Delivering exceptional customer service doesn’t end with a sale. Building an ongoing relationship with your customers extends through the full lifecycle of their use of your product or service and starting and managing a helpdesk can be your front line of support.
In this guide, we will discuss what a helpdesk is, why helpdesk software is the foundation on which to build your business, how to setup and manage your own helpdesk, and how to choose the right helpdesk software for your business.
Thanks to Freshdesk for sponsoring this article. Try Freshdesk’s award-winning helpdesk software free for 30 days.
What a Helpdesk Is
A helpdesk is a central hub for communicating with your customers. As its name indicates, it’s where your customers will reach out to you when they need help. It can be staffed by an individual or a group with teams specializing in one or more subject areas, and is usually aided by dedicated helpdesk software.
If your business has any customers at all, then it’s already operating some kind of customer support function — even if it’s a single point of contact taking calls on their cell phone. However, if you’re reading this guide, you understand that this kind of improvised solution isn’t sustainable. To properly support your customers, your business will need to provide a front line of communication, establish processes and procedures, be adaptable to changing needs, and be able to scale them as you grow. This is your helpdesk.
The Benefits of Helpdesk Software
If you’re looking to add a helpdesk to your business, then it’s likely that you’ve already been using some kind of ad hoc system — emails sent to a shared inbox, for example — that you’ve now outgrown. This is a very common scenario, as Sudha Padmanabhan, Product Manager at Freshdesk, explains:
“As you grow your business, your team will expand and it becomes harder to share an email inbox and ensure that your agents are keeping track of who responsed to which customer, or which customers didn’t get the right response. This is where a helpdesk ticketing software can help you create tickets and route them to the appropriate group or agent that can help.
Helpdesk software can help to ensure that tickets are routed to the team or individual that is best equipped to help, whether based on availability, knowledge and skills, or both. For example, you can dedicate one agent to help with sales, another to assist with setup, and another to troubleshoot defective products. These agents can easily see which tickets are relevant to them, which helps to keep them organized.”
A multi-channel helpdesk solution can help you talk to your customers and give your business the following benefits:
Centralize and Consolidate
Most importantly, a helpdesk software centralizes your tickets, consolidates information, and automates workflows to ensure that no ticket slips between the cracks. Agents can receive alerts when a new ticket is assigned to them or when a defined amount of time has elapsed on them and managers can have tickets escalated to them if they haven’t been resolved according to your service level agreements (SLAs).
Communicate on your Customer’s Terms
Whatever your customer’s preferred method of communication — email, live chat, social media, or phone — helpdesk software will provide the platform through which to communicate with them, then centralize their issue or inquiry in a ticket for follow-up.
However, as Sidharth Balaji from the US Sales team explains:
“Since most small businesses usually rely on email and the phone as their preferred support channels, your support team should ensure that the experience for your customers remains consistent, even after implementing a software helpdesk solution to make sure that your business goals are achieved.”
From there, it’s up to your customer service team to manage and resolve the ticket.
Building a Knowledge Base
Building on the previous point, recurring issues can be documented into a multi-lingual FAQ or knowledge base that your customers can access to self-service their requests.
Resolving Tickets Faster & More Consistently
Your agents will be able to resolve tickets faster because the software will automate much of the administrative process, freeing the agents up to investigate and solve the issue. Helpdesk software also includes reporting tools, which will help you to identify recurring issues. When trends emerge, you can create canned responses that your agents can reply with at a single click.
Adhering to Service Level Agreements (SLAs)
Tickets can be automatically flagged, routed, or escalated depending on any SLAs that your business has in place with particular customers.
To see how helpdesk software can help your business, try Freshdesk’s award-winning helpdesk software free for 30 days.
How To Set Up & Manage Your Helpdesk In 5 Steps
When building your own helpdesk, first decide how you want to use your helpdesk and then identify any gaps between your goals and your current support delivery. Knowing this, you can then focus on mapping out a process that can be adhered to at any level within your management hierarchy and that can easily scale with your business’ growth.
A well-defined process will identify and route any issues to the best team or individual for the best chance of a quick and complete resolution and an effective helpdesk will be able to provide timely and efficient customer support.
Here are the five steps to take when setting up your helpdesk:
Step 1: Decide what type of support experience you want to deliver
In most cases, businesses will use their helpdesk in one of three ways:
- As a traditional support desk that reacts to customer initiated inquiries, fixing and resolving issues as they’re reported to them
- As a more holistic service desk that manages workflows as the business grows, such as automating responses, centralizing customer data, and building a knowledge base in addition to responding to customer-initiated inquiries
- As a company-wide customer service channel, assisting both external and internal customers, and that acts as a central hub for a proactive customer relationship process
Regardless of which support experience you choose, helpdesk software like Freshdesk will help you deliver it by acting as the central hub that facilitates communication between you and your customers, consolidates information, and automating much of the administration thereby freeing up your agent’s time to better help your customers. Whether your customers are internal or external, helpdesk software can help you manage their inquiries — from work orders to bug fixes.
It also allows you to communicate with your clients using the channel of their choice, whether that’s email, the phone, live chat, or social media. Being able to consolidate tickets from multiple sources and communication channels is essential to centralizing control and management of them.
Step 2: Determine your helpdesk’s staffing needs
One of the first questions most businesses will have when building their helpdesk is how many people they need to staff it. This will largely depend on your customer base and the number of inquiries you typically receive.
Ideally, you will want each of your agents to have a utilization rate of approximately 70% — that is, about 70% of their time is spent responding to tickets. The other 30% accounts for other demands on their time, such as meetings, training, breaks, and downtime. If their utilization rate is higher, this will result in longer waits for your customers; if it’s lower, then your agents will likely be idle.
