Help Desk Outsourcing Pricing Help:

How to Determine Costs &
Set Your Budget

How Much Will It Cost to Outsource Your Help Desk?

Businesses and institutions across the country are increasingly asking themselves that question, and with good reason: In a tight labor market, outsourcing is a smart way to get reliable IT help desk support without having to deal with the frustration of hiring.

But the decision has to make good business sense, too. How can you accurately determine not only the cost of help desk outsourcing, but also its cost-effectiveness for your business?

Read on to discover:

  • The different help desk outsourcing pricing models you’ll encounter, and how they work.
  • Contributing factors to consider in your IT help desk budget (and some sample budgets to get you started).
  • How to justify your investment by demonstrating an accurate ROI that looks beyond financial statements.
  • Help desk pricing tools that will help you determine the cost of your own help desk cost per ticket — and your costs per ticket for other levels of your IT support.

Ready? Let's get started!

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The Six Help Desk Outsourcing Pricing ModelsThe Six Help Desk Outsourcing Pricing Models

If you’re looking for a quick answer to, “What does IT help desk outsourcing cost?” you might be surprised to discover that we don’t have a single answer for you.

We have six answers.

That’s because outsourced help desk vendors charge for their services in one of six ways. No single model is better than all the others; each help desk outsourcing pricing model has its advantages and disadvantages.

  1. Per Ticket. You pay for each ticket your users generate, with pricing based on a monthly commitment and baseline. Multiple calls concerning the same ticket count as one ticket. This is the most common pricing model.
  2. Per Call. You pay for each call that the IT help desk handles on your behalf. If a ticket takes six calls to resolve, each call is billed.
  3. Per Minute. You pay for talk time or work time, typically calculated per minute or per agent hour. This is typically charged by firms with a customer service focus, rather than a help desk focus.
  4. Per Agent. You pay a flat rate per help desk agent. You’ll typically see this type of structure with staffing agencies who provide temp agents instead of dedicated outsourced services.
  5. Per User. You pay for all IT users. Managed Service Providers (MSPs) are more likely to use this pricing model.
  6. Per Seat. You pay for all users who use a particular application. Again, this model is common to MSPs.

How to Set Your Outsourced IT Help Desk BudgetHow to Set Your Outsourced IT Help Desk Budget

Once you have picked the pricing model that works best for you, you are ready to start creating a budget. You do this by reviewing your monthly metrics and then assigning dollar figures to each one.

Here are the metrics to include to get a clear picture of your unique IT help desk needs and environment.

Average Talk Time

How long will agents be on the phone with your users? Your average talk time can and should have a big impact on your budgeting process and partner selection.

If your average talk time is five minutes, for example, and another company has an average talk time of 15 minutes, you should expect your help desk costs to differ.

Generally speaking, if your average talk time is low, expect to pay less for outsourced help desk support than if your average talk time is high.

Help desks that field multiple short calls throughout the day have more resources to help you resolve your technical issues. This lowers your operating costs because it lets the help desk supplier leverage their resources on your behalf.

Inbound Versus Outbound Calls (Sort of…)

Outsourced help desks are in the business of resolving calls that they receive. But sometimes an agent has to make the phone call themselves, to follow-up on a ticket or reply to a contact request.

Some help desks look no further than the fact that making an outbound call ties up the agent and prevents them from answering the phones, so they tout having a high inbound call rate. And while it’s true that outbound calls should be kept to a reasonable minimum, this metric is missing some important context … unless you accompany it with the next metric on our list.

New Tickets Versus Follow-Ups

Some users call the IT help desk to report a new issue. Other users call (sometimes more than once) to follow-up on the status of an open ticket.

These follow-up calls add to the workload of your help desk — and too many of them can be a big red flag. If 20% or more of your calls are requests for follow-up, backlog happens — and more resources will be required to handle the volume. Here are some general guidelines to let you know just how resource-heavy (or not) things might get.


When establishing your help desk outsourcing budget, it’s important to have a realistic assessment of the current picture — not only will it help you gauge your help desk’s level of maturity and what resources will be needed, it will also help your outsourcing partner best plan how to optimize their resources and relieve your burden.

First Call Resolution Rate (FCR)

The amount of money you must budget for outsourced help desk services also depends on the percentage of tickets your help desk can typically resolve on the first call. The more calls that can be resolved quickly, the less your cost per ticket.

However, this may be more complex than it reads. How?

