Helpdesk Software Buyer's Guide: Top 10 Solutions of 2017

We've put together this free comparison guide for shoppers to compare and identify the best helpdesk ticketing software for their specific needs.

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User-Friendly Helpdesk with Game Mechanics
Unified Multichannel Ticketing Inbox
Intuitive User Interface, Game Elements
Social Media Monitoring, 2-Way Integration
Free for Unlimited Agents
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Helpdesk with Salesforce Integration
Unified Inbox, Automatic View Updates
Focused Support Agent Roles, Ticket Management
Diverse Library of Extensions, Flexible Light Agents
Fees Apply, Optional
$20/mo/user/annually ($25 month-to-month)
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Beautiful Helpdesk with Intuitive Controls
Unified Customer Service Conversations
Highly Intuitive Use, Effective Support
Macros, Triggers, Workflows and SLA Management
Varies by Plan
$20/mo/user/annually ($24 month-to-month)
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Contextual Helpdesk in the Zoho Office Suite
Customer Interaction Timeline with Personal Insights
Custom Dashboards, Reports, Fields and Tags
2-Way Sync with Zoho CRM, G Suite Integration
Free for 10 Users
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Well-Rounded Helpdesk with Excellent Support
Custom Reports, Ticket Assignment Rules
Robust Features at Small Business Rates
Wide Range of Support Options and Data Security
Varies by Plan
$29/mo/user/annually ($39 month-to-month)
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What is Helpdesk Software?

A help desk, also known as a service desk or support desk, has traditionally been conceived as a point of contact for individuals to interact with an organization over questions, problems or concerns. The term ‘help desk’ originally referred to the place within an organization where employees could receive IT support; over time, the term expanded to refer to any kind of user or customer service provided by representatives of the organization.

Helpdesk software (also written as ‘help desk’ or ‘help-desk’) provides online ticketing for customer service issues across various channels. It can automate notification, assignment and consolidation of support tickets and provide an internal knowledge base for agents to draw from when resolving support issues. A modern helpdesk solution will also collect metrics for performance analysis and comparison to industry peers.

Helpdesk software can provide a comprehensive view of a customer service department while providing tools for agents to resolve issues rapidly and efficiently. Modern helpdesk solutions are offered over the cloud as customer service platforms for companies of any size or industry.

Key Benefits & Features of Helpdesk Software:

  1. Consolidate Support Issues. Most companies offer service through multiple channels – phone, email, tweets, web chats, SMS. Helpdesk software consolidates these channels into a single interface for support agents, who can merge, tag, reassign and resolve tickets.
  2. Automate Ticket Assignment. Helpdesk software can be configured to automatically assign tickets on certain issues to specific agents or groups. Multi-level rules ensure agents aren’t overbooked and tickets can be reassigned without disruption of support.
  3. Scalable Customer Support. As your customer service department grows, helpdesk software can accommodate more users and offer more features. In addition, many helpdesk solutions offer self-services modules for businesses facing frequent questions on complex products or services that allow customers to search answers on their own.
  4. Knowledge Base. Helpdesk software should allow businesses to build an internal knowledge base for agents to search for answers to routine answers. Rather than require individual agents become experts in troubleshooting features, they can rely on an expanding library of tried and tested methods. In addition, an outward-facing knowledge base can be offered to customers for their own edification.
  5. Monitor Social Media Mentions. Effective, empathetic customer support can result in both satisfied customers and good PR. Certain helpdesk solutions offer or integrate with social monitoring software that notifies support agents when the brand trends with certain keywords. Customer support in a public forum can go a long way towards positive brand impressions and prevent bad feedback from going viral.
  6. Track Helpdesk Performance. Helpdesk solutions offer a variety of reporting features, enabling support departments to track agent and group performance by a variety of metrics, such as tickets resolved, ticket resolution time, number of responses until resolution, tickets per product, tickets by source and so on. Certain helpdesk software solutions allow comparison against industry peers, so you can know how your customer support ranks against your rivals.

What to Look for in a Helpdesk Solution:

