What Is a Help Desk? Exploring 7 Key Features

Header image of laptop and papers on a desk
Category icon
Clock icon
6 mins to read

Help desks have been around for quite some time. Back in the day, you'd physically walk up to a help desk agent who would assist you with your issue. Now, you can send your queries through a chat widget, email, phone call, or even social media. 

While the ways of contacting a help desk may have evolved, the purpose remains the same: to provide support and assistance to customers. But what is a help desk? Which features make up a help desk? Below, we'll answer these questions to help you use this crucial customer support tool to its full potential. 

What Is a Help Desk?

A help desk is a centralized point for managing customer support issues en masse. It's sort of like a bridge between customers who need assistance and the team responsible for providing it. 

Today, help desks often come in the form of software, such as customer relationship management (CRM) platforms or ticketing systems. In fact, the help desk software market reached a value of $11 billion in 2023. 

A help desk may also be an internal tool. For instance, an organization may have a help desk to assist employees. Users can send in queries or report issues to the help desk, which then works towards resolving them. 

However, since the primary focus of help desks is usually customer-centric, we'll look at them from that perspective for the sake of this article. 

How Does a Help Desk Work

How does a help desk work 

A help desk receives customer inquiries or issues through various channels, such as: 

  • Phone 
  • Instant messages 
  • Social media
  • Chat widget 
  • Website contact form 
  • Email 

The customer service agents receive these queries and start a ''ticket.'' Think of a ticket as a record that contains all the information related to a customer's issue. It usually comprises a description of the problem, a priority level, a unique ticket number, and past customer interactions. 

The agents then work to resolve this issue. They might do it by: 

  • Directing the customer to the company's knowledge base 
  • Sharing helpful resources 
  • Escalating the issue to a higher-level technician 
  • Providing step-by-step instructions 
  • Offering product replacements or refunds 

Who Manages the Help Desk 

The staff members who manage the help desk are called help desk technicians or customer service representatives. They may come from product teams, IT teams, or customer service departments. 

In an internal help desk, the technicians are employees of the same organization who have specialized in assisting their colleagues. For instance, they may be from the HR or IT department. Administrative personnel may also take up help desk responsibilities on the side. 

7 Key Features of a Help Desk

The way a help desk is set up will differ across industries and use cases. However, all help desks need some standard features. Here are 7 of them. 

Key elements of a help desk 

1. Support Agents 

Support agents form the backbone of a help desk. Sure, you can automate some aspects of a help desk, but the whole ecosystem cannot run without human intervention. 

Your help desk support representatives should possess excellent problem-solving skills and should have extensive knowledge about your product or service. For instance, if your product is a transcription software, your support agents should know about its specifications and use cases. 

The same is true for physical products, too. Let's say you're a company making kitchen appliances. The support agents don't have to know the user manuals by heart, but they should have a good idea of how the product works and what its troubleshooting steps are. 

Besides product knowledge, support agents also need to possess certain soft skills. These include good communication skills, empathy, patience, and the ability to remain calm under pressure. 

2. Knowledge Base 

A help desk should also have a comprehensive knowledge base that acts as a self-serve customer resource. Since 69% of consumers try to solve issues themselves first, this resource is a must-have. 

The knowledge base is basically a repository of helpful data, such as troubleshooting guides, FAQs, articles, how-to videos, etc. For example, for a kitchen appliance company, a knowledge base would include: 

  • How-to videos on setting up appliances 
  • Troubleshooting guide for common issues 
  • Recipes and cooking tips using the appliances 
  • Product manuals with detailed instructions on usage 

The main purpose of a knowledge base is to reduce the time spent on repetitive queries. Suppose you get the same question — how to set up the coffee machine — over and over again. 

Instead of responding to each customer individually, the customer support agent can simply guide them to the relevant article or guide in the knowledge base. 

One, it empowers your customers to solve their issues on their own. Two, it saves time for support reps. 

