As an IT services company, this is a question we get all the time:
Will offshore or overseas support work for our business?
It’s a legitimate question, and one that deserves a thorough answer because overseas IT support can be a very effective cost-saving measure.
The Growth of the Overseas Outsourcing Trend
Many years ago, large enterprises started outsourcing their IT services and support overseas to save money. Pretty soon, this practice spread into small and medium businesses and throughout every business segment. Initially, this outsourcing did exactly what it was supposed to do: it provided necessary IT support while saving the company money.
The problem that businesses began to face, however, was a dramatic decline in the quality of service and support. Sure, companies were saving money, but they were driving customers away because those customers would not tolerate the drop in quality of service.
Overseas support also caused the practical issue of language barriers. Strong accents made even simple communication very frustrating. This is a touchy issue that many people don’t want to discuss, but it’s a very real business problem. This is not an indictment of the overseas support people’s skills or abilities at all – it’s just a reality when two very different languages and business cultures are trying to communicate.
More than likely, you have experienced this yourself when you call for support for one of the products you own. I sure have. Every time I call AT&T for support with my home telecommunications services, it is a frustrating experience. Because the AT&T support representative on the other end of the line has a thick accent, the call takes two or three times as long as it should. We spend so much time trying to understand each other – and often I don’t get the resolution I need.
It’s no wonder many business owners and managers hesitate when it comes to outsourcing their support needs to overseas teams.
But. But! There are cases where overseas IT support can work.
When Outsourcing IT Support Overseas May Be the Right Move
When the support role requires limited interaction with staff and end-users, it can work well for businesses. This is especially true when the role is very technical.
Software development is a perfect example. This can easily be done by someone overseas at a fraction of the cost of local U.S. support. As long as the software support process is clearly defined and the technical requirements and specifications are detailed.
When outsourcing to overseas support is successful, these support resources end up costing the business less money, of course. But there’s a second benefit many companies don’t consider: the time zone difference.
Time zone differences are often an issue in real-time business operations. But with non-urgent technical support, it can be a good thing. If your support team is 8-12 hours different from your local time, and you log a support request during your workday, the support team will be working on that request while you sleep. So when you come into the office the next day, you should have an answer waiting.
When Offshore IT Support Fails
The more a support person has to interact with your staff or end customers, the more challenging it becomes – and the more the quality of service declines.
We have tried using overseas IT support for our clients, so we know this from experience. We had to pull the plug a few months in because the support didn’t meet our quality-of-service expectations.
However, we do still use overseas support for some internal tasks that do not require direct interaction with customers and do not require extensive interaction with our internal team.
The Answer Is: It Depends
In my experience, the likelihood that offshore IT support services will work for your business is directly related to the amount of interaction required.
The higher the interaction level, the lower the success rate.
Conversely, tasks that can be done with little or no interaction are very good candidates for overseas support.
A great example of tasks that would match well with offshore support would be routine research and list-building tasks.
If you need to have a support person contact or communicate with customers or staff – overseas support may not be a good move for you.
In summary, the potential for success or failure is dependent on the tasks you need IT support personnel to perform.