What is a service desk?

A service desk is the main contact point between users/service providers, handling issues, refunds, and more. A common example is the IT Service desk.

Acting as communication centres where users can request help and receive IT support, IT service desks are also designed to address broader business needs, and increase the user’s tech experience in the workplace. IT service desks facilitate communication between other service management and the user community—usually the organisation’s employees and other stakeholders. They also play a role in capturing change requests, maintaining third party contacts, assisting with problem management, and managing software licences.

Service desk is integrated into a range of processes, including:

  • Data access
  • Acquisition integration
  • Supplier and partner onboarding and offboarding
  • Employee onboarding
  • Business continuity
  • Reporting and metrics management
  • Infrastructure management
  • Service monitoring
  • Incident management
  • Request management
  • And more...
What is a service desk graphic

Often, businesses will use the terms ‘help desk’ and ‘service desk’ interchangeably. But while these tools share certain similarities, IT help desks and IT service desks serve different functions within an organisation and have different sets of goals.

Help desks are more tactical, and help resolve end users’ needs, issues, and incidents. A help desk is usually reactive in nature, and is meant to provide fast and efficient remediation to specific problems as they arise. They can either be part of or separate from larger service desk operations. Some key traits of help desks include:

  • Using tracking for incoming incidents
  • Offering basic incident and service request management
  • Providing levels 1 and 2 support, and escalating issues as needed
  • Providing basic self-service options for end users
  • Acting as a point of contact for IT support

Service desks function in a broader sense, and are more strategic. They usually service wider business needs rather than only focusing on solving a user’s needs. The goal is to be proactive in improving IT processes within an organisation, and they are used to identify opportunities to run IT processes more efficiently. Some key traits of service desks include:

  • Full integration with ITSM (and/or ITIL) processes
  • SLA tracking
  • Self-service with an integrated service catalogue
  • CMDB communication and integration
  • Full lifecycle change management
  • Problem management
  • Workforce and vendor optimisation

IT service desks are highly beneficial to companies of all types and sizes, regardless of their service or product. It is crucial for a company to provide a point of contact between customers and an IT department so that customers can have their issues resolved in a timely and effective manner, and IT teams can keep operations running smoothly.

Cost savings

When a service desk is properly staffed and correctly implemented with the latest AI-based automation, it is capable of effectively managing a large portion of the routine IT workload. It is a low-cost option that transfers more simple work from high-cost engineering teams and IT professionals. This frees up valuable technology experts to focus more of their efforts on strategy and more complex issues that need to be addressed. In other words, the right service desk allows businesses to get more out of their existing IT resources.

Problem prediction

Proper data tools can help organisations identify and address service issues before they become something larger. IT service desks acting as early-warning systems can enable proactive problem management, service changes, and preventative maintenance to reduce the impact of outages and service issues.

User sentiment

Many key processes and IT services begin at the service desk. As such, it is often the primary point of contact between users, IT services, and business processes. Monitoring these interactions may provide useful insight into user sentiment as it relates to products, services, needs, and the organisation in general.

Although the IT environment continues to evolve, the concept of an IT service desk is one that has been around for some time, and is well established throughout a range of industries. This widespread adoption has helped businesses refine their approach, resulting in a number of tried and tested best practices for service desk implementation.

Customer engagement

  • Provide end user, omni-channel self-help portals, with the best service desks leveraging chat bots that work day and night to resolve common issues
  • Use service-level agreements (SLA) and impact assessments to differentiate requests to take care of the most crucial requests first
  • Resolve issues at the point of engagement to avoid any hand-offs or escalations
  • Examine customer behaviour and management expectations to ensure that needs are being understood and met
  • Administer customer satisfaction surveys regularly to identify how clients feel about the product or service

Management and reporting

  • Ensure that any hand-offs and escalation needs are understood to avoid poor customer experiences or missing any SLAs
  • Use real-time reporting and analytics to monitor how operations are functioning, and apply any corrective actions before issues escalate into problems
  • Leverage ITSM systems to reengineer processes and optimise utilisation of IT staff resources
  • Ensure that management understands the service desk operations to effectively address challenges that service desk associates face
  • Use analytics from ITSM systems to reduce time and effort in generating reports and to help identify the best automation opportunities

Technology to support the IT service desk

  • Provide “hands-free” automation for more common user requests, such as access, passwords resets etc.
  • Implement workflows in your helpdesk software to ensure that there is a process for escalations and hand-offs
  • Promote integration between service desk stems and IT operations—such as event monitoring and AIOps—to predict or prevent issues before they arise
  • Facilitate and record communication between requestors/end users and agents
  • Track root cause of issues in the ITSM system
  • Simplify change management with out-of-the-box templates supporting simple to more complex change types, along with automation to help determine which type a particular change is

Knowledge management

  • Provide answers to FAQs to end users, reducing the need for agent contacts
  • Keep all knowledge records current and accurate by reviewing and purging unnecessary information when needed
  • Implement a knowledge management system to place knowledge in a location where it can be accessed by all authorised individuals

Configuration Management Database (CMDB)

  • Create a repository of data that stores information about your IT environment and components, to deliver IT services
  • Contain assets or configuration items (software, hardware, development code) used by the organisation
  • Establish relationships between assets showing the makeup of services
  • Incorporate automated discovery to help alleviate work in “finding” CIs

A service desk is not a stand-alone solution; to provide value to users and businesses, it requires strong support software. The following are essential technologies for getting the most out of your IT service desk:

Incident management

This is the core area for IT service desks. Help desk ticketing orchestrates both incidents and service requests throughout the service desk and related support teams. Essential functions include alerts, escalations, automated routing, workflow management, and SLA management.

End user self-service

There are many issues that generate user calls into an IT service desk. Some of these issues could be resolved without a call if the end user had the right tools and access to information. Self-service provides agents with the time and opportunity to resolve more complicated requests. Aspects of self-service include a self-service diagnostic tool, service request form, automated common processes, and a knowledge search option.

Knowledge management

Knowledge maximises operational performance by providing a resource to service desk agents. Essential functions include a knowledge database, separate end user and agent knowledge data, known issue and error database, suggest keyword searching based on an incident description, and knowledge management to support a knowledge lifecycle.

Service desk management

Reporting functions help IT service desk leaders optimise operational costs, which in turn helps them manage user satisfaction, ensure SLA compliance, and identify issues that may be impacting business. Reporting also gives management a larger look into operations to help them make informed decisions. Some key capabilities include service performance dashboards, agent metrics, known-issue analytics, SLA conformity reports, and major incident management capabilities.

Finding the right tools for your service desk is crucial to supporting operations and helping resolve issues and is often referred to as IT Service Management (ITSM). The service desk is the point of contact between customers and an organisation’s IT team, which means that tools like knowledge management and reporting are critical to providing IT service desk solutions. The right tools also provide easy setup and customisation, enable proper collaboration, adapt to user needs, and scale with the growth of a team or organisation. This helps IT support desks deliver the right support to help users get the most out of their IT resources.

ServiceNow is the leading provider in IT service desk solutions according to many different third party reviews (source: Gartner Group). ServiceNow delivers the most-innovative solutions, using a single cloud platform that will help you deliver resilient services, increase productivity, and create amazing experiences for your employees.

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