Customer Support Software
Help Desk Software is the hub used by support personnel to help them resolve customers’ questions. It should have a number of features to make their job easier. Often also known as Customer Support software, it can be used to assist external customers (those that purchase a product or service) as well as internal customers (company employees).
This software should be the primary place where a customer goes for assistance. It can help them get a direct answer to their questions. Or it can guide them through a troubleshooting exercise in an attempt to fix a problem or gather more information. It should also be easy to compare the customer’s issue with other reported cases to find a solution.
Issue tracking functionality is used to track the particular customer request. This functionality could be built into the help desk software. Or it could come from a separate issue tracking system that integrates with the help desk software.
Next to providing an answer to the customer’s question or issue, the next most important function of any customer service software is communication. It should provide an easy and convenient way to communicate back and forth with the customer and other support personnel.
Help desk software can be written specifically for an industry (such as software company or appliance repair) or it can be a generic product with the ability to customize to meet the company’s needs.
Here are a few areas to be aware of when looking at customer support software.
Customer Support Software Keeps it Simple
It probably goes without saying, but customer support software is normally designed for the basics – particularly in the cloud. Despite the fancy features, this type of software is designed to process support requests. Most of the time, it will do an excellent job, and a help desk in a small company could use it without too many problems. But in a large IT department, a little more functionality is needed.
Consider the need to link several Incidents as Problems. OK, there’s probably a workaround for this: we could use categories. Now think about logging a Request for Change and assigning that to a group of people on a Change Advisory Board. Perhaps the CAB would want to update the record and record meeting minutes alongside the RFC. Already you’ve progressed beyond the scope of basic customer support software, and we’ve barely scratched the surface.
Cloud Customer Support Software is Less Customizable
Technicians often need to record computer names and other technical information. Sometimes departments need to manage assets. You might need to add all kinds of custom fields to record information about each end user. Unless your customer support software is highly customisable, you’ll probably need to invent several workarounds to record this kind of data, and it can be easily forgotten if the technician isn’t prompted for it. Because recording metrics is a more basic process, you’ll find it harder to interpret trends and act quickly when the status of a critical system changes.
Consider Necessary Functionality
Do you need software purely to provide support to internal customers? Or does your solution need to provide support to external customers? Often times the answer is both. But when reviewing an application, consider whether it is suited for internal or external use (or both) and what features you are paying for versus what you will actually use. For example, a solution built for internal support may include asset tracking capabilities, or interface with another system that does this. This is not to be confused with the asset tracking done by finance to determine value and depreciation of company assets. This is used to give visibility to managers and support personnel when there is a need to patch or upgrade company hardware or software. However, asset tracking may not be necessary if you are supporting external customers. In that case, it might be more important that your software allow you to separate customers by company or organization. Many tools built for internal use do not allow this.
Consider reporting: SLAs, OLAs, KPIs and dashboards
Most technical support teams need to report their progress and report stats back to senior management. At the very least, you’ll want to see how your teams are doing from day to day. Reporting is key to a good help desk application. The data that drives reports also drives vital team management dashboards, and it can be used to give your technicians graphical feedback on their own tasks and queues. Unless your reporting needs are incredibly basic, stick to a dedicated help desk solution. Otherwise you may find yourself slaving over Excel spreadsheets to collate the data you’re asked for.
Help Desk Software as Customer Support Software
True customer support software can be relatively basic and meet minimal needs of anything beyond a very small organization. However, help desk software can often serve as a more powerful form of customer support software. The need to track communications, provide solutions to customers, and track metrics are customer support software goals that are often found in help desk software. An enterprise help desk software solution may be overkill for a customer support operation, but solutions offered in the SMB space are often just right.
Searching for the Best Customer Support Software
When looking for the right customer support software to use in your company, here are a few guidelines to make sure that what you get is a good fit:
- Prioritize the functions that you need – Make sure that you choose a product with the features and benefits that your company needs. Ignore the bells and whistles that you might think are cool and the vendor pushes, but you’ll realistically never use. “Nice to have” features may force you over your budget for something you may rarely use.
- Check for integration with existing systems – Make sure the product works with your email system, content management and any other systems used by your help desk staff.
- Make security a high priority – There are times when sensitive information could be routed through the help desk system. Make sure the information is secure.
- Look for personalization (branding) options – The help desk system should allow you to place your logo and website links on notes, emails and other material. This is an opportunity to gain more visibility and lend a comfortable feeling to users who may be transitioning to this type of software for the first time.
- Review the workflow – Make sure the software can be adapted to the way your help desk works. Operational changes to accommodate the software can be expensive.
There are a number of help desk products on the market. Take the time to research what you really need and how well a software product matches that. The right software in your help desk organization will result in more efficient staff and more satisfied customers.