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Service Desk vs. Help Desk: What Are the Key Differences?

Service Desk vs. Help Desk: What Are the Key Differences?

The IT industry is riddled with jargon and so many acronyms that it can be hard to keep track of them all, especially since new technologies are constantly emerging. To the uninitiated, the lofty terms and processes loosely thrown about at conferences, office meetings, and in technical articles quickly start to blend together and are easily confused. The two IT concepts we most often see conflated or misused are service desk (or IT service desk) and help desk (or IT help desk).

The reason you shouldn’t use these two terms interchangeably is that the scope of their support isn’t equal. In fact, you might be overselling or underselling your business capabilities if you don’t get them right. Service desk and help desk aren’t synonymous. The help desk provides businesses with quick fixes to their IT issues while service desks focus on areas like customer service and other macro aspects of your business model. This article underscores the key differences between the service desk and help desk in IT to reinforce a better understanding of how to evaluate the scope of these services.

What is a help desk?

Help desk service operations support your company’s end users with simple fixes. If a password needs resetting, for example, your employees would reach out to the help desk for assistance. The typical smart-sourced help desk agent isn’t deeply familiar with your company, and their integration into your business operations is limited. The main objective of a help desk is to solve specific, usually non-revenue generating tasks, as quickly as possible.

Help desk services cover:

  • Problem management and escalations
  • IT incident tracking
  • A suite of self-service options for end users
  • A single point of contact (SPOC)

Help desk services constitute only one portion of the broader suite of service options.

What is a service desk?

Like a help desk, a service desk is a single point of contact that handles incidents and service requests. What sets it apart from a help desk is that the service desk facilitates communication with end users. Essentially, the service desk represents a centralized hub where your staff and other stakeholders can seek help for their IT issues. A dependable service desk solution should expedite high-quality IT services to customers and resolve their problems quickly to avoid unnecessary downtime.

Service desks incorporate several IT service management (ITSM) activities like service request management, knowledge management, reporting, and other self-service features. Service desks also handle problem and change management processes on behalf of your company. When your employees contact the service desk, they should expect a fast resolution of their urgent IT issues. At the same time, the service desk takes it a step further by actively generating and managing departmental knowledge while providing critical metrics on your IT team’s performance.

Not all service desks are the same, and the scope of the service models can vary substantially from company to company. The important piece to remember is that desk services are more comprehensive than help desk services. Service desks offer robust, customer-centric support and a SPOC for your entire organization.

Service desk vs. help desk services

Desk services evolved out of the help desk model and are based on the service delivery concept of managed IT as a service. Let’s take a closer look at a few differences between the service desk and help desk services and how the two are distinct from each other.

  • The help desk came about first, emerging from mainframe computing and is IT-centric.
  • The help desk came about first, emerging from mainframe computing and is IT-centric.
  • The service desk focuses on IT but is customer service-centric, emphasizing communication with end users.
  • Help desks provide support while service desks facilitate required services to end users.
  • Service desks deliver IT services in support through the broader “service lifecycle” ecosystem.
  • Help desks manage service requests when aspects of your IT aren’t properly functioning.
  • Service desks focus more on your long-term strategic initiatives, while help desks aim to resolve short-term IT issues that are easily resolvable.

Despite the significant differences between help desks and service desks, more than 40% of businesses that deploy them call the services something else. And although we’ve laid out the industry standard for what defines the two services, there’s no assurance that they will align with these descriptions in the real world. Since the two terms were used so interchangeably during the 2000s, many businesses still maintain that there is no fundamental difference between help desk support services and IT help desk as a service.

Why is it important to distinguish between help desk and desk services?

Knowing the difference between a help desk and a service desk matters because your want to ensure you select the right desk software for your business. Your service desk represents the point of interface between your internal and external customers and your IT department. The service desk helps you facilitate critical aspects of your operations like knowledge management and reporting.

Ideally, your service desk should be easy to implement and foster a collaborative business environment that will adapt to your IT requirements as your business evolves. The more simplified help desk approach can be fruitful, as well. If you only need a solution that tracks issues and who is resolving them, a dedicated help desk too may be the preferred option.

Think of the help desk as a tool for support, while the service desk assists you with carrying out your long-term strategies and provides a more comprehensive customer service platform than the typical help desk solution.

PCH Technologies and IT support services

Help desks and service desks are great tools for resolving your IT issues. For more on which services are right for your business, reach out to the experts at PCH Technologies today. Fill out our online contact form or dial (856) 754-7500 now to learn how our unmatched IT support services can permanently resolve your technology issues.