Help Desk vs Technical Support: What's the Difference & Which Do You Need?

Elmeri Palokangas
November 30, 2022
min read
January 15, 2024
Photo credit
Help desk and technical support both play vital roles in supporting the customer experience. While help desk focuses on more basic queries, technical support responds to complex issues.
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If you've ever worked in customer service, you've probably heard of the terms "help desk" and "technical support."

Many people use these terms interchangeably, when in fact there are some key differences between the two. 

What exactly is the difference between a help desk and technical support?

Our goal is to help you understand the key differences between a help desk and technical support.

We will also go through the benefits and challenges of both options so that you can make an informed decision, and decide which one is right for your needs.

Let's start with the help desk!

Defining help desk

In a company, the help desk serves as the central point of contact for any issues related to the products or services. Help desk staff are responsible for answering customer questions, troubleshooting problems, and providing general support.

Compared to technical support, help desk staff have a more general understanding of the company’s products and services. They may not have the same level of expertise as technical support staff, but they can provide basic information and point customers in the right direction.

Help desk software can be easy to confuse with front row support as well, but the two are different. Front row support is more customer-facing and involves employees working directly with customers to resolve issues.

Skills needed for help desk

Some of the key skills help desk employees typically need:

  • Excellent communication skills: In case of any technical issues, help desk employees need to be able to explain the issue in a clear and concise manner.
  • Strong problem-solving skills: To be able to troubleshoot and identify the root cause of a problem, help desk employees must have strong problem-solving skills.
  • Knowledge of products and services: Help desk employees should have a good understanding of the company's products and services.

What is the role of help desk?

The role of the help desk is to provide assistance to customers in resolving any technical issues, or providing advice and support for products and services.

The help desk staff can provide basic information, but may not have the same level of experience as technical support staff. In this case, they can direct customers to the technical support team for further assistance.

Some key roles of the help desk include:

  • Answer basic customer inquiries: Basic inquiries like product information and general troubleshooting can be something help desk representatives do.
  • Provide direction to technical support: If customers require complex assistance, help desk staff can direct them to the right department or personnel.
  • Maintain customer service standards: Help desk staff are expected to maintain product quality and customer service standards.

Help desk staff can also assist with any problems related to order and product subscriptions. They can provide customers with the necessary information and help them understand how to use a product effectively.

The information can also be incorporated into a company's knowledge base, created by a knowledge base software like Scribe and Scribe Pages.

Scribe automatically generates step-by-step guides for any process. It's as simple as turning on the extension and going through your workflow. A professional-looking instruction will be generated in seconds by Scribe, including screenshots and text.

Scribe Pages takes things a step further, letting you combine Scribes with video, images and more.

Use one of Scribe's free help desk templates or our AI helpdesk documentation generator to create dynamic, visual documentation that includes bite-sized education and longer-form support to fill up your resource center or client-facing knowledge base.

Find out how to use Pages (Source: Scribe)
Find out how to use Pages (Source: Scribe)

💡 Try a knowledge base Chrome extension to save, share, and access your information in seconds.  ‎

Defining technical support

Technical support, on the other hand similar to desktop support, is responsible for resolving technical issues. This can include anything from setting up new hardware to troubleshooting software problems.

Technical support staff are typically more technical than help desk staff and have in-depth knowledge of the company's products and services.

Because technical support is more specialized, it may require additional training or certification. This is to ensure that their support staff are up-to-date with the latest products and services.

They can also be harder to find, as they are typically dealing with complex issues and providing solutions that require more expertise.

 A "break-fix model" is commonly used in technical support, where support services are offered only when necessary. Also, technical support is generally a self-contained system that resolves issues without escalating them or referring them elsewhere.

Many companies use technical support as an Enterprise level service for companies. This type of support is typically more expensive and provides a higher level of service.

Skills needed for technical support

Technical support staff need to be highly-skilled in order to provide effective customer service.

