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What is a Help Desk? Definition, Benefits, Features, and FAQs
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10,000+ teams use Hiver to delight customers!

What is a Help Desk? Definition, Benefits, Features, and FAQs

Jul 07, 2023
9 min read
Hiver HQ
Ganesh Mukundan

Table of contents

Customers and employees alike want to be able to get help from a business when they need it. 

Regardless of how great your product is, a help desk is what will enable you to deliver a great service experience—and make customers and employees feel supported. It’s what sets a good business apart from a mediocre one in today’s time-constrained, “always-on” world.

But, what exactly is a help desk? Why is it important? And how can you choose the best one for your business? We rounded up the answers to help you make an informed decision that will improve your support efforts and help deliver stellar customer experiences. 

Table of Contents

What is a Help Desk?

A help desk is a department within an organization that uses a software tool to provide technical support to employees or customers. Some companies also use the term “help desk” as a synonym for customer service teams or when referring to the software that customers interact with to get support.

Benefits of Using Help Desk Software

Whether you look at a help desk as a tool or a department, it comes with many benefits. From keeping your customers happy to enabling higher employee productivity and business growth, here’s a roundup of the advantages of using a help desk.

1. Enables Efficient Workload Management

Help desk software enables you to assign incoming queries to support team members who are best suited to address them. Since the software lets every support agent see who’s handling a customer interaction and track its status easily, the likelihood of missing important queries is low. 

To give you an idea of how workload management happens in a help desk, take a look at Hiver.

Hiver lets teams assign queries to individuals in a few clicks, right from Gmail. It’s that simple.


2. Helps Improve Service Quality

The best way for you to find out how well your support team is doing is to measure key customer service metrics. A good help desk software lets you track various aspects of agent performance, send customer satisfaction surveys and analyze data to identify patterns. Ultimately, you will be able to reward top performers and help underperforming support reps become more productive.

3. Boosts Customer Satisfaction

According to our Customer Support Through The Eyes of Consumers report, 37% of customers consider a service experience to be good when their issues are fixed on time.

The takeaway is simple: Customers expect fast responses when they reach out to a brand. 

Replying to customers’ messages in a timely manner shows that you value them and care about their experience. With a customer-facing help desk, you can provide quick resolutions to support requests and keep customers happy. How? 

A help desk gives you complete visibility into what your support team is working on – who is working on what query, the status of each query, any roadblocks the team might be facing, etc. You get a detailed insight into whether or not agents are replying in a timely and satisfactory manner.  

4. Improves Employee Satisfaction

An internal help desk can improve employee satisfaction as much as customer satisfaction. It’s easy to get carried away tending to customers, but creating a great support experience for employees is equally important. That’s because employees with adequate product knowledge work more efficiently and in turn, provide better customer experiences. 

Say an employee runs into an issue with your company’s product. They should have the means to request assistance through your internal help desk and achieve two things — get the support they need and become better equipped to serve customers.

5. Contributes to Business Growth

When customers and employees are satisfied with the support you provide, retaining them becomes easier than ever. But when they’re dissatisfied, the opposite is the case, leading to stunted business growth. 

Our ’State of Customer Support in 2022’ report found that “72% of customers leave after a negative experience.” Also, Statista reports that 26% of employees quit because of unsupportive colleagues, while 34% cite uncaring leaders. 

What better way to support and show care to customers and employees than by setting up an easy-to-use, powerful helpdesk? A help desk lets you cater to the needs of external and internal customers, enabling your business to grow bigger and better.

What to Look For in a Help Desk Tool

Complex ticket management systems like Zendesk, and generic tools like Google Groups can limit your internal (employee) and external customer experience. What you want is a help desk that empowers your support team to provide quick, empathetic service experiences. 

Pick the best help desk software to meet your business needs by checking for the following key features:

1. Ease of Setup

If a tool takes too long to set up or requires extensive training before your support team can start using it, it becomes difficult to use or scale. Look for a help desk platform with a short learning curve, an intuitive interface, and a step-by-step onboarding guide. 

If the software works within an interface you’re already familiar with, like Gmail, that’s a bonus point. You and your team won’t have to spend too much time learning how to install and use the tool because it’s easy to configure, navigate, and master. 


