Help Desk vs Service Desk: What's the Difference Between Them?

Last Updated:Wednesday, January 10, 2024

Help desk and service desk sure sound similar, don’t they? Well, there are some key differences between help desk vs service desk and this article is about to teach you what are they!

Both are important for IT infrastructure, and both allow IT teams to handle their products and processes better. This is called, in general, IT service management, or ITSM. As we’ll see, service desk software is a big part of ITSM, while help desk tools are sometimes considered a subset of service desk solutions. 


What is the difference between help desk and service desk?

The main difference between service desk and help desk is that help desk tools are a real-time responsive and reactive ticket management solution that help customers get a specific problem fixed. Service desk management helps prevent problems, reduces their impact, and optimizes your business’s IT service delivery ecosystem. 

The Information Technology Infrastructure Library, or the ITIL, helps define what is a help desk and service desk and their key differences as well. 


Help desk vs service desk comparison chart

Check out this handy table outlining at-a-glance all the essential help desk and IT service desk main features compared side by side.



Help desk

Service desk

Best choice

Single point of contact (SPOC)


Ticketing system

Help desk

Incident management

Help desk

Problem management


Service desk

Service requests


Service desk

Information requests


Service desk

Self-service options

Service level agreement (SLA)

Help desk

Asset management, configuration management, and change management


Service desk


Service desk vs help desk features & functionality

Intros are over, let’s get into the details. Here we’ll look at each feature or attribute and see whether service desk vs help desk is better or how they are different.

  • Single point of contact (SPOC)

  • Ticketing system

  • Incident management

  • Problem management

  • Service requests

  • Information requests

  • Self-service options

  • Service level agreement (SLA)

  • Asset management, configuration management, and change management

Service desk vs help desk for single point of contact (SPOC)

The whole point of a SPOC, or single point of contact, is to allow for anyone seeking IT help or IT service to go to one source (location, website, contact info) to request help or service during the entirety of the product’s service lifecycle. 

Whichever individual, department, or organization provides help or service will get all the information from this point, and deal with the client through this interface, be they paying customers, employees, or stakeholders. 

Winner: Tie

In essence, both help desk software and service desk software work around the SPOC framework because it is the easiest way for both sides of a problem to exchange information and communication solutions. Many help desk tools and service desk tools include workflow automations to streamline this process over the whole service lifecycle.

Help desk or service desk for ticketing system

A ticketing system is a form of SPOC. It takes all requests for support and solutions and turns them into tickets. These tickets are often just digital tickets in help or service desk software, which can be easily shared, tracked, and analyzed for further optimization. Automation can route tickets to the best support rep or trigger ticket escalations.

Winner: Help desk

While it is likely that any thorough service desk platform will offer a ticketing system feature if you really want to make ticketing the backbone of your support, then a help desk system is better, as it is more geared overall to responding and solving problems, or tickets, as they come in. 

Service desk vs help desk for incident management

An incident is like a problem, a bug or something that would get turned into a ticket. Another common expression for incidence tracking is break-fix. Real-time incident tracking keeps up with issues as they arise and is used to respond to them, often one at a time.

Winner: Help desk 

Just like with the ticketing system, a break-fix or incidence-tracking tool is responsive when it comes to bugs requiring IT support. For incident management, help desks are better for quick real-time fixes for individual problems that pop up unexpectedly every now and then.

Help desk vs service desk for problem management

If incident management is responsive, then problem management is predictive and preventative. You could say problems are the big picture made up of patterns of little-picture incidents. Problem management is also used to figure out ways to reduce the degree of adverse effects of known problems.

Winner: Service desk

IT service management is more your big–picture software solution. It helps IT teams optimize the ways to avoid problems or maximize fallout reduction with regularly recurring problems in your business process.

Service desk or help desk for service requests

Service request management is when your business needs a new product or way of doing things in your business process, and you request the team to come up with a solution. It is basically saying: “build something to do this.”

Winner: Service desk

Another clear win for service desks over help desks when it comes to planning and designing products or processes to improve efficiency or cut costs and more effectively hit business goals.

Help desk vs service desk for information requests

The information request management process is similar to service requests, but instead of saying you need something, this one is more like asking: “how do I do this?” In some cases, information request needs can also be satisfied with a knowledge base or self-service option instead of a service provider.

Winner: Service desk

Because an information request is not asking for a specific fix to an individual IT issue, this is more in the territory of service desk software solutions than help desk support.

Service desk or help desk for self-service options

Self-service can include a knowledge base, an FAQ, a community forum, video tutorials, and more. It’s a resource that the end users seeking support can access on their own. At times, you could put all of this under knowledge management, too, if you include controlling and updating the resources. 

Winner: Service desk

For many of the same reasons as the above several categories, self-service options are better served by self-desk systems when end users are hoping to help themselves.

Help desk vs service desk for service level agreement (SLA)

An SLA, or service level agreement, is an agreement between someone seeking service and an IT professional or department regarding technical issues and including metrics like expected time to resolution and other responsibilities.

Winner: Help desk

A help desk solution is superior to a service desk platform in SLA management because it focuses on delivering individual customer support in real time for specific technical issues.

Asset management, configuration management, and change management

Asset management is the part of an IT team’s management process that looks after all the IT assets, like software, hardware, licenses, personnel, and more. 

Configuration management oversees how all the assets are connected and the processes which run through them. 

Change management handles the reconfiguration of assets, for example, when you desire different outcomes or incorporate new hardware or apps.

Winner: Service desk

All three of these management systems are more common with total service desk software solutions and not always included with help desk software.


Help desk examples

There are several kinds of help desk, and knowing about them is part of help desk best practices. Here are two examples: technical support and desktop customer support.

Technical support help desk

You might say technical support is when a regular help desk issue requires escalation because the problem is deeper than a single incident. For example, if you realize it's not one client who cannot log on to a system but a whole region, and the problem is a network thing.

Desktop help desk

This is probably the most common kind of help desk support which is desktop customer support. This is for when individuals have problems with their individual computer, be it laptop or desktop. It’s not a network thing or a wider problem, but the issue resides squarely with their hardware or software.


Service desk examples

There are a variety of types of service desk examples, like local service desks, centralized ones, and virtual ones.


This is when your service desk is located close by to the departments, operations, or client community, sometimes in the same office. It’s good for familiarity and personalized customer support.


When the end user community is not localized, it’s good to have a centralized service desk. All service requests come into one place, which can closely monitor, track, route, and optimize the process from under one roof and command.


Finally, there are virtual service desks, where each IT support rep could be working from anywhere and fielding service requests via the internet or phone. This is increasingly common today.


Is help desk or service desk support better for your company? Our conclusion

To sum up, help desk CRM is better for your business if you just want a dedicated, responsive, and reactive real-time ticket management system. If you want something to manage your assets and configurations and improve your overall business process, then go with a service desk solution. If you want to find out more information about both solutions, then make sure to check out the ITIL.



Is it helpdesk or help desk?

The more common spelling is help desk and not helpdesk, though you will sometimes see help desk or helpdesk. When it comes to the help desk or helpdesk, not many people are too concerned over grammar or spelling issues. As a rule, use the space. 

What is the difference between help desk vs desktop support?

The debate of desktop support vs help desk comes down to this. Desktop customer support is limited to fixing problems on individual laptops and computers and not for things like networks or SaaS. A help desk handles all requests for issues and can be used to service desktop problems too.

What is the difference between help desk vs technical support?

Tech support help desk is another way of thinking of IT support when it seems that incidents result from a larger technical problem, like a network. You could say that a regular help desk issue might undergo escalation if it moves to a technical help desk.