Mark Ehr, who puts out an interesting weekly column on outsourcing for Network World magazine tackled outsourced first-level help desk support this week. (The column will eventually be posted here.) Mostly it was copy and paste from readers who commented on a former column. But in the course of the discussion, he referenced a product from Identify Software, called AppSight Black Box.
The program can be quickly deployed temporarily to a customer's machine over the Web or via email to capture various aspects of the wayward application. First-level support folks are frequently ill-trained and ill-supported to do much more than read from knowledgebase articles looked up based on keywords referenced by the customer. AppSight lets them use some intelligence to evaluate the situation — by seeing what's happening on the customer side. The help desk people I've worked with tend to be quite tech smart — they just don't always have the skills necessary to draw out enough information from users to help them figure out what's happening. If they can see the problems, they're better equipped to resolve them. And at the very least, the help desk person can forward the specs to the next level of support — which won't have to start from scratch and won't necessarily have to replicate the scenario in a lab.
If you're going to outsource the help desk function in your organization, look at it as an opportunity to improve your processes — not just offload it to another company. Seek out service providers that know and use tools like AppSight.