How to find the best help desk software that automates your helpdesk processes, tracks customer support tickets and streamlines your communication channels into one place to help deliver excellent service to end-users.
As company owner or support team manager, you’re tasked with managing various helpdesk processes to maintain an excellent end-user and customer service experience. Your job is to manually track customer queries and organise requests from multiple communication channels. As well as generating tickets from a shared email inbox and managing a support team of agents.
But, handling so many helpdesk processes can be overwhelming. That’s where an effective help desk software tool can help relieve the pressure. In fact, the integration of a helpdesk tool is so beneficial that over 52% of brands cited technology as the key difference in their ability to deliver better end-user support.
By the end of this guide, you’ll be able to identify the gaps in your current helpdesk operation. As well as highlighting the tools you need to streamline your support processes. You’ll then have the knowledge to dive into the help desk software marketplace and find the best tool for your requirements. Here’s what you can expect:
At the start of your business venture, customer interaction is minimal. You might take a few phone calls, answer some Facebook messages and receive one or two emails. In this current state, your customer service processes are manageable.
But, as your company grows, so does your customer base. You now become inundated across all communication channels with requests and questions. Not just from customers, but from internal employees too.
Your job of supplying efficient support to users is now overwhelming. With good customer experience being the key brand differentiator – above competitive pricing and product quality – you also need to ensure that you’re providing an excellent level of service in a timely manner.
The solution? Help desk software.
The right helpdesk provides you with the functions to deliver an excellent level of service to end-users. Whether that be your customers, internal employees or even your team of support agents.
Acting as a single point of contact, a help desk organises all multichannel conversations into one place. From here, tickets are generated, assigned to agents, and prioritised. Effectively streamlining the workflow of your overall support process.
Helpdesk software is a tool worth investing in if you want to:
Have all requests from different channels in one place
Automate the process of creating tickets from emails
Track the progress of tickets
Improve the time it takes to resolve issues
Increase reviews and feedback from customers
Analyse the efficiency of support agents and teams
Build self-service portals with knowledgebase and FAQs
No matter what side of the conversation you’re on, helpdesk software is beneficial for all those involved. Whether that be a team manager and support agents, or customers and internal users. But, that can relate to users on a much broader scale too.
Helpdesk tools can benefit a range of different business types, sizes and departments, such as:
In the early operational stage, small businesses will rely heavily on customer reviews and brand building to build on their bottom line. This is achieved by offering and delivering exceptional service to customers. But, as SMBs grow, they typically do not have the resources to review services and monitor support channels. This makes the need for certain help desk functions essential, in particular the ability to automate processes. With powerful automation, smaller support teams can focus on answering tickets and resolving issues. A medium-sized company will also require similar features, as well as prioritising a scalable model for their growing business.
Made up of different support teams and departments, enterprises require various help desk tools to provide efficient support on a larger scale. For example, they’ll need better collaboration between internal departments such as sales, marketing and IT. As well as having to manage agents in different countries, time zones, and languages. An essential function of help desk software for enterprises is the ability to measure the performance of teams and agents. By doing so, they can identify gaps in their processes and implement different strategies to improve support efficiency.
The right helpdesk tool will not only prove valuable to your network of internal employees, but it can also empower your company’s entire HR team. One main advantage is the ability to have all requests and queries collected in one easy-to-manage dashboard. HR teams are then able to provide streamlined, efficient, and responsive support to their employees. Help desk software for HR can also help to limit the number of requests from internal employees through the use of self-service functions such as knowledgebase and FAQs. This allows everyone in the company to be up-to-date on topics such as appraisal and vacations via internal communications.
Businesses and managers will go in search of a helpdesk tool once they’ve identified a problem or an opportunity in their current processes.
For instance, you may have highlighted a chance to improve the level of service you provide to customers. Or, you might have noticed a rise in internal IT helpdesk requests, so you want to build a self-service portal.
But, without fully understanding your current support processes, it’s difficult to identify the gaps in your services. An effective way to map out your existing helpdesk responsibilities is to question how you handle current support operations:
Requests will come in the form of questions, complaints and issues that a customer may have experienced when using your product or service. They can come from a variety of different types of communication channels, such as:
Social Media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram)
It’s important to understand what channels your customers use. Although social media may seem more popular, 62% of users are still more likely to use email. But, unless you have an agent or team monitoring each line of communication, receiving requests across these channels can be overwhelming.
