Help Desk Software vs. Service Desk Software
Which Tech Support Solution is Right for you?
When selecting and deploying a tech support solution, it can be difficult to decide which product best meets the needs of a business. There are many different products on the market, and different types of products to choose from. Some products are labeled as help desk software, while others are presented as service desk software. Is there much of a difference? Not often, as many of the components of a help desk and service desk overlap and the line between them is often blurred.
Regardless of how the product is labeled, each support software solution has vastly different features and benefits and it is easy to become overwhelmed with the choices available. However, it is possible to make sense of the options available and make an informed decision that results in a user friendly IT support solution that meets the unique business needs of any organization.
What is Technical Support?
Often, there is confusion as to what exactly technical support is and what it encompasses. Tech support is a broad term that encompasses a wide range of services, typically addressing any problems with computers, phones or other technology that an end-user needs to access in order to perform a function or job. In addition to hardware devices and computers, tech support also provides support for software and applications, Internet connectivity and mobile devices. Technical support can be reached in a variety of ways, but the most common methods are through support portals and websites, phone lines and email. When electronic devices break or malfunction, or the customer just has a question or wants an upgrade, IT support is contacted and the support process is started. Traditionally, help desk software will be used by the technician responding to the problem. As help desk software has evolved, many operations have moved into more of a service desk operation, but the similarities remain.
The Tech Support Process
There are four important phases in the tech support process, and these should all be handled by your help desk or service desk software. The phases are: identification of an issue, communication of the issue, resolution, and follow-up. These steps are all vital to the support process and ensuring that employee needs are being met by the technical staff.
Identification of an Issue
The technical support process begins when an issue arises or is anticipated. The issue can range from a broken mouse to a new employee needing access to email. The issue is identified typically by what is termed an “end user”, but can also be referred to as a customer or requestor. The end user is the person who is being affected by an issue that they cannot readily resolve without intervention from tech support.
The end user then presents their issue to technical support. This can happen in a variety of ways. There can be a dedicated number the end user calls, an email address they send a message to, or there can be a form they fill out that sends the issue to the technical support group that can handle it. Once the issue has reached the support staff, it then needs to be routed to the staff member who can properly resolve the issue.
During the resolution phase, staff members will work directly on the issue and resolve it. During the resolution process, the steps taken to address the issue should be carefully documented. This documentation makes the resolution process for similar issues in the future easier.
After the issue is resolved, the technical support staff will follow-up with the end user and ensure the issue has been successfully resolved. Follow-up can be as simple as an email asking if the problem is fixed, and should be carefully documented as well for auditing purposes.
Problems with Technical Support
While the technical support process seems fairly straightforward, it has earned a bad reputation over the years. For many end users, the term “technical support” instills a sense of dread and leaves them thinking of calling an impersonal 800 number, just to reach an unhelpful technician who won’t solve their problem. It is an unfortunate truth that many IT support groups have earned a bad reputation.
Many people complain that the technicians they reach aren’t knowledgeable enough to answer their questions. Others complain that they call in with a simple issue and end up talking to an IT support person who is too technical. The vast majority of these complaints are due to tech support solutions that simply are not versatile enough to meet the needs of the business. Without software that can streamline the technical support process, chaos can ensue. With the proper support software in place, a call to tech support results in problems that are fixed without frustration and stress.
Solving Issues with the Right Software
In order to bridge the disconnect between end users and the tech staff that can resolve the issues at hand, it is vital to utilize some form of technical support software. When an end user contacts support, their issue needs to be documented and then routed to the appropriate staff member in a reasonable amount of time. The staff member then needs to resolve the issue and follow-up with the end user. While this may seem like a straightforward process, there are many factors that contribute to it becoming stressful, frustrating and ineffective.
Help desk or service desk software provides a vital resource for addressing these factors and creating a process that is effective and streamlined. With IT support solution software, issues get resolved, proper documentation is created and the stress is entirely removed from the situation.
What is Technical Support Software?
Tech support software usually falls into two different categories. Depending on the features of the product, it is usually called either help desk or service desk software. While the two categories have distinct differences, there are also many similarities.
About Help Desk Software
Help desk software is typically defined as a solution which provides documentation and communication facilities for technical issues. The goal of a help desk is to provide excellent management of incidents experienced by a customer, and help desk software provides a tool to help achieve that goal.
