Understanding Help Desks Vs Service Desks - How Are They Different?

Understanding Help Desks Vs Service Desks - How Are They Different?

In business, a lot of seemingly similar terms are used interchangeably. However, when you dig down a little you’ll find that there are differences, which can cause confusion if you’re in the dark about them.

Help desks and service desks are an ideal example. On the surface they seem identical, but the reality is that they do describe different components of a broader IT support infrastructure.

Let’s clear things up by talking you through what each involves, and covering the roles that they play in companies today.

Service desks dissected

In brief, service desks deal with requests made of a provider by a user. The user can be an employee of the organization, or a customer.

From basic troubleshooting to more in-depth incident response orchestration, service desks encapsulate many responsibilities. They are even involved in things like managing transitions when new solutions are rolled out, or when updates are implemented which significantly change how an existing product operates.

Help desks unpicked

The simplest way of thinking about help desks in contrast to service desks is that they generally have a narrower purview.

Issues will be raised, and help desk team members will step in to fix them, tracking cases through a ticketing system that lets them stay on top of what can be a significant workload. A comparison of help desk ticketing systems reveals just how much automation is used to make life easier for support teams today.

So while service desks will encompass all sorts of functions, with the quality of the user experience at the heart of the operations, a help desk is all about responding to problems and solving them efficiently.

Understanding the difference in more detail

In a sense, help desks are encompassed within service desks. This is an approach that a lot of businesses adopt, to the point that there is no real distinction between the two.

However, one thing to remember is that each of these support strata came about in different eras of IT’s evolution.

The help desk harks back to a time when everything was hosted on-site, and so businesses would need to be able to fix their own problems, whether related to hardware or software housed locally.

The service desk has emerged due to the increased outsourcing of all things computer-related, with the rise of cloud-powered IT shaping this trend.

So while you might get in touch with a help desk if a device or software solution suddenly exhibits unusual, disruptive behavior, you could call a service desk if you had a more holistic request, such as for a change to how the platform functions at a fundamental level.

Why does any of this matter?

Clarity is important in any aspect of running an organization, so whether you’re a service provider or an end user, you need to be on the same page as everyone else who’s involved in any interaction with you.

If you’re using help desk and service desk interchangeably, this will obviously create the potential for a mix-up when you engage with a third party that has a more solid definition of these two aspects in mind.

Also, it can be useful to have a help desk set aside as a distinct unit within a wider service desk team in your own organization, for the aforementioned incident response as much as anything else.

Final thoughts

Don’t be too concerned if there is overlap between help desk and service desk duties. This is often inevitable, even if you’ve been unambiguous in distinguishing them from one another.

The most important thing is that you are proactive in improving IT service quality, and in helping users enjoy the best experience possible.