If your help desk is resolving issues that are complicated and require more time to resolve, which in turn increases your agent’s talk times, then you may need more staff to handle that workload, which increases cost.

This is why it’s so important to ask about FCR with potential partners. In some cases, low first-call resolution rates are typically a sign that a vendor has inexperienced agents, not enough agents, a poor internal knowledge base, poor training, poor processes or any combination of the above.

In others, it simply means they tend to handle a lot of particularly complex issues that simply can’t be effectively resolved on that first call, driving down their FCR rate.

Either way, you won’t know unless you ask. Make a point of asking about the complexity of the issues they deal with, and what types of issues get handed off to higher-tier support or slated for follow-up. You want to make sure you’re not going to be financially penalized for choosing a vendor who simply can’t handle basic tech issues.

The Costs of Shadow IT

If you’re considering outsourcing because your employees or customers are not currently happy with the IT support they're receiving, you’re potentially saving your company a lot of money … and headaches.

Why? Because if people aren’t satisfied with their IT support, they're going to find somebody else to help them — whether it’s their colleague, or a helpful Reddit stranger with a link to a workaround.

Poor support from IT drives underground support, also known as shadow IT — in which people who are not part of your IT department troubleshoot technical issues on their own or for others in your organization.

This turns into a hidden cost: How much time is being spent by non-help-desk employees on guiding your employees through tech issues? Additionally, how much cybersecurity risk (and compliance risk) are you facing if employees go rogue with their IT support? You should factor the cost of shadow IT into your budget, because your outsourced help desk — if they do their job right — will largely eliminate these costs and risks.

Other Hidden Costs to Consider

Finally, when it comes to monthly IT support contract pricing, you should consider the other things that affect your budget:

  • Staff models: Ratio of Tier 1, Tier 2 and Tier 3 staff (the higher up in the Tier, the more they cost). Also consider the ratio of agents to supervisors and managers.
  • Coverage: The more hours per day and the more days per year you need coverage, the more you pay.
  • Business needs: The amount you pay for outsourced help desk support depends on where you are in your business. Startups require a different level of support than established brands. Companies that are launching new technology products or implementing new internal technology have greater IT support needs than businesses that are conducting business as usual.
  • Complexity of support: How complicated — or simple — are your IT support needs? Companies that use Microsoft 365 and not much else pay less for outsourced IT help desk support than complex manufacturers that have ERP software, IoT devices, proprietary applications, APIs and multiple sites.
  • Ancillary support staff: Some IT help desk vendors have ancillary support staff beyond their front-line help desk agents. If you use these staff, you must factor this added cost to your budget.
  • Licensing: Does your outsourced IT help desk have a software tool that your internal IT folks must also use? Factor monthly licensing fees into your budget.
  • Training: Are you required to train your outsourced help desk on your proprietary software, unique IT infrastructure or any other area of your business? Add this line item to your budget.

A Sample Outsourced Help Desk BudgetA Sample Outsourced Help Desk Budget

As we learned earlier, the most common pricing model in outsourced IT help desk services is Cost Per Ticket.

With Cost Per Ticket, you pay a flat fee per month based on the number of tickets your users or customers generate by calling the outsourced help desk. You should know what your cost per ticket is for your own help desk before you discuss costs with an outsourcer. You must total your monthly operating expenses and then divide it by your monthly ticket volume. Only in this way can you do an apples-to-apples comparison between outsourcing and keeping things in-house.

Operating expenses fall into five categories (from largest to smallest):

  1. Salaries and benefits of agents
  2. Salaries and benefits of support staff
  3. Technology and telecom (computers, software licenses, telephone headsets)
  4. Facility (office lease, utilities, insurance)
  5. Other (training, travel, supplies)

Your results may vary, but you should expect the expenses of your IT help desk to break down something like this:

Figure 1 Worldwide Service Desk Cost Breakdown (1)-1


In dollar figures, these monthly costs might look like this:


(This final dollar figure of $25,000 is for illustrative purposes only.)

In the above illustration, monthly operating expenses represents four full-time help desk agents at an average salary of $40,200 per year. One full-time support staff person at approximately $57,000 per year and additional overhead costs such as facilities, technology and training. If your help desk monthly ticket volume is 1,000, then your cost per ticket would be approximately $25 per ticket (monthly operating expenses divided by monthly ticket volume).