Not only should you consider how to manage each line of communication, but you should also consider how each request is dealt with. For example, do you prioritise requests based on severity or in order of time-received? Do you also have a system in place to track each request and make sure that they have been resolved?
Ideally, end users – particularly customers – want to resolve their issues without having to contact a support agent. This is achieved by building a knowledge base of common enquiries that customers can refer to, such as FAQs, automated live chats and product/service documentation. Keep in mind, if you aren’t able to provide a quick solution to customers, you may eventually lose them to a more customer-friendly competitor.
The data you receive from a customer review measuring the success of your helpdesk support is valuable. It enables you to see if you’re hitting milestones and meeting your KPIs. Having this information allows you to highlight challenges and opportunities in your existing setup. As well as identifying the success and failures of your support team.
Having an effective support system available to end-users is essential to streamlining workflow and ensuring operations run smoothly throughout the workplace. Internal requests can be made by employees, managers or executives, and can differ in severity. So, it’s important to question how you handle them:
Do you have a system that prioritises urgent requests?
Is there a dedicated line of communication for managers and executives?
Do employees have access to a self-service portal?
Is there a line of communication for employees working abroad?
Most customer enquiries will be repeated, meaning they’ve previously been resolved. But, without a knowledge base containing this information, your support agents will find themselves sifting through a backlog of emails, social media messages, and phone scripts. This processes can prolong the response time to your customer’s original request and result in a bad customer service experience.
Whether you have a single shared email inbox or a dedicated dashboard for each support team, effectively managing and assigning tickets is essential for offering a greater customer service experience. By managing tickets, you’re able to:
Assign knowledgeable support agents to answer specific requests
Avoid agents duplicating tickets by providing a clear workflow for each request
Place tickets in order of priority
Before beginning your search for IT help desk software, it’s important to define how and why you want to improve your current support operations. By doing so, you can then highlight the core requirements and functions needed to meet your goals.
This process is important, as many helpdesk tools can vary depending on user needs. For example, you may want to reduce your current support response time for end-users. Or, maybe you want to improve the service being provided to your customers from your agents.
The advancement in helpdesk technology has allowed all types of businesses to enhance their customer service, from SMBs to enterprises. This has fuelled a competitive battle between rival businesses to provide the very best support. So much so, that 89% of customers said they prefered to do business with a competitor after experiencing poor customer service.
Most support managers and business owners will come to the realisation of needing a service desk tool when they experience harmful challenges in their existing processes. Such as:
Focusing on requests from one channel as opposed to all communication channels
Failing to respond to requests within a required time frame
Not being able to prioritise tickets in order of severity
Experiencing a lack of collaboration between support teams and agents
Using error-prone spreadsheets or pen-and-paper as a form of knowledgebase
Being inundated with requests as a result of providing no self-service portal
An effective way of identifying gaps in the way you provide support to end-users is by analysing competitors and keeping up with the latest trends. By doing so, you gain a greater understanding of what end-users and support teams expect from you.
An example of advancements in support services is how the introduction of channels such as Facebook and Twitter has shortened the expected response time for end-users. Whereas the average expectation for an email reply is within 24 hours, 42% of customers expect a response within sixty minutes on social media.
To identify opportunities and challenges in your help desk processes, constantly ask questions about what end-users expect in terms of support. Such as:
When do customers expect a response to their request? Is this within an hour or a day?
Do end-users prefer to resolve issues themselves instead of communicating with a support agent?
Do internal employees expect a dedicated channel to resolve important issues such as IT hardware failure?
On what channel do customers prefer to contact business support? Is it via Facebook, Twitter, email or phone?
Do managers and executives expect to be prioritised ahead of other end-users when needing support?
Do support teams expect to have access to a knowledge base to help resolve tickets?
Realising the need for helpdesk software is important. But, finding a tool that offers the right features is essential. For example, some tools will have features that focus more on customer service. While other tools will have features that focus on streamlining the workflow of support teams.
