The most important function in IT Service Management engagements is the ITIL Service Desk. It is a team of people who carry out a number of activities under the pretense of various processes.

When you dial the service or product helplines in your organization, your call is invariably answered by a service desk. When you send out e-mails requesting support, it is the service desk that processes it.

ITIL Service Desk Practice or function is used to capture the demands for incident resolution and service requests from users/businesses. It should also be the starting and entry point.

It should be a single point of contact for the service provider with all its users. ITIL Service Desks provide a clear path to users to report queries, issues, and requests. That should have them acknowledged, classified, owned, and actioned.

How this ITIL Service desk practice is managed and delivered. It may vary from a physical team of people on shift work to a distributed mix of people. Those people are connected virtually, or automated technology and bots. 

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The focus of the service desk is to provide support to “people and business” rather than simply resolving the technical issues. While the function and value will remain the same, regardless of the service desk model with increased automation and the gradual removal of technical debt.  

Purpose of the Service Desk Practice or Service Desk Function

Service desks are regularly increasingly being used to get diverse topics to arrange, explain, and coordinate, rather than just to resolve broken technology fixed. Now the service desk has become a vital part of any kind of service operation.

A key point to be taken care of and understood is that no matter how efficient the service desk practice and its people are, there will always be issues that need to be escalated and underpinning support from other cross-functional teams. 

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To present and deliver a ‘joined-up approach to users and customers, Support and development teams need to work in close collaboration with the service desk practice.

The service desk should not need to be highly technical, although some are. However, even if the service desk is simple, it still plays a vital role in the delivery of the services and must be actively supported by its peer groups.  

Freshservice IT Service Desk

How the service provider is perceived by the business users has a major influence on user experience. Because of this, it is also essential to understand the service desk. 

Another important key aspect of a good service desk is its practical understanding of the wider business context, the business processes, and the business users. Service desks generally add value not simply through the transactional acts of, for example, incident logging, but also by understanding and acting on the business context of this action.  

Between the service provider and its users, the service desk should be the empathetic and informed link with today’s increased automation, Artificial Intelligence (AI), the robotic process automation (RPA), and the chatbots, service desks are moving to provide more self-service logging practices and resolution directly via online portals and mobile applications. 

The impact on service desks is to reduce phone contact, less low-level work, and a greater ability to focus on excellent CX when personal contact is needed.  

In some cases, the service desk is a tangible team, who is working in a single location? A centralized service desk required to support by technologies, such as Intelligent Telephony Systems, Incorporating computer-telephony integration, IVR, and automatic call distribution workflow systems for routing and the escalation workforce management with resource planning systems.

A knowledgebase call recording and quality control remote access tools dashboard and monitoring tools configuration management systems. 

In other cases, a virtual service desk allows the agents to work from multiple locations, geographically dispersed. A virtual service desk requires more sophisticated supporting technology that is involving more complex routing and escalation; these are often the cloud-based solutions. 

The main key skill is to be able to fully understand and diagnose a specific incident in terms of business impact and priority, and to take appropriate action to get that resolved, using available skills, knowledge, people, and processes. 

ITIL Service desk improvement activities are constantly evaluated and monitored to support continual service improvement, alignment, and value creation. Feedback from users is collected by the service desk to support continual service desk service improvements. 

Engage: The service desk is the main channel for operational and tactical and engagement with users. 

Design and Transition: The service desk will provide a channel for communicating with users about new and changed services. Service desk staff always participate in release planning, testing, and early life support. 

Obtain/build: Service desk resources can be involved in acquiring the service components used to fulfill the service requests and resolve the incidents. 

Deliver and support: The service desk is the coordination point between managing incidents and service requests. 

ITIL Service Desk Objectives

The primary aim or objective of the ITIL service desk is to have a single point of contact between the services being provided and the business users.

A typical service desk manages incidents and service requests and also handles the communication with the users.  

Service desk staff require training and competency across several broad technical and business areas. They need to demonstrate excellent customer service skills such as empathy, Analysis and incident prioritization, emotional intelligence, and effective communication.  

Service desk staff execute the Incident Management and Request Fulfilment processes to restore the normal-state service operation to the users as quickly as possible. Here ‘restoration of service’ is meant in the widest possible sense. 

While this could involve fixing a technical fault, it could be equally involved in fulfilling a service request or answering a query to the users, anything that is needed to allow the users to return to working satisfactorily. 

Some service desk’s function has a limited support window where service cover is available (for example, 08.00–20.00, Monday–Friday). Staff is therefore expected to work in different shift patterns to provide consistent support levels.  

