What is Help Desk Software?

Modern IT help desks and service desks need to quickly, and accurately, respond to a seemingly constant stream of end-user and business-process-affecting IT issues. Keeping track of all the outstanding issues, or “incidents” as ITIL* would call them, and referencing those that have been solved before, is an important aspect of achieving that speed and accuracy.

The complexity of modern organizations, and the need to make continual cost savings, also means that help desk effectiveness and efficiency rests heavily on using fit-for-purpose help desk software to support help desk staff and their IT service management (ITSM) processes. It is help desk software that supports incident management and request management with workflow and automation, along with other efficiency and customer-experience-improving capabilities, such as self-service portals, knowledge bases, remote control, self-service password reset, and email integration.

Good help desk software helps help desk agents to deal with a variety of end-user “contacts” – be they related to incidents, requests for service or information, or complaints – precisely once. This means that multiple calls (or other forms of contacts such as emails) about the same issue or requirement are recorded as tickets, linked together, and passed to the same individual or team working on it. The help desk software ensures that all issues are ticketed and monitored such that tickets are never left unattended (with delays and service level breaches), forgotten, or lost.

Help desk software facilitates this through prioritization, categorization, automated routing, service level management, and escalation capabilities. It also supports modern help desks across the whole range of their responsibilities, including:

  • Capturing and recording the relevant details of all incidents, requests, complaints, and other end-user issues. In addition to providing a means for help desk agents to enter those details, the help desk software also allows the direct capture from end-user self-service logging, email integration, and automatic capture from monitoring tools and devices.
  • Allocating and routing issues to the appropriate help desk agents or directly to second or third line support staff. The help desk software will also manage the transfer of tickets between different help desk agents and resolution groups.
  • Managing and reporting on ticket statuses, so staff and customers can easily check on the status and progress of their tickets. Management can also get visibility into help desk workloads, team and individual performance, service level achievement, and end-user customer satisfaction and feedback.
  • Facilitating self-service to help reduce help desk workloads, with the help desk software’s knowledge base and knowledge management capabilities helping end users to help themselves.

Additionally, modern help desk software will directly support how the help desk agents and processes interface with other IT service management (ITSM) processes, for example linking with information on upcoming and recent changes, problems, and errors being processed. Perhaps most importantly, helpdesk software can also link help desk agents to key sources of data and information:

  • By interfacing with the configuration management database (CMDB) – whether part of the help desk software suite or not – help desk staff can be made immediately aware of relevant information about new calls they are taking. Information about the caller, their location, available hardware and software, and even their qualifications and technical skill levels can all be vital input to helping help desk agents to deal promptly and effectively with calls.
  • Joining up with knowledge management provides vital information to help desk staff – and to automatic systems – increasing the chance of the right decision being made quickly thanks to having the right information at the right time. Help desk software with knowledge management capabilities translates directly into issues being fixed faster and requests met sooner – all of which will improve the customer experience for end users and the help desk organization’s effectiveness, potentially reducing costs and minimizing the adverse effect of incidents on business operations.

The help desk software solutions available now offer so much more than that of the noughties. As technology has expanded ever further into our everyday lives, so help desk software has too. The software allows end users and customers to enter tickets for themselves via a self-service portal – using a PC, tablet, or cell phone – and to monitor and check on the progress of those tickets in the same way. And while the help desk software still supports help desk staff in taking calls and recording, allocating, and monitoring progress on tickets, it also allows for ever-increasing automation, capturing tickets directly from customers or technology, and allocating them according to preset rules, priorities, and circumstances – with notifications to end users, help desk agents, and managers as ticket statuses change or service level targets look likely to be breached.

The modern organization relies on fit-for-purpose software throughout the enterprise to support every aspect of its operations. The IT help desk is no exception, and optimal help desk performance is highly dependent on good and appropriate help desk software being available to assist help desk agents and end users.

* ITIL is the IT service management (ITSM) best practice framework formerly known as the IT Infrastructure Library.

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