What is an IT Help Desk?

What is an IT Help Desk?

The pure definition of a help desk is this:

A help desk is a resource intended to provide the customer or end-user with information and support related to a company's or institution's products and services.

With the rise of the IT industry, clear communication within the company became an essential part of a thriving business. Often staff members need assistance with their hardware or software and a necessity for a help desk seems more than obvious. With the inclusion of a help desk, the IT industry opened a troubleshooting door for their employees. Any issue that they may encounter can be resolved in a few simple clicks. A help desk serves as a resource center for your staff that may have issues or questions regarding a product or service. The benefits of this intermediary work both ways. Information and support are provided efficiently so downtime is kept at a minimum.

A Troubleshooting Center

It is safe to say that a help desk can be defined as a troubleshooting center because it is a one-stop-shop for all sorts of technical issues your staff could encounter. There is a ticketing process involved where a staff member can submit an issue or request information by filling out a ticket that is forwarded to the technical staff of the company. Depending on their availability and working hours the ticket is then reviewed and acted upon accordingly. Apart from ticketing forms, employees have the option to contact a support agent by chat, email, phone or any other communication method provided by the help desk.

With a well-organized ticketing process, an IT help desk can keep the technology downtime at a minimum and this is a necessity for tech companies. It is also important to understand that a help desk can benefit some more than others so it is good to know who should consider having such a support center within their company.

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It's not only about support

While it may look like it, a common help desk goes beyond customer support. Getting installation instructions or basic information is just a part of what a help desk can offer. Warranty functions, employee benefits desks, and facilities service centers are also examples of a common help desk. Providing access to such resources can have a huge impact on the productivity of your staff but also keep your customers happy by providing professional assistance on-demand.

Outsourcing vs In-house

Outsourcing is very common in the IT industry and it is no wonder that some help desks work on the same principle. The support staff is hired overseas for various reasons. Mostly, this is done to cut expenses but it does come with a different cost. It is important to say that around the clock coverage doesn't always mean quality work. Language barriers and underskilled staff are just some of the drawbacks an overseas help desk might bring.

The pros of outsourcing are obvious but it also comes with some cons as well. Your issues get resolved remotely meaning that a contracted company will be handling your user-related issues. The quality of their delivery depends on your choice so it can be hard to find a good fit for your product or service. Another issue that may come up is that the problems aren't solved on-site meaning that a hardware issue could take days to be resolved. A remote assistant can only log the problem but it is not solved. This is something a local help desk can resolve a lot faster if you find a good provider that offers it.

Having an in-house support team comes with a different set of pros and cons. Having them within your company can be a big plus because they will know of your infrastructure and their actions can be monitored and adjusted to best fit the needs of your customers and staff. With your in-house staff, you can determine the exact number of employees that the department needs based on your support demand volume.

Compared to outsourcing, in-house help desks can provide an advantage but it is very important to understand the cons as well. Taking the tickets locally can be time-consuming for various reasons. Your staff picks could be wrong, their technical knowledge could have gaps and the whole process of putting together a capable team can take months. This is something that isn't the case with outsourcing where you are paying for a skilled staff that requires minimal training or no training whatsoever. Another big issue to consider is off-hours. If a ticket is submitted outside of the working hours there will be no one available to resolve it.

Service Desk vs Help Desk

To fully understand the benefits of a help desk some common misconceptions need to be addressed. Service desks and help desks are often misunderstood for being the same. While they both provide support and assistance they have some significant differences between them.

A service desk serves as the primary point of contact for monitoring and addressing user requests. A service desk can also maintain 3rd party support contracts, manage software licenses and capture change requests. Depending on the company structure, it can also be integrated into employee onboarding, acquisition integration, data access management and more.

A help desk is, as mentioned above, a troubleshooting database for customers and staff members. Any issues with your services/products are resolved directly with the customer within the shortest time possible. Staff issues are solved in the same manner with an end goal to maximize productivity and minimize downtime within the company itself.

In some cases, companies like Managed Solution can offer a full package that includes both the functionalities of a help desk and a service desk. This eliminates the need for understanding the differences and benefits of both. These services include:

  • Software Support
  • Business Continuity
  • Hardware Configuration & Disaster Recovery
  • Network Monitoring
  • Remote Management & Monitoring
  • Full-Service Help Desk
  • On-Site Field Engineering Services

Help Desks collect valuable data

With all the upsides and downsides of help desks, it is hard to overlook data cataloging. No matter how big your company is or how good your product sells data records can always make things better. Good help desks analyze support requests and communicate the results to the corresponding entity. If a tech issue keeps showing up it could be a good thing to inform your tech staff about it and work on a permanent fix before more users come knocking at your door. This doesn't only help with identifying current issues but also helps with preventing such problems from occurring in the future.

