What is a help desk?

A help desk is a service platform that delivers simple solutions to IT issues for end users. When a customer has forgotten their password and needs to reset it, they may have to contact a help desk for support.

The primary goal of a help desk is to get a specific issue resolved as quickly and efficiently as possible. Typically, help desks are a small part of an organization’s broader service options. It is tactical, reactive, and focused on specific incidents.

What is a service desk?

Compared to help desks, service desks offer a more robust level of service. They can support incidents more complex than basic IT fixes and offer broader support options.

A service desk can act as the primary point of contact between service providers and their clients for any IT-related issues. For example, not only will a service desk solve a printer issue, it will make improvements to its current settings to make it more efficient.

While help desks are focused on the immediate problem, service desks look at big-picture issues and improve the business’s overall IT function. Service desks can be adopted outside of technical support to improve other business processes as well.

Service desks evolved out of IT service support management (ITSM) best practices with the goal of treating IT as a service. There are three main types of service desks:

Local service desks - These service desks are located in or near the clients, allowing for more customized support as service agents are familiar with the local environment.

Centralized service desks - Designed to serve an entire region, centralized service desks tend to be more efficient and cost-effective as they need fewer staff to handle a similar call volume.

Virtual service desks - By taking advantage of advanced service desk software, virtual service desks allow service agents to work remotely from anywhere. While it can also retain the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of a centralized service desk, it allows for support teams to be located anywhere and work remotely.

What’s the Difference Between ITSSM, ITSM, and ITIL?

Term Abbreviation Summary

IT service support management


Catch-all term that covers several IT service processes

IT service management


Management of end-to-end IT service delivery

Information Technology Infrastructure Library


Most widely accepted framework for ITSM

IT service support management (ITSSM) is a catch-all term that covers incident management, problem management, change management, service request management, and knowledge management. 

IT service management (ITSM) refers to the management of end-to-end IT service delivery from teams to end users. As previously mentioned, the core concept of ITSM is that IT should be treated like a service.

ITSM is more than just basic IT support. It covers workplace technology from laptops to servers and business software applications. Essentially, it covers everything involved in delivering IT to an organization.

The Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) defines the most widely accepted framework for ITSM. It has become something of a gold standard for helping organizations deliver ITSM in a cost-effective and quality-driven manner.

The ITIL best practices focus on different aspects of the service management discipline. They are designed to standardize the delivery of IT services with the goal of improving efficiency and predictable service delivery for the business.

Help Desk vs. Service Desk: Do You Need Both?

Those starting out with a help desk or service desk may wonder what the difference is and whether they need both. The reality is that in today’s world, the definitions for help desk and service desk are open to interpretation. 

How help desk and service desk are defined depends on several factors including the size of the organization, its processes, and its needs. Some IT experts believe that the terms service desk and help desk are interchangeable.

While help desks are designed for IT teams to fix bugs and troubleshoot, a service desk is designed for end users to manage interactions and service requests through direct communication.

Help Desk vs. Service Desk Software Features

Choosing between a help desk and service desk depends on how much functionality the business requires. One can start with a help desk and upgrade to a service desk as the organization grows. Here are some features one can expect from their service desk software.


Today’s best service desks support real-time, conversation-based ticketing and offer integration with popular platforms such as Slack and Teams. Since users are already using these platforms, getting support is as hassle-free as possible.

The conversational nature of chat-based support leads to faster ticket resolutions. The more complex the issue, the more time businesses save by using a service desk.

Incident Management

Incident management involves responding to unplanned events that interrupt or worsen quality of service. A proper incident management process will resolve incidents as quickly as possible with minimal impact to the business.

Request Management

Request management is the process of users submitting requests for something new, whether it’s accessing a service, purchasing a product, or requesting information. Service desk teams are responsible for fulfilling service requests and delivering customers the highest quality support possible.

A strong request management process is both customer and knowledge-focused while taking advantage of automation to streamline support. Users will feel empowered to seek help and get answers when they know their requests are being handled effectively.

Multi-Channel Support

The most popular service desks offer multiple channels for support so users can easily interact with service desk teams and speed up the ticketing process. Service desks can connect with channels such as email, self-service portals, mobile apps, web chat, and many more. 

As messaging apps continue to grow in popularity in the digital space, multi-channel support will continue to foster easy collaboration between agents and users. 

Self-Service Portals

A self-service portal serves as a “one-stop shop” to users looking for useful information curated by service desk teams. While they can be an effective first point of contact for those interacting with IT teams, self-service portals are only as good as the information that is made available.

Knowledge Management

Knowledge management involves the maintenance of organizational knowledge so it is available to those who need it. It receives inputs from other processes and, when done effectively, delivers information across the organization to resolve issues quickly.

Businesses with the best knowledge management processes make knowledge sharing a priority at the organizational level. Employees will not share information unless it is driven from the top-down and part of the company’s culture code.

Metrics and Analytics

Metrics provide IT teams with quantifiable measurements that help them manage their businesses. They are important for showing the value of IT to other areas of the business.

It is important for companies to choose the right metrics to track. However, there is no standard set of metrics that are considered the best. The best metrics for an organization to use depend on the nature of the IT team and overall business.

Automation and Integrations

Service desks use automation to streamline several processes including service team workflow, support, and request handling. Service desk automation takes advantage of chatbot technology to communicate with users. This allows businesses to use service desks as a communication platform for their brands.

Best Help Desk and Service Desk Software in 2022

Zendesk Support

Zendesk offers multi-channel ticketing and employee self-service portals in one central location, allowing service agents to interact with customers wherever they are. Whether it's through chat, email, or social media, IT teams can track incidents, create tickets, and handle requests while providing quality service.

Ada Support

Ada is a service desk solution that uses automation to deliver engaging interactions with customers. It uses advanced interaction AI to determine what customers want and integrates across all digital channels for the best brand experiences possible.

Solarwinds Service Desk

Solarwinds Service Desk is an enterprise solution for companies of any size, offering automation out of the box as well as asset management, ticketing, knowledge base access, and much more. It can be used to control inventory, organize documents, and identify compliance risks.

Hubspot Service Hub

HubSpot Service Hub is a service desk solution with an intuitive interface, consolidating customer data to provide personalized customer experiences. It also offers a universal collaborative inbox that automatically sends messages through the platform they were sent from, i.e. WhatsApp or web chat.


Intercom is a popular live chat tool that also offers help desk software. It is an easy-to-use option that includes tools for collaboration, automation, onboarding, and much more. Pricing starts at $74/month/user.

Help Scout

Help Scout offers a robust feature set that works for both small businesses and teams with more than 500 agents. It has service desk features such as native knowledge bases, ticket management, reporting, and support for third party and native integrations.


Freshdesk is a help desk solution that offers field service management tools, making it a great option for businesses that serve customers in their home or on the road. It consolidates customer information and messages for a streamlined support experience.

JIRA Service Management

JIRA Service Management is a cloud-based service desk software designed for IT, HR, legal, and other support teams. Features include conversational ticketing, incident management, self-service, and native knowledge bases.

Salesforce Service Cloud

Salesforce Service Cloud is a service desk solution from the makers of Salesforce’s CRM software. It works seamlessly with other Salesforce systems, which makes it a no-brainer for those who are already users.

Zoho Desk

Zoho Desk’s help desk software is focused on boosting support team productivity. It offers tools designed to find trends and insights to make support teams more efficient and customers happier.