2. Email Management Features

In many cases, email is the primary communication channel between customers and support teams. Before choosing a help desk, check for features — like automated workload assignments, response templates, and email tags — that can streamline your team’s workflow when handling customer emails.

These email management functionalities will also help you track and prioritize new emails — and reply to customers faster

3. Live Chat Widget

Chat has become one of the most important support channels today. Hiver’s recent report found that 63% of consumers use live chat to contact businesses – be it in ecommerce, healthcare, logistics or SaaS.

Adding a live chat widget to your website allows you to provide real-time customer service. When exploring help desk solutions, go for one that offers a robust live chat functionality. Make sure it’s easy to set up, comes with a chatbot functionality (for when your support team is offline),allows you to create and save chat templates for future use, and enables seamless escalation of queries.

Without having to wait in a call centre queue or have their message stuck in an inbox, customers can quickly get replies for their queries. Now that’s an experience you want to provide.

4. Knowledge Base Functionality

Self-service options allow customers to find answers on their own instead of always relying on agents for help. 

A knowledge base is an assortment of relevant articles with information about your company’s products and services that allows customers to self-serve conveniently. Choose a help desk that allows you to create a standalone self-service portal that everyone can access.

Check that the tool also provides a knowledge base search bar and categorization features, so customers can quickly find the information they need without getting overwhelmed.

Pro tip: Look for an omnichannel help desk. One which combines multiple support channels – such as email, live chat, knowledge base, social media, and more.

5. Internal Collaboration Feature

Without internal collaboration tools, you’ll have to rely on back-and-forth emails, one-on-one discussions, or external apps like Slack, which can quickly get chaotic. 

The right help desk platform should have features that make it easy for you and your team to work together and resolve customer queries. If you take Hiver, for instance, team members can loop in their colleagues or ask for help using the Notes section which is located right next to any customer email or chat. All they have to do is use the @mention, tag the relevant person, and write their message. 

6. Customer Contacts Section

A good help desk solution should have a contacts section that lets customer support teams keep track of key customer details — like names, phone numbers, email addresses, and past conversations. Armed with this customer data, agents have access to the necessary context to communicate with clients in a personalized way, which in turn helps build long lasting relationships.

7. Analytics and Reporting Dashboard

An analytics and reporting dashboard provides insight into how productive your support team is. It shows key metrics, like average resolution time, first response time, and customer satisfaction scores over a specific time period. 

Select a help desk platform that has easy-to-use analytics and reporting functionalities, so you can identify areas for improvement, consistently stick to SLAs, enhance your team’s efficiency and eliminate customer pain points. 

Analytics dashboard

8. Automations

Repetitive support tasks like sending welcome messages whenever there’s a new customer chat or routing incoming messages to the right agent can get tiring and time-consuming. Which is why you need a cloud-based help desk that has features like automations – to help save the effort and time associated with carrying out these recurring tasks. 

Automation also eliminates human errors that occur during manual processes, like typing replies or allocating work. The last thing you want is to send a message with a typo to a customer or assign a finance ticket to a product specialist. These types of mistakes affect your company’s reputation in extreme cases or, at the very least, slow down customer issue resolution.

9. Integrations

Integrations allow you to connect your help desk platform with relevant third-party software and build smarter workflows. 

Say you already have a project management tool like Asana for tracking the status of feature requests. A help desk that enables integration with the project management app removes the need to switch back and forth between the two apps, saving time and improving productivity.


10. Customer Support Availability

One easily overlooked factor to check for in a help desk service provider is customer support availability. Some vendors may provide limited support hours on weekdays only, while others may offer round-the-clock coverage to their customer base. 

Depending on your team size and requirements, select a help desk management tool that provides adequate product assistance.

Help Desk FAQs

1. What is a Help Desk vs. Service Desk?

A help desk typically focuses on incident management (handling IT support issues),while a service desk is used for both IT service management (ITSM) and information or new service requests

Based on this description, it might seem like service desks do more than help desks and are thus more useful. But, in reality, there is plenty of overlap between IT help desks and service desks.