The key thing to know is what your cost per ticket is today. Don’t forget the hidden costs section, because if you aren’t offering 7x24x365 support today and you want your outsourcer to provide that, your current cost per ticket won’t be an apples-to-apples comparison. Figure out your own costs now so you have a baseline to start with.

Showing ROI

If you’re planning on investing in outsourcing your IT help desk, you need to be able to justify the investment by proving ROI.

You do this by first understanding that your current level of investment in your internal IT help desk is more than just financial. Your investment also includes emotions, time and effort.

Ask the following questions to decide if outsourcing will pay off the way you want it to.



How does this investment contribute to the bottom line of our business? How is this the most effective use of our capital? How does this impact our business financially?



How will this investment increase customer satisfaction? How will this improve overall perception of IT? How will this reduce stress for both our help desk agents and our customers?



How does this investment reduce end-user downtime? How does this increase available capacity? How will this increase efficiency?



How does this investment advance your business goals? Why is this the best use of resources? By doing X, or by not doing X, how can this be done more easily, or be eliminated?

Once you get the complete picture on your current level of investment and what you are getting in return, you are in a position to measure the ROI you will generate by outsourcing your help desk. Try one of the cost calculators in the next section to help you.


Help Desk Cost CalculatorsHelp Desk Cost Calculators

We have put together a few tools to help you calculate your own help desk costs and other IT support costs more quickly.


Help Desk Cost Calculator

This calculator allows you to quickly input your actual staffing and other related costs discussed in the sample budget section and produce your own Cost Per Ticket for your current help desk.

IT Support Cost Calculator

Are you looking for a more in-depth help desk cost analysis? Then this calculator is for you. The IT Support Cost Calculator is a comprehensive tool that lets you input IT costs and other direct and indirect expenses. For example, you can input costs associated with each tier of your IT support. It will then calculate the Cost Per Ticket for each tier of support, allowing you to see the significant difference between tickets resolved at the help desk versus escalating to a higher-cost tier.

Help Desk Outsourcing Pricing_ Finding the Best ValueHelp Desk Outsourcing Pricing: Finding the Best Value

The key thing to remember about help desk outsourcing pricing isn’t how much you pay. It’s how much you receive.

Remember, outsourcing is an investment. And all good investments deliver a measurable return. Your outsourced help desk should help you easily meet the top 10 challenges of operating a successful help desk. And do so cost effectively.

By the way, here at Global Help Desk Services, Inc., we charge you using the most transparent, predictable and fair pricing model — cost per ticket. You pay for each unique help desk ticket that we generate on your behalf, and you pay for nothing else.

We charge no hidden fees. We don’t keep you on the phone as long as possible just so we can bill you extra by the minute. Instead, we charge an agreed-upon amount per incident. Controlled costs, no surprises and better ROI.

Are you interested in seeing your company's actual cost per ticket? Then, try our quick Help Desk Cost Calculator below or our more comprehensive IT Support Cost Calculator and understand your current help desk costs today.


Help Desk Cost Calculator

The amount of tickets handled by your help desk per month.
Percentage of costs to cover direct and indirect items such as benefits, licensing, office space, supplies, and equipment. (Typical minimum is 25% of an employee’s salary, median average is 35%).


The number of staff working at the help desk.
Your average monthly payroll cost for help desk agents
Annual Cost Monthly Cost Cost Per Ticket

Support Staff

The number of staff that support the help desk (e.g., Team Leaders, Trainers, Quality Assurance, and/or Subject Matter Experts)
Your average monthly payroll cost for support staff
Annual Cost Monthly Cost Cost Per Ticket


The number of managers who directly oversee the help desk, staff and agents
Your average monthly payroll cost for managers
Annual Cost Monthly Cost Cost Per Ticket
The amount of tickets handled by your help desk per month.
Percentage of costs to cover direct and indirect items such as benefits, licensing, office space, supplies, and equipment. (Typical minimum is 25% of an employee’s salary, median average is 35%).
  Quantity Salary Annual Cost Monthly Cost Cost Per Ticket
Your average monthly payroll cost for help desk agents
Supporting Staff
The number of staff that support the help desk (e.g., Team Leaders, Trainers, Quality Assurance, and/or Subject Matter Experts)
Your average monthly payroll cost for support staff
The number of managers who directly oversee the help desk, staff and agents
Your average monthly payroll cost for managers

Your Help Desk Cost Results

Total Annual Total Monthly TOTAL PER TICKET

It’s Your Call

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