Ticketing system vs help desk software: What's the difference?

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Managing customer support requests can be time-consuming. Without adequate systems in place, it can be easy to miss customer queries. Ticketing systems and help desk software can help you manage customer questions and complaints, ensuring support requests are assigned to the appropriate person to deal with each issue. 

Ticketing systems enable the creation and management of tickets outlining individual support requests. Help desk software provides a more fully featured platform that includes knowledge bases and live chat features, as well as a built-in ticketing system. Let’s look at both, to see which system is best for you and your business.


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What is a ticketing system?

A ticketing system is software that provides a more formalized support process that usually follows these steps:

  • A customer makes contact.
  • A support request or ticket is created, usually via email, with a unique number.
  • Support staff are notified of the ticket.
  • The ticket is assigned to a specific member of the support team, given a priority, or tagged with additional information.
  • A response to the customer can be sent, and any replies are kept within the same ticket, ensuring transparency while enabling other support staff to pick up the ticket if the customer requires additional support.
  • Once the issue is resolved, the ticket is closed.

This process makes it less likely that customer requests are lost or sit unresolved, as open tickets remain visible on the system. Alternatively, emails can go missing, and long email chains can be unwieldy to track. A ticketing system simplifies the customer query process, making it easy to track and manage multiple support requests. 

For larger teams that deal with hundreds or thousands of requests, having a single piece of software that provides a comprehensive overview of consolidated support requests is critical to a streamlined help desk service.

Ticketing systems enable you to maintain customer service standards and establish continuity across your support service. For example, you can reassign open tickets if staff members become unavailable. As each ticket contains a complete record of correspondence, the new support representative will have access to the history of the original support request, and its ongoing status.

You can use metrics and tags to identify common issues, and develop other resources such as knowledge bases or how-to guides to preempt customer issues and reduce support requests.

What is help desk software?

While ticketing systems are a type of help desk software, they are not the only tools used to run an efficient and effective service desk. Knowledge bases and how-to guides can help users to self-support. Automated chatbots can assist in supporting users through common issues. And while in-house support might be entirely email-based, businesses dealing with consumers need to manage support requests via social media, too. So while a ticketing system can stand alone, help desk software combines multiple tools to meet the needs of the modern service desk.

Ticketing systems are often limited to one channel – email – whereas help desk software can provide a multi- or omnichannel approach. Omnichannel features allow businesses to receive support requests from multiple sources, such as social media, SMS or email, and move the support across platforms without losing context. For example, someone might reach out via Twitter for help, but if they need to provide sensitive information, it may be safer and more secure to use another channel, such as email. Integrated, cross-platform support means users don't have to explain their issues repeatedly, even if they swap to another means of correspondence.

Help desk platforms can also filter simple queries. AI-driven bots that can help users discover knowledge base articles that may provide the answers they require. This not only reduces the mean time to resolution (MTTR) for customers, it also reduces the amount of manual intervention by support staff. Automating the resolution of high-volume support requests helps reduce the costs of running a service desk, and can prevent backlogs of common, repetitive support issues from building up.

These additional tools illustrate the difference between a simple ticketing system and help desk software. Services such as Jira, Zendesk, and Zoho provide an array of features and integrations to meet the demands placed upon customer support teams and service desks.

Ticketing system vs help desk software: Which do you need?

Do you require fully featured help desk software? Are there any benefits to having a simple ticketing system? It depends on your infrastructure and customer support needs. 

A simple ticketing system might be best for small businesses that need to track email support requests. Similarly, for businesses that already have a knowledge base and other customer support tools in place, there will be less value in choosing expensive help desk software, where many of the features will remain unused. 

For larger businesses looking to consolidate their customer support pipeline into one tool, a good option would be help desk software such as Zendesk or Zoho Desk. These options provide a self-service chatbot, knowledge base, and multichannel support along with a ticketing system. 

Ultimately, the option you select will come down to the features you need and the price of the service. Most help desk software provides a tiered service at different price points, ranging from $12 per agent per month with Zoho Desk, through to $95 per agent for the enterprise tier with Freshdesk. Some services offer a free tier, but these are often limited, for example, by only allowing a few service agents.


Ticketing systems are necessary for managing larger numbers of support requests. And while you need a ticketing system, there are many benefits to using fully featured help desk software. By choosing a feature-rich service, help desk software provides a more streamlined and consistent customer support experience without losing any of the necessary issue-tracking features of a standalone ticketing system.

The best help desk software will help your support team work more effectively while providing a better service to your users.