Help desk software often focuses on issues that arise due to software or hardware malfunctioning or breaking. Therefore, it may contain the capability of tracking the assets of an organization. These assets are often computers or other electronic equipment. However, help desks often handle situations other than ones that fall into the “break-fix” category, such as a new user requiring access to the network, or a user forgetting their password. While historically they have not handled processes such as change management, this is now becoming more common with help desks. Hence, the lines are starting to blur as help desks take on larger responsibilities.
About Service Desk Software
By its ITIL definition, service desk software is designed to address the shortcomings of a traditional help desk and encompass all aspects of technical support. A service desk solution looks at IT as a whole, and then it provides a way to make the services of the IT staff accessible to the end users who need to utilize them as a valuable resource. There are several key aspects to service desks that make them truly invaluable to a company.
A service desk can handle the frontline issues and provide trouble ticket gathering and routing, and the service desk can also handle projects, change requests, moves, additions, and password changes. Along with handling these services, a service desk will often also provide services such as a known-issue knowledge base, asset management and issue tracking.
Key Benefits of Service Desk Solutions
The key benefits for choosing service desk software include:
- Centralized management of all IT-related needs
- Comprehensive issue management and tracking
- Management of service requests, not just issues
- Change management capabilities
- Knowledge base capabilities
Centralized IT Management
Unlike a help desk, a service desk cleanly divides incoming requests into two different categories: service requests and incidents. Incidents are defined as disruptions or potential disruptions that affect systems or IT related employee productivity. Service requests are defined as requests that require IT intervention to be fulfilled. Typically, incidents are given higher priority than service requests by the service desk, due to their urgent nature. Some software clearly differentiates an incident from a request by making them two distinct entities in the software. Other products will funnel both through one entity, often called a “ticket”. However, they provide a mechanism for designating the ticket as an incident or a request. This field may be referred to as “ticket type”, among other terms.
Regardless of how these are handled in the software, incidents and service requests can be prioritized and tracked every step of the way. With real-time tracking available in the program dashboard, both IT staff and end users can view the progress being made on their request and ensure all issues are given the attention they need in order to be resolved. Additionally, incidents and requests can be escalated and their urgency levels can be changed to ensure that high priority issues get handled with speed and efficiency.
Components of Quality Help Desk and Service Desk Software
Change management is a process that was once reserved for the formal service desk. That has definitely changed, as traditional help desks are now recognizing the need for change management. They require some facility for implementing it, whether it is a core function of the application, or a “workaround” is provided. Obviously, the more pure the solution and less of a workaround it is, the more effective the solution will be for the organization. Help desk software is now beginning to include change management as a core component.
Many problems in the IT world are accidental, and they are caused by a lack of foresight when implementing changes. The IT infrastructure of any business is complex and complicated and it can be nearly impossible to just “guess” if a change is harmless or not.
Due to the complexity of IT infrastructure, many companies need software that has change management capabilities. With change management control, there are no more surprises when an IT staff member needs to make a change. If a server, application or piece of hardware needs to be replaced, patched or upgraded, the staff member can create a request for change, or RFC, with the service desk solution.
With a formal change request process, the staff member will clearly define the change they wish to make and will include details on what the change is expected to do. Additionally, they are often required to provide details on how they will recover from any issues that the change may cause. The software can help other employees correctly gauge the impact the change will have on the IT infrastructure and can provide the documentation and details needed for changes to be passed by a change advisory board, or CAB. Additionally, the software can email the RFC directly to members of the CAB expediting the entire process.
Whether using help desk software or service desk software, the change request can be tracked every step of the way, from when the staff member first creates it to when it is approved for implementation by the change advisory board.
Both help desk and service desk solutions can make asset management less of a hassle. Service desk solutions can provide a streamlined method for collecting and documenting a wide range of asset information. Not only is the software invaluable for IT assets, this software can be used to track everything from office chairs to filing cabinets.
Another common element of help desk and service desk solutions allow businesses to develop and maintain a support knowledge base, or KB. The KB can include frequently encountered issues, FAQs for common tasks, recently resolved issues and currently known issues. By incorporating these documents in a KB, employees are able to search for and resolve common issues without having to reach out to the IT department for support. This empowers end users by giving them knowledge they need to be productive, and it also reduces the workload for IT staff. When users are able to fix issues by themselves, they feel good and are less likely to complain about having to contact support.
