What is help desk software?
At its most basic, help desk software is used by call centre agents to manage their customer service activity; but it’s much more than that. Everything from business performance tracking to textual analysis of live chat sessions can now be handled by the same support ticket system.
The main users of help desk software will normally be your customer service staff, dealing with enquiries or problems from customers and either answering the question there and then or passing it on to someone else. Imagine yourself in the role of a customer service agent and you’ll see there are a few common questions to which you might want answers:
- Is this a new problem or one that’s been raised before?
- Has this customer contacted us before?
- Which products does this customer own?
- Is there a ready-made answer I can give this customer?
- Are they interested in any other products?
At the heart of most customer service software you’ll find the idea of a ticketing system. When an issue is raised a record or “ticket” is created, and that ticket is then updated and tracked until the issue is marked as resolved (or “closed”).
Help desk software aims to give your customer service agents at-a-glance access to all this relevant information and more, while also giving them a simple system into which they can enter new information about an enquiry. It helps them to deliver faster, better customer service, gives you the opportunity to analyse and track issues accurately, and saves time and money.
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Why your business needs help desk software
It's no longer just IT companies that need a proper technical platform to deal with customer queries and product issues. Any organisation with a customer service function – from local and national government, through to manufacturers, retailers, banks and telecoms providers – can benefit from using dedicated help desk software to track issues, delivering efficiency savings and better customer service outcomes.
More efficient call handling
With the right system in place, call centre agents can have a customer's entire contact history instantly on screen as soon as they take the call. They can see the history of the issue, track how similar problems have been resolved before, and get instant access to relevant knowledge-base articles and FAQs.
All of this means faster call resolution, and a higher proportion of calls resolved by frontline support – which in turn means expert support staff can focus on dealing with new or complex issues. And because your support workflow is built in to the system, there's less chance of tickets falling through the cracks or not being followed up.
Better tracking of performance and KPIs
Want to see which agents are handling the most calls in an hour, or which products are generating the most support requests? With help desk software the journey of each support ticket through your system is recorded and available for analysis, giving you a powerful body of information to work with when you're trying to improve customer service.
Feeding this information back into your business can produce valuable insights for product, marketing and sales teams, too – leading to a better all-round customer experience.
Help desk software for small businesses
With small businesses – especially tech startups – now able to attract hundreds of thousands of users in a matter of months, you can quickly find yourself with a large customer base that needs servicing and no robust solution in place. Your competitors may be much larger organisations, but your customers will expect the same level of service from you.
A fast-growing small business needs a customer service solution that scales easily and is flexible enough to grow with the demands of the business, but which doesn't have big setup costs or take a long time to install and roll out.
Cloud-based online systems such as Desk.com are a great option for small businesses trying help desk software for the first time. Because both infrastructure and data are based in the cloud, it's simple to scale up as you need to; backups and disaster recovery are taken care of, and upgrades are instantly available to all users. A simple web interface makes it easy for agents to pick up the basics, and integration with other systems at the back end is straightforward too, meaning you can get started quickly.
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What should you look for in help desk software?
Help desk software should support every stage of dealing with a support request – from the moment a new ticket is raised, through first response, escalation, action, resolution and closure. It should also be able to handle all the different ways that a request might move through these stages. Here are ten things to look out for when you’re choosing a system to support your help desk.
Support ticket system
Almost all help desks – and therefore the software that supports them – use the core idea of a ticket system. Essentially, each customer enquiry generates its own case or “ticket”, which is then updated as the enquiry is progressed. At its simplest, a ticket is always "open" or "closed" (when it's resolved), but there will usually also be intermediate statuses while the ticket is in progress. This basic idea makes sure that enquiries are properly followed up and aren't dropped when they get passed between people, for example. There are firm rules for when a ticket can be closed and who's able to do it.
Simple, customisable agent consoles
Case management and escalation
Because not all enquiries can be dealt with by the first agent to respond, some will need the involvement of more knowledgeable agents or internal subject matter experts. This is called "escalation" and managing it properly is important for an efficient helpdesk.
Tracking the progress of a case as it moves through your support organisation is called case management. Case management features include automatic collection of cases from multiple channels, automated filtering and assignment of cases to particular agents, and the ability to label and categorise cases for later analysis.
Analytics and reporting
One great benefit of using dedicated software to track your help desk operations is that you'll have accurate, comprehensive data: how long the average ticket takes to resolve, how many need to be escalated, and so on. This data is invaluable for setting targets, identifying recurring problems, and even managing the performance of individual agents.
Support for an online knowledge base
An online knowledge base is a fantastic asset for customer service agents. You'll have a constantly improving database of questions and answers that's immediately accessible to agents at any location. And once an answer is found to a new issue, that resolution is immediately available to every agent and therefore every customer. By making your knowledge base accessible to agents right in their console, answers from the widest possible pool of sources are available instantly when a customer first calls.
Do you need to share support information with suppliers, resellers or other partners? Some help desk software allows you to create a secure, private knowledge base on an extranet, accessible to your agents and business partners as you choose.
Opening up your knowledge base to customers on your website can increase self-service levels and boost call centre deflection rates, reducing the resources needed for customer service.
Support for customer and employee communities
Today's online help desk software can provide a complete, customisable online community environment. Using your support software as the platform for your customer or employee community has clear advantages – not least, the fact that it should be easy to integrate posts and responses from the community into your central ticketing system. It's another way to make sure issues don't fall through the cracks, wherever they're raised.
Allows customers to choose their support channel
Customers expect to contact you on the channel that suits them best – whether that's a phone call to a call centre, an email, or an @-reply to your marketing department's Twitter feed. Your help desk software can support social customer service by integrating with email servers, CRM and social listening tools to treat all these requests as support tickets and bring them into the normal workflow for resolution and response. Keywords and language detection get the right issues to the right agents in the right way, and the agents can then respond in the channel of the customer's choice – usually from within their standard agent console.
Real-time, live support
It's now possible to provide in-app, live support on mobile devices, with agents able to show live video and annotations or speak to customers while sharing the app screen – a real advantage in trying to diagnose and solve problems.
And of course there's also support for live chat in a website context, enabling agents to give personalised customer support in real time. Not only do customers often prefer live chat, each agent can handle several sessions at once and has full access to standard answers for common questions.
It sounds obvious, but your customers should get the same level of support if they're using a smartphone as they would if they contacted you through your website. Look for a help desk system that works on a range of platforms and lets you track support tickets from one platform to another as the issue is progressed, escalated and resolved.
Integration with other systems
The best help desk software will integrate with your existing systems rather than being a standalone platform. In particular it can be valuable to share data with the customer relationship management (CRM) system, bringing knowledge from across your business together in a single, 360-degree, view of the customer that can pay dividends for marketing and sales teams as well as for delivering better customer service.
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