With this in mind, you can approximate the number of hours you will need to staff for. Once you’ve built your team with the appropriate number of agents, you can decide whether they should be generalists who are all able to respond to any ticket or use your helpdesk software to divide the team into subgroups that specialize in certain areas depending on their knowledge and skills.
Generally speaking, a team of generalists is appropriate for smaller businesses but you will want to specialize as you grow. Similarly, you can create tiers of teams that are based on their level of knowledge, experience, or access to more senior staff within your company when needed.
But while your current needs are important, don’t forget to look ahead as well.
“Since you’re a small business, it’s easier to build a system now that’s scalable over the long-term in both functionality and cost as you grow.
They should identify where they are going wrong currently in terms of providing basic support. Fill those gaps and ensure nothing falls through the cracks. Then concentrate on setting up a process which can be followed in any level of hierarchy. Need to ensure the solution they are adapting to is a scalable one.”
Regardless of how you staff your helpdesk, equipping them with helpdesk software like Freshdesk will help them to perform their job more effectively and you to manage them more efficiently. Once you have your current team in place, you can take advantage of the metrics and analytics in your helpdesk software to help optimize your staffing levels and iterate as your needs change. We will discuss these metrics in more detail below.
Step 3: Define your priorities with minimum manual effort to provide timely support
Categorize, prioritize, and assign the tickets you receive based on your business requirements. For example, wherever possible, automatically route your tickets to the team or department that can offer specialized support. This helps to improve the productivity of your entire customer support team by saving time and avoiding errors and shifts the focus from administration to delivering exceptional customer care.
Helpdesk software like Freshdesk can help automate this process for you. Tickets can be automatically routed for you based on criteria you define. For example, the ticket can be assigned to a different team member depending on the type of issue the customer selects.
Similarly, a service level agreement (SLA) is a promise to your customers that their issue will be responded to or resolved within a specified time. You can also create multiple SLAs with different response times depending on the type of ticket, product, customer group, or other criteria that you define. Tickets can be escalated if their issue is more complex or if the customer that submitted it has a SLA that grants them access to more specialized support.
For example, a ticket can be automatically escalated to a higher tier of support if it hasn’t been resolved in a certain amount of time.
To experience the power automated ticket routing can bring to your business try Freshdesk’s automatic ticket routing features free for 30 days.
Step 4: Build canned responses & a knowledge base
Don’t spend time trying to solve problems that you already have solutions for. Monitor your tickets to identify trends, which you can then create self-help content for. Knowledge of these trends can also help you to draft automated response templates that save your customer service team time.
If you’ve ever been to a website’s support section, started to type your question, and had a response appear automatically then it’s likely that the business behind the website was using Freshdesk or another helpdesk software to power this feature.
Your customers are becoming more comfortable with helping themselves. Self-service options save them time and you money and demonstrate an understanding of their preferred workflows. Surveys have consistently reported that customers generally prefer to help themselves over speaking with a customer service representative and most would use a company’s online knowledge base to meet their customer service needs.
Step 5: Track & improve on key metrics
Continuous improvement is vital to building a good reputation. Using your helpdesk software to regularly review your business’ key metrics helps you to understand if your support system is effective and where to make improvements if it’s not.
Some important metrics to track can include response times, resolution times, and customer satisfaction. Your helpdesk software should let you schedule automatic reports on these metrics to distribute to key stakeholders.
You can also use these reports to identify trends in the tickets you’re receiving. For example, if you’re receiving the same question from a number of different customers, then you can either create a canned response to reply with automatically or add it to your online knowledge base for customers to self-service. In both cases, you will be saving your agents a significant amount of time.
Also remember to solicit your customers for feedback to capture the human aspect, not just quantitative reports. Numbers are certainly valuable, but they don’t tell the whole story. Qualitative feedback from your customers is invaluable to gaining insight into the health of your business. It also helps to foster loyalty through positive customer support experiences.
How to Choose Your Helpdesk Software
To help ensure the widest adoption and maximize its effectiveness, your helpdesk software should be a relatively easy to use tool with a simple user interface that facilitates, rather than impedes, communication between you and your customers.
Some of the basic helpdesk functions that you should consider include:
- Multi-channel support so that your customers can connect with you using the method of their choice — email, phone, live chat, ticket submission, or social media
- Telephony integration to quickly and easily retrieve customer histories when you receive a call
- Metrics, analytics, and reporting to inform and optimize your agent’s performance and identify recurring trends
- Self-service knowledge bases to make the most frequently requested information available to your customers without the need of an agent
- Canned/automated responses so that your agents can reply to frequently asked questions with a single click
- Route tickets to the appropriate team or individual, whether based on skills or SLAs
- Load balance between teams and individuals based on their work volume and availability
- Automatically monitor ticket progress according to service level agreements
- Solicit customers for feedback following resolution
When we reviewed the leading helpdesk software for 2017, we considered available features, ease of use, and pricing to help narrow down the options for small businesses.
In addition to the basic helpdesk features listed above, some of Freshdesk’s primary differentiators include:
- Competitively priced with no additional charge for migration or basic customization
- Onboarding process with dedicated assistance
- Intuitive user interface is easy to learn and navigate, minimizing any learning curve
But most importantly, Freshdesk doesn’t differentiate the customer support they offer between the different levels of plans. All customers receive 24/7 email support and 24/5 phone support, regardless of their price plan.
Try Freshdesk’s award-winning helpdesk software free for 30 days.