3. Ticketing System 

Technology and human resources go hand in hand in a help desk. The best piece of technology you can equip your help desk with is a ticketing system. 

A ticketing system is a software that manages and organizes customer inquiries and requests. You can use it to track the whole lifecycle of a ticket from start to resolution. 

Take JustReply as an example. The customer support tool allows you to view and resolve all your customer issues from within Slack. It supports email support, live chat, video support, and voice support right from the chat widget. 

The tickets initiated in JustReply can be resolved directly through Slack, improving resolution time and efficiency. Plus, there are three beautiful help center templates that make it super-easy for your customers to find support articles. 

Also, JustReply makes writing support articles a breeze. The Notion-like editor simplifies the process of creating and publishing support content. If you find yourself stuck, you can use the built-in AI to autocomplete your content. 

A ticketing system eliminates the hassle of manually logging in every customer query and then using a third-party channel like email to relay these queries to the support team. Instead, you can assign queries to the relevant team members from the same platform. It's quick, efficient, and error-free. 

4. Analytics Tool

Every help desk also needs an analytics tool to track performance metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs). Let's say you want to see how long your support agents take to resolve a problem on average. 

Measuring this manually is practically impossible in large enterprises. Instead, an analytics tool does it for you. 

You can use it to check the query resolution time. If it meets your benchmark, you're golden. If not, you can invest in improving your processes or training your support staff. 

Similarly, you can track: 

  • Common issues raised by customers
  • Trends in customer satisfaction ratings
  • Average response time
  • First call resolution rate 
  • Number of open tickets at a given point in time 
  • Time spent on different types of tickets 

What do you accomplish by measuring these analytics? You find ways to improve customer service. Good service means more consumer advocacy, as 82% of customers will recommend you to a friend or family member after a positive service experience. It also means customer retention — 93% will make repeat purchases upon receiving excellent service. 

5. AI and Chatbots 

Now that AI is a ubiquitous resource, it's no surprise that more and more businesses are using chatbots to manage their customer support. Interestingly, customers don't mind it as much. 

In fact, 69% are willing to talk to a chatbot for simple issues. That's a 23% increase from 2021. 

In no way does this mean that chatbots can replace humans. They can simply complement your support team. 

For example, chatbots can respond to repetitive queries. They can also access information from the knowledge base and assist your support reps in answering questions. 

Furthermore, chatbots operate 24/7, catering to customers from different time zones or those who experience issues outside of business hours. 

6. Integrations 

A help desk could function as a sole entity. But it's much more efficient when integrated with other business tools. 

For example, you can integrate your help desk with your CRM to access customer information. As mentioned earlier, integration with an analytics tool can also prove to be insightful. 

Similarly, you can integrate your help desk with social media platforms. Customers can then reach out to you through their preferred channel. 

7. Feedback and Satisfaction Surveys

Helping customers is just the first step. The second one is understanding how satisfied customers are with your level and quality of help. 

That's where feedback mechanisms come in. A help desk should have a built-in feature that allows you to collect feedback from customers. Or you can integrate a third-party feedback tool. 

What is net promoter score

The Net Promoter Score (NPS) is a popular metric used by companies to measure customer satisfaction. It measures how likely customers are to recommend your product or service to others on a scale of 0-10. Alternatively, you can customize satisfaction surveys to capture specific feedback related to your business, such as a new feature. 

Elevate Your Help Desk With JustReply 

With all that you've learned about help desks, it's clear that having one is crucial for your business. But having one isn't enough. It should also be efficient and functional. 

A support tool like JustReply can elevate the help desk experience for both agents and customers. The Slack-enabled support, coupled with a minimalist inbox, macros, AI content creation, and smart editor, makes JustReply a useful tool for early-stage startups. Get started to transform your customer support game. 

Photo by on Unsplash

Experience magic with JustReply.

Start free trial
From 300+ Customer Reviews
Green checkmark icon
Easily customised and edited
Green checkmark icon
Build to industry leading standards
Green checkmark icon
99.9% cheaper than alternatives