What is a help desk?

A help desk is a group, department, or external service that users contact for assistance through various channels.

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What is a help desk?

A help desk is a place where customers can ask questions, get help, or give feedback about the product. On the Amazon website, for example, it’s easy to find a way to get help. In the bottom right corner is a big section called “Let us help you.” The section mainly features links to educational resources. However, you can also contact the support team directly by clicking “Customer Service” and then “Contact us.”

A help desk could also be a physical place where you go to ask for help. Imagine an office with support staff who are there at their working times. Even though more and more vendors are switching to online support, you sometimes still have to meet in person. Like when you bring in a hardware device to fix. Employees in the office may choose the offline support team because it’s faster than waiting for an email response.

IT help desk

In information technology (IT), a help desk is a customer service support team that provides assistance to users of IT products and services, such as software, hardware, or networking equipment. It is responsible for troubleshooting technical issues, answering questions about the use of the product or service, and providing support for installation, configuration, and maintenance. In addition to providing technical support, IT help desks may handle non-technical inquiries. For example, billing or account management issues. A help desk is a term describing both the online portal where customers come if they have issues and the team behind this portal is called the help desk.

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Online help desk vs. old-school help desk

An online help desk is a type of customer service platform that allows users to access support and assistance online. This typically happens via a website or a mobile app. Online help desks provide users with convenient, self-service access to support and assistance. They may include features like a knowledge base, a ticketing system, a chat or messaging feature, and reporting and analytics tools.

An ordinary help desk, on the other hand, is typically a physical location where users go to get help with IT issues. IT support staff is available there in person or over the phone.

Online help desk advantages

There are a number of significant advantages offered by online support desk:


Anyone can access online help desks from anywhere, whereas ordinary help desks are typically only accessible in person or over the phone.


Online help desks include self-service features such as a knowledge base or ticketing system, which allow users to find answers or request assistance without the need for direct interaction with support staff. Ordinary help desks typically require direct interaction with support staff.


Online help desks are more convenient for users, as they can access support and assistance at any time and from any location. Ordinary help desks may have limited hours of operation or may require users to physically travel to the help desk location.

Common help desk features

icon of help desk person with headset and gear

Ticketing system

The ticketing system allows users to submit support requests or “tickets” to get help with any issues or problems they are experiencing. Once a ticket is submitted, it is out to the appropriate support technician or specialist, who will resolve the issue as quickly as possible. That helps the users get the assistance they need in a timely and convenient manner.

icon of a person surrounded by books

Knowledge base

Knowledge base is a resource that helps users find answers to questions or solve their problems. It includes a wide range of information, such as troubleshooting guides, FAQs, user manuals, and other documentation. By searching the knowledge base, users may be able to find a solution on their own without direct assistance from a support representative.


This allows users to communicate with support technicians or specialists in real-time through the web-based platform.

The structure of the help desk team

The structure of a support team can vary depending on the size and complexity of the organization, as well as the type of products and services being supported. In general, however, a support team is typically composed of a combination of technical and non-technical staff who work together to provide assistance to users.

At the most basic level, it may include a small group of support technicians who are responsible for answering incoming calls and providing assistance to users. These technicians may work under the supervision of a team leader or manager, who is responsible for coordinating the work of the team and ensuring that all inquiries are handled promptly and effectively.

In larger organizations, a help desk team may be organized into different levels or tiers of support, with each level responsible for handling different types of inquiries. For example, a first-level support team may handle basic technical issues and triage more complex problems to higher-level technicians or subject matter experts. A help desk team may also include specialists in different areas, such as software support, hardware support, or networking support.

Regardless of the size or structure of the team, the goal of a help desk is to provide timely and effective assistance to users, helping them to resolve issues and get the most out of the products and services they are using. Using more advanced Help desk software makes it much easier to  improve the organization and efficiency of a help desk team by automating and streamlining key processes, providing access to information and resources, and enabling collaboration and communication among team members.

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Help Desk vs. Service Desk

As a functional division within a company, a help desk can have different names, such as customer service, customer support, technical support, IT support, and support desk. That is why, when you see the term Service Desk, you may be tempted to put it into the same category. However, ITSM practice distinguishes between a Help Desk and a Service Desk. (Read more about what ITSM is in this article)

While help desks bring value by jumping in to resolve customer problems immediately, the efforts of a service desk are proactive. It is a function that creates a strategy for corporate IT service management, which may include defining and tracking SLAs, highlighting and solving the root problems, and aligning the IT team’s efforts with the business goals.

In an organization, a help desk is predominantly a part of a service desk.  Read more about differences here.

How can a help desk benefit organization

There are several benefits of implementing a help desk within an organization:

Improved customer satisfaction

A dedicated support team is available to assist users with issues and answer questions, which can improve customer satisfaction and increase the overall effectiveness of the support team.

Enhanced efficiency

Key processes, such as routing support requests and tracking the status of inquiries, can be streamlined and automated, improving the efficiency of the support team and reducing the time it takes to resolve issues.

Increased transparency

Analytics and reporting tools often allow managers to track and analyze the performance of the support team, identifying trends, areas for improvement, and optimizing the use of resources.

Improved problem-solving

Access to a wide range of resources and expertise, including troubleshooting guides, FAQs, and subject matter experts, can expedite the resolution of complex issues and improve the overall effectiveness of the support team.

Greater scalability

The support team can be easily scaled up or down to meet changing needs, useful for businesses with seasonal fluctuations in demand for support services.

Enhanced security

A secure platform for handling sensitive customer information, such as billing details or account passwords, can protect customer data and reduce the risk of security breaches.

Help desk software and automation

Organizations uses specialized software to automate help desk processes and manage large volumes of queries without sacrificing assistance quality. There are many business problems that help desk software solves. Below are just a few of them.

Automating of complex support workflows.

You can outsource to software such multi-stage business processes like:

  • configuring different levels of support,
  • assigning tickets automatically according to the employee’s skills or workload,
  • escalating tickets when the due date expires,
  • notifying stakeholders of ticket status changes,
  • and gathering feedback from requesters after resolution.

Workflow management in modern ITSM solutions like Alloy Navigator allows for this and much more.

Collecting data for data-driven decisions: in team management and managing customer sentiment.

With all customer support interactions happening in one place, you can gather insights about customer experiences and your team’s performance. For example, you can measure things like average ticket resolution time, customer satisfaction rate, or more complex indicators like the percentage of tickets assigned to the group of technicians with specific skills that went unsolved. Use this data to evaluate support agents’ personal performance, optimize team practices and eventually save costs.

Preventing IT team’s overload by providing self-service resources.

Every requester thinks their problem is unique. However, chances are, your team has tackled similar situations before. With an online portal equipped with self-help tools like a knowledge base and a service catalog, your support specialists can focus on the issues that require special attention.

Gathering customer inquiries across various channels.

Whether your agent communicates with the customer in a messenger, via email, or in the chat widget on your homepage, help desk software keeps track of all these conversations. Which means you won’t lose any inquiries. Moreover, it’s much easier for customers to stay in channels they already use.

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