are added to that number, total expenditures for each of these valued employees can easily exceed $100,000 per person per year (use this link to estimate the costs of a single worker).

Of course, that approximation applies to the average IT specialist, so MSPs should expect the expense of recruiting, onboarding and retaining higher-caliber team members to be significantly higher. In order to effectively motivate front-line personnel, a well-designed and frequently evaluated bonus program is a must. Cash and a stake in the company are the most typical enticements for prospective employees, so the dollar value of each must be part of the equation when MSPs consider making a new hire.

When all the costs required to attract and keep top talent are tallied, it’s obvious that skilled personnel are one of the largest investments an organization makes. It also emphasizes the need for MSPs to proceed carefully with the hiring process, judiciously reviewing their current and prospective workload levels. Since every new helpdesk/tech support employee is a potential six-figure investment, the appraisal and screening process should be as meticulous as a capital expenditure.

After all, the purchase of a small fleet of service vehicles or a new building could cost less than a single skilled employee in the course of a year (or more). While it’s fairly easy to understand when capital investments are required, the justification for bringing on additional technicians and engineers can be a lot more complex.

Before signing off on a new hire, every MSP should be asking these questions:

  • Does the company have enough resources to meet current SLAs?
  • Could the existing employees be redeployed to increase productivity and eliminate the need for a new tech?
  • How many net new client contracts would be needed to pay the annual salary of a new tech ($100K for full-time)?
  • Is there an adequate pool of skilled, local candidates?
  • Would outsourcing at least part of their help desk operations be a more cost-effective alternative?

When providers have complete confidence that their revenue projections will easily support making a full-time hire, the decision to recruit is a “no brainer.” Of course, if a number of variables have to be properly accounted for in order for most businesses to exude that level of self-assurance.

  • Are current clients satisfied with their service and willing to make a long-term commitment to continue that support?
  • Will they sign contracts that offer the same revenue opportunity for providers, without elevating their expenses?
  • Could new or existing rivals (local and national) threaten these current and future sales projections (assess the competitive environment)?

Of course, it’s not possible for any business owner or manager to be 100% confident in their predictions. But if their customer service levels and long-term client commitments are strong, with no major new competitive threats anticipated, those forecasts offer a good gauge of their future staffing needs. When team productivity is maximized, MSPs should assess their sales and support needs for the next 3-6 months to determine whether hiring more skilled professionals makes good business and economic sense.

If the full-time employee option is cost prohibitive or seems a bit too risky at this point in time, contracting with an outsourced help desk partner is a practical alternative. The right partner will complement MSPs’ existing services, filling gaps in coverage or augmenting the skills of their existing support team. They monitor and meet SLAs to ensure each client receives the proper level of attention, regardless of a provider’s current bench capacity (or skill level).

The decision to hire or outsource may seem difficult, but after some time reviewing the costs and benefits of each option, many MSPs end up leveraging both. They typically employ an outsource helpdesk to provide first-line 24/7 support, which frees up their in-house talent to focus on critical client issues and new business opportunities. That flexibility allows MSPs to pay more attention to building their business, rather than concentrating on the more routine operations that others can do more cost-effectively.

Are you considering options to improve your business’ productivity and scalability? Don’t forget to evaluate the possibilities that an outsourced help desk can generate.