For IT employees, the KB can contain a wide variety of documents that cover both common and lesser-known issues. It serves as a permanent place for staff to document how they fixed obscure problems and how to easily address common complaints. With a rich KB to reference, issues get resolved quickly and do not become frustrating or stressful.
Password Reset Software
Another element once reserved for the true service desk, but now becoming more common with the help desk, is password reset software. Password reset requests are time consuming and expensive for any organization. When a user forgets their password and they have to call for personal assistance to reset it, they waste time which could have otherwise been productive, and the help desk or service desk wastes resources achieving a task that can be easily automated. Many software packages exist to allow the user to enroll by answering customizable security questions. If they forget their password, they can answer these questions without even logging into the network and their password is reset to a value they choose (while complying with network requirements). This saves time and money for any organization and has become increasingly common among both help desks and service desks.
Impact on the Tech Support Process
Help desk and service desk solutions are designed to aid in the tech support process and make it streamlined and efficient. Regardless of whether you select help desk or service desk software, each step of the technical support process should be directly addressed by the solution.
With the right software, identifying issues instantly becomes easier. Not only does the software make provisions for break-fix issues, but it has a support structure built around change requests and anticipating IT-related needs. With this structure, issues can be identified before they arise and change control can begin before any changes are actually made. By creating a process where potential changes are identified early, it becomes easier for an IT department to act cohesively and without disruption to end users.
Knowledge bases also contribute greatly to the identification phase of the process. With a KB, an end user can enter keywords related to their issue and find FAQs and other documents to help them resolve the issue without having to reach out to tech support.
Quality IT support solutions streamline the entire communication process. End users are not forced into only one method of contact with the support staff. Emails can be converted automatically into tickets and end users are not stuck filling out time-consuming forms or calling support numbers and waiting on hold. The web-based support portal is fully customizable and can be crafted to collect only vital information from the end user, making the process quicker and stress free.
Additionally, trouble tickets can be automatically routed based on a variety of different factors. For example, tickets can be automatically assigned according to skill sets, availability and location. This ensures that tickets get to a staff member that can provide the proper level of support quickly. A priority matrix can be customized within the software to automatically handle the escalation of issues that are urgent and need to be addressed immediately. Email integration ensures that the staff members are notified of new incidents immediately and ensures newly created tickets do not go unnoticed.
With this system, tickets do not get lost or routed incorrectly; instead, they end up in the hands of the proper tech support staff member quickly and efficiently.
The right software plays its most important role during the resolution phase of the process. The software allows you to organize the resolution phase in a manner which makes it productive and easy. During the resolution phase, actions taken by the support staff is directly documented within the trouble ticket. This documentation is available for the end user to view. By making the IT support process transparent, end users know they are being provided with the service they need and staff members are held to high levels of accountability. This process enables escalation when an incident needs to be handled with urgency and reduces the impact that the incident has on productivity.
With this service desk software, staff members can track how long they have worked on a specific incident and can show the steps they have taken to resolve the problem. When these steps are clearly documented, the staff member can demonstrate how complex or simple an issue was to resolve. By accurately accounting for time spent on an issue, staff members can identify issues that are high maintenance and that are taking up staff resources. Then, the IT department can look at the situation objectively and decide if more staff is needed or if problematic applications or hardware simply need to be replaced. Additionally, some help desk software suites offer tools that aid directly in expediting the resolution process. For example, as discussed above, password reset tools are becoming increasingly common. This allows staff to perform password reset tasks for active directory accounts without contacting the support team.
During the follow-up stage, a quality solution will create a platform for staff to accurately document what caused an issue and how it got resolved. This documentation can then be added to the knowledge base and be made available for other staff members. Additionally, by documenting confirmation that an issue was resolved, it becomes easier to identify recurring issues and address them appropriately.
Help Desk Premier from Brightbox Solutions
When choosing which support software to implement, focus on your requirements and whether the software can meet them, rather than whether you are looking at “help desk software” or “service desk software”. Each company has different needs and must carefully consider what type of technical support they need to offer to their end users or customers.
Learn more about how to effectively manage your IT support process with BrightBox Solution’s service desk software suite, Help Desk Premier.