But, no matter what helpdesk features you opt for, it’s important to be aware of the challenges and benefits that each one presents. Such as:
What value would this feature add to your customer service? To internal users? To support teams?
What training will your support team need to be able to use this feature?
What legal requirements do you need to meet with this feature (e.g. privacy policies, GDPR laws, etc.)?
Can this feature be easily integrated with existing systems (e.g. emails, data storage and file hosting)?
To identify what is needed to reduce the gaps in your IT helpdesk services, you’ll want to highlight your core requirements. These can be seen as the essential features that are going to make sure you meet your KPIs.
Having an understanding of your core requirements allows for a more focused approach when it comes to shortlisting IT helpdesk products. Although the majority of features are designed to improve support operations as a whole, it’s helpful to know the features that may be better suited to a particular process.
Allows for tickets to be raised via social media channels such as Facebook and Twitter. With these requests being managed in the same centralised dashboard as queries from email, phone and SMS.
A live chat feature will convert all chats into tickets, making it essential for reducing the number of missed requests when out-of-hours. Today, without a live chat feature, 77% of customers are more likely to leave your website and go elsewhere.
This enables you to measure the performance metrics of agents in a bid to monitor and improve the service they provide. Metrics can include response time, number of open tickets and type of request.
SLAs provide assurances through prioritised triggers and automated escalations to guarantee customers that their request will be resolved.
A searchable self-service portal allows customers to search through FAQs, forums, knowledgebases and product documentation to find solutions without needing to contact a support agent.
A library of common questions and answers that are made publicly available via an internal login for employees to search and find solutions to their issues.
This allows IT support members and technicians to remotely control a computer from their location and perform diagnostics with minimal end-user involvement.
Allows for the entire tool, or certain aspects, to be tailored in a way that feels familiar and easy-to-use.
With event-based and time-based automation in place, tickets can be automatically assigned to the right support agents and improve workflow.
Tickets are streamlined from all communication channels and automatically tagged, categorised and assigned into one place.
Allows agents to be kept informed of ticket owners and their responses, to make sure teams are kept aligned.
Agents are able to access tickets, knowledgebases and reports from their smartphone or tablet.
As with all business purchases, it’s important to determine the value that a helpdesk tool can offer you and your team. Keeping in mind that any tool you choose needs to be able to deliver your core requirements, too.
By mapping out different scenarios, you can begin to see the true ROI of a help desk solution. For example, what would be the value of increasing support team workflow through improved collaboration and ticket automation? Or, how much can improved customer retention rates affect your bottom line by providing exceptional customer service?
In fact, having the tools to improve your customer service and increasing customer retention by as little as 5% can lead to a 25%-95% increase in profit.
There are many reasons as to why building a budget is an essential step in your pursuit for the right IT help desk software, including:
If you’re a medium or small business, producing a realistic budget is key. Most SMBs can’t afford to spend a large amount of money on help desk solutions when there are other areas of the business to invest in. However, most modern helpdesk tools are delivered as SaaS (Software as a Service), making them affordable for businesses that do not have the resources for significant investment.
By setting out to build a budget, you’ll decide on factors that will determine the value of implementing a help desk tool. The idea of knowing the TCO is to focus on the long-term value of the product, as opposed to costs such as purchase price. Knowing the TCO will also prove a useful insight when working out the product’s overall return on investment (ROI). This can be important when getting buy-in from the company’s decision-makers.
Getting buy-in from the company’s decision-makers is critical for the approval and integration of your help desk software tool. Stakeholders will want to know the reasons behind the need for the tool and what ROI they can expect. Although pitches can differ depending on the stakeholder, whether that be the CFO or CIO, you’ll want to focus on points such as:
Framing the current challenges within the company’s help desk operations, such as being unprepared for an uptick in customers and channel communication
Show how the improvements to your customer service can help retain customers and bring in new ones to increase the business’s bottom line
Demonstrate how a help desk tool can better organise the support team to increase productivity
Building a budget is also an effective way to make sure you keep within your spending limits when shortlisting products. However, there are some factors that can end up stretching those limits. So, it’s important that you also factor-in unexpected costs, such as:
The type of helpdesk software (e.g., cloud-based, web-based, on-premise or open-source)
Fees for integrating existing software and tools
Fees for scaling the system in the future
Installation and implementation costs
Hidden fees for data storage limits and data migration
With core requirements in mind and a definitive budget set, your search for the right help desk software has now become a detailed and focused approach. Using these three tips, you can start to put together a shortlist of help desk software options:
Have your list of core requirements visible at all times
Make sure to scan and search the entire helpdesk software marketplace
Shortlist at least five products that either match all or a majority of your core requirements
At the end of your comparison and evaluation stage, you’ll be left with the perfect help desk tool for your support and service operations. But, to get to this stage, you first need to compare and cross-reference each product and vendor on your shortlist. To do this, we recommend creating an in-house evaluation team.
