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What is an ITIL® Service Desk?

By C. Martin
Updated May 16, 2024
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An ITIL® service desk refers to an information technology (IT) helpdesk, or single point of contact for user problems, run according to ITIL® best practice standards. Also known as an ITIL® helpdesk, such a service is usually the first point of contact that an IT service user has with the IT department or service provider when a problem occurs. ITIL® stands for IT Infrastructure Library. It is a popular approach to IT service management, originating in the United Kingdom but utilized throughout the world. ITIL® is a registered trademark of the United Kingdom Office of Government Commerce (OGC).

In the best practice approach advocated by the ITIL® process, typical goals for an ITIL® service helpdesk are usually to provide a single point of contact (SPOC) for users, and subsequently to restore normal operations and service with the minimum impact on the end user or customer. To achieve this, it is usually important to have documented business priorities and agreed service levels. The motivation for setting up an ITIL® service desk is often one of cost. A well-run ITIL® service desk may provide overall cost savings due to the convenience of a single point of contact and the savings made by dealing with IT problems as efficiently as possible. Such a helpdesk often enables an IT service to maximize the use of less costly staff and only escalate the more difficult issues to expensively trained technicians.

There are many types of ITIL® service desk, and they are often classified according to what level of call handling is performed as part of the helpdesk role. For example, a call center desk may only perform call logging, passing all calls on to other teams for resolution and further processing. An unskilled service desk is likely to log calls, dispatch calls onwards for resolution, track incidents, and provide feedback to users. At a skilled service desk, it is likely that the majority of the calls are resolved by the service desk team, with only complex calls being passed along to another department. An expert service desk often incorporates the full incident management lifecycle, with virtually all calls being resolved at the ITIL® service desk.

A number of success factors are identified by the ITIL® software process for the helpdesk service. The importance of clearly understanding the business and customer needs is heavily emphasized. The objectives and goals of the ITIL® service desk should be clearly defined. Investment and training for ITIL® service desk staff is also recommended.

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