Specific responsibilities will include: 

  • Logging all relevant incident/service request details, allocating categorization and prioritization codes 
  • Providing first-line investigation and diagnosis 
  • Resolving incidents/service requests when first contacted whenever possible 
  • Escalating incidents/service requests that they cannot resolve within agreed timescales 
  • Keeping users informed of progress 
  • Closing all resolved incidents, requests, and other calls 
  • Conducting customer/user satisfaction callbacks/surveys as agreed 
  • Communication with users – keeping them informed of incident progress, notifying them of impending changes or agreed outages, etc. 
  • Updating the CMS under the direction and approval of service asset and configuration management if so agreed. 

Organizational Service Desk Structure or Type of Service Desk 

There are many ways of structuring your service desks and locating them. The correct solution will vary for the different organizations. The primary options are explained below, but, an organization may need to implement a structure that combines a number of these options to fully meet the business needs following the business understandings. 

Local Service Desk 

Local Service Desk is where a desk is co-located within or physically close to the user community, where it serves. This often aids communication and gives a visible presence, which some users like, but can often be inefficient and expensive to the resource as a local staff is tied up waiting to deal with incidents when the volume and arrival rate of calls may not justify this. 

There may, however, be some valid reasons for maintaining a local desk, even where call volumes alone do not justify this. 

The Reasons might include: 

  • Language and cultural or political differences 
  • Different time zones
  • Specialized groups of users 
  • The existence of customized or specialized services that require specialist knowledge 
  • VIP/criticality status of users. 

Centralized Service Desk 

An opportunity is to reduce the number of service desks by merging them into an individual location (or into a smaller number of locations) by having the staff into one or more centralized service desk structures.  

This might be more efficient and cost-effective to allow fewer overall staff to deal with a higher volume of calls and can also lead to higher skill levels through greater familiarization from the more frequent occurrence of events. 

It might still be necessary to maintain some form of local presence to handle physical support requirements, but such staff can be controlled and deployed from the central desk. 

Virtual Service Desk 

Use the Technology Effectively, particularly the internet, and the use of corporate support tools, it is possible to give the impression of a single, centralized service desk when in fact the person may be spread or located in any number or type of geographical or structural locations. 

This will bring in the option of home working, secondary support groups, offshoring or outsourcing, or any combination necessary to meet user demand. It is important to note, however, that safeguards are needed in all these circumstances to ensure consistency and uniformity in service quality and cultural terms. 

Follow the Sun 

Many global or international organizations may wish to combine two or more of their geographically dispersed Service Desks to provide a 24-hour follow-the-sun service to businesses.

For example, a service desk in the Asia-Pacific may handle calls during its standard office hours and at the end of this period it may hand over responsibility for any open incidents to a European-based Service Desk. 

That desk will be handling these calls alongside its incidents during its standard day and then hand ver to a USA-based Service Desk, which finally hands back responsibility to the Asia-Pacific desk to complete the cycle. 

This can give 24-hour coverage at a relatively low cost, as no desk must work more than a single shift. However, the same safeguards of common processes, tools, shared databases of information, and culture must be addressed for this approach to proceed, and well-controlled escalation and handover processes are needed. 

Specialized Service Desk Groups 

For many organizations, it might be beneficial & useful to create specialist groups of teams within the overall Service Desk Structure, so that incidents relating to a particular IT service can be routed directly (normally via telephony selection or a web-based interface) to that specialist group.

This can allow faster resolution of these incidents, through greater familiarity and specialist training. 

The selection would be made using a script along the lines of ‘If your call is about the X service, please press 1 now, otherwise please hold for a service desk analyst’.

Specialist Care is needed not to overcomplicate the selection, so specialist groups should only be considered for a very small number of key services where these exist, and where call rates about that service justify a separate specialist group. 

Benefits, Best Practices and Capabilities of IT Service Desk 

Access Anywhere and Anytime 

Today cloud-based solutions are available to lets you collect tickets from a variety of sources. That are included phone, web portal, email, or automatically from endpoint monitors, and even lets you access account tickets from a mobile application and WhatsApp using Artificial Intelligence algorithms.  

Easy and Effective Communications

Service Desk ensuring that customers get the information when they need it throughout the resolution process with customized greetings, automated emails and updates, and using scripted responses to provide effective communication in very easy ways.  

Big Opportunities for Cost Savings and Scalability 

Cost savings and scalability are the two most common opportunities and benefits that companies are seeking when they implement an IT Service Desk. A service desk system that is properly staffed and designed to be well managed can handle much of the routine work of the IT departments. 

