The important difference between Help Desk and Service Desk

Provide and receive support faster by understanding what sets these two resources apart. Before the IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL) framework was established, the terms “service…

emmanuel-WcrqKjgMPfI-unsplashProvide and receive support faster by understanding what sets these two resources apart.

Before the IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL) framework was established, the terms “service desk” and “help desk” were used interchangeably. Even today the two are sometimes confused, repeatedly leading to workplace lectures on how and why they differ from each other.

So once and for all, what exactly is the difference between the two?

A Help Desk focuses on end user needs.

A Help Desk, also known as technical support, provides end users with support and useful product information. Help Desk personnel use extensive technical knowledge to troubleshoot customer issues and/or guide them through specific tasks and actions.

Corporations usually provide Help Desk support through various channels such as toll-free numbers, websites, instant messaging, or email.

How does Help Desk work?

When unexplained software glitches and error messages obstruct workflow, the Help Desk provides incident management to ensure customer problems are resolved quickly.

Help Desk engineers perform the following tasks:

  • Issue Resolution
  • Basic Incident and Problem management
  • Acting as a single point of contact (SPOC) for IT Support
  • Issue tracking
  • Escalating customer issues to the appropriate engineers
  • Generating regular reports on issue volume, response time and turnaround.
  • Providing insights to improve an organization’s service-level agreement.

In smaller organizations, there could be just one or two representatives providing support, while Help Desks at bigger companies typically take a multi-tiered troubleshooting approach. The basic support levels vary based on organization size:

  1. Tier-1 Support is the first level of customer support. The customer representatives have a basic understanding of their company’s products and provide customers with workarounds and tips to resolve their problems. To achieve this, Tier-1 support engineers usually access resources in the technical knowledgebase. When the Tier-1 support engineers cannot satisfy a customer, they raise a ticket and pass the issue along to Tier-2 support.
  2. Tier-2 Support is staffed with engineers who have a deeper understanding of the product; they have troubleshooting capabilities beyond the Tier-1 engineers and the technical skills necessary to investigate issues thoroughly. Tier-2 is in charge of reproducing the issues, investigating the causes and providing resolutions. Should they be unable to settle a customer’s problem, they pass the ticket over to Tier-3.
  3. Tier-3 Support. Normally, Tier-3 support involves developers. Before investigating a customer’s case, they collect all available data from Tier-1 and Tier-2. Tier-3 handles complex product/system issues and debugging.

A multi-tiered Help Desk can be an efficient and well-received model. However, a significant problem arises when engineers rely on passing an issue up the ladder more often than attempting to resolve it, claiming it’s not their problem nor do they have the competence to address it. Thus the multi-tiered Help Desk approach can lead to slower resolution times and frustrated customers.

Regardless of an organization’s size, a Help Desk should always be available to assist its customers and to minimize service interruptions both proactively and reactively. As a best practice, incident tracking tools are used to ensure that no issue goes lost or unaddressed.

A lot of businesses have a Help Desk but not all have a Service Desk…

A Service Desk focuses on corporate strategy.

The Service Desk addresses both customer and employee issues of an organization. It’s completely Process-Focused and aims to resolve everything within the organization’s IT Policy and Guidelines.

There are three typical types of Service Desks:

  • Call center
  • Contact center
  • Help desk

How do Service Desks work?

Service Desks are responsible for processes that are critical to business success. They not only define these processes, but are also in charge of product and process monitoring, auditing and updating existing SLAs, internal and external communication flow, and taking the proper actions to ensure business continuity, all while supporting the customers themselves.

Service Desk engineers use a range of tools and solutions for asset management, change and configuration, troubleshooting and the many additional tasks that fall under their purview.

Service Desk engineers are responsible for:

  • Solving issues at hand
  • Process-focusing
  • Problem and Incident management
  • Asset management
  • Change and Configuration Management
  • Meeting communication needs of both customers and IT personnel as a SPOC
  • Addressing IT concerns of all departments, applications and business processes
  • Issue tracking

The Service Desk should have the overall goal of improving IT and business processes across the entirety of an organization.


A Service Desk is a necessary ancillary for businesses to operate and evolve, shaping the way IT personnel offer and deliver their services both internally and to customers.

A Help Desk is just a single component of a Service Desk, tactically focused and concerned exclusively with end user functionality and customer satisfaction.

How Impero assists Help and Service Desks

When Impero first delivered enterprise remote access software over 30 years ago, our focus was entirely on the traditional help desk.  Our industry-leading tools for supporting colleagues and customers – both within and beyond local networks – continue to set the standard for person-to-person remote support.  As our customers’ needs have evolved over time, so has our technology.  Today, Impero leads the way in supporting unattended devices and embedded technology – with broad platform support, secure tunneling and easy management of headless devices.  From clean manufacturing rooms to medical equipment, from building automation systems to ATMs, we’ve built on our legacy of helping the help desk to serving the service desk.

Talk to us to learn more about how Impero can meet your support and service needs – today and in the future.

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