What Is an IT Service Desk: The Capabilities, Benefits & Distinctions


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ITSM, IT service desk, and help desk are three commonly interchangeable terms used when referring to a business’s IT end user support. But that’s not the case, as they all have their own unique features that help keep IT operations running smoothly. In particular, an IT service desk, which operates as the single point of contact (SPOC) between a provider and a user.

What Is an IT Service Desk?

An IT service desk is a proactive and strategic approach to managing a business’s IT requests and incidents. A service desk takes a much broader approach to IT support tasks than that of a help desk, which provides a more ad hoc approach. A key requirement of a service desk is the use of multiple ITSM activities, such as:

  • Asset management
  • Incident management
  • Problem management
  • Service level agreement (SLA) management
  • Knowledge management

The IT infrastructure library (ITIL) describes an IT service desk as “the single point of contact between the provider and the users. It manages incidents and requests, and also handles communication with the users.”

What Is an IT Service Desk

The role of an IT service desk may sound familiar with that of a business’s help desk processes. But, whereas a help desk will take a more reactive approach to provide end users with support, the role of an IT service desk is to proactively improve all IT tasks at a more strategic level.

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How Does an IT Service Desk Work?

The function of an IT service desk is to act as the single point of contact (SPOC) between an IT organization and an end user. This enables a service desk to handle a variety of requests that include distribution to support, setting user passwords, and troubleshooting account issues. In order to do this, the right tool must consist of various core responsibilities that revolve around request fulfilment.

Controls Incident Management Protocols

The overall goal of an IT service desk is to completely control the incident management process. This involves restoring services as quickly as possible, which enables SLAs to be met and end users to resume work. Typical incident management protocols include:

  • Support
  • Resolution
  • Reporting
  • Logging and prioritizing

Improves Asset management

An IT service desk will serve as a central system for all staff within an organization. This means all hardware, software, cloud, and digital assets are stored in one accessible asset register. Allowing for ease of information retrieval, maintenance planning, and more.

Provides Self-Service Tools

Tools, in the form of detailed knowledge bases and FAQs, are an effective way of allowing end users to find solutions without having to contact a service desk technician. In recent times where more employees are working from home, the use of self-service tools has never been as important. In fact, 91% of support desks plan to offer extra self-servicing options in the future.

What Are the Benefits of an IT Service Desk?

From reducing costs to easing scalability processes, an IT service desk can transform the IT landscape of any customer-focused organization. So much so, that businesses are able to reap various benefits when choosing to deploy a tool.

IT Service Desks Boost Productivity

IT service desks are renowned for their role in helping to quickly remove and solve any snags that employees encounter. Not only does this get end users back to work faster than manual methods would allow, but it also enables businesses to better plan and track their IT-related strategies. The ability to find a fix for end users in a short amount of time is due to the various capabilities and features of a platform. Most notably, these include:

A key factor in increasing first-time fixes and boosting productivity is businesses choosing to embrace a live chat support function. While most service desks are still contacted by phone (98%) and email (85%), 31% of service desks are now using live chat to provide support.

Improve the Service Experience

Users within an organization depend on IT professionals and technicians to support their daily activities. But as a business scales, support teams start to become inundated with IT issues, meaning the level of service a user receives can suffer. That’s where the use of an automated IT service desk is the perfect solution.

End users are able to track the status of their tickets and receive helpful updates regarding their issues. And, when a technician isn’t available, they’re presented with a self-service portal containing a library of fixes and solutions.

Increase Communication & Visibility

Whether focusing on managerial tasks or employee updates, visibility in an IT organization is essential. With the use of an IT service desk, visibility is increased throughout the company. This allows staff members of all departments to know what is happening in all areas of the business such as current technical issues and the location of IT hardware.

Detailed Reporting & Analytics

A major benefit is being able to gather data in order to help make informed and strategic decisions. Businesses are able to highlight abandon rates, response times, and regular issues, allowing them to improve their IT services.

Not only does a service desk’s reporting metrics offer insight into an end user’s needs and wants, but it also allows businesses to highlight where their support can improve. By using key performance indicators (KPIs), support managers know which of their agents is more capable than others when providing technical support. This is particularly helpful when it comes to solving high-prioritized tasks for users such as managers and executives.

Service Desk Vs. Help Desk: What’s the Difference?

The nature to use the phrases ITSM, help desk, call centres, and service desks interchangeably has led to much confusion when it comes to IT support tasks. But, make no mistake about it, they all have their own roles and responsibilities. Knowing these key differences is important, particularly when understanding the roles of an IT service desk and knowing what a help desk is.

What Is a Help Desk?

A help desk is situated at the heart of a business’s customer support operations to provide accurate and efficient solutions to an end user’s problems.

Help desks typically consist of a team of support staff that act on behalf of a business to provide support in the most effective way possible. By doing so, businesses can provide customers with exceptional service – whether that be to external customers or internal customers (employees).

By deploying protocols that focus on delivering end user support, help desks enable businesses to:

  • Drive customer and employee satisfaction
  • Deliver a level of support that matches competitors
  • Improve customer retention rates

A business’s help desk processes can also be automated, with the use of software-as-a-service tools such as Help Desk Software. By digitizing customer support operations, the tasks of a support team are streamlined and can increase the overall efficiency of a help desk.

IT Service Desk vs. Help Desk

An IT service desk has a broader range of tools when compared to a help desk. For instance, it is responsible for:

  • Delivering a service to end users
  • Managing service requests
  • Employee onboarding
  • Metrics management
  • Infrastructure monitoring

Whereas a help desk is mainly responsible for:

  • Providing help to users
  • Delivering a reactive fix to problems
  • Tracking and managing tickets
  • Building knowledge bases

IT Service Desk vs. Help Desk