The Differences Between IT Support, Help Desks, and Desktop Support

Let’s say you’re at work one day and someone on your team runs into an issue with their work computer. For some reason, it’s simply not working like it normally does. And no, turning it off and on doesn’t seem to be the solution.

Whether it’s a matter of a software update, a virus, or malfunctioning hardware, you need an expert to help you get to the bottom of the problem so your team can get back to work. But who do you call?

This post is going to breakdown three main sources of technical support:

  • help desks
  • IT support
  • desktop support

And for hiring managers, we’ll provide a few tips for staffing the right experts for each of these teams, so your business can be prepared for any technical error.

What’s a Help Desk?

Your help desk experts are there to resolve everyday issues with products or services. And in many instances, they provide support for issues that are user-error and aren’t necessarily problems with the product. They’re typically the first point of contact when issues arise, and even if the problem is outside of their scope of expertise, they can help assess the situation and point the customer in the right direction.

Put simply, think of the help desk as the first person you call. And if they can’t help, they can help you find someone who can.

Help desk teams may exist as support for internal employees, or they can support external customers and clients when working for an organization that offers a product or service.

Hiring for Your Help Desk

When hiring talent for help desk roles, you need someone with a strong blend of technical skills and soft skills. While they need a working knowledge of common technical difficulties, they also need strong communication and customer service skills. A major part of their role is to listen to the customer, understand their problem, and provide a solution. Doing this successfully requires patience, effective communication, excellent listening, and an eagerness to help others.

Problem solving is another vital skill to look out for when hiring someone for a help desk. Once they receive a ticket or inquiry regarding a technical issue, they need to acquire as much information as possible to properly investigate the issue and find a solution. Or, if it’s outside of their scope, identify the next best contact for the customer.

When interviewing a candidate for a help desk role, try offering them a mock scenario where they need to solve for a customer’s technical issue. Because help desk employees need interpersonal and communication skills, it can be useful to roleplay as the customer or internal employee who they are helping. Be sure to test how well they listen, talk through the problem-solving process, and explain the solution as they would to an actual user.

What’s IT Support?

IT support—sometimes referred to as tech support—is on hand for issues that are more difficult or advanced. They are often the next point of contact following help desk, and their role is to resolve complex technical issues that require more expertise.

Issues that are escalated to IT support typically require a deeper understanding of the inner workings of the hardware or software in which the user is encountering issues. Their solutions may be a bit more nuanced or time-consuming than those offered through the help desk, as the issue will likely have other underlying causes.

Also, whereas a help desk can assist in user-error, IT support will assist with issues that are strictly technical.

Hiring for IT Support

Your IT support staff still needs some of the soft skills you would look for in help desk candidates, like customer service and communication. These are still key competencies for their role, as they are working to support customers or internal employees.

However, hiring for IT support requires deeper consideration for technical skills, knowledge, and experience. Because they are most often the escalation point following help desk, they need to be prepared to investigate and troubleshoot issues that are more complex and advanced.

A great hiring tool for IT support would be presenting the candidate with an issue, like how you would with a help desk hire. However, make the issue more challenging. Ask them to walk you through their process for solving the problem and to explain what knowledge they used to achieve their solution.

What’s Desktop Support?

Desktop support is there to resolve issues that need in-person, hands-on solutions. Like IT support, they’re a point of escalation past the help desk. When it’s determined that the error has to do with hardware, or software via the hardware or desktop system, then it’s time for desktop support.

The main distinction between desktop support and the two support teams above is that desktop support works in the field. For a customer, this could mean that they are dispatched to the customer’s location to fix the hardware, software, or desktop system—or that the customer needs to bring the malfunctioning equipment into a storefront or repair center. For internal employees, desktop support would involve an expert going to the employee’s desk or other work location to troubleshoot the issue.

Hiring for Desktop Support

When hiring for a desktop support role, you’ll need someone with the top-tier customer service skills of a help desk employee and the technical mindset and knowledge of IT support. Because desktop support will be visiting customers or employees in person, they especially need to be proficient in communicating with the user in a manner that is supportive and patient. However, where IT support is primarily tasked with online interfacing and software solutions, desktop support should be equipped with an understanding of hardware. They still need software-related expertise, but because issues that require hardware or desktop-related solutions are escalated to this team, it’s vital that they understand the inner workings of these technologies.

When hiring desktop support, give the candidate an issue that is hands-on and utilize the roleplaying strategy from the previously mentioned exercises. Make it challenging, and evaluate how well they interact with the user, how long it takes them to identify the problem, and how effectively they are able to solve it.

Or, You Could Leave It to Evergreen

Evergreen knows the ins and outs of building and managing help desk, IT support, and desktop support teams, all perfectly suited to your organization’s needs.