What is help desk software?


Help desk software is a suite of software programs designed to help customer service staff quickly receive, process and respond to customer queries across a variety of touchpoints.

Data from phone, email, live chat, and social media is centralised in help desk software so that your support team and other employees can see up-to-date information in real time. It can also provide business performance tracking and textual analysis of live chat sessions.

How does help desk software work?

When a customer has a query or complaint, they can contact the business in any number of ways, including phone, email, live chat, and social media.

Help desk software enables customer service teams to answer queries and complaints quickly and accurately regardless of what channel the customer uses.

Customers can also help themselves

This self-service option is usually in the form of a knowledge base with articles to answer frequently asked questions or provide troubleshooting guidelines.

It can also be in the form of live chat, where customers are initially interacting with an AI system, known as a 'chatbot'. The help desk software can resolve many of the frequently asked questions through the chatbot before a customer service agent needs to step in.

If an issue can’t be resolved via self-help and the customer connects with the business directly, help desk software will create a “ticket” or open a file on that customer.

Customer service agents can focus on complex cases

Help desk employees use the software to methodically process and resolve these tickets for internal or external customers. It then routes and escalates those tickets as needed to assist help desk employees in addressing customer concerns.

Here’s a step-by-step breakdown of what a help desk ticket process looks like:


1. Ticket Creation

A user creates a ticket via phone, email, live chat, and social media. The help desk software will automatically create a ticket or open a case on the user.

2. Help Desk Activation

The customer service team or help desk is notified of a new ticket. A member of the team will claim responsibility for the ticket or be assigned to it automatically, depending on the way the customer made contact. For example, a call will be instantly transferred and assigned, but an email may be more manual depending on the system.

3. Ticket Resolution and Team Interaction

The ticket is updated by the customer service team member based on the information provided by the customer.
If this is a call or live interaction, the customer service member can take notes directly in the ticket from the call, use the help desk software to get answers to predictable questions (e.g “How do I reset my product?” or “How do I return a faulty item?”) or flag product issues to other teams.
They can also tag other team members on the ticket if it needs to be escalated or requires a specialist response.

4. CRM Integration and Additional Sales Opportunities

If the help desk software is based on an integrated Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system, it will be able to match pre-existing information the business has on the customer such as: previous calls made, purchases, and interactions with this new touchpoint.
This can help give the customer service team member more information on the customer that could help resolve their issue. It can also identify potential upsell or cross-sell opportunities.

5. Ticket Closure and Contact Renewal

Once the issue or query is resolved, the person in charge of the ticket will close it. However, all that information collected should stay within the help desk software or CRM as updated contact information for use in future queries and interactions.

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What are the benefits of help desk software?

Using dedicated help desk software enables businesses to track customer issues, questions, and complaints. This in turn delivers efficiency savings and better customer service outcomes by streamlining workflow and better organising information.

In short, it turns a manual system riddled with human errors into a well-oiled machine that creates better outcomes for customers and companies.

Where once help desk software was seen as the preserve of IT companies, it’s now widely used by local and national government bodies, manufacturers, retailers, banks and telecoms providers – indeed, any organisation that’s serious about optimising the experience of its customers.

The benefits of help desk software include:

  1. More efficient call handling
  2. Better use of team resources
  3. Personalised customer care across channels
  4. Increased customer loyalty
  5. Better tracking of performance and KPIs
  6. Actionable business insights

1. More efficient call handling

With Computer Telephony Integration (CTI) 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, learn how similar problems have been resolved before, and get instant access to relevant knowledge-base articles and FAQs. With automation, human error is reduced so fewer cases fall through the cracks. All of this translates into faster call resolution.

You can learn more about how CTI works in the section “What features should you look for in help desk software?.

2. More effective deployment of human resource

Because the software enables a higher proportion of calls to be resolved by frontline support, expert support staff can focus on dealing with new or complex issues.

Tickets can be tagged for the attention of staff known to be expert in a particular issue, and tasks can be prioritised for such reasons as severity of issue, value of customer, or delay in resolution.

3. Personalised customer care across channels

Agents get a complete view of customers’ historical interactions with service and support across all channels - phone, email, chat and social media. And if help desk software is connected to a CRM system, the single 360-degree view it provides enables truly personalised customer service.

4. Increased customer loyalty

Receiving frictionless customer service at a time and via a channel that’s convenient to them increases the likelihood of customers returning to buy products or services again.

5. Better tracking of performance and KPIs

With help desk software the journey of each support ticket through the system is recorded and available for analysis, giving a powerful body of information to work with when trying to improve customer service.

So for example, a business can easily access vital management information such as which agents are handling the most calls in an hour, or which products are generating the most support requests.

6. Actionable business insights

The data gathered by help desk software can be fed back into the business, producing valuable insights for product, marketing and sales teams and leading to a better all-round customer experience.

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What features should you look for in help desk software?

The features of help desk software should address every stage of dealing with a support request – from the moment a new ticket is raised, through first response, escalation, action, resolution and closure. The software should also be able to handle all the different ways that a request might move through these stages.

