What is Help Desk Software? A Full Guide To Types, Features and Pricing

Freshdesk: No. 1 Help Desk Tool

What is help desk software?

Help desk software allows businesses to resolve customer queries and concerns by managing tickets from receipt all the way to resolution. It also provides agents with a wide array of support and tools that promote collaboration.

This type of software also empowers agents with a wide range of support and collaborative tools. Studies show that as much as 42% of customers expect a reply in an hour, so now more than ever, help desk software is important to your business. The goal of using it is to keep customers satisfied so they don’t leave.

Help desk solutions are often lumped under the broader IT service management category, but the strict definition of help desk software refers to the specific process of addressing customer issues, whereas IT service management includes support for an internal audience (your employees). Some CRM solutions can include a help desk function and vice-versa, some help desk solutions may have CRM functionalities.

How does help desk software work exactly and how it can benefit your company? In this article, we answer the question what is help desk software and we’ll explain all the software’s main functions including ticket management, automation, and analytics. We’ll also show you the many benefits of this software. Particularly, how it can be a good source of market feedback and sales opportunities.

Here’s what our guide focuses on:

  1. Examples of help desk software
  2. Benefits of help desk
  3. Types of help desk
  4. Features of help desk
  5. Factors to consider
  6. Pricing of help desk
  7. Potential issues
  8. Latest trends

What are examples of help desk software?

  • Freshdesk – Ideal for small businesses and large enterprises, it features multi-channel support, integrated game mechanics, smart automations, and self-service portal. The app can also handle a wide range of SLA terms.  If you need a reliable Freshdesk alternative check out our other comparison articles.
  • LiveAgent – It has good social media integration, live chat, and email support. Its universal all-in-one inbox streamlines ticket routing and storage for greater visibility. Likewise, all plans get 24/7 vendor support.
  • Samanage – It’s an IT service desk and asset management software with robust reporting and alert and notifications. It simplifies ticketing, service requests and fulfillment workflows.
  • Zendesk – One of the most popular help desk apps, it’s used by more than 40,000 companies worldwide. Being a solid LiveAgent alternative it can host 5 to 500 agents and handle thousands of tickets daily. Support channels include chat, web, email and social media.
  • Salesforce Service Cloud – A part of the comprehensive Salesforce suite, this help desk features multi-channel support including video and social media. This Zendesk alternative also has good mobile interface where customers can submit tickets through their smartphones or tablets.
  • Deskun – A multi-channel help desk solution that enables any company or organization to deliver high-quality communication and customer service to their clients, prospects, and more via email, live chat, and social messenger tools. All these happen within the familiar Gmail environment.

Why use a help desk software?

You’ve learnt what is help desk software, but what are its uses? Businesses across all industries need to provide excellent support to keep their customers happy. In SaaS alone, there is an increase in job listings for customer service reps as vendors vie to retain subscribers. It’s clear that adopting such a solution is quite often a necessity. But how exactly can you profit from using it? Here are the key benefits of a help desk software:

  1. Resolve tickets faster. It’s one of the main advantages of help desk software. Agents resolve tickets faster and more accurately through collaboration with other agents, routing to in-house experts, or quickly accessing product specs. They can also categorize tickets by priority or escalate them to higher-ups, so the most urgent issues are resolved.
  2. Resolve tickets consistently. FAQs and unique issues are recorded and best practices logged as reference for future incidents. Next time a similar query is received, an agent knows exactly how to respond.
  3. Resolve tickets with more accuracy. Agents can route technical questions to IT or an in-house expert for an accurate response.
  4. Address Service Level Agreements. Managers can assign rules to route different SLAs to their respective workflows; thereby, each SLA type, from basic to premium, gets the appropriate customer service.
  5. Focus on important tasks. Managers can automate repetitive and routine tasks such as FAQs and administrative compliance so agents can handle more critical tickets.
  6. No tickets are missed. Agents can set alerts to notify them of the day’s tickets. Managers can also set rules to auto-convert customer emails to tickets and channel them through ticket management.
  7. Build a knowledge base. Repetitive customer questions can be organized into FAQs and, using page templates, your site will have a knowledge base section.

What are the types of help desk software?

We’ve defined what is help desk software earlier, let’s now look at its various types. Like most business solutions today, help desk software can be either cloud-hosted or installed on-premise. However they are deployed, help desk solutions can further be divided into three general types:

Basic help desk

These are often plug-and-play SaaS solutions that offer a base ticketing system for customer complaints. Other help desk features can be added, but at an extra cost. Features like chat, knowledge base, reporting, more points-of-contact, and mobile are offered separately. This help desk software type is scalable and, therefore, ideal for growing businesses. A major advantage of basic help desk is its affordability.

Examples: Zendesk, LiveAgent and Freshdesk

Enterprise help desk

Enterprise help desk not only has more features than a basic one, but it also addresses internal issues like IT assets. Aside from having a larger database, multiple contact points and accommodating more users and customers, this help desk type may include IT asset management, SLA management, and account management. It can also be customized deeper to match the company’s protocols.

Examples: Freshservice Enterprise IT Helpdesk, ManageEngine ServiceDesk Plus and Oracle PeopleSoft Enterprise HelpDesk

Open-source help desk

This help desk type is free and allows users to modify its source code to customize or integrate processes. It requires developer’s skills to tinker with the source code and adapt it to one’s required workflow or output. Vendors of open-source help desk may offer fee-based technical service or a paid version with more robust features.

Examples: SugarCRM Open Source, Savane and Google Apps Help Desk Workflow

Freshdesk – one of the most reliable helpdesks out there

What does a help desk software do?

Help desk solutions almost always share three basic features: contact channels, ticket management, and analytics. How does a help desk software work exactly though? It depends on the number of features it offers and the target users. Here are the most important features of a help desk software:

  1. Points of contact. How customers contact support. These can be via phone, email, chat, social media, self-service, or community. Some solutions offer multiple channels while others offer them separately as addons.
  2. Ticketing management. It’s the core system that records and organizes customer complaints into tickets and tracks their progress up from receipt to resolution. A good help desk software shows the ticket status and who’s handling it to avoid duplicating the service. Ticketing should also be able to convert emails to tickets relatively quickly (with a few clicks).
  3. Knowledge base or self service. It’s one of the most important features of help desk software. It compiles customer questions and structures them into retrievable FAQs or how-to articles. Repetitive queries can be directed to this section, freeing up your agents to focus on more urgent issues and at the same time allowing you to provide 24/7 help desk since the knowledge base is always up.
  4. Escalation. Some advanced help desk ticketing offer escalation features where agents can route difficult tickets to their boss. A good escalation allows for multi-level submission, where supervisors get to resolve issues within their authority instead of escalating the ticket further up. This makes resolution faster and prevents bugging busy managers.
  5. Automation. The software allows rules to automate repetitive, predictable, or routine tasks including recurring customer questions and administrative tasks like filling up forms or issuing daily reports. Automation can span the entire range of support service from converting emails to tickets, to routing them to the right agents and up to notifying managers of pending or resolved tickets.
  6. Dashboards. A good dashboard helps agents to see the most important data upon logging in. This may include pending, urgent and new tickets, incoming calls, etc. Dashboards should also give supervisors and managers key metrics like overall agent performance, resolution rate, and number of issues resolved per week or month.
  7. Analytics. Help desk can also be a source of market insight and sales opportunities. Analytics organize customer queries in visual ways that reveal valuable information like top product complaints, customer buying preferences, and market demographics.
  8. Customer satisfaction survey (CSAT). This is closely related to analytics but with a specific objective, that is, to show the relationship of customer satisfaction rate with sales trends. For example, if the volume of complaints is inversely proportional to your sales trajectory.

Advanced features. Robust help desk solutions will have more complex features that may include all or some of the following:

  • CRM features or having help desk integrated with a CRM
  • Sophisticated reporting tools such as data visualization
  • Social media integration to track social comments about your company
  • Content management system for knowledge base publishing
  • Advanced filters and tags for more search options
  • Time tracking to measure resolution rate per agent

What are the factors to consider when getting help desk software?

Consider the following aspects before investing in a help desk software to guarantee you select a solution that is actually suitable to your business requirements:

  1. Ticketing system capability. Ticketing management is the main feature, so you want to ensure it can perform various tasks like assigning, reassigning, escalating, resending, routing, closing, or canceling tickets. The more functions a software has, the more control you have over different incidents. Check also for tagging and filtering options; they help speed up searching for and grouping tickets for bulk actions.
  2. Database capacity. If you have a huge customer base make sure to check if the help desk software can handle it. It should also accommodate historical interactions for future reference. Likewise, find out how much content it can host for knowledge base, especially if your server capacity is limited.
  3. Collaboration tools. An excellent help desk software lets users collaborate on three levels. First, among agents so they can work on a difficult ticket. Second, between departments so agents can tap the company’s other resources. And third, between agents and customers in times when a rare situation requires input from actual users to further improve the product.
  4. Knowledge access. This pertains to both internal and external users. Agents should be able to quickly retrieve product information to assist customers. Likewise, customers with repetitive questions should be directed to a knowledge base of FAQs so agents are free to focus on unique tickets.
  5. Email compatibility. Since you’re most likely using email as a core component of your support service, make sure the help desk software is compatible with your email client. Take note that only a few solutions work with all email servers.
  6. Customization. Your help desk software should at least adapt to your basic workflows so you can fully use the system. Likewise, go for solutions that allow for branding the interface and templates. You don’t want customers to feel unimportant with generic responses.

Other factors. These factors are general in nature but still require your attention to make sure you’re getting a fitting help desk software:

  • Budget – check both the initial capital outlay and monthly cost
  • Ease of use – can it be used by everybody, with or without technical skills?
  • Scalability – can you add more features as your business grows?
  • Integration – can it integrate with your other business apps?
  • Mobile support – does it have a mobile version so you can manage support even on the fly?
  • Security – does the software use data encryption to protect company and customer information?

LiveAgent in action

How much does a help desk software cost?

Help desk solutions are usually priced based on the number of agents and ticket volume grouped in batches of tens or hundreds. Furthermore, the cost of a help desk software can be affected by the number of extra modules such as knowledge base management, analytics, reporting, and content management. Other factors that may affect pricing include: integration capabilities, mobile apps, and license fees for on-premise deployment.

Here are the sample pricing plans for some of the most popular help desk solutions:

  1. Freshdesk – It’s free for up to 3 users. Paid plans feature 4 packages starting at $15 per agent per month and featuring email support, phone support, and knowledge base.
  2. LiveAgent – Pricing is primarily based on set features, starting at $12 per agent per month for ticketing. More expensive plans include chat, social media integration, and gamification.
  3. Zendesk – It has highly scalable plans from small business to enterprise. Price starts at $5 per agent/month and peaks at $199 per agent/month.
  4. Salesforce Service Cloud – It has robust plans featuring rich features like order management and opportunity tracking even for basic package. Price starts at $75 per user/month though.
  5. Samanage – Plans are offered on by quote basis. Quote depends on the number of agents for ticketing and number of devices for asset management.

What are the potential issues in help desk software?

  • Security threats with sensitive data. Hacking of customer data is not something rare and help desk solutions are prime target for phishing, spywares, malwares, and other viruses since they are the opening to your company’s internal communication system. Most vendors have layers of firewall for data protection and backup system for unforeseen events. Make sure you ask about the level of security offered by the vendor.
  • Bugs delay resolution. Technical glitches can happen and delay your ability to respond quickly. In such cases, you should be able to have quick help access to the vendor.
  • Only customer service is using it. Robust help desk solutions require the cooperation of other departments like sales, marketing, and IT to fully maximize the potential for quick resolution turnaround and market insights. The problem arises when other departments view help desk as primarily for customer support team only. This can be solved by proper implementation across all departments though.

Artificial intelligence, social media, and mobile access top the latest trends on how help desk software is predicted to evolve in the next few years. Consider the following factors:

  • Chatbots. Conversational chatbots are now being launched regularly as AI-assisted live chats prove to be cost-effective. FAQs and basic requests like password change can now be addressed by a chatbot. As AI advances, chatbots will be able to deliver more human-like responses and even replace live agents at some tasks.
  • Social media support. Social networks like Facebook and Twitter are becoming the first-touch points for many customers. Hence, help desk solutions are integrating these channels to let agents participate in conversations and direct comments to knowledge base where necessary.
  • Mobile compatibility. More and more customers are accessing the internet through mobile devices. Customers expect to be able to reach your company through their mobile phone or they’ll be frustrated.
  • Multi-channel support in sync. Aside from social media, customers use different channels to push their conversations with companies. They may post a general query on Facebook, follow it up through email, then finally call you. Help desk solutions are developing multi-channel communication platforms that can simultaneously track email, apps, live chat, calls, and other customer touchpoints.
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