If you run a business, you may have questions about the difference between a help desk and a service desk. And that makes sense. The two ideas are closely related, and “service desk vs help desk” seems like a matter of semantics. But in many industries, and especially in IT, each serves a different overall business goal.

Let’s take a closer look at the difference between a service desk and a help desk, and better understand what they do. Then it will be easier for you to pick the best desk solution for your needs.

a service desk employee at work

What is a help desk?

Generally speaking, a help desk is designed to be an incident-response tool for end users. That is to say, they are intended to operate as a short-term solution if something comes up.

DNSStuff explains that an IT help desk’s “break/fix” approach makes them task-oriented, with cases resolved one at a time as they come. In a way, a help desk is like an urgent care center; it focuses on individual end users and specific problems as they arise.“ In this way, help desks are reactive, providing customer service to end users.

As an example, suppose I work for a large company and my computer suddenly stops communicating with the printer in my area. I would contact the help desk, a service ticket would be generated, and a technician would either talk me through the solution or come solve the problem myself.

What is a service desk?

A service desk, on the other hand, is more comprehensive and holistic in nature. In many cases, as ITSM Tools suggests the business of the service desk “includes not only the kind of break/fix service provided by an IT helpdesk, but also service requests, questions, announcements, and updates.”

While the scope of individual services provided by a service desk will range by company and industry, a service desk may handle:

  • Service management
  • Asset management
  • Knowledge management
  • Problem management
  • Configuration management
  • Service delivery

And all of these, often in addition to the type of incident management that the help desk provides.

Because of the flexibility and comprehensive nature of the service desk, they are generally considered to be a single point of contact for users. Generally speaking, a service desk focuses on the bigger long-term picture, alongside the incidents and service requests.

By means of the same example above, if I contact a service desk for my computer having lost communication with the printer, the service desk may (depending on the needs):

  • Fix a connectivity issue
  • Contact the printer vendor for a system update
  • Check the asset management system to see if my computer needs a software upgrade
  • Contact other users who may be impacted by the outage

Picking a help desk vs service desk

The decision of service desk vs help desk will depend on the needs of your organization. If you think your company needs that “urgent care” approach, solving problems in a hurry when they come up, then the help desk may be for you. If you are at the point where you need a more comprehensive approach, then the service desk may be the better solution.

Remember that there’s no single solution that fits every business regardless of size. ITSM Tools offers some sage advice:

“It’s good to differentiate between fixing broken things (called incidents) and responding to a question or need (called service requests). The differentiation helps you keep track of the frequency, severity, and type of breakage on the one hand, and the demand for certain types of service on the other. You do not have to be using any particular framework or methodology to benefit from this; it’s simply good practice.”

But this differentiation may be very helpful for you in the help desk vs service desk decision, as well. If your organization tends to see more “incidents” then perhaps a help desk, while an abundance of service requests may suggest a need for a service desk.

Looking for an effective help or service desk software solution for your business? See how Wavity can help today!

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