Helpdesks provide organizations with assistance and information, usually for problems such as password resets, access permissions, asset tracking, and user fix-and-repair services. The helpdesk we know today started in the 1980s as the dawn of the personal computer era emerged and changed how humankind works and communicates.
Correspondingly, the modern service desk is traced to 1988, when SDI was formed (first named The Help Desk User Group) and later known as the Help Desk Institute. With SDI, the IT troubleshooting help desk was born. The help desk first mostly handled tasks face-to-face to resolve customer issues. Users had to visit the help desk office to get their problems solved. Users submitted paper forms or communicated their issues. The advent of email changed how users expressed their concerns and issues, bypassing paper forms. Help desk agents could provide status updates and resolutions by email, as well.
The introduction of help desk systems evolved simultaneously when the internet was officially made available for public use. As a result, many companies started outsourcing customer service departments. This led to the massive use of email and live chat systems in the 1990s. My company began shortly after, from a dorm room in The Netherlands, by two college students who were familiar with service and help desk management capabilities that they’d worked with throughout Europe.
As service management solutions found a foothold throughout Europe, help desk technology established its capabilities through the early 2000s and expanded throughout the corporate world. While the technology found a foothold in North America through the early part of the 21st Century’s first decade, the 2010s are when service management technology took hold and expanded quickly.
Diverse kinds of software expanded and splintered to deal with customer-care issues, with various help desk software programs emerging as commercial offerings. Help desk and service management solutions moved from intranet-based solutions and became networked, app-based, and even mobile device supported. The modern service desk has become an always-on, always-available support solution that can tackle or address any challenge a user faces, no matter where the user is or where the help desk resides.
Current help desks are interactive and participatory for customers and agents. Customers can now submit and track their issues more efficiently and solve their problems (like password resets and reserving office space) through a self-service portal.
Customer service and help desk software systems are evolving and becoming increasingly popular. In some cases, these solutions are helping reduce operational costs because of missed work and reducing manual tasks.
The future of help desks
The future of the help desk will include more of the same, but more of it. There is a concerted effort to automate manual processes managed by the help desk and move the user experience more comprehensively throughout organizations. This leads to ever more robust self-service options and capabilities.
Likewise, organizations rely more on reporting and tracking capabilities found with service management solutions. These include asset management and tracking devices. As a result, help desks of the future must look beyond what they do now and achieve new goals and heights through what they do and the level of services they offer.
In the same vein, we'll see more focus on user experience and steps to expand user productivity, which ripples throughout an organization. In the short term, the help desk will become more of a digital workforce that handles repetitive calls. Chatbots, scripts, and other tools will continue taking over the simple, repetitive tasks that some service desk employees now do.
Help desk employees will see their roles become more focused on hospitality, customer experience, and employee experience and solving more complex calls. Also, peer-to-peer support will become more relevant at the service desk of the future. The service desk of the future will help facilitate this process by moderating forums where customers can share knowledge amongst themselves.
One of my current priorities is a fully functional on-the-go mobile workspace. This can potentially reinvent help desk staff, so instead of troubleshooting one problem, they can go from one activity to the next quickly from anywhere. We also believe that accessibility is the key to a self-service portal, and regardless of users’ physical capabilities, more features can improve platform accessibility. To this goal, screen reading support, navigation, and efficacy trigger these outcomes.
Finally, if it's not apparent by now, ITSM, as we've known it for the last decade, will be no more. According to Gartner, organizations are adopting agile practices to deliver greater value and better adhere to compliance frameworks. “Current ITSM environments will face similar pressure to develop a more adaptable approach to delivering service, challenging the status quo of risk-averse and nondynamic behavior,” the researchers say.
Additionally, in the months ahead, we'll see organizations more focused on becoming digital. Through this, help desk solutions will become a core value driver in every organization, so any company that wants to stay competitive will value ITSM’s role in their ITSM processes.
Lastly, as we've seen throughout the pandemic, remote-based service management solutions and the help desk are moving to more of a remote model because the current need dictates this development.
Migration to the cloud will continue at a breakneck pace, and solutions that enable such environments are commonplace and will become more so as many organizations operate effectively either online or offline. ITSM will be more remote and nimble as a result.
Ruben Franzen is president of TOPdesk US.