  • Simple User Interface – A helpdesk solution should be navigable and intuitive with key features accessible only a click or two away. Essential details should be given prominence; unresolved, overdue, unassigned tickets should be displayed on dashboards with a degree of customizability by agents. The color theme is important, too – your agents will be looking at it for much of their day.
  • Unified Inbox – This term refers to the consolidation of tickets from all available channels – email, call, SMS, web chat, tweets – so support agents receive them in the same place. Tickets addressed on multiple channels can be addressed, by the agent, from the same location using the same features.
  • Ticket Automation – A modern helpdesk will not only enable online ticketing, but also allow configurable automations that assign tickets to certain agents or groups according to certain conditions, such as ticket status, number of assigned tickets, ticket source, ticket assignment, etc. Certain solutions allow multi-level preconditions for additional complexity for automations.
  • Custom Macros – Agents who face recurring inquiries can configure custom macros to provide consistent, personalized responses to save time and mental bandwidth. Customer support software often allows these macros to be shared with other agents and teams.
  • Custom Views – Agents streamline their own performance by adjusting their dashboard views – particularly ticket views. Agents arranging the ticket queue according to status, assignee, group or other criteria expedite ticket resolution and improve the performance of the entire team.
  • Custom Notifications – Helpdesk software can be configured to notify users based on certain criteria, such as new tickets, ticket status change, customer reply and so on. This brings agent attention to current issues in a timely fashion.
  • Shared Tickets – For difficult issues, or when tickets move beyond an agent’s area of expertise, agents can share tickets with colleagues to decrease resolution time.
  • Merge Tickets – For redundant tickets, agents are able to combine multiple tickets into one for consistent messaging and clearing up the ticket queue.
  • Light Agents – Helpdesk software that allows light agents enables customer support agents to bring non-support colleagues, such as sales, marketing or management, into a ticket to observe and comment privately without interacting with the ticket directly.
  • Team Messaging – Agents that can communicate within their teams keep communication within the same platform – allowing them from needing to switch between applications for messaging.
  • Custom SLAs – Most helpdesk software enable businesses to create custom service level agreements for different clients. SLAs can be automatically assigned based on ticket parameters and configured separately for incidents and service requests. Agents can pause timers while awaiting customer response, and urgent issues can be prioritized with custom SLA targets.
  • Multilingual Support – Certain helpdesk solution providers allow support translation into multiple languages. If your customer support and clients are in separate countries, multilingual support can save you the expense of hiring local actors while still providing effective support.
  • Analytics & Reports – Any modern helpdesk solution will collect metrics on agent and team performance. These metrics might include created tickets, resolved tickets, reopened tickets, average first response time, first contact resolution, first response SLA, and so forth. Charting these metrics over time provides insight to department performance as well as comparison against industry peers.
  • Integrations – The right helpdesk solution will integrate with your other business applications; CRM, sales and marketing automation, ecommerce, telephony, analytics, communication, and so forth. Tried and tested official integrations will save you valuable time when deploying the helpdesk platform you choose as opposed to developing your own.
  • Mobile App – Agents equipped with their helpdesk mobile app should be able to access ticket management tools and macros from their account. All forms of business are increasingly mobile – so is customer support!
  • Branded Community Forums – Certain solutions enable companies to build community forums, the structure of which is determined within the helpdesk software. Developers can share insights and customers can post inquiries, and certain user posts can be escalated into tickets. The community forum becomes a place for users to answer each other’s questions and another channel from which the software can unify tickets.
  • Developer API – For unofficial integrations, or integrating with proprietary software, a helpdesk solution should make available its developer API. Custom integrations allow a business to adapt the helpdesk to their own needs, rather than the other way around.

What to Look for when Comparing Helpdesk Solution Providers:

  • Scalability – Helpdesk software must be able to grow with your company with increased storage capacity, number of users, user permissions, complex automations and advanced reports. Solutions that work for departments with ten agents should have escalated features and capacity for departments with five hundred agents.
  • Ticketing Channels – The more channels your customer support software can unify into one platform, the more you’re able to engage customers on the platform of their choice. The channels depend on your needs, but integrating email, calls, SMS, web chat and social media are common among major helpdesk solution providers.
  • Self-Service Support – The right solution will enable you to build a library of content for customers to help themselves, such as how-to articles, videos, FAQs, walkthrough and other guides. Branded community forums let users search solutions and ask questions to a community, as well as providing developers common resources for using the API.
  • Service Level Agreements – Helpdesk solutions provide not only the platform for support, but also the framework for individual agreements. Custom notifications, automatic ticket assignment, SLA timers exist so companies can adhere to different SLA requirements.
  • Multilingual Support – Business is increasingly international; companies improve customer engagement by providing support in customers’ languages. Multilingual helpdesk software can translate your support agents’ messages as well as your knowledge base articles, saving considerable time in manually translation articles.
  • Integrations – A helpdesk solution should be able to integrate with your other business applications, including your CRM, sales and marketing automation software, scheduling, ecommerce, communication apps, and so on. Official integrations can mean custom workflows linking one application to another – allowing tickets to be created across platforms, if necessary.
  • Reporting – Helpdesk solutions collect data on helpdesk activity – allowing for insights on the performance of individual agents and groups, ticket types, resolution speeds, customer satisfaction, and comparison with industry peers. This offers perspective on how well the team meets its own benchmarks and whether the support reaches the standards its customers expect.
  • Price – Consider the features that best fit your customer support needs and choose the solution that offers the best package at the right price. Most modern helpdesk solutions are offered in on-demand, tiered subscriptions, meaning users can pay for the features they need and upgrade easily as their needs grow.
  • Service & Support – Users could reasonably expect helpdesk software vendors to provide technical support through the same channels their software allows clients to maintain. Vendors typically allow contact through web chat, email, phone or forum post. There are typically user guides, a knowledge base and various tutorials accessible from the site. Different tiers of subscription may entitle clients to a certain level of exclusive support measured in time or number of issues – SLAs can sometimes be negotiated directly with the vendor.
  • User Reviews – Solution providers offer assurances on usability, but comparing user reviews can provide a truer sense of how clients in a similar position to yours feel the software meets their needs. Compare how they rank on features, integrations, customizability, automations, support and price. You might be surprised – a lesser known vendor might provide the right balance of these qualities that suits your use case best.

Some Final Thoughts to Helpdesk Shoppers:

Helpdesk software enables a small team of customer support specialists to respond to a higher volume of support claims with greater consistency, speed and higher quality. Like any new software, there is a learning curve; your customer support team will likely require onboarding before the software can be used to its full potential. Development and maintenance of customer self-service resources, such as an outward knowledge base or customer forums, may require more technical knowledge than a support specialist can expect to acquire in short order. Such a role might be better left to a dedicated helpdesk administrator – much as businesses often require a CRM administrator.

Such needs are highly circumstantial to a company’s use case and in-house talent. Most SaaS helpdesk solutions allow free trials. It’s highly advisable you evaluate your needs and budget within a timeframe, compare a shortlist of potential solutions and calculate their overall cost – the potential cost of new hirees for software upkeep and the time diverted to integrating existing systems and data, among other things, in addition to the price of the helpdesk software itself.

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