If you’re a medium or small business (SMB), your evaluation team may only include yourself. But, for larger organisations and enterprises, your team should consist of a mix of personnel that will be affected by using a help desk system.
Ideally, the evaluation team you put together will be made up of:
A junior-level agent that deals directly with customers and internal requests
2-3 regular support team employees
A support and service manager or team leader
Once you have an evaluation team assembled, it’s time to compare and evaluate your list of help desk options:
The basis of your search for a help desk solution is to enhance and improve your current support processes. To achieve this, the right product needs to match all of the core requirements that you have identified.
Having a tool that is both familiar and easy-to-use, with minimal training, is key for both your support team and end-users. Ease of use is vital for improving customer experience, while internal users want a system that they can easily navigate and be able to locate the right support.
You may need programs such as email and data storage solutions to be used alongside your new help desk solution. Although most integration features come as standard, some tools require additional add-ons and extra fees to integrate external tools.
Whether deployed via cloud or through a web-based application, knowing what type of help desk software is key to remaining within your budget. Here’re four types of help desk software to help you distinguish what’s best for your business:
Web-based helpdesk software
Web-based helpdesk software is hosted online on an external vendor’s server and rented out to customers on a subscription basis. The host stores all your support data and makes it accessible through a website, desktop integration, or mobile app.
Cloud-based help desk software
Cloud-based help desk software is a web-based solution that is built with scaling in mind. It is similar in the sense that data is stored on the host’s servers and is accessed via a website. But, a cloud-based service desk has no limitations in data storage, numbers of users, and bandwidth.
Open Source help desk software
Unlike proprietary software, open-source help desk software allows access to the tool’s source code. This is ideal for organisations with a development team.
Enterprise help desk software
As opposed to solutions for smaller sized operations, enterprise help desk software is much more complex and flexible. It is packed full of features and customisable tools and also integrates with existing systems and modules such as IT asset management.
As well as comparing each helpdesk tool, we recommend comparing the vendors too. This helps to understand the experience that each vendor has in the helpdesk market, as well as ensuring your support goals are aligned with the services they provide.
Although the product you choose is simple to use, you and your team will still require some basic training. This could be webinar tutorials or even in-person lessons. It’s important to look at the support that each vendor offers as well. This could be either 24/7 live chat support or video tutorials. Not only will this help with short term issues, but it also gives an indication as to how quickly a vendor will resolve future problems.
Helpdesk software can be incorporated into various types of industries and markets. So, to better understand how well they can support your needs in the future, it’s worth understanding how well they know your industry. Question each vendor about their previous customers and how they have handled problems that can also relate to your business.
All vendors should provide a free trial or live demonstration of their product. If not, get in touch with a salesperson and they’ll be sure to guide you through the system. If the vendor still won’t provide a sample of their product, that is a sign that this isn’t the right tool for you.
Although a product may tick all the boxes and be within budget, reading vendor testimonials is highly recommended. Testimonials are an insightful first-hand look into previous customers’ experiences. Each one regards how the vendor has either positively or negatively dealt with issues.
Before implementing a help desk system, it’s useful to know how long the installation and migration process will take. Most cloud-based and web-based tools will be available from the moment of purchase. But, keep in mind, that if you are migrating data from another system, this may incur hidden costs. As well as taking some time to complete – meaning the tool may not be available to use right away.
Finally, and most importantly, always check the vendor’s pricing plans. You’ll want to know if there are extra fees for storage limits or implementation. As well as subscription and monthly payment options. Knowing the price is also crucial for understanding the value of the product in relation to your goals and milestones; “is it worth it?”.