Effective help desk software should include:

  1. Support ticket systems
  2. Computer Telephony Integration (CTI)
  3. Customisable agent consoles
  4. Case management and escalation
  5. Analytics and reporting
  6. Support for an online knowledge base
  7. Support for customer and employee communities
  8. Multi-channel issue resolution
  9. Mobile enabled, real-time, live support
  10. Easy integration with other systems

1. Support ticket systems

Almost all help desks – and the software that supports them – use a ticket system: each customer enquiry generates its own case (ticket), which is then updated as the enquiry is progressed. At its simplest, a ticket is always open or closed (resolved), but there will usually also be intermediate statuses while the ticket is in progress.

This model ensures that enquiries are properly followed up and aren't dropped when they get passed between people. There are firm rules for when a ticket can be closed and who's able to do it.

2. Computer Telephony Integration (CTI)

When a call comes through to a help centre, Computer Telephony Integration (CTI) searches for and identifies the matching phone number in your CRM. This type of call integration ties your phone system together with your computer systems; identifying and routing incoming calls to the right person and department.

During the call, CTI offers screen pop-ups to agents with information about the caller and relevant account information. Thanks to this feature, 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, learn how similar problems have been resolved before, and get instant access to relevant knowledge-base articles and FAQs. All of this translates into faster call resolution.

3. Customisable agent consoles

The console should provide the customer service agent with easy access to all the information they need to do their job – along with access to knowledge bases, subject matter experts and other sources of information that can help them resolve an issue.

It should be easy to use, presenting relevant information in an intuitive style.

And it should be easy to customise the console according to the requirements of a business and its specific users, such that the information that’s most important for each agent is readily visible as and when they need it.

4. Case management and escalation

Not all enquiries can be dealt with by the first agent to respond -- inevitably, some will need the involvement of more knowledgeable agents or internal subject matter experts. Effective help desk software needs to be able to manage this process of escalation and case management -- tracking the progress of a case as it moves through the different stages of support.

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.

5. Analytics and reporting

Using dedicated software to track help desk operations delivers accurate, comprehensive data that can answer such key questions as: how long the average ticket takes to resolve, how often are tickets being escalated, and which issues are most difficult to resolve.

This data is invaluable for setting targets, identifying recurring problems, and managing the performance of individual agents.

6. Support for an online knowledge base

An online knowledge base is an incredibly useful asset for customer service agents, providing a constantly improved and updated database of questions and answers that's immediately accessible to agents at any location.

Once an answer is found to a new issue, that resolution is immediately available to every agent -- and so to every customer from that moment on. By making an internal 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.

Opening up a knowledge base to customers on a company’s website can increase self-service levels and boost call-centre deflection rates, reducing the resources needed for customer service.

7. Support for customer and employee communities

Today's online help desk software can provide a complete, customisable online community environment too. Support software is well suited to this role as it can easily integrate posts and responses from the community into a central ticketing system.

It's another way to make sure issues don't fall through the cracks, wherever and whenever they're raised.

8. Multi-channel issue resolution

Customers expect to contact businesses on the channel that suits them best – whether that's a phone call to a call centre, an email, or an @-reply to the marketing department's Twitter feed.

Help desk software can support social customer service by integrating with CRM and social listening tools to treat all these requests as support tickets and bring them into the normal workflow for resolution and response.

Customers expect the same level of support from an organisation regardless of the channel or device they’re using.

A truly effective help desk system will be able to work across the full range of available platforms, including mobile, as well as track support tickets from one platform to another, as the issue is progressed, escalated and resolved.

9. Mobile enabled, real-time, live support

Advanced help desk software can 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 when working to diagnose and solve problems.

Support is also available in a website context, of course, enabling agents to give personalised customer support in real time.

This suits customers, who typically prefer live chat. But it also enables each agent to handle several sessions at once, with full access to standard answers for common questions. 


10. Easy integration with other systems

A good software solution should be able to integrate with existing and future systems rather than have to operate as a stand-alone platform.

CTI is one example of a system integration that improves a help desk solution, but there are several different plug-ins, apps, and systems that can help enhance your own help desk software depending on your individual business needs and services.


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Help desk software for small businesses

Help desk software is not just an enterprise solution.

It can provide fast-growing small business with 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.

This is especially useful for those smaller businesses, often tech startups, that are able to attract hundreds of thousands of users in a matter of months.

Such businesses can quickly find they have a large customer base that needs servicing and no robust solution in place. Competitors may be much larger organisations, but these new customers will expect the same level of service they are used to from the startup.

Why Salesforce Essentials is an ideal solution for small businesses

Cloud-based online systems, such as Salesforce Essentials, 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 needed, 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, making it easy to get started quickly.

That’s a lot of info!

Here’s what you should take away from this article:

  • What is help desk software? Help desk software enables businesses to receive, process and respond to customer queries across a variety of touchpoints.
  • How does help desk software work? Help desk software centralises data from customer queries, allowing customer service reps to respond to issues quickly and accurately.
  • What are the benefits of help desk software? Some benefits of help desk software include: improved efficiency, personalised customer care, performance tracking and actionable insights
  • What features should you look for in help desk software? Effective help desk software should include: support ticket systems, Computer Telephony Integration, case management, analytics and live support
  • Is help desk software good for small businesses? Yes. Help desk software can provide small businesses with a customer service solution that can grow with the business but doesn’t have huge setup costs.

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