The service desk can provide the business and organizations with a very low-cost option for transferring simple work from expensive engineering teams and subject matter experts, which enabling them to focus on the biggest activities that add value to the company.

The service desk can also provide a means for the business/organization to provide follow-the-sun support to global IT operations and the distributed user groups & communities.

Efficient Automated Technology and workflows to support the Service Desk

Service Desk can prioritize, handle, and escalate (when needed) requests effectively with configurable ticket categories, automatic ticket routing to concerned teams, SLA monitoring, and tracking with effective escalation procedures, especially for the Major Incident Management Process. 

  • Rollout the service request workflow-based capabilities in your help desk software to help orchestrate escalations and hand-offs. 
  • Provide the automation capabilities for common user requests (access, password reset, etc.) following automated Service Catalogs. 
  • Use your service desk software to facilitate and record the communications between agents and requestors professionally for future users to improve the performance. 
  • Integrate the Service Desk systems into your broader ITSM-IT Service Management to provide agents greater access to information about the IT environments 

Service Desk Management & Reporting Structure having Transparency, Visibility 

Today’s Service Desk is cloud-based and always online, has easy-to-use dashboards, and comprehensive tracking, monitoring, and reporting gives you an effective view of your service requests. Below are some best practices included: 

  • Use real-time dashboards, helpdesk reports, and analytics to monitor the operations and initiate corrective actions before issues become problems using Events & Monitoring Management Process 
  • Ensured the escalation and handoff processes are clear and well understood to avoid missed SLAs and Major Incidents 
  • Leverage the analytics capabilities from your ITSM-IT Service Management system to reduce the time/efforts to generate the reports 
  • Ensured management experiences to your service desk IT operations firsthand to gain an appreciation and advantage for what the Service Desk staff do and what the challenges they faced 
  • Treat the Service Desk staff as professional communicators and problem-solvers, giving them the tools, they need to be successful for the success of the Service Desk operations and functions 

Knowledge Management System and Effectively usage of Shared Expertise  

Today’s Service Desk is an effectively Integrated knowledge base that helps your team to avoid “reinventing the wheel” by documenting known issues and their resolutions in advance to share to the support communities effectively and many times users can access the knowledge base and resolve the common problems. Follow the proper use of the Knowledge Management System. 

  • Implement the knowledge management system to capture the knowledge in a place it can be accessed by multiple people 
  • Provide the answers to Frequently Asked Questions directly to end-users and avoid the need for agent contact 
  • Keep your knowledge records current and accurate by reviewing and purging the knowledge records frequently 

Best User Experience (UX) and help to User Sentiments and Customer Engagements  

Branded customer portal like ServiceNow, JIRA, Freshworks FreshService builds consistency and confidence in the support process to give the best user experiences. 

The service desk is the beginning point for many important IT & Business processes and services for IT and often as such the primary interface between business processes, users, and the IT services that enable them. Monitoring this interaction provides valuable insight into user satisfaction, sentiment towards the services, and the features and unmet needs that could potentially be addressed by IT services in the future. Below are some insights into Customer Engagements. 

  • Examine the customer’s behaviors and expectations to make sure that you understand their needs and desires 
  • Provide the end-user Self-help portal that accessible 24 hrs./day (even when your service desk not opened) 
  • Use the Service Level Agreements (SLAs) and priority/severity classification to differentiate the requests so you can address the most critical ones first following the Business Impacts and Urgency 
  • Try to resolve the issues at the first point of engagement and avoid hand-offs, escalations possibilities, and the need for call-backs from the business and users.
  • Perform regular customer satisfaction surveys to understand how your clients feel about the services they are receiving from you, improve and expectations and create the value-added Service Desk accordingly 

Events & Monitoring Management System to provide Early warning of potential problems. 

Because of the high volume of issues and requests that the service desk handles to the Business, with the right data and tools for evaluating the patterns and trends, the organization can use the Service Desk as a monitoring tool to identify and preemptively address service-related issues. 

The “early warning system” that the service desk can provide to enable proactive preventative maintenance, Problem Management, and service changes to reduce the user impacts of the outages and service degradation using the Event and Monitoring management System. 

Best IT Service Desk Software Capabilities  

An effective IT Service Desk Application requires a very solid technology foundation and framework to provide agents with the information and tools to effectively address the requestors’ needs and expectations. 

