Should You Move from Email Support to Help Desk Software?

Email to Helpdesk

You know the importance of having great customer support. As a young company, you take pride in this—it’s what separates you from industry giants. You’re able to give your customers the individualized attention in a fast turnaround time. You’re even able to have relationships with your customers, learning from them and customizing your product to meet their needs.

But at a certain point, your team has done too good a job. Customer satisfaction grows sky-high, your customer base begins to grow, as well as your product itself, offering more features and applications. This means tickets become innumerable and much more complicated. And that’s when plain email support just doesn’t cut it anymore.

Here’s everything you need to know to help you decide whether a switch is in order.

Is it time for help desk software?

When you’re dealing with just two or three emails a day, an email support system works just fine. It’s easy to keep track of who’s handling what and to make sure that each email gets dealt with.

But once you start getting 20, 30, or 50 emails a day, this becomes impossible. Here are a few tell-tale signs that it’s time to move on to help desk software:

  • You have to search your inbox to find support requests. This means you’re relying on your own memory to keep track of tickets you or a team member has handled.
  • Your customers follow-up on their queries. This means you’re not dealing with complaints efficiently. You, everyone on your team, and your customers should always be aware of the status of a ticket.
  • You or a teammate has forgotten about a ticket. When there are too many tickets, it’s easy for something to fall through the cracks. With a customer support team, it’s difficult to delegate ownership over a ticket through email.
  • Customers complain about the quality of your response. If people are leaving your service because they feel like their needs aren’t addressed, you have to fix this issue yesterday.

Email has a ton of limits when it comes to organization. You can’t separate emails into groups or work collaboratively on a single email. And most importantly, you can’t set up custom analytics.

As more people use your product, you won’t be able to systematically fix all their product suggestions. You’ll have to prioritize bigger and more common complaints, and make adjustments accordingly.

What features do I need?

Think about what features your team needs in order to be efficient. Can this need be addressed through a reorganizing of your email or are you truly in need of help desk software? Some help desks are designed as more organized versions of an email, while others allow you to completely customize your workflow and how your customers interact with it.

Here are some basic features that you might need from a help desk.

  • Creating a ticket. Many help desks allow you to customize the fields of a ticket. Your customers would log into a portal and fill out the answers to various questions. This is great if you often give super technical support, which involves a lot of back-and-forth to diagnose the issue. You’ll be able to ask for screenshots, URLs, and all relevant information from the get-go.
  • Assigning tickets. This is a standard part of any help desk. If you find that there’s too much conversation over who handles which tickets, you might need this as a simpler solution.
  • Prioritizing. Some help desks allow you to prioritize the order of tickets that are worked on, or even put some on the back burner without closing them.
  • Tracking changes, updates, and improvements. Most help desks have some version of this, but a few provide detailed analytics. Decide whether you want past queries to be just searchable, or whether you want nitty-gritty analytics that will give you insight into how your platform is being used.

The backbone of a good support system is a strong ticketing workflow. If you have similar types of tickets coming in that don’t require different workflows, then a simple support desk is necessary. If, however, you have tickets coming in of different magnitude—from clarification on how to use a feature to diagnosing why a user can’t integrate your platform—you’ll need something a little more heavy-duty.

Take a look at this example workflow.
help desk software [source]

You’ll see that this workflow was designed to be able to have every step returned to. There are also several routes a query could go. It could either be a simple question that is resolved instantly (the top arrow), or it could need significant work, in which it goes to the “in progress” section. Figure out the structure of your ideal workflow before selecting your software.

Which help desk software should I use?

Help desk software enables you to organize your workflow so that nothing slips through the cracks.

You don’t need to memorize which queries to follow-up on, which are being investigated more deeply, or which are being handled by a different member of your team.

But in order to optimize your workflow, you have to make sure you pick the appropriate help desk software. Here are a few popular solutions:

help desk software [source]

  • Pro: It’s super easy to set up and has advanced features galore—a customer portal, all-screen accessibility, social media monitoring, and over 350 plugins available.
  • Con: From the technical side, you can’t duplicate or split tickets. This means multiple reps can’t work on the same ticket at the same time.
  • Price: Expensive. It has a tiered monthly pricing plan, but the lowest option at $5 per user doesn’t give you much. You don’t get access to analytics until you opt for the second priciest plan at $49 per user per month.

Help Scout
help desk software

  • Pro: This is a help desk email in disguise. All the organizational stuff happens on your end, while the customers interact with you via email. It’s also easy to communicate internally and assign tickets.
  • Con: It doesn’t have many options to customize the experience for the customer. You can’t manage ticket fields or categorize emails based on the type of support that’s needed.
  • Price: Inexpensive. They have a free plan, a standard $20, or a premium $40 plan per user per month.

help desk software [source]

  • Pro: It has a free plan that includes pretty much all the basics—canned responses, customizable workflows, phone integration, and even basic analytics reports.
  • Con: It’s not good for bigger businesses that would require a more complicated workflow. The analytics reports aren’t super detailed or customizable, limiting how much you learn from your customer complaints.
  • Price: Reasonable. It has 5-tier pricing, starting with a free plan going all the way up to a still reasonably priced $70 plan per user per month.

help desk software[source]

  • Pro: It’s built on the less-is-more premise. It’s super simple, but also easy for you and your customer to use. You can easily automate your workflow with canned responses, and your customers don’t even need to sign in to submit a ticket.
  • Con: You can’t customize your workflow too much. So if many of your queries are technical and require different types of engagement from your team, this isn’t the right tool for you.
  • Price: Inexpensive. $15 per user per month.

Bonus: ProProfs Help Desk

  • Pro: This help desk software offers an easy-to-use interface. Your agents can capture customer requests from multiple channels, prioritize issues, track their progress, leverage chatbots, and measure performance with smart reports.
  • Con: The tool does not offer social media integration. You will not be able to track your social media messages, brand mentions, etc.
  • Price: All their plans are very affordable. You can go for the forever free plan (with limited features), Essentials ($10/agent/month), or Premium ($15/agent/month)

Ultimately, your choice should depend on your product. The more complicated your product is, the more custom of a workflow you will require, so you’ll need a help desk like Zendesk. If you’re looking for speed and simplicity, then a simpler ticketing program like Groove or Help Scout is your best bet. All of these have free trials so if you’re not sure, you can test them out.

How do I get everyone on board with help desk software?

The only way your new ticketing system will work is if you get everyone on board. That means your whole team, your management, and your customers. But change isn’t always well-received, so make sure that you take care to ensure that it’s a smooth transition.

Here’s how:

  • Customers. Send out an email blast alerting your whole customer base of the change. Make sure that you explain why this new system benefits them.
  • Your customer support team. Make sure that there are no laggers still using old systems by equipping everyone with documentation and cutting off access to the old system. Work together with your team to come up with the best ticketing system.
  • Your management. A good ticket system also creates transparency in your customer service team. Help your management use the system to track how CS reps spend their time to help them optimize their workflow.
  • Your dev team. Work with them to systematize how tickets are transferred over to them for bug fixes or system updates. You should have a clear understanding of when it is or isn’t appropriate to hand issues over to the dev team.

Set a system to scale

When it comes to customer support, you can’t afford to let things fall through the cracks. How you treat your customers will directly impact your reputation. And as a young company, reputation is everything.

Decide whether you’re at a point where you can’t treat customers on an ad hoc basis. If so, it’s time that you start creating systems to scale. This way, you won’t have to change your approach every time your customer base increases. Then you can concentrate your team’s energy on what matters—providing top-notch customer support.

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Vinay Patankar

CEO and Co-Founder of Process Street. Find him on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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