We’ve all heard the hype.
“The best help desk software.”
“Once you start using it, you’ll forget about the rest.”
“100,000+ customers trust Big Corp Inc., so why shouldn’t you?”
Well, very few things in life are one-size-fits-all, and help desk software definitely doesn’t make the cut.
When it comes to picking software for a customer service team, many factors come into play:
- what the needs of your team are,
- what other tools you’re using,
- and what methodology you follow to support customers.
We set out to understand what drives teams’ decision to start looking for a new way to support customers. The reasons we give you in this post are based on what we’ve heard interviewing hundreds of teams and individual agents who use professional help desk software.
You’ll learn about the things that tipped them off to start looking for a new solution and what were the main features/factors they were considering when making a decision.
1. Your current solution is not built for collaboration
This is by far the most common reason we hear from our community. Most often, this is based on teams that use Gmail (or a similar solution such as Google Groups) to run their customer service department.
You’d think this is common to small/early-stage companies that have 1-2 support agents, but that’s not necessarily the case.
One of our customers, ATD Travel Services were running a team of over 50(!) sales/support agents using Gmail. With the rapid growth the company experienced, they didn’t always have the time to pay attention to whether their internal processes were evolving in line with the growth of their team.
Companies like ATD Travel Services that switch to a dedicated help desk tool quickly see the benefits that decision incurs.
While adopting premium software might seem expensive, especially when there are free tools like Gmail available, there are other tangible costs that using a solution that’s not build for collaboration has. These include problems like (to name just the most popular ones):
- Emails falling through the cracks being left unanswered
- Lack of functionality to set forwarding rules in a way that ensures everybody on the team is on the same page
- Several agents responding to the same email—hurting the image for your company and wasting the resources of your team
When you develop a clear picture or how much that inefficiency costs to your team and your brand, it is easy to compare to the price of buying, adopting, and learning to use a specific help desk tool and make the best decision for your team. Unless…
2. Your chosen help desk software is too complicated
Using a special tool that was built specifically for customer service is always better than relying on your good ol’ pal Gmail…or is it?
We speak to many customers who tell us the same story—they kept hearing about one of the “big guns” from their friends and peers.
Maybe they even started following the hype on social media where such companies somehow always use words such as “leaders” and “visionaries” to describe themselves.
Next, they decide to start a trial to evaluate the product…only to realize it would take them months to set up the new tool correctly and start using it.
Some of the most advanced tools include hundreds of features—and while those are needed for some companies—they’re not what every team needs.
Your goal should be to find a solution, which is just the perfect fit for your team—the feature set overlaps (or is as close as possible) to what you need to make your customer service fast, efficient and friendly.
When we talked to Allan Branch from Less Accounting about their experience, one of the most interesting things we heard was that they needed a tool that was easy enough to learn but powerful enough to make an immediate difference to their team.
We call this the “works like magic” factor and we believe that this is the equilibrium you should be looking for when choosing help desk software for your team.
To evaluate, try to narrow down your list of possible alternatives to your 3-5 top choices and then get on a demo call or run a trial with them.
While doing that, focus not just on figuring out the features, the UI, and how long it’d take your team to learn to use each tool, but also what would be the upfront investment you need to do to set up the new software (i.e. things like importing existing data, etc.)
3. The current tool you’re using is an expensive overkill
Chatbots, complex macros, do you really need all of these?
Many help desk tools build as many features as possible, aiming to capture every possible use case for every possible customer.
In addition to making these tools hard to learn (see the previous section), developing and supporting that in the software has a considerable cost that gets reflected in the final bill.
What companies need is not every, but just the right amount of features. So, for many customers, the top-line tool often turns out to be an expensive overkill.
Of course, it’s OK to go for the most feature-rich solution if your business requires it, however our advice is to always review the feature list and make sure it matches your needs. Not only where it comes to lacking functionality you need but also making sure it doesn’t add too many things your team doesn’t need.
4. Your help desk tool makes you look bad
For many companies, the biggest driver of success is the relationships they forge with their customers. Personality plays a big role in these.
One of the most common things we hear from customers is that it is really important that their customers keep receiving emails that look personal.
If that’s important to your business as well, then using a tool which pushes people to log to an online portal to open a ticket, or one which asks them to Write above this line is probably not the best option.
This is hugely important to companies like Museum Hack. Their team works with their customers to offer fun personalized tours to museums and other attractions.
For them, offering impersonal anonymous support is not an option when the whole model of the business relies on offering a friendly human connection.
Customers don’t even know that Museum Hack is using a help desk tool—to them, it looks like a regular (and personal) email they get in their inbox.
5. It’s good for now, but it wouldn’t scale
Many teams start with Gmail because they feel like it’s going to take them a while before they outgrow it. However, more often than not, using a simple inbox becomes unbearable very quickly.
That’s why it’s important to start thinking about a tool that would allow you to scale your usage early on. In fact, the best alternatives also offer the pricing structure that can support your growth—such as paying by the seat and only for the features that you need.
The importance of choosing a tool that would grow along with your business is exemplified by the case of Handsoncode. The team started using help desk software when they had just one customer.
Choosing the right tool early in the process helped them scale their support and avoid any serious challenges or mishaps, which could have hurt their business.
6. It doesn’t allow you to support multiple customers or channels
Whether you’re offering support across multiple platforms/channels (email, Facebook, etc.) or doing it for/on behalf of multiple customers, you know how important it is to be able to quickly switch between inboxes/customers without losing time.
Too many help desk solutions require you to log in every time you want to answer a customer in another inbox. Even worse, many would not even allow you to add a specific channel such as Facebook or Twitter on which your customers (and hence your business) rely.
On the other hand, we have spoken to companies like Lolly Labs that work with multiple customers and have to provide a dedicated support channel to each of them. They are a digital agency that creates customized software solutions for their customers.
Because of the nature of the work they do, Lolly Labs creates a custom knowledge base for each specific project they work on, so their customers can find the information they need in one convenient location. Using a tool that allows them to create multiple knowledge bases without added hassle and cost is crucial to their business.
7. You can’t tailor your help desk to your needs
For most teams, the help desk software is not the first checkbox in their software stack—they’re probably already using a customer relationship management (CRM) tool, a project management tool, and maybe even a bug tracker.
For such teams finding a tool that can integrate with what they’re already using is very important. Many companies pick a tool based on price or availability, thinking they could easily customize it to fit their needs. However, they soon discover that the work they have to put in to integrate their help desk software with the tools they’re using would cost more than buying a solution that integrates with them out of the box.
At the other end of the same spectrum are companies for which no tool offers the exact set of functionalities they need, because their use case is unique.
For such teams, a robust API that allows them to build and automate the exact set of tasks they need, is of crucial importance. And while a good API might sound like a pretty basic feature that every major company should provide, it is surprising how often we hear from the community that even the most popular tools do not necessarily include everything they need.
We’ve talked to Sensibo, who made the switch away from using one of the most established products because the API wouldn’t allow them to build the automations that were crucial to their support department.
The mistakes we make when choosing help desk software
The list above is based on the most common challenges we hear from potential and existing customers.
However, that doesn’t mean they’re your challenges.
When choosing what product to go with for your support team, the most important thing is to find your challenges and choose a solution based on that.
Then you need a system that would allow you to narrow down the selection, test the alternatives, and choose a tool on that basis.
Finally, all of the above still doesn’t mean you should commit immediately. Instead, take advantage of the demos and trials most companies in the space offer.
Before I leave you, here’s my question for you—have you ever felt you made a mistake choosing a specific piece of software (support or other). What was the mistake? How did you realize you made it? Share your views in the comments.