Help Desk vs Service Desk What’s the difference

Help Desk vs Service Desk: What’s the difference?

Do you need a help desk or a service desk? Or maybe you need both? In this guide, we'll explain the difference between service desk and a help desk, and help you decide which one is best for you.


November 8, 2022

7 mins read

At first sight, both of these terms, help desk and service desk, seem quite similar. In fact, it’s easy to think that they refer to the same thing.

Both the help desk and the service desk fall under IT Service Management (ITSM), after all.

Similarly, both service and help desks aim to solve customer issues

And yet, they are quite different at their core.

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In this article, we’ll show you the difference between a help desk and a service desk.

And we do have a lot to cover, so let’s get right to it.

Help desk vs service desk: what’s the difference?

As we’ve mentioned, both terms are often used interchangeably. And as you’ll shortly see, they do have an overlap. But they also refer to two different things, and the main difference between them is what either the help desk or service desk is being used for.

In a moment, we’ll walk you through each of the terms in detail. But for now, let us briefly explain the main difference between a help desk and a service desk.

  • A help desk is a place customers (or company employees) go to when they have a problem with a product or service. This is where we all turn to for solutions or even to understand why a particular problem with a product occurs. The help desk is also where we usually get those issues resolved.
  • A service desk, on the other hand, is often a more internal resource that provides broader IT support. A typical service desk would include proactive services like managing service requests, change management, and continuous improvement initiatives. As a result, the goal of a service desk isn’t just to fix a problem but to provide overall service and support for the company’s technology and infrastructure.

Still confusing?

Let’s go through both, a help desk and a service desk in a more detail, then.

What is a help desk?

The help desk is the first point of contact for employees and customers with the business. The help desk makes sure all customer problems are quickly addressed and solved. It’s user-centric and assists users who have questions about your product.

For instance, in the IT help desk, customers can reach out to the help desk if they have problems with their computer hardware, software or other technology.

Customers can contact a company’s help desk via phone, email, live chat etc. Let’s say you have an Apple product that starts acting up, contact Apple’s help desk, and they’ll resolve your issue.

The sole purpose of setting up a help desk is to solve end users’ problems. It solves break/fix issues without considering any long-term strategies regarding the business. You can integrate the help desk into the service desk or let it conduct independent operations.

Examples of help desk functions:

  • Upgrade security on a laptop
  • Fix a printer
  • Help customers set up their new systems.
  • Encounter a bug

How does the help desk function?

The primary function of the help desk is to solve customer issues and fix tickets. So their work process is pretty simple.

  • A user raises a ticket and registers an issue.
  • The help desk receives information about the issue via email or app notifications.
  • Depending on the company protocol, the help desk assigns the ticket to the available technician based on their skill set.
  • Now, the technician can:
    • Solve the issue right away
    • Interact with customers for more information
    • Escalate the issue if he fails to solve it
  • The technician provides updates to the customer about the ticket status-completed or not.
  • Upon finishing the ticket, the technician updates the knowledge base to reuse the information if another similar case arises.

Why do you need a help desk?

A help desk is responsible for customer support —a crucial aspect of your business. Zendesk’s study suggests that three out of five customers would repurchase from a brand with excellent customer support. The data backs up the existence of a help desk. It serves other purposes as well:

  • Solves Customer Queries: The help desk is a one-stop shop for solving customer queries. It’s the first point of contact between your company and customers. They can contact the help desk anytime to resolve their issues.
  • Maintains a Knowledge Base: It tracks customers’ issues in the knowledge base. If any similar query arises in the future, the help desk will solve it quickly. Some companies allow customers to access the knowledge base where they can solve their queries themselves. It only makes sense since 79% of customers expect companies to provide self-service opportunities.
  • Increases Productivity: The help desk fastens the issue-tracking process. Since it quickly analyzes and categorizes issues, they can be sent to specific departments for solutions. With such systems in place, your agents can be more productive.
  • Gather customer data: The help desk tackles customers’ problems first-hand and records questions and solutions. You can then use this data to track customer behavior and find loopholes in your product. For instance, if you know which part of the product causes the most problems, you can deploy teams to fix it.

What is a service deck?

A typical service desk is meant to ensure the proper delivery of services to your clients, employees and customers. These services include order management, requesting new assets, maintaining older assets, legal consulting or human resources.

The proper delivery of services also includes customer support. That’s why the IT service desk acts as the single point of contact between the service provider and the user.

Service desk software aims to solve business issues to improve the overall business functionality. The functions of a service desk include problem management, report generation, analytics and project management. The service desk is also responsible for building a smooth communication bridge between multiple departments, customers, and the company.

The service desk manages user communication on top of solving problems. The service desk doesn’t just fix an issue; it’s responsible for the overall user experience when they come for customer support. It aims to provide long-term efficient customer service instead of solving immediate problems.

