Helpdesk vs. service desk: Core differences

Issac Thomas

October 16, 20233 min read

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The terms "helpdesk" and "service desk" are often used interchangeably, but they bear distinct qualities that can greatly impact your customer interactions and overall business operations. While a helpdesk is a customer-facing tool for swift problem-solving and incident management, a service desk focuses on resolving larger IT and systemic issues for internal teams, thereby enabling them to deliver better support experiences. 

The choice between them can significantly impact your customer interactions and overall business efficiency. Let's explore the topic in detail, starting with their definitions.

Table of Contents

What is a helpdesk?

Helpdesk is the responsive hero, your trusty sidekick when it comes to addressing customer issues and troubleshooting technical concerns. Helpdesk software is ideal for organizations that primarily deal with external customers and require efficient incident resolution. It’s critical for the success of call centers, customer support teams and businesses providing external support.  

Think of it as a reliable hotline connecting customers directly with live and virtual agents who are equipped with the knowledge and resources to swiftly resolve problems. 

The primary focus of a helpdesk is to provide reactive support – meaning it steps in when customers reach out with a problem. This approach is invaluable for businesses that need a responsive solution to maintain customer satisfaction. However, it's important to note that helpdesks primarily deal with resolving customer issues rather than addressing larger systemic problems.

Query resolution on Helpdesk

What is a service desk?

A service desk is a proactive maestro. It goes beyond just resolving issues and takes a holistic approach to resolving deep-seated systemic issues. It also manages an organization's IT infrastructure and services. Service desks aim to identify and address root causes, ensuring that recurring problems are eliminated at the source. 

Service desk solutions offer a broader scope of IT service management (ITSM) functionalities, encompassing:

  • incident management

  • change management

  • asset management

  • service catalog management

Service desk software is suitable for organizations that require comprehensive ITSM capabilities, internal IT departments and enterprises managing complex IT infrastructures.

What are the similarities between helpdesks and service desks?

Helpdesk and service desk are like the yin and yang of customer support. Helpdesks tackle urgent and immediate issues, offering quick relief to customers in distress. Meanwhile, Service desks focus on the big picture, orchestrating solutions that prevent future issues from arising.  

However, there are many similarities between them. Here they are.

  • Ticketing systems: Both helpdesk and service desk solutions offer a centralized ticketing system, enabling the logging, classifying, tracking and resolution of customer inquiries or IT issues.

Sprinklr ticket management leveraging AI engine GIF
  • Incident management: Both systems facilitate the management of incidents, allowing support teams to prioritize and resolve issues efficiently.

Prioritizing tickets with Sprinklr helpdesk
  • Knowledge base: Helpdesk and service desk software provides a repository of frequently asked questions (FAQs), solutions and best practices to help users find quick answers and improve customer service response times.

Sprinklr's knowledge base improving response time

Read more: 5 ways to improve customer response time with AI

  • Communication channels: Both solutions typically support multiple communication channels, such as email, phone and chat, enabling seamless interaction between support agents and users.

And last but not least, both helpdesk and service desk share a common end objective of delivering exceptional digital customer experiences.

What are the differences between helpdesks and service desks?

Let’s go deeper and understand the differences between helpdesks and service desks, layer by layer. Here is a table for you.



Service Desk


Deals with incident management and customer support

Manages broader IT infrastructure and services, emphasizing holistic solutions


Swift resolution of immediate problems to maintain customer satisfaction

Eliminating recurring issues at source, enhancing long-term efficiency and customer experience


Reactive: Responds to customer-initiated interactions and issues

Proactive: Identifies potential issues before they become customer problems

Metrics & KPIs

Response times, ticket resolution speed and customer satisfaction

Incident reduction, problem prevention and process optimization


Generally, more straightforward and user-friendly, suitable for smaller businesses with simpler support needs

Tends to be more feature-rich and complex, catering to larger organizations with intricate IT processes

ITIL compliance

May not offer the same level of Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) compliance

Aligns with the ITIL framework, a globally recognized set of best practices for IT service management


Automates tasks like ticket categorization, prioritization and routing, as well as tasks like automated responses and knowledge base integration

Automates tasks like logging and tracking resolved issues, approval workflows for change management and tracking IT assets

Issue examples

Customer inquiries about account access, product functionality or billing concerns

Requests to identify network vulnerabilities, hardware optimization and software upgrades

Learn more: 19 must-have helpdesk features that cannot be ignored

How to choose between a helpdesk and service desk: Top purchase factors

The decision to embrace a helpdesk or a service desk hinges on your business's size, complexity and goals. Here are five things to look for:

  1. Business requirements: Gauge your scale of operations, the intricate weave of your IT infrastructure and the depth of IT service management needed. Tailor your choice to your distinct needs.

  2. Scalability: Ensure the chosen software integrates natively with your organization's evolution, effortlessly adapting to shifting trends and expanding horizons.

  3. Integration capabilities: Investigate the software's prowess in integrating with your existing tools — CRM, IT asset management and collaboration platforms — creating a seamless ensemble of efficiency.

  4. Budget and cost-effectiveness: Pricing models, subscription plans and total cost of ownership should resonate with your budget and long-term fiscal objectives.

  5. User experience: Engage with trials or demos to assess the software's cadence — its customization, user-friendliness and alignment with your team's rhythm.

Sprinklr Service: An integrated solution for your helpdesk and service desk needs

While both helpdesk and service desk have their own strength and utility, it’s futile to buy separate software for them when you can have one integrated solution and minimize friction, point-solution chaos and costs. 

With an AI-powered, unified customer support solution like Sprinklr Service, you redefine your support experience from end to end. It gathers every concern and every query and channels them into a centralized hub for easy data exchange, collaboration and issue tracking.  

No longer are customers or teams lost in the chaos of siloed solutions. Get your free trial of Sprinklr Service today!

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