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ITIL Service Desk types

You can find many articles within this blog regarding Service Desk: Service Desk: single point of contactService Desk staff – a window to the IT organization or ITIL Incident Management – How to separate roles at different support levels, just to name a few. Therefore, I believe this is a good time to actually describe Service Desk types according to ITIL or Service Management practices in general.

Service Desk classification

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Service Desk classification within this article is performed from many different aspects, as in practice, there’s no single Service Desk classification. Please note that the classifications listed generally aren’t mutually exclusive; each classification is important for internal structure, purpose and outputs generated by the Service Desk.

Service Desk type by service provided

  • Call Center – only receives telephone calls. Customer’s requests are then forwarded to appropriate support group.
  • Help Desk – receives calls and/or emails, and tries to resolve incidents. Help Desk doesn’t handle service requests (e.g. account creation, etc.).
  • Service Desk – receives and resolves incident reports, service requests, and requests for information. Service Desk remains the owner of any ticket (service or incident) until successful resolution.

Service Desk type by internal organization

  • Single level – while it’s not common to have a wide array of subject matter experts within Service Desk, depending on services provided, Service Desk may use such arrangement (e.g., for premium-level service support).
  • Multilevel – the more common organization type, where a Self-Service Portalrepresents the support starting point (Level 0), and Service Desk is considered to be the first line of support (Level 1 support). More complex incidents are forwarded to the appropriate expert group (Level 2 support), and if needed, the vendor or manufacturer will be contacted (Level 3 support).
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Figure 1 – Different types of Service Desks according to classification listed within this blog post

Service Desk type by size and location

  • Local Service Desk – generally located close to the customer, on location or within a branch office.
  • Central Service Desk – disregarding the customer’s size or dispersion, Service Desk provides support services from a single central location. May address language, cultural or time-zone considerations.
  • Virtual Service Desk – while Service Desk staff may be dispersed among a number of locations (even worldwide), by using available technology and Internet, we can create the illusion of a single centralized Service Desk.
  • Follow the Sun – the most challenging type of Service Desk that supports customers around the globe. The Service Desk staff can’t be appointed by a normal day / night routine, as “day” in this case lasts for a full 24 hours.

Service Desk type by business model

  • Service Desk as cost center – model in which Service Desk operates under a budget, and is considered to be a cost (or expense) to the company. The main challenge in managing such a Service Desk is to eliminate “hidden” costs.
  • Service Desk as profit center – while it must cover all of it expenses, Service Desk must also generate profit by charging fees with reasonable margins for provided services. The main challenge is to establish an accurate and profitable service pricing list, without alienating the customers.

Service Desk type by ownership

  • In-house – running the Service Desk services within the company or organization. Service Desk personnel are company employees, and therefore a stronger level of management is required in order to manage costs (or profit), staff and effort.
  • Outsourced – having Service Desk provided from a third party outside the company. May provide lower costs, and more efficient use of resources. Services provided, volume, and service levels are determined and agreed by contract. While it was very popular practice a few years ago, it fails on many occasions as it adds another layer of complexity to the existing situation. It could be very useful if you understand your own cost structure very well.

Service Desk types by customer orientation

  • Internal – providing Service Desk services internally, within the same organization or company. The company may have several Service Desks that employees contact for support (e.g., IT, facilities, HR, fleet management, etc.).
  • External – providing support to the customers who bought or use our products or services. Service Desk may play a vital role in pre-sales and post-sales customers’ experience.

Service Desk type by communication flow

  • Inbound – Service Desk receives calls and messages from the customer, and responds accordingly. The customer initiates all communication.
  • Outbound – Service Desk may initiate communication to the customer (or potential customer) in telemarketing fashion. May be used to contact customers in early days of service / product usage to increase experience, or to directly sell (upsell) services, e.g., after the customer registers for free products / services.

“Choice. The problem is choice.”

Service Desk is a part of the best practice model, and today you have more options than ever in choosing one; for starters, you can build it in-house, or simply outsource one. You can also mix and match different options to get your own personalized Service Desk flavor; e.g., internal, local, outsourced service desk – but stay within the realm of common sense.

On the other hand, service providers with an existing Service Desk function in place may use this information to change the Service Desk business model (i.e., from cost center to profit center), or transform multiple local Service Desks into one virtual Central Service Desk.

Each organization has its own needs, and one size (or model) will not fit all, but again, it’s good to know that you have a choice. Just make sure that all changes are performed according to CSI principles (ITIL Continual Service Improvement – don’t lose the momentum).

You can also check out this free white paper: ITIL implementation in your IT organization to see an example of Service Desk implementation.

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