Using dedicated help desk software to manage enquiries can transform your customer service operation. Here’s how.
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:
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.
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.
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.
To get the most from your customer service team, they should have all the information they need at their fingertips – along with access to knowledge bases, subject matter experts and other sources of information that can help them resolve an issue. And, of course, it should be easy to use. You should be able to customise the console to suit your business, displaying the most important information for each agent as and when they need it.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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