What is a help desk? First, second, third level explained


As an integral part of the ITSM, the help desk forms the “first response team” for users in matters of software and hardware problems. […]

Because nothing works today without IT, the importance of the help desk in the company (c) pixabay.com is increasing

Today no company can do without IT. From the computer-controlled milking machine in agriculture to the online shop of stationary shops to the database of law firms – IT systems support business processes in all industries. But no software and no user are perfect (keyword “DAU”): Problems arise again and again that have to be resolved promptly. This is where the help desk comes into play as part of IT service management (ITSM).

The help desk (also called service desk) is the central point of contact in the company, which is responsible for IT support and service inquiries from users (= internal customers). It serves as a “Single Point of Contact” (SPOC) for users and at the same time forms the interface to IT service management processes.

The helpdesk is not only understood to mean user support, but also the supporting software itself. The central component of the helpdesk software is the “issue tracking system”. It helps the support staff to record problems and inquiries, to categorize them and to forward them to the right places.

Basically, a help desk is divided into various areas of responsibility, so-called “levels”. Most companies have three levels with different staffing levels.

  1. The First Level is the first point of contact for users. Contact is established either via e-mail, a ticket system, by telephone or occasionally via fax. The task of the employees of the first-level support is to classify the user inquiries and to assess whether a problem can be solved by them in a timely manner. A separate “ticket” is opened in the system for each of these inquiries and closed again after the problem has been resolved. The ticket system thus makes it possible to record incidents, errors and service requests and assign them to employees who are processing them. However, if the first level support does not find a solution to an existing problem, the ticket is forwarded to the second level.
  2. Im Second Level better trained, often multilingual staff deal in detail with the problem at hand. Inquiries are processed systematically in this way. After a malfunction has been eliminated, the user is informed of the solutions as soon as possible. The tasks of the second level also include collecting frequently occurring problems and their quick solutions in a knowledge database. In addition, the second level support takes over the training of the first level and forms the connection between the first and third level.
  3. As a last resort, some companies also have the Third Level Support that deals exclusively with complex or previously unknown problems and their efficient elimination. The system analysts mostly work in teams and pass on customer-oriented solutions directly to the first and second level support. So every level stays up to date and can work faster and more precisely.

The helpdesk and its support levels are based on a certain classification system. With the help of the ticket system, user inquiries or other “requests” are stored centrally in multichannel software. As soon as the tickets are categorized and prioritized, they are forwarded to the appropriate processing points. Through a link with the customer database, the assigned employee can also access all previous inquiries by a user via available channels. The ticket remains visible in the system until a solution has been found, the customer has been informed and the ticket has received the addition “closed”.

The ticket system has many advantages For companies:

  • Time saving: Structured processes and real-time evaluation of the data can be used to analyze and eliminate unnecessary work steps and optimize processes.
  • Clarity: Since the status of all current and past tickets is clearly arranged, statistics on ticket volumes, reaction times or processing quality can be created quickly. This turns the ticket system into a knowledge database with a search function.
  • Customer friendliness: Ticket systems are available to customers around the clock – a quick response time is guaranteed. Detailed tracking of all tickets also increases the customer’s understanding and trust in the service provided.

However, companies that want to acquire and operate a help desk system should also use the disadvantage concerns:

  • High costs: Implementing an issue tracking system is expensive for companies. Not only do you need to hire and train new employees and IT professionals, you also need to train existing staff. Larger companies with a large number of customers also need more powerful servers to cope with the mass of requests.
  • Delayed response time: The larger the company, the more complex software problems tend to be. When a leader creates a ticket, they usually expect a quick resolution of the problem. However, it is problematic if the first and second level support cannot find a solution and the ticket is not received by the third level support until late. A quick solution within a few minutes can often not be guaranteed.

A help desk is a necessity for every business today. But not every company can afford to set all support levels itself. For smaller companies or startups in particular, it is worth considering outsourcing the service desk to a managed service provider.

But even large corporations like to outsource at least part of the service desk so that they can concentrate better on other company-relevant things and save costs. Usually only third level support remains in-house, which can take care of the most important problems directly and, if necessary, personally.

Service Level Agreements (SLAs) play an important role in outsourcing contracts: These framework agreements between service provider and customer determine, for example, how quickly problems with varying priorities should be resolved.

In order to be able to solve any IT problems competently and quickly, a help desk is set up broadly. The following job profiles can be found in customer support:

  • Of the First Level Support consists of mostly monolingual call center staff without any specific technical training. The main tasks of the employees are: Establishing contact with first-time customers, analyzing and categorizing problems and, if possible, solving them themselves. The most frequent inquiries revolve around the use of end devices such as smartphones or laptops.
  • Im Second Level In customer service, system administrators work with technical know-how – ideally, they are IT specialists. They have to help customers via remote diagnosis quickly and effectively on the phone or online. They then enter the solutions found in a knowledge database so that the most frequent customer questions can be answered without a support ticket in the future.
  • Im Third Level Support work in the best case scenario as a systems analyst with a degree in computer science. These IT experts deal exclusively with new, complex or business-critical problems that require an efficient and timely solution. Comprehensive, up-to-date knowledge of company software and hardware is a prerequisite. Although there is usually no direct contact with the user, third level support employees are expected to have good communication skills, as they usually work in teams. In order to be better prepared for future problems, the third level passes on knowledge and solutions directly to the first and second level.

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