Help Desk Ticketing 

The Help Desk Ticketing system provides the core transactional platform for the IT Service Desk, orchestrating both Service Requests & Incidents throughout the service desk function and any other extended support teams. Important Functions of the ticketing system include:  

  • Contract/SLA Management 
  • Alerts/Escalations 
  • Workflow Management 
  • Automated Routing 

Knowledge Management 

Knowledge is the most valuable resource to the service desk has and to maximize the operational performance they need to make knowledge data the best quality it can be. 

A Knowledge Management system is extremely critical ensuring organizational knowledge and managing this resource is made available to those people who need to use it. The important functions of a knowledge management system include: 

  • Knowledge Management workflows to support a knowledge lifecycle. 
  • Knowledge Database (KMDB) 
  • Known Issue / Known Error Database (KEDB) 
  • Suggestive keyword searching based on the incident description. 
  • Separate agent and end-user views of knowledge data 

End-User Self-Service 

Many requests and issues that generate the user call into the IT Service Desk are the things that the user could address on their own if they had the right set of access to information and tools.  

The Self-service support capabilities enable the users to resolve their issues very faster, without doing delays of waiting for an agent.

They also can save the company money by reducing the requirements and need for additional agent capacity in the IT Service Desk to support the simple requests. Some of the most common capabilities of self-service include: 

  • Automated common processes 
  • Service Request form 
  • Knowledge Search 
  • Self-service diagnostics 

Service Desk Management and Reporting 

The Reporting and Management functions are very critical within the IT Service Desk as a leader seeks to optimize the operational costs, preemptively identify the business-impacting issues (especially for major incidents), manage user satisfaction, and ensure Service Level Agreement (SLA) compliance.

Technology can play a very big role in enabling management functions by giving service desk managers access to a holistic picture of their IT operations and data to make informed and smart decisions. Some of the key service desk reporting and management capabilities are: 

  • SLA Conformance Reports 
  • Major Incident Management capabilities
  • Agent / Call Management Metrics Reports 
  • Service Performance and Availability Dashboards 
  • Known Issue Analytics 

IT Service Desk Integration with other IT Service Management (ITSM)

The IT Service Desk works as a piece of greater Service Management operations of your IT function. While the IT Service Desk can be operated independently, value and performance are enhanced by integrating the software of the service desk with other parts of the organization’s ITSM system. Some of the integrations that are valuable particularly include: 

Configuration Management Database (CMDB) 

Giving the agents access to the complex web of technical dependencies and component configuration information to enable them to better assess the impacts of incidents and resolve them in the future.  

Change Management 

Many Technologies related issues are caused by planned changes if managed ineffectively. By giving agents access to the change management system, they will be able to identify change-related incidents more quickly and resolve them effectively 

Event and Monitoring Management System 

IT Service and Infrastructure monitors provide real-time visibility to the health of the IT environments and alerts when something may go wrong.

By effectively integrating monitoring system capabilities with the service desk system, many incidents might be identified without the need for a user to call in and report any problem to the IT Service Desk System 

Problem Management 

The efficient and best way to address the incidents is to avoid them happening at all proactively. Integrating it with Problem Management capabilities not only helps the service desk agents to understand what known issues are already being worked on but also enables the Problem Management teams to focus attention on the issues that are causing the most incidents. 

Asset Management 

IT Service Desk interactions with users are an ideal time and efficient way to verify and update asset management information. Providing agents, the ability and access to see and update asset management data can be an effective way of improving the Service quality of this important ITSM-IT Service Management data set. 

Project Management 

IT Service Management System provides the Project Management methodologies applications also integrated with the IT Service Desk. Because many Changes are related to ongoing projects and that changes can affect the Incident, Problems, and Change Management processes as well.

So, Service Desk Agents should have access to project management to understand the impact of related changes on the Incident and Problem Management.  

Difference Between IT Service Desk vs Help Desk vs ITSM vs Call Center

Companies often using different terms “call center”, “helpdesk” and “service desk” interchangeably which might be leading to some confusion. ITIL-IT Service Management concept regards call centers and helps desks as limited kinds of service desks functions, offering only a portion of what a service desk offers to the business community and organizations.  

IT Service Desk and Help Desk

With ITIL taking a service-centric perspective for the business and focusing on IT, this makes sense. For many organizations, the ITIL definition doesn’t align with the operational practices making the distinction is much more complicated.  