Many businesses and IT teams use the terms “help desk” and “service desk” interchangeably because they both meet the same business goals — addressing customer issues and monitoring agent performance.

2. What other names can a Help Desk be called?

Different businesses refer to their help desk by different names, but they all usually mean the same thing: the company’s ability to provide IT support. Besides “service desk,” other common alternatives used in lieu of “help desk” include:

  • Technical support
  • Support center
  • Call center
  • Customer support center
  • Information center
  • Contact center
  • Customer service center
  • Customer service support center

3. What are the different types of Help Desks?

Help desks can be categorized into 5 main types: enterprise, internal, web-based, cloud-based, and open-source.

Here are the functions and benefits of each of these help desks

Internal help desks: it’s a department or software inside an organization that is responsible for answering questions or queries that employees might have. Internal help desks are mainly used to streamline and manage employee queries in relation to payroll, taxes, technical bugs, software troubleshooting, and more. They’re mostly used by HR and IT departments. This can reduce the burden of managing HR tasks and providing IT support, respectively.

Web-based help desk: A help desk that can be used as software as a service (SaaS). In order to access a web-based help desk, companies pay a recurring fee which is usually charged on a monthly or annual basis. The service provider of a web-based help desk usually takes care of the software performance and maintenance. Your teams are equipped with all the pre-built features and functionalities to deliver great customer support. A web-based help desk is extremely easy-to-use and access.

Enterprise help desk: Such a help desk is preferred by larger companies because it offers room for customization of features. They’re commonly used for handling both external queries (from customers) and internal queries (from employees). A enterprise help desk also offers more functionalities than a web-based help desk. For instance, you can bring multiple support channels (live chat, email and phone) under one roof. You can tap into powerful collaboration features in order to communicate with other teams while resolving tickets. You also have multiple integrations, enabling your enterprise help desk to communicate with other tools you’re already using.

Cloud-based help desk: The main difference between a cloud-based help desk and a web-based help desk is that the former stores data in the cloud rather than in a service provider’s private server. This offers more customization and the ability to scale up and down, as per business requirements. Cloud-based help desks are also easy to setup and get started with.

Open-source help desk: The biggest advantage of an open-source help desk is that it provides companies with the software’s source code. This enables you to completely customize the help desk based on what you and your teams need. You can use it as an external help desk or an internal help desk or both. The only caveat here is that you need a technically strong IT team to help you with the programming.

3. What does a Help Desk do?

A help desk serves as a single point of contact between an organization and its internal (employees) or external customers. 

Customers turn to a help desk software when they have questions about a product or need assistance using it. Employees do the same. It is the job of the help desk staff to answer these questions and provide the required support that keeps customers and fellow employees satisfied.

4. What are the key Help Desk skills?

These skills are capabilities that help desk staff are expected to possess to do their work optimally. According to Indeed, working as a help desk agent requires these four core skills:

  • Tech skills: Knowledge of help desk ticketing systems, cybersecurity, expertise with company software and hardware, troubleshooting, basic coding and programming, IT diagnostics, proficiency with remote access tools
  • Interpersonal skills: Patience, teamwork, empathy, active listening, focus, and conflict resolution
  • Problem-solving skills: Data analysis, deductive reasoning, decision-making, critical thinking, research, verifying information
  • Attitude and perspective: Stress management, motivation, respect, positivity

5. What are Help Desk tickets?

Help desk tickets are records of customer requests or problems that require fixing. Support teams use tickets to assign, track, and resolve each incoming customer query. Customers can raise support tickets by either calling a help desk line or sending a message via email, text, or chat.

Deliver Great Support with Hiver: A Gmail-Based Help Desk

If implementing everything you’ve just learned is the next thing on your mind, then you’re on the right track. It is time to choose a help desk system that’ll transform your entire support experience, and while we might be biased, our recommendation is Hiver.

Hiver is a multi-channel help desk tool that lets you provide a seamless support experience from the comfort of your Gmail inbox. Try Hiver today, and supercharge your customer service processes!

SaaS enthusiast who also happens to rap, play football, binge watch Nordic TV shows, and indulge in conversations about burgers and existentialism.

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