If you are a founder doing support, or still in the early days of customer service at your company– perhaps you’re replying to everyone straight from Gmail still– you may be curious about the benefits of a customer service ticketing system. Maybe you are wondering what the benefit is, or which one to pick? New ones are popping up all the time too.

Support happens across various channels, whether you like it or not. Pick a tool that can handle all the channels your customers need.

In the beginning, you may have just a few emails to manage (help@company.com, support@company.com, and sales@company.com). You and your co-founders reply directly through email, you do your best to respond via Facebook, and you answer the occasional Tweet hours later.

As you acquire more & more customers, this is going to get more complex. You may add billing@company.com and press@company.com. You are getting more and more questions on social media. Can you just get them to email you instead? This is getting crazy; can’t the dang customer contact you through the right channel (i.e. the easiest one for you!?) Most of the times, the right answer is NO.

I’m a firm believe that the customer should be able to contact support from wherever they choose. Don’t you dare tell the customer, “uhhh I know you already told us the problem on Facebook, but you actually need to re-write this to us in an email or we can’t help.” You have the unique opportunity to stand out with world-class, personal service, so find a tool that can handle all the channels your customers like to use to get in touch– Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, your growing amount of email addresses, live chat, phone, etc.

Not only do customers want to be able to get an answer on from their channel of choice,
they expect a consistent experience. They want to be able to reach out on social media, live chat with you to troubleshoot (you should know the back story already– not ask them to repeat it), and you should remember them the next time they email. Let them start an interaction in one channel and complete it in another.

Welcome to the world of support software

Now, since you are still managing your support through email, I’m going to make the assumption that you are interested in a Hosted (SaaS) Solution, that you can just log into via the web, versus a time and resource intensive on-premise solution that you set up yourself (let’s be real, we mean your IT crew). Building your own help center is like starting a whole new side business, so unless you have significant resources and engineers to help you, it’s probably not the way to go. If you’ve been tasked with this and you have to set it up mostly yourself, look into some of the top solutions like Zendesk, HelpScout, Intercom, FreshDesk, or Desk.com.

The huge plus to using a SaaS tool is that you can login from anywhere, just like with your email address! The downside is that no solution is going to be a silver bullet. I’ve used Zendesk, HelpScout, and Intercom, and while in the end I chose Zendesk, there are definitely little annoyances with each tool. It’s about choosing the best overall one for you & your customers too, #obvious!

Time to shop. Creating your must-have feature list

Being that this is the first time you are setting up a help center, your needs are likely going to be on the simpler side– or maybe you are already planning big– all the more power to you, just keep it real! The folks at Fresh Desk did an amazing job creating an entire white paper on picking a ticketing system. I’m emending just piece of it here, which is about creating your feature list, but the whole paper is worth a read.

Guide to Choosing an Online Helpdesk

Do some support soul searching. What really matters here $ 🙂 ?

A major difference between the main players is pricing. This is a big thing to plan ahead for. Some plans (Intercom) charge per app user. If you plan to conquer the world an get to a bajillion users (I hate that word! — try community members), this may get pricey. On the other hand, Zendesk charges per agent. As our support team is getting more cross-functional, we have to loop in hardware, software, sales, and people for help– and it’s turning into a huge pain point. Collaboration with people that aren’t actual support agents is suddenly important, but buying accounts for a bunch of folks that might need to jump in to help once a month, if even, doesn’t make economic sense. You can’t predict the future, but try your best to pick a pricing model that will (fingers crossed) work for a year or two.

It’s also a really good idea to try each tool as a customer. Try using the in-app messaging on Intercom and see it in action. Search the Zendesk Knowledge base; do you like how it looks and works? Email the teams. Do they respond in a timely manner? Do their agents provide refreshingly good customer service. I just can’t trust a customer service company that doesn’t live and breathe good service; put them to the test.

Does using the Help Desk make you happy? This sounds silly, but your agents are going to live in this tool. Pick one that’s enjoyable and easy to use. If it’s not intuitively easy, make sure there are training sessions or resources. The goal here is to make life easier for both your agents and customers, so talk to the front-lines folks and ask their opinion too! Include them in the free trial/ testing stage.

Just my personal tidbit here- I actually used HelpScout at my first gig and it was a great tool for a newly founded CS team. It didn’t have the automations, triggers, and fancy stuff, but we didn’t need it at the time and the pricing didn’t break the bank.

I hope this gets some of you off plain email support, and if you have any comments about how you picked, what you use, or which is your favorite, I’d love to hear about it!