What is the Difference Between Service Desk and Help Desk

Spread the love

In this tutorial, we will discuss about the difference between Service Desk and Help Desk. In this chapter, we will clearly define the borderline between Help Desk vs Service Desk, the most misunderstood terms of ITIL.

Help Desk vs Service Desk: Introduction 

Having previously discussed in the ITIL Service Desk Chapter, possibly you have found that they share similar features as part of the IT Service Management (ITSM). But, practically, they have distinct differences, which were first defined in the Information Technology International Library (ITIL V3) 2007 edition.

Prior to the release of ITIL V3 2007, Service Desk and Help Desk terms were used interchangeably as the difference between these two was unclear. In ITIL V3, they finally provided clarity about the differences.

Service Desk was defined as a management component (strategic component) in the overall ITSM process, whereas Help Desk was described as a component of Service Desk that primarily focuses on end-user services.

Hence, the difference between helpdesk and service desk is now pretty much clear.

Service Desk: Managing Corporate Strategy 

The Service Desk according to ITIL is the single point of contact (SPOC) between IT users and the IT management. It handles the process of communicating information through defined service management processes. When users have issues or inquiries that are related to IT service or component, the service desk is the first point they need to contact.

According to ITIL best practices, Service Desk primarily emphasizes in following the defined step-by-step process of handling IT services or components. This is considered to be the most promising factor for improving the corporate strategy of the enterprise.

The Service Desk typically includes help desk as a component and have an overall goal of improving the IT and business processes across the organization. It also searches for the ways to run all the IT processes (including the Help Desk) to run more efficiently.

[See Also: Different IT Support Levels of Service Desk]

Some key attributes of the Service Desk are:

Help Desk: Managing the Needs of the End Users 

The primary focus of Help Desk is to satisfy the needs and demands of the end users. Managing error reports and providing concise solutions, Help Desk is also responsible for performing various functions including incident logging, incident tracking, managing error reports, and providing a concise solution to the problem.

More precisely speaking, the Help Desk is a subset of Service Desk. The final goal of the Help Desk is to resolve end user issues and requests as quickly as possible while maintaining the highest level of service quality.

Some of the key characteristics of the Help Desk are:

  • Works as a subset of Service Desk
  • Act as a single point of contact (SPOC) for IT Support and end users only
  • Use a tracking mechanism (software/portal) for all incoming incidents
  • Automated ticket tracking, assignment, and email notifications
  • Basic tasks related to Incident Management and Problem Management
  • Offers some limited integration with other ITSM Processes
  • Provide level 1 support (sometimes Level 2 also) and pass incident ownership if further escalation is required
  • Problem resolution by maintaining timely follow-up and escalation procedures
  • Managing the Knowledge Base
  • Adhere to the defined Service Level Agreements (SLAs) and escalation matrix.
  • Self-Service Help Desk options for end users

Service Desk vs Help Desk: Key Differences

Below are the key differences between Service Desk and Help Desk.

  • The concept of help desk was born of around 1980s, whereas the concept of service desk was evolved after the popularity of ITIL.
  • Help Desk meant for helping end users in using IT services or components. Service Desk is an ITIL-espoused approach for delivering IT as a service.
  • The Help Desk provides end users a place to contact when they face specific IT issues. The Service Desk takes care of overall IT processes and components that interact with each other on the process level.
  • A help desk is considered to be more focused on providing immediate fixes to issues, whereas Service Desk is focused on maintaining the IT service across the organization.
  • Help Desk is meant to works on the concept of Incident Management. But Service Desk has to work with multiple processes such as Incident Management, Problem Management, Request Fulfillment, Change Management etc.
  • A Help Desk can be thought of as an add-on to existing IT activities, whereas the Service Desk is thought to be a part of the entire IT service delivery lifecycle and IT support ecosystem.
  • According to ITIL V3, Help Desk is a tactical move by the corporate to facilitate quick resolution to incidents, whereas Service Desk is a part of organization's strategic move.
  • A Help Desk can be considered as a subset of Service Desk due to their limited scope and capabilities.

Can a Company Use Help Desk and Not Service Desk or Vice Versa? 

There are no particular rules about that, all depends on the business requirement. If a company does not require advanced or integrated IT service, they may opt for Helpdesk instead of Service Desk.

The goal here is to establish a primary contact point to reduce the wait time and get the issues resolved as quickly as possible.

On the other hand, the Service Desk has to facilitate all the Help Desk functionality along with managing inter-process communication and follow-ups. The Service Desk typically reflects the corporate strategy and ensures proper functionality of every other ITSM processes.

Basis on the business requirement, many organizations are only operating with Help Desk, whereas many others are running formal Service Desk. Finally, the type of service desk solution you should adopt largely depends on the type of service you are providing and the type of people you are serving.

Here are some assessments you must carry out before choosing between Help Desk and Service Desk:

Enabling a Mobile IT user solution: A means to provide more self-service and user enabled capabilities in your end user’s hands, thus removing some extra pressure from the Service Desk and Help Desk.

Enabling Business or Process Automation:  This determines the level of automation you want to integrate within your system to help drive greater efficiency, responsiveness, and standardization in your service management operations. Service desk allows you to implement a higher level of automation for every IT process your organization follows.

Providing an Intuitive User Experience: How much you want to empower your users by making it easy for them to get the required support, service, and information.

Better decision-support capabilities: Service Desk has the scope to integrate actionable intelligence that can help your organization to manage the growing challenges while delivering effective service even in a highly complex environment. It can achieve this by providing your teams with detailed performance information, diagnostic data, and actionable knowledge.


We hope that you have enjoyed the above article describing the difference between service desk and help desk. Be with us to explore free training on Leading Technologies and Certifications.

Leave us some comments if you have any questions or doubts about the differences between help desk vs service desk, we will be happy to help you.

If you like our articles please like our facebook and twitter page to receive notifications on recent and updated contents.

Spread the love
Posted in ITIL Foundation and tagged , , , , , .

I'm passionate about Information Technology & spreading my knowledge makes me happy. I Have MBA(IS), ITIL, PRINCE2, CCNA, CCNP, MCSA, MS Hyper-V Certifications, and Trained in PMP, CCIE. And also have 10+ Yrs of Work Experience.
I wish you all the best in your career !!!!

0 0 vote
Article Rating
Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments