Do I Need Help Desk Software or Customer Service Software?

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You know you need software,but do you need help desk software or customer service software? These terms are sometimes used interchangeably, and vendors in each category often overlap. Which kind of software you need depends on what you need it to do.

Help Desk Software or customer service software

Here are some questions to ask to figure out what you need.

1. Am I a help desk or a customer service center?

Again, these are terms that can be used interchangeably. “Help desk” tends to refer to IT teams. These people help other employees with technical issues. People call them when their computers and devices break or when they can’t connect to the printer.

This guy is IT:


Customer service tends to refer to the people who help customers with their issues with products and services.

This girl is customer service:


In other words, who are you helping? If you’re helping coworkers, you’re a help desk. If you’re helping customers, you’re a customer service center.

Alright, so that’s interesting. But it doesn’t necessarily answer the question of what kind of software you need.

2. How am I helping people right now?

Another question to ask is what’s involved on your end to resolve a typical issue. Another way to put this is what is your process for solving problems?

No matter what software you’re buying, you’ll save time and make a better decision if you lay out your current process, then decide on a software based on that, rather than expecting software to change the way you work fundamentally.

For example, how do your requests for help come in right now? Email? Contact form? Twitter? How do you decide who tackles which issue? What’s your target turnaround time? How do you track performance metrics like turnaround time?

Knowing your current processes helps you decide which parts to automate with software.

3. How do I want to help people going forward?

Then you need to decide how you want to do things going forward. What are the pain points in your process?

From there you can figure out which pains software can help alleviate. When we polled help desk software buyers for our Help Desk Software Industry User Research Report, we found that help desk software had a big positive impact on ticket resolution time, agent productivity, and agent job satisfaction.

Knowing which problems you want your software to solve gets you closer to figuring out which features you need your software to have.

Our survey asked buyers about the features they want and use in their software. Here are the most-used help desk features:


And their most-wanted help desk software features:


If we’d asked people about customer service software, the answers might be slightly different. But not by much.


At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what you call your software. What matters is what it does for you.

Figure out what you’re doing now, figure out what you want to do differently, and then look at features and options. To help you decide, check out Help Desk Software Comparison: 5 Popular Choices, which contains this handy chart:


You might also enjoy The 7 Best Free and Open Source Help Desk Software Tools. And to know what you are likely to pay, read How Much Does Help Desk Software Cost?

Looking for Help Desk software? Check out Capterra's list of the best Help Desk software solutions.

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About the Author


Cathy Reisenwitz

Cathy Reisenwitz is a former Capterra analyst.



Hi Cathy.

Thanks for putting this together! I believe its helping me to get to where I want..although I’m not there yet :), and I’d appreciate some guidance.

I’m having difficulty finding software for the business I want to setup. I need something that keeps all my customers in one place and that also allows to create cases when customers call in, manage these cases, update them with resolutions, etc. My business will have customers paying through a website for the services with paypal or cards and after that they can call in for service, we would check if they have a paid order and if so help them with their issue. We would need to be able to create cases and close them if the issue is solved, if not leave them open for when they call again we can see what steps were taken, etc.

So….I don’t think I’ll need ITIL/ITSM since it will be external customers, not co workers, and I’m not sure if I need ticket management or incident management or both as I thought they were the same thing until I saw them separated on the table above. I will need customer database feature, and as for the others, if I have them good and if not I’m good too. Any suggestions on a software that can help me?

Also, due to my ignorance on this I had been looking under CRMs and saw there were several free ones out there, are there any good free customer service/helpdesk softwares out there?

Thank you in advance!

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