What Is a Self-Help Desk?

Malcolm Tatum

A self-help desk is a type of customer service and support strategy that seeks to allow clients to identify data and resources that address various questions and concerns, without the necessity of having to interact with a live customer service representative. This type of service and support has become increasingly common since the advent of the Internet, allowing the range of self-help resources and their availability to be broadened over the years. Along with businesses that make use of some type of self-help desk along with other help desk options, colleges and universities as well as governmental departments and agencies are also likely to develop and provide this option to the people they serve.

Libraries often include self-help desks with databases and electronic card catalogues.
Libraries often include self-help desks with databases and electronic card catalogues.

One common example of the self-help desk is found in many libraries in various settings. While many libraries still make use of a traditional card catalog system that visitors can use to locate books and other forms of media, there is also the option of utilizing a database to submit requests about various subjects, authors, or document names. Another function of the self-help desk in a library also allows patrons to learn more about library policies and procedures, usually by allowing visitors to ask specific questions about library membership, checking out resources, or even using the tools provided to conduct research.

A customer service self-help desk works in a similar manner, normally using a software interface that allows customers to submit questions that are evaluated by the programming, then providing several different options in how to refine the question and locate answers. Sometimes used as a means of providing customers with support outside of usual business hours, the degree of information available through this type of help desk is often extensive, making it easy to locate answers for most situations. As part of the support, customers can also submit messages that can be responded to by customer service representatives during business hours.

Many businesses include a self-help desk as part of the support offered via their websites. There is often a searchable directory that includes information on products offered, information about how to establish accounts, or to check on the status of a current order. The exact configuration of the desk will depend on the nature of the business and what type of resources will be useful to the company’s clients, and may include options like automated support via telephone as well as online solutions.

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