What is a help desk?

IT help desks provide answers to users’ technical questions related to products and services.

At their most basic, help desks are locations where employees can request and receive assistance with IT-related problems, particularly in regard to products, services, and in-house tools, platforms, and devices. In some businesses, a help desk may be as simple as a single experienced employee with a deep understanding of relevant technologies and the solutions to commonly-encountered problems. In larger, more-established businesses, help desks may consist of teams of experts backed by dedicated software tools designed to help track and analyze IT issues as they arise.

The main advantage of a help desk is that it gives your IT users, employees, a reliable resource for remediating problems and requesting services. But help desks offer other advantages for IT organizations as well, including the following:

Unifying support channels

Help desks bring together different support channels into a single, unified location. A help desk application can seamlessly transfer customers from one channel to another without interrupting the conversation. Support channels include a service portal, virtual agents, mobile application, integration with common collaboration tools, and a walk-up experience for in-person conversations.

Evaluating IT support agents

If IT agents are using personal inboxes to handle emails, there is a lack of visibility into what they are saying, if they are saying the right thing, and how many cases they are handling. Help desks can gather essential information to help track agent growth and productivity, and provide you with the data you need to help improve your support services mean time to resolution (MTTR).

Providing insight into employees and customers

Tagging and analytics software provide insights into what is important to your employees and customers, based on their past interactions. You can paint a clearer overview of their needs and wants, allowing you to create a more-personalized support experience. Reliable customer awareness also provides you with actionable insights into your own product, services, and tools.

Offering self-service options

Although live-agent IT support options are valuable, there are many customers who would rather find solutions on their own. Help desks backed by a robust knowledge base give these employees and customers the answers they want to self-solve their issues 24/7.

Automating vital tasks

Help desk automation allows teams to automate mundane, repetitive tasks. This may include sending out updates to employees, notifying agents or specific teams, and assigning incidents to the correct resolution teams.

Help desks exist to provide employees with important IT support in a way that is reliable, fast, and convenient to access. To accomplish this, they depend on several core components.

The right people

Even with the world’s most-advanced technologies at your fingertips, at the end of the day, the success of your help desk will depend heavily on how well your IT support agents interact with employees. Staff your help desk with individuals who not only demonstrate IT aptitude and expertise, but who also have the interpersonal skills to patiently work with employees to resolve issues.

A strong ticketing system

Support incidents and requests are records that allow a support team to monitor progress as they solve employee issues, allow multiple agents to collaborate, and have a wider overview of the support experience. Omnichannel ticketing systems support a help desk as they track, prioritize, manage, respond to, organize, and resolve IT cases.

An effective issue tracker

Issue trackers allow an IT help desk to record issues and defects customers experience within a software product. This allows IT support agents, managers, and engineers to track the issue until it has been resolved while also providing timely update notifications to employees who are waiting for answers.

Analytics

Help desks gather valuable data on services, operations, and employee customer satisfaction while providing insights into the performance of the IT team members. This analytical data can provide essential insights for improving your services and your business. Performance analytics enable stakeholders, including workers, owners, and executives, responsible for service delivery to make smarter, real-time decisions. These analytics empower users with data visualizations to anticipate trends, prioritize resources, and drive IT alignment with business goals.

Self-service

Your on-staff experts are there to handle difficult IT issues and help workshop unique solutions; if they must spend all of their time resetting passwords, they’re not providing you with the best possible value. Self-service options empower customers to find solutions to common problems on their own, without having to loop in a live dedicated IT support agent.

Employee customer feedback

Help desk software builds employee customer feedback into processes by providing the opportunity to automatically reach out to employee customers after an issue resolution to see if the customer is satisfied with the service they received.

Customization

Although most help desks provide the same basic service, no two businesses are going to demand the exact same functionality from their help desks. As such, there is no out of the box, one-size-fits-all help desk solution. Instead, help desks must be customizable, integrating apps and automations where needed, to better serve your employees and your IT department.

Although companies of all sizes can benefit from an IT help desk, the specific needs that a help desk addresses may vary depending on the size of the company.

Smaller and mid-sized businesses

It’s important to be delicate with employee customers, as growing businesses, with fewer employees, means that each interaction needs to be very carefully aligned to help you go above and beyond for each employee customer. Everything from answering questions, to phone calls, to fulfilling special requests requires a level of commitment that will differentiate you from competition. A good help desk system will assist with functionality and scale with your small company as it grows.

Enterprise and large enterprise businesses

Larger organizations need faster collaboration between teams—especially those outside of IT support. It can be easy for requests to get lost between multiple teams. The faster and more aligned the IT services team is with your operations and development teams and departments, the better you can serve your enterprise-level employee customers.

Customer satisfaction

When customers receive fast resolutions to IT-related issues, they are more satisfied with the services delivered. This satisfaction leads to customer loyalty, repeat business, and eventually increased revenue.

Employee satisfaction

Every second your employees are scratching their heads trying to figure out solutions to IT problems is a second that they aren’t working toward growing your business or assisting customers. But more than that, having the support of an effective help desk demonstrates your commitment to your employee’s success, leading to improved employee satisfaction and engagement.

Grow your business more efficiently

While there are many different equations for business success, satisfied customers and engaged employees are certainly essential factors. The right help desk helps you retain valued customers and skilled staff, so that you can grow your business.

A help desk is not a service desk; though similar, they serve different functions.

IT help desks are more tactical and focused on helping employees resolve their IT issues. An IT help desk can be separate from a service desk or be part of the overall service desk solution. Some traits of help desks include:

  • Providing levels 1 and 2 support
  • Pass incident ownership up the ladder if needed
  • Display self-service options
  • Offer basic incident request management
  • Configuration and knowledge management
  • Acts as a single point of contact for IT support

Service desks are broader in function, more strategic and cross-organizational. They address larger business needs rather than solely focusing on the needs of an employee. Typically, service desks do have a help desk component, but it is part of the larger goal of proactively improving IT and business processes across your organization. Some traits include:

  • Full integration with ITSM processes
  • Single point of contact for all IT areas
  • Tracking SLA compliance
  • Provide self-service capabilities with an integrated service catalog
  • Integrating and communicating with the CMDB

As you prepare to implement your help desk solution, keep these considerations in mind:

  • What will the help desk deliver?
    A help desk usually receives basic requests and provides help resolving issues, but it can also be a more centralized location for managing customer service and building a knowledge base. The scope of your help desk is completely up to you and should fit the needs of your business.
  • How much staff will you need?
    Although automation and other technologies can take you a long way, you will still need dedicated experts to help staff your help desk and provide essential insights. As you evaluate your help desk options, keep in mind just how many employees you will need to hire, train, or reassign to make it work.
  • What are your priorities?
    Categorize, prioritize, and assign tickets based on business requirements. Consider Service Level Agreements (SLAs) with customers and how you will use technology to fulfill those SLAs.

What are your goals?
Not all organizations need the same type of software. Consider your needs and the size of the software and whether it offers the proper scope of features to help you achieve your business objectives.

ServiceNow provides the services that your organization needs to run an efficient and effective IT help desk to benefit your customers and your employees.

ServiceNow provides increased value by bridging work across multiple teams, registering their microservices, correlating observable data, automating changes, and predicting failures—all while keeping your existing tools intact. Streamline face-to-face IT support requests with Walk-up Experience’s online check-in, real-time queue estimates, and automated notifications help employees manage their time, while improving the service experience.

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