Differences between Help Desk and Service Desk services

Have you ever wondered what the difference is between a service desk and a help desk? These terms are often incorrectly interpreted or used interchangeably, but they actually have some key differences to remember.

In fact, according to version 2 of the ITIL methodology (IT Infrastructure Library), the term Service Desk meant the same as Help Desk.

However, the version released in 2007, ITIL v.3, clearly defined the difference between these two terms. Thus, the concept of Service Desk was described as a managing component in the overall IT service management (ITSM) process, while the concept of Help Desk was defined as a component of the Service Desk system, mainly focused on end-user support.

The widespread implementation of the ITIL methodology in large companies led to the popularity of the term Service Desk, which was understood as the technical support services of companies. A study conducted by HDI Connect in 2015 found that 36% of companies use the term Service Desk, and another 23% use the term Help Desk to designate their customer support centers.

What is a Service Desk?

As stated in the ITIL glossary from 2011, a Service Desk is "The Single Point of Contact between the Service Provider and Users. A typical Service Desk manages Incidents, Service Requests, and interacts with Users." Essentially, the Service Desk is recognized as a logical extension of the Help Desk service's evolution. It was born within the framework of ITIL and was based on the basic concept of "managing IT as a service."

The Service Desk typically encompasses a set of functions inherent in the Help Desk service but is not limited to them. For example, it includes functionality such as a traditional ticket management system or customer self-service capabilities. It may also include various additional modules designed to address other issues. These modules are not only related to customer service, incident management, problem management, change management, release management, knowledge management, asset and configuration management, personnel management, and so on. They are designed to improve internal processes and organizational management and to promote company growth and development.

Despite the fact that Help Desk and Service Desk services have similar functions, there are several significant differences between them.

Help Desks are User-Oriented / Service Desks are Company-Oriented

The main function of a Help Desk is to process incidents and service requests. Help Desks are intended to promptly resolve issues that arise for clients and reduce client wait time. Ideally, a client's problem should be resolved during their initial contact with the company. Effective request handling is the basis of Help Desk operation in many organizations. Therefore, Help Desks are considered oriented towards ensuring the operation of the company's products for end-users.

Service Desks, on the other hand, are more focused on meeting the needs of the company than on working with client requests. Instead of simply responding to incidents and fulfilling client requests, the Service Desk studies IT and business processes, and its goal is their constant improvement. Thus, Service Desks are oriented towards business tasks and improving business processes.

Help Desk Software:

1. Typically contain a ticket management system and customer self-service functionality.

2. Are tactical and reactive tools.

3. Focus on solving end-user problems.

4. Utilize a break-fix approach in their work.

5. Often can function with minimal staff.

Service Desk Software

1. Include incident, problem, change, knowledge, and asset management modules.

2. Are strategic and proactive.

3. Focus on long-term service strategies.

4. Practice a holistic approach that aligns with company business goals.

5. Typically require more human resources.

Help Desks are Part of Service Desks

The most significant difference between Help Desks and Service Desks is that Help Desk services, due to the limited tasks they perform and the functionality of the existing tools, can literally be considered part of the Service Desk.

Service Desks offer a wider range of more complex services. This is in addition to ticket management systems and the integration of business processes into a single service management infrastructure. Most Service Desk software available on the market can be used as Help Desk systems. But not vice versa. Many organizations include Help Desk services as part of their Service Desk.

Help Desks are Reactive, while Service Desks are more Proactive

The Help Desk system is an isolated software solution that performs ticket management tasks and organizes customer self-service functionality. The Service Desk software is a more complex system that has a full set of IT management functions. It is integrated into other IT service management processes and can provide advanced services. Such services include change management, release management, asset management, CMDB (configuration management databases), and more.

Help Desk or Service Desk: Which one to choose specifically for you?

Help Desk services are designed to meet the current needs of end-users. In addition, they are usually configured to operate in a break-fix format. Therefore, if something goes wrong, the user sends a ticket to the company to resolve the issue. This means that Help Desk services are, by nature, reactive. Despite the fact that Service Desks also perform a number of reactive tasks, their main function is still to proactively ensure the clarity of IT processes in the company.

The appropriateness of using either of these options (or both simultaneously) depends on the type and size of the company, the complexity and development of its internal processes, as well as the needs of this company and its clients. If integrated IT services are not needed by the company, in this case, a Help Desk system may be sufficient. However, if the company plans to provide more structured technical support, then, in most cases, Service Desk software will be more suitable.

Leaving aside definitions for a moment, it should be noted that any proper customer service tool, whether it's Help Desk or Service Desk systems, must be flexible enough to adapt to the individual business needs of each specific company and enable it to provide its customers with a high level of service.

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