Help Desk vs. Service Desk: Which One Does Your Business Need?

Thursday, December 16, 2021

Understanding the differences between help desks and service desks doesn’t need to be complicated. Here's everything you need to know.

Article 4 Minutes
 Help Desk vs. Service Desk: Which One Does Your Business Need?

Service desks and help desks are both types of IT support that can benefit businesses with their operations and services, but which support option is the best, and what makes them different from one another?

What is a help desk?

A help desk acts as a single point of contact (SPOC) for customers to share their problems with a business and receive instant assistance.

The purpose of a help desk is to solve customer queries as fast as possible. Generally, a dedicated team will run the operations on a help desk. This team will manage issues brought to them by their customers such as technical issues, problem management and incidents.

An employee or customer can contact a help desk via phone, email, or even social media like Facebook.

Here are some common reasons a person might contact a help desk:

  • A customer having issues with a product e.g. a slow laptop
  • A customer having issues with a service or software e.g. website crashes
  • An employee having software or hardware issues e.g. their work keyboard not working

The benefits are clear: 86% of service teams agree that having a help desk system increases their productivity.

What is a service desk?

Similar to a help desk, a service desk acts as a single point of contact between a business and its customers. A service desk looks at overall business processes rather than finding resolutions to individual problems.

A business with a complex IT infrastructure will require a service desk. It offers a broader function that’s more strategic and cross-organizational.

A service desk takes into account informational technology services management (ITSM) elements such as request fulfillment and incident reporting. The end goal is to improve the service offered to customers by taking into account broader processes.

Here are common areas that a service desk can solve:

  • Customer and employee queries
  • Management queries e.g processes, incidents and problems
  • Admin

Help desk vs. service desk: Key differences

Help desk

A technical support service facilitates and streamlines the work of employees by putting things in order at work, classifying calls, offers operational assistance to end-users and uses tools to streamline their activities. Examples of these tools are an Excel file or any kind of unified accounting system. Whatever the support service chosen, a tool will be provided that will make life easier.

Service desk

A service desk is a contact point where incidents are received. The service desk works with the business to identify the problem, understand the impact of the incident and finally work out how to resolve it. A good service desk ensures that processes are defined, documented and followed throughout the life of an incident. It also provides customer care training to avoid common pitfalls experienced by the end user.

Key takeaways

Help desks use the break-it, fix-it process model. Service desks also cater to problems and offer the assistance to fix them, but take it one step further and develop the services required to improve a process.

For example, imagine that a customer calls with a broken laptop and needs a new one. A help desk would attempt to teach the customer how to fix it themselves or order them a new one.

A service desk would improve the way in which the employee can send the customer a new laptop. This could mean designing and implementing a new service that allows employees to seamlessly place order requests using the customer’s number on the line with one click.

A service desk is an evolved version of the help desk that focuses on meeting business objectives. Help desks are user-centric and focus on providing better customer service to the end-user.

Help desks offer instant assistance to problems as they arise. This is referred to as ‘reactive’. For example, if a server that goes down on an online game, the players will complain to the help desk and then the developers and technicians will then work to get the servers running again. A service desk would make long-term decisions on how to prevent the servers from crashing again.

Final thoughts

It’s now down to you to assess your business requirements and use your knowledge of the key differences to choose which IT support would meet your needs.

Small companies and startups would benefit from a helpdesk as it solves localized problems and is a great short-term solution to offer customer support.

Large companies with complex infrastructure would benefit from a service desk, to improve the business services with a long-term goal in mind.

Researching the market is important before you invest in either option. You might be surprised to find out that some IT solutions offer the best of both worlds, it all depends on your needs.

Bailey Hudson


Bailey is a freelance writer who focuses on technology, development and a quality industrial equipment and modern manufacturing. 


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