The following details will help you in understanding the difference between a help desk and a service desk: 

  • A help desk focuses on break-fix solutions, while a service desk helps in assisting with break-fix and also with service requests and requests for pieces of information. 
  • A help desk originated from IT-centricity, whereas a service desk was born of IT service-centricity in IT Service Management. 
  • Some still feel that a help desk provides only help, while a service desk provides service, meaning that with a service desk there is a focus on delivering a service to the end-users with some resemblance to the customer service. 
  • A Help Desk is considered to be an add-on module to existing IT events, while the ITIL service desk is the part of a service-based IT Service Delivery and IT Support system that is developed around something called “the Service Lifecycle.” This is could be the reason why the term Service Desk was used over the Help Desk in the ITIL framework. 
  • Those knowledgeable in ITIL will indicate that a help desk is a tactical perspective, while a service desk is a strategic perspective. This will indeed change the concept of Service Desk across the organizations. 
  • It is also extremely possible considering a help desk as one that offers a subset of the whole service desk capabilities for businesses. 

So, a “Service Desk” is a help desk system developed in an ITIL framework, and that help desks are frequently regarded to be an old-fashioned system compared to the more modern service desk function.

Narrowing down on this decision could be an outcome of ITIL-based marketing of ITSM-IT Service Management tools, several other service-based ITSM offerings, or the very fact that the term “help desk” is just not present in ITIL lifecycle publications. 

In Summary, the difference between a help desk and a service desk is very much in the understanding of the beholder. Despite the number of differences, an organization will eventually take a call on how their help desk or service desk whatever they want. 

Does not matter what you call your IT support capability, but it is vital to understand what a modern service desk or help desk should provide whichever name you decide on. 

ITIL Service Desk and ITSM (IT Service Management) 

ITSM – IT Service Management refers to all the activities dealing with the strategies, designing, building, delivering & supporting, and managing the lifecycle of IT services. Even with the most common perception of ITSM among IT users is just “IT Support System”, ITSM is much beyond resolving day-to-day issues of Business.

The IT team should take care of the end-to-end management of these IT services. It also has a much greater scope than ITSM, which is, in turn, larger than the service desk system. 

ITSM-IT Service Management covers a wide range of IT management capabilities that are linked to IT service delivery and support framework. The Service desk is a subset of ITSM and generally includes: 

  • Self-service system 
  • Incident Management Process in Service Operation 
  • Service Request Management Process 
  • Knowledge Management Process 
  • Reporting capabilities of the system 
  • Strong links to problem and change management processes 

Most important Qualities of the Service Desk, Help Desk, and ITSM 

Service Desk 

  • Self-Service / Service Catalog Process 
  • Integrate with Configuration Management Database (CMDB), Asset Discovery, and Asset Management 
  • Complete and Effective incorporation with other ITSM (IT Service Management) processes 
  • Function as a Single Point of Contact for all IT applications, areas, and business processes 
  • Enable the organization to be compliant with SLAs (Service Level Management agreements) 

Help Desk 

  • Managing the knowledge base of Help Desk 
  • Resolved the Problems and escalation procedures. 
  • Adhering to IT Service Level Agreements (SLAs) 
  • Self-Service options for the end-users 
  • Behave and Work as a single point of contact (SPOC) for IT Support System 
  • Employ a tracking system and solution for all incoming incidents! 
  • Help Desk automate the ticket tracking, email notifications, and routing process! 
  • Basic Problem Management and Incident Management 
  • Offers limited integrations with other IT Service Management Processes 
  • Some applications/areas supported by special groups outside the help desk system 

IT Service Management (ITSM)

  • Reduce IT costs 
  • Improve customer satisfaction! 
  • Increase the competitive advantage! 
  • Enhance the flexibility of ITSM! 
  • Increase the agility for new IT services! 
  • Enhance the service quality of ITSM! 
  • Improve IT governance and reduce Business risk! 


The IT Service Desk is an essential and especially important part of the ITSM – IT Service Management function of modern business and organization. 

As currently, technology is taking on a broader role as a tightly integrated part of business processes and users’ experiences (UX), to ensure that the technology services are working well and accessible to those people who need to use them is also critical.

The user-centric ITIL IT Service desk following ITSM Processes, with its orchestrated workflows, deep wealth of organizational connections, and knowledge into the rest of the IT organization, is the critical link between business users and the IT organization. 

Every organization now in the modern era is incredibly unique and your service desk and the tools you are using that need to be fully aligned to your business needs and goals.

Whether your organization is more technology-focused and needing an integrated ITSM solution like Fresh Service or taking a broader view of the service desk in supporting not only in IT but other business functions using a customer service helpdesk management system like Fresh Desk, Fresh Works has solutions to help your organization be successful for business growth. 

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