What is the Difference Between Help Desk and Service Desk?

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what is the difference between help desk and service desk

There is no right or wrong answer. Many people refer help desk and service desk to be the same and others feel it to be different.

You can throw a question at us asking “Does it matter if you use the term help desk or service desk to describe IT support?” Yes, it does, as you might be underselling or overselling each capability unknowingly.

If you are a non-technical person, then definitely it’s confusing, even technical professionals misuse these terms frequently. So, let’s understand this IT jargon first. In this article, we will explore the differences between help desks and service desks, the huge misconception of service centers as a call center, and what is IT help desk support.

As mentioned above, there is no right or wrong answer, it largely depends on the functionalities you need for your organization. By the end of this article, you will be able to tell the differences, and what functionalities are required for your organization. So, let’s get started.

What is Service Desk?

As per ITIL definition, the service desk is “The single point of contact between service provider and its users”, who can be businesses, organization, or a company. It is a key component to manage the overall process from a strategic perspective, reviewing IT processes and functionality.

A Service Desk is a communication center where customers can find help or solutions for their IT service issues. It manages incident and service requests and handles communication with users. The service desk has a help desk component as part of it, but its overall goal is to improve the IT and business processes across the organization.

It includes multiple ITSM activities such as:

  • Service request management
  • Incident management
  • Knowledge management
  • Self-service
  • Reporting

A service desk thus becomes a means that fulfills these requirements to provide full-fledged IT services.

Key features of Service Desk include:

  • Acts as a single point of contact for all IT applications and business processes
  • Tracking service level agreement
  • Fully integrated with ITSM processes
  • They integrate and communicate with the configuration management database

Service desk are more service-focused and customer centric when delivering IT solutions to customers or users.

What is Help Desk?

Help desk is a part of the service desk with a tactical, day-to-day role in responding to end-user needs. Tactical refers to short term, concrete plans that satisfy strategic objective. As per Merriam-Webster definition, “a group of people who provide help and information usually for electronic and computer problems”.

It can be an entirely distinct or a subset of a larger service desk operation. This overlap creates widespread confusion between the service desk and the help desk.

The primary goal of the help desk is to solve users’ problems quickly and meet their immediate needs such as technical issues or incidents. Help desks are reactive but are expected to be efficient. The focus of the help desk is to fix issues and is often limited to incident management.

Key features of a help desk include:

  • Single point of contact for IT support
  • Basic self-service options for end-users
  • Tracking all incoming issues and incidents
  • Automated ticket tracking, routing, and email notifications
  • Offers basic incident and service management
  • Provides level 1 and level 2 support and can transfer ownership when escalation is required
  • Limited integration with other ITSM practices like knowledge and configuration management

It can be isolated or part of a larger service desk operation to improve the overall organization’s customer services. The focus of the help desk is to fix issues and is often limited to incident management.

Is Service Desk a Call Center?

It absolutely is a “No”, many a times people get confused with these technical terms and use them interchangeably, but they are not the same. Simply put, the Service Desk provides and manages services, whereas the call center receives and manages calls, emails, and chats.

A customer support representative assists customers with incident resolution or service requests, it manages departmental knowledge, it offers self-service to customers who wish to resolve incidents faster and independently. It provides metrics on the team and the effectiveness of the tools. They are service-focused and customer-centric when delivering support to customers.

On the other hand, the call center is a team that is armed with the technology to supervise, handle, and track the performance of the phone calls received or made by a business. It is the heart of customer service for many organizations, where customers call for help and representatives call out for sales.

There are mainly two types of call centers – Inbound and Outbound.

  • Inbound Call CentersThey receive calls from customers for any customer support queries. It originates from the customers and not the call agents. They often serve to provide information for tech support, billing queries, and other customer service issues. Inbound call centers focus on quick call resolution.
  • Outbound Call CentersOn the other hand, outbound call centers are where call center representatives make calls rather than receive them. These could be sales calls, marketing promotional offers, surveys, or debt collection from customers.

What is IT Help Desk Support?

It is a centralized team within or outside the company that serves employees, customers, or end-users to provide the information and support related to the company, its products, and services. A help desk team efficiently manages customer communication to help businesses respond to customers quickly and efficiently.

It allows the support team to offer the best experience to its customers. It helps to keep the ticket process clean and keep all interactions with customers in one place. It helps agents to do their best job with a great customer experience.

Their main goal is to quickly resolve end users’ immediate needs related to technical issues and incidents. They are reactive in nature but efficient and faster. Many companies have set up help desks to respond to the technical questions of their users.

The questions and answers are usually transferred using e-mail, telephone, website, or online chat. Ideally, the help desk handles requests by using help desk software or an issue tracking system, which enables to keep track of user’s requests using a unique identifier, find solutions to common queries easily and prioritize cases, etc.

Key Takeaways

You don’t need to know what kind of services you want, but you should know what kind of support experience you want to create. Hence summarizing key differentiation of help desk and service desk as follows:

  • The help desk is an IT dependency, whereas the service desk is focused on IT Service-centricity.
  • The help desk provides solutions, whereas a service desk provides service.
  • The help desk is tactical, whereas a service desk is strategic.



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