Help Desks save time and money

To fully appreciate all of the advantages of a help desk imagine coming into work for your very first day. You need to access your email account but the password doesn't work. You could always contact the person in charge and ask them for assistance but this draws them away from their work and it could take a while before the issue is resolved. Instead, you issue a ticket to your help desk and it is then forwarded to the corresponding technician. Depending on the location of the help desk (it could be on-site or remote) reactive support will be provided in a very short period. In this case, a dedicated technician acts as a convenient point of contact to provide technical support and answers additional questions you might have.

Having your workflow and problem solving well-organized in your company can save huge amounts of time and energy. In return, this results in higher profits and less downtime for your staff. Having a help desk lets companies dedicate their most valuable resources where they are needed while your support team is handling "the small things".

Money Cash GIF by Pepephone

Help Desks can serve as a personal knowledge library

During the work hours complaints come and go, problems get solved, customers get served and everything gets recorded in the help desk log. This log has many purposes but the most beneficial one is that it can provide statistics and show you what are the common problems your customers or employees are facing. By knowing this, a help desk can work on their knowledge base that would serve as an access point for individuals looking for common solutions. It shortens the communication times between the support staff and their clients but also provides technical literacy for your employees or customers. As a result, this decreases the number of tickets, reduce your staff training time and increases overall employee productivity.

Adding the personal factor

Regardless of what different people have to think or say about help desks, it is clear that they have added the long-awaited personal factor to the IT industry. Going to Google or Wikipedia for tech answers could prove successful but what happens when the information is incomplete or inaccessible? You may end up going down a rabbit hole but the problem will remain unsolved. With a help desk, the factor of human interaction is added to the troubleshooting process and we can all agree that this is the easy way to do things. The internet may have all the knowledge in the world but you need the experience to be able to solve the problem. With a multi-skilled support staff, IT-related problems are solved a lot easier and promptly.

On top of all that, it is worth mentioning that every problem is solved on a personal level. No situation is generalized with a help desk and while they may have some common solutions that might help, they will offer personal assistance to try and find the right solution to your exact problem.

Possible issues and how to spot them

Depending on your company's needs you may go for an in-house or an outsourced help desk. Both solutions are fine as long as they don't interfere with your goals and productivity. When going for in-house solutions you may end up going in circles by trying to find the best fit for your help desk staff. Here are a few helpful questions to keep in mind:

  • What are the common problems your customers/staff is facing?
  • Who would be the best person to solve those problems efficiently?
  • Do they have the required knowledge for the position and how long would additional training take in terms of time and cost?
  • Can you afford to have help desk downtime outside of your working hours?

It is important to understand that setting up an in-house help desk can be time-consuming and in some cases exhausting. If you don't have the right staff to fill out those positions, finding the right people can become an issue.

Outsourced solutions are stress-free solutions for some but they need to be double-checked as well. The market is huge and with the IT industry growing rapidly there is no doubt more and more outsourced solutions will start showing up. This is why you should gather some basic information about the help desk before you start considering it.

  • What companies do they usually work with and does that match your product/services?
  • How skilled is their staff?
  • Do they offer 24/7 coverage?
  • What is their average response time?

It is not mandatory that your help desk of choice has previous experiences with similar companies but it could be a big plus. Their staff would already have knowledge about your product or service and adapting to your own needs would take less time and effort. Apart from the 24/7 coverage you definitely want to take a closer look at their average response time. If the issue is time-sensitive you don't want the ticket to be stuck in the queue for the next day.

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If you went through this whole article you have realized that a help desk can be more than just a problem-solving solution. Having a help desk shortens problem-solving times, prevents and predicts possible issues that may occur in the future and as a result brings downtime to a minimum. Having a help desk enables companies to manage resources more efficiently which always results in efficiency increase. Your customers get the service they deserve and your staff members get access to a personal troubleshooting center. No matter how you look at it, a help desk is a win-win solution for many companies that are struggling with reports and downtime.

Are you looking for IT Help Desk Support? Learn more about how Managed Solution can support your business today.


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