Nature of the problem
I'm sure that the very existence of help desks is a symptom of the real problem. Computers.
Look, the fax machine revolutionised the world. Did you ever hear of a fax help desk? The damn thigs came, still come, with a comprehensive manual including an explanation of all the error codes.
What was the last printer that came with ascii tables, centronics interface definitions, and an explanation of escape sequences? What was the last version of MSdos that came with a manual listing all the commands, parameters and switches? and explaining the dirve letter-sub directory paradigm? When was the last time you bought a computer that included any sort of manual at all? let alone one that expained what the POST beeps meant?
And then there are operating systems. Windows users, god help them, still map network drive letters and then get confused why mailing links to the bloke on the next desk does not help. We have had fully qualified paths (and the twee "my network places") for the last 10 years at least and no-one uderstands them. Any cut-and-pasted link should be absolute, even if it doesn't look like it to the original user, and there should not be half a dozen legacy ways of doing the same thing. Instead of making the new software look like the old one, how about including some instructions for a change? No, not meaningless help pages. Printed books.
And applications. Instead of finding a way (? an instruction book?) to explain using preset styles, word converts every casual bit of re-formatting into an automatic style and makes the styles thing so confusing that the proles ignore it. Oh, and the wretched vomit inducing style navigator that appears on the right hand side has such awful ergonomics that you are far more likely to make accidental changes to the styles than to find and apply one.
People need help desks because people need help. It does not have to be like this. I can get in any car, anywhere in the world, and drive it safely and legally, because the control layout is understandable, the symbology on signs consistent and well researched, and information about direction and speed limits is available when I need it in a rugged, reliable way.
Oh and then there are the employers.
Can you think of any other business process (machinists at lathes, accountants with double entry, salesmen with liability legislation) where companies assume people know what they are expected to use the tools for without training and assesment? Yet the poor bloody workforce has computers dumped on their desk filled with all sorts of software and are expected to pick their way through it. When they get stuck they call a help desk, who has no idea what the business processes are or the implications of what they are asking. (I'm a service engineer who works on capital projects, and the help desk regularly asks me to 'come into the office and give the laptop to the team for a few days'. They get told to sod off, usually.)
Computers are used to increase productivity, and yet both the choice of them and the training of staff is left to PFYs who have no interest in, or methods for, improving the productivity of the people using them. Whose very job is quantified merely in closing the call in the shrotest time, with no consideration of consequence, impact, or effectiveness. (My second ethernet port does not work with a fixed IP address.'well, use DHCP then'. I am trying to talk to a machine tool with a fixed IP. 'set that to DHCP too and connect it to the network. We'll tell you tomorrow what its IP address is' It is on a customer site, not in your office. 'Oh, sorry, there is nothing we can do then') In no other business process is the outcome merely assumed from the act of making the investment.
The day the last help desk closes down will be the day that the last bad computer has been consigned to the scrap heap. Ansd the last bad company