 Some of the key skills they need include:

  • Excellent problem-solving and analytical skills: Technical support staff needs the ability to analyze problems quickly and accurately.
  • Interpersonal skills: Technical support staff need technical communication skills to be able to interact with customers in a friendly and professional manner.
  • Advanced technical knowledge: Technical support staff need to have a deep understanding of the company’s products and services and explain technical descriptions to customers.
  • Ability to troubleshoot complex issues: This involves being able to identify the root cause of an issue, as well as having the skills needed to resolve it.

What is the role of technical support?

Technical support staff are responsible for providing customer service and technical assistance to customers.

Some of the tasks they may be responsible for include:

  • Diagnosing and troubleshooting technical problems: If customer’s are experiencing problems with a product or service, technical support staff can assist in diagnosing and resolving the issue.
  • Updating software and hardware: Technical support staff may be responsible for updating and configuring software, as well as installing and troubleshooting hardware.
  • Providing training: Technical support staff may be responsible for training customers on new products or services.

Technical support staff may also be responsible for creating helpful manuals and guides that can be used as technology training for employees, with the goal of providing detailed instructions on how to use a product.

Scribe can be a great tool to help with this task, since it automatically generates step-by-step guides for any processes, and procedures your company has.

📌 Related resource: Best Practices for Creating User Guides

Help Desk vs. Technical Support: Which one to select?

To help you decide which of these two support systems is best for your organization, it’s important to understand the benefits and challenges of each one.

Benefits of a help desk

  • Ease of use: Help desk staff typically do not require any advanced technical knowledge as they are primarily responsible for providing customer service.
  • Cost effectiveness: If your organisation has a limited budget, using help desk services can be more cost-effective.
  • Overall customer service: Help desk staff can provide more comprehensive customer service, as they are typically more familiar with the organisation’s products and services.

Benefits of technical support

  • Advanced technical knowledge: Technical support staff have in-depth knowledge and can handle more complex issues.
  • Highly skilled technicians: The personnel is often certified or specially qualified to offer technical support.
  • Resolving problems quickly: Technical support staff have the ability to diagnose and troubleshoot technical issues, which can help resolve these issues faster.

Challenges of a help desk

  • Escalation of issues: If help desk staff are unable to resolve an issue, they may need to refer it elsewhere. This can cause delays in resolving the issue.
  • Not as comprehensive as technical support: Help desk staff may not have the same level of technical understanding as technical support personnel and they may not be able to handle complex issues.

Challenges of technical support

  • High cost: Technical support services can be expensive, especially if they require specialised equipment or personnel.
  • Training needs: Technical support staff need to have a deep understanding of the products and services, which requires substantial training.

Can you have both help desk & technical support?

Yes, and both are important for providing excellent customer service.

Having both technical support and a help desk available for and in your business helps you keep things running efficiently. Help desk staff can deal with more basic queries, while technical support deals with complex issues.

They can work hand in hand to create a comprehensive customer service system, that ensures all customers' needs are met. This way, you can ensure that customers get the help they need, no matter how difficult the issue is.

However, if your organization is limited on resources, it may be best to focus on one over the other, and usually a help desk is a better first solution.

Having both desktop support and a help desk can also help you save time and money. By centralizing your customer service, you can ensure that customers’ issues are dealt with quickly and efficiently. This reduces the amount of time and resources you need to spend on customer service.


To summarize, understanding the difference between help desk and technical support is important for choosing the correct customer service solution.

Help desk staff are more suited to basic queries, while technical support staff have in-depth knowledge and can handle more complex issues. Depending on your organization’s resources and budget, you may choose to invest in one or both of these systems.

No matter which one you choose, you should streamline your support to be as effective as possible.

One way to do this is to use Scribe, which allows you to record and create step-by-step procedures easily, which can be used to guide employees or customers. This will help you get the most out of your customer service system and ensure that everyone is getting the help they need.



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