Service Desk Management: Understanding Its Role and Importance in IT


The ITIL definition of a service desk (service operation) is a single point of contact (SPOC) between the service provider and the users. TechTarget similarly defines a service desk as a communications center that provides a single point of contact between a company and its customers, employees and business partners. It enables end users to easily interact with the IT department of the organization.

What Does a Service Desk Do?

Primarily an IT function, a service desk manages tickets, incidents and service requests, as well as user communication. Service desk professionals rely on various IT service management (ITSM) tools to get their work done. Modern service desks are more proactive and flexible and can respond to a variety of operational circumstances. They are process-oriented and aim to address everything within the organization’s IT policies and guidelines.

Help Desk vs. Service Desk

While help desk and service desk functionalities may sound similar, there are some significant differences between the two.

A help desk provides technical support to end users, troubleshoots customer and user issues, and/or guides them through specific tasks and actions.

A service desk looks at business needs rather than focusing solely on addressing user needs and takes the broader business context into account. It focuses on improving the efficiency and performance of IT technicians, meeting service-level agreements and shaping the way IT professionals deliver their services to both internal employees and to customers.

In most organizations, the help desk is a component of the service desk, and is concerned only with end-user issues, requests and user satisfaction.

What Are the Responsibilities of a Service Desk?

Service desk professionals have various responsibilities such as:

  • Managing service requests, problems and incidents
Example of a Service Desk Screen
Example of a Service Desk Screen
  • Addressing IT concerns of all departments in the organization
  • Tracking customer issues
  • Enabling employee onboarding
  • Monitoring reports and metrics such as:
    • First-call resolution rate (FCR) – The percentage of tickets resolved with the first response. FCR indicates how effectively and quickly your service desk operates. This is important since it helps improve end-user productivity.
    • Cost per contact – The total cost of operating a service desk with respect to the number of calls/tickets undertaken during a particular period. It is a measure of how productively a service desk conducts its business.
    • Incident/Ticket Volume – Tracking the volume of tickets coming into a service desk provides an overview of peak activity times and can be an indicator of staffing requirements and scheduling.
    • Repeated Tickets – Companies can track Mean Time to Detect (MTTD) and Mean Time to Resolve (MTTR) for repeated tickets. A decreasing trend for these metrics indicates how efficient the service desk is in learning from past problems.
    • Ticket Trending – Tracking trending data with regards to the number of tickets for a particular issue over a specific period can determine the need for more automation to prevent or resolve that problem.
    • Ticket Backlog – Keeping a track of ticket backlogs and working to improve efficiency helps avoid high support time and admin staffing costs for the business.

Modern service desks also provide advanced capabilities such as:

  • Tracking and automating calculation and/or enforcing of employee time allocations on service requests – This enables the tracking of employee productivity and documents incidents that prove to be the most time-consuming.
  • Automating remediation and escalations with rules-based procedures – This allows for identification of key characteristics of reported incidents and routing them to the appropriate pool of technicians.

A service desk, when integrated with other IT management tools, helps provide seamless execution of IT operations in an organization.

Service Desk and Professional Services Automation (PSA)

Most managed service providers (MSPs) use a professional services automation (PSA) tool to run their business efficiently. A PSA tools is a software solution that provides a suite of functions such as service desk, project management, billing and finance, and customer relationship management (CRM). A key function of any PSA tool is the service desk, since this is where all clients’ IT issues and requests are managed. For MSPs, the billing, quoting and CRM functions are also critical.

With a PSA tool, MSPs can:

  • Create, manage and resolve service tickets for client businesses
  • Automate technician time tracking and manage expense reports
  • Efficiently manage client IT projects
  • Elevate their relationships with customers and prospects by keeping track of their accounts and new revenue opportunities
  • Automatically create invoices and manage billing

If you are managing an MSP business, choosing a PSA tool for your specific needs can be a challenging task. Our PSA Buyer’s Guide walks you through the key considerations for a PSA solution so that you can select one that best fits your needs and gives your business a competitive advantage. Download the guide here.