Example of a service: Upgrading the company’s software is a great example that explains what a service desk is.

First, the service desk will analyze the requirements for new software and find issues with the old one. They’ll also ensure that the new software provides significant ROI for the company. So, even though they’re upgrading software —which seems like a fixing job— there’s much critical thinking involved in the backend.

Other examples of what a service desk does are:

  • It conducts service requests like new employee onboarding
  • It focuses on knowledge management with articles like how to fix my printer
  • It handles communication channels like chat, phone, and emails, where queries can come from

How does the service desk function?

A typical day for service desk support includes managing business operations and solving the problems of employees. They are your organization’s troubleshooting arm, so they always have to be alert for customer calls.

Any delay in response can cause the company to lose the customer. Zendesk’s study shows that 61% of customers would switch to a competitor after only one bad customer service incident.

Here’s how the service desk works:

  • They receive customer calls and send them into the queue for the available Subject Matter Expert (SME). The SME tries to solve the issue with previously available data and notes.
  • If the SME fails to solve the issue, the service desk escalates the issue to Level 2 SME in the help desk, and then they try to solve it.
  • Meanwhile, the service desk is responsible for updating the customer about the ticket’s progress. They share the details about what’s happening and when the customer can expect a response.
  • The service desk’s job doesn’t end with a resolution. It also follows up with the customer in case another issue occurs. In that case, the issue restarts.

Why do you need a service desk?

The main purpose of a service desk is to help improve your business’s internal functions. It solves employees’ queries and makes sure no issue hampers the daily functions of your business. Here’s why you may need service desk capabilities in your business:

  • Provide insights: A service desk provides efficient insights into your company’s internal performance. Keep an eye on recurring requests and track how customer support solves them. It allows you to pinpoint bottlenecks in your product and improve them over time.
  • Bridges the communication gap: The service desk bridges the gap between the IT department and the rest of your business. It lets other departments share their queries and receive a solution they understand. This allows better coordination among employees.
  • Solve business-related queries: It acts as a single channel to drop queries for all business departments. All employees —IT, human resources or legal—can report the problem via a single channel through a service desk. You can store, record or share conversations from one place.
  • Boost employee satisfaction: Since the service desk smoothens communication and problem-solving, it increases employee satisfaction. They find all solutions from one department and don’t have to chase hierarchy to find answers.

Differences between the help desk and service desk

Differences between the service desk and help desk depend on your organization’s size, maturity level and customer needs. The core difference between a help desk and a service lies in their names. The help desk provides immediate help to the end user, while the service desk focuses on solving long-term issues. While the help desk needs to be agile and prompt, the service desk needs to be tactical and analytical.


Help Desk

Service Desk

Help desk is user-centric.Service desk is business-centric.
The help desk focuses on short-term goals like fixing a bug.The service desk focuses on the overall long-term goals like ensuring an issue doesn’t reoccur.
The help desk works on a ticket management system and follows the break-fix approach.The service desk system covers different aspects of delivering a service such as incident management, change, storing knowledge and asset management.
The help desk is tactical, reactive and prompt.The service desk is strategic and analytical.
The help desk Is a small subset of the service desk due to its limited scope. The core function is to fix customer issues.The service desk emcompasses all the services provided by a department. Customer support or ticket management is only one part of overall service strategy.
The help desk is a stand alone department which provides self-service capabilities to the customers. It doesn’t require much man labor.The service desk has more complex functions. For example change, release, asset and Configuration Management Database (CMDB) management. It requires more human resources.

Service desk vs help desk: Does the difference matter?

If you look closely, you’ll find that the help desk is meant to solve customer problems, and the service desk aims for internal business improvements. The service desk can surely take care of customer issues as well, but it still would have a dedicated department for that —the help desk.

So, the service and help desks can co-exist in your business. It depends on whether you want to integrate both and let the help desk work independently. Consider your company size and customer service requests in week/month. If your service desk is equipped to solve both business and customer issues by itself, you don’t need a separate help desk.

But suppose you have a large company with many employees and customer issues requiring more structured IT support. In that case, separating the service desk and the help desk is a good idea. They both can co-exist on their own.


It’s hard to draw a concrete line between the help desk and the service desk —you don’t need substantial differences to make them work. Their functionalities differ from company to company. Moreover, the help desk becomes an integral part of the service desk if it doesn’t operate independently. The core difference is that the help desk’s sole function is to solve customer queries, while the service desk aims to resolve business issues and improve the business internally.

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Sanjana Sankhyan is a freelance writer who specializes in delivering data-driven blog posts for B2B SaaS brands. She helps businesses attract more audience and sales with her writing. If not writing, you’ll find her helping other freelancers improve their work. Find her on LinkedIn or Twitter.

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