Helpdesk definition

A helpdesk is a tool that organizes customer communication to help businesses respond to customers more quickly and effectively. Using a helpdesk allows your support team to offer the best possible experience to your customers.

Helpdesks offer features to provide context and insight into customer experiences and also provides internal features to benchmark the performance of your support team and ensure that your team is truly the cream of the crop. Helpdesk tools are one of the most integral tools when it comes to supporting a customer base successfully.

A beginner’s guide to a helpdesk

There’s so much information about helpdesks out there, it can be overwhelming. Luckily, we’ve put together some information that will help you learn about what a helpdesk is, what it can do for you, and how best you can pick one for yourself. Check out what we’ve got planned for you, or skip ahead, using the links below.

A beginner’s guide to a helpdesk

Why do people use a helpdesk?

No matter who you are, it’s likely that you have multiple people interfacing with customers directly every day. If this is happening across several different email accounts with multiple different people, it can be tricky to have context into who is already speaking with a customer.

Helpdesk systems bring everyone’s interactions into one interface and allow different conversations to be cross-referenced and used for more context in the customer experience. It also allows for use of features such as categorization and automation as a means to keep track of what kinds of issues your customers are experiencing.

A helpdesk tool helps create organization out of chaos by keeping your ticket process clean and giving your agents the tools that they need to best do their job.

How a help desk can help you

If you’re wondering whether a help desk is right for you, you might be looking to level up your customer service experience for your customers. Implementing a helpdesk can help in many of the ways we listed above, but let’s look at each of these benefits individually.

Unify all of your support channels into one place

Even if you don’t currently support multiple channels such as video, email or phone, having a help desk will allow you to unify all of your support channels into one place. There is nothing that is more frustrating to a customer than starting in one place (such as chat, or phone) and being shuffled around from one channel to the next to try to get an answer. Having a helpdesk app that allows you to easily transfer a customer from one channel to the next will be a blessing both for you and for them.

Gain insight into how your support agents are doing

If you are just using personal inboxes to handle customer inquiries, it’s likely that you have no idea what your customer support agents are saying if what they are saying is right, or how many are handling in a day. This information is important because it helps you benchmark for future hires, at the same time it also helps your agents track their own individual growth. A helpdesk system would help with that through robust analytics and customizable reporting.

Learn about what your customers care about through tagging and analytics

While you can gain insights regarding what customers care about from one-off conversations, the tagging and analytics that help desks offer allows you to paint a clearer, more overarching view of what their needs and wants are. This is the best way to learn about things that you could change in your product, add to your documentation, or shift your processes slightly to have even better ticket deflection and happiness ratings.

Proactively help your customers with a knowledge base

Good documentation is hard to find, especially if you don’t have a helpdesk app to help you create a knowledge base. Customers would much rather find their own information, rather than reaching out to support, but if you don’t have any documentation available you leave them no other option. Using a helpdesk tool to create documentation is a great way to provide greater happiness to your customers, and facilitate them finding the answers before they have to reach out to you. You may also even have access to analytics for your knowledge base, thus letting you know what people are searching for most or your most viewed documentation.

Automate tasks to scale your team

Using a helpdesk system will allow you to automate away some of the tasks that you worked towards every day. For example, you could set up an automated notification to ping customer support employees after their tickets had been set to pending for two days. You can also create manual workflows with helpdesk automations that automatically assign tickets to a certain support team member and tag them.

Create context around a customer’s journey

No customer should have to answer the same question twice, especially if it’s from your support team. Using a helpdesk tool, you can have all of the information in one place and see everything that a customer has reached out about. For example, if they’ve emailed in about a specific problem before, you can make sure that your answer is aligned with whatever your colleague shared with them before.

5 Productivity-Boosting features in your Helpdesk

In a world of instant gratification, it can be important to get to your customer’s questions as quickly as possible. If your team is overloaded/busy, though, and constantly trying to answer the same questions day-in and day-out, they aren’t likely to be able to make an impact on anything to help proactively ensure support for your customers.

Here are a few ways that a help desk can help your customer support team be a bit more productive, so they can get down to work doing the stuff that will benefit your customer most.

Automate workflows

Using automated workflows to automatically tag, email or otherwise take action on a ticket that a human previously would have had to do is magical. A great use of automation is setting up automatic assignment within your inbox—imagine how much time you could save if you automatically assigned based to a specific support team member based on the language used in the ticket? Use your helpdesk to help set up automated workflows and save yourself the hassle and hours.

Automate responses

Have you ever set up a holiday autoresponder to let your customers know your responses might be a bit delayed? Maybe, depending on what service you’ve used. But, automated responses for things like bugs, outages, holidays, and even just being out of work hours saves you a ton of time and energy as a support team. It also helps to minimize frustration on the behalf of the customer.

Saved replies

Using automated workflows to automatically tag, email or otherwise take action on a ticket that a human previously would have had to do is magical. A great use of automation is setting up automatic assignment within your inbox—imagine how much time you could save if you automatically assigned based to a specific support team member based on the language used in the ticket? Use your helpdesk to help set up automated workflows and save yourself the hassle and hours.

Internal documentation

Have you ever set up a holiday autoresponder to let your customers know your responses might be a bit delayed? Maybe, depending on what service you’ve used. But, automated responses for things like bugs, outages, holidays, and even just being out of work hours saves you a ton of time and energy as a support team. It also helps to minimize frustration on the behalf of the customer.

Threaded responses

Have you ever set up a holiday autoresponder to let your customers know your responses might be a bit delayed? Maybe, depending on what service you’ve used. But, automated responses for things like bugs, outages, holidays, and even just being out of work hours saves you a ton of time and energy as a support team. It also helps to minimize frustration on the behalf of the customer.

Who can use a help desk

Every company that does business with customers will benefit from a helpdesk. That being said, the needs a help desk fulfills depend on what size company you are, and what kind of business you do. Below we’ve broken it down three different factors to consider when using helpdesk systems.

1. Help Desks for Small Businesses or the Enterprise

Small Businesses
Running a small business means you can’t afford to make a single misstep with customers—you only have so many, after all. Given that, you have to go above and beyond to earn their trust and respect. That means everything from answering their questions, taking special requests, and even sometimes hopping on calls outside of regular hours. The level of commitment that you can offer to customers at this level will differentiate you from your competition. A good helpdesk designed for SMBs will help you sustain that level of commitment to all of your customers through helpful functionality that will scale with you as you grow.

Enterprise
A good helpdesk for enterprise enables faster collaboration between your teams, especially the ones outside of support, to help you deliver enterprise-class customer service. The faster your teams, like engineering or product, can hop into your helpdesk and investigate what might be going on with large-scale, or high-price problems, the better you can serve your high-value, enterprise customers.

The best thing, whether you are an SMB or an Enterprise, is that an excellent helpdesk will scale with you as you grow. There is nothing worse than having to throw something away after you have spent hours and hours on it.

2. Helpdesk suitable for different consumer segments

B2B
B2B stands for Business-to-Business Likely, in a customer service management software, B2B businesses will be looking for something that offers multichannel support, including channels like phone or chat. It would be especially good for their customer service management team if they could include phone recording, to review back on calls for quality control. B2B businesses will also find value in more robust and customizable reporting and automation with features such as escalations.

B2C
B2C stands for Business-to-Customer, and have slightly different needs from their B2B brethren. Often, because B2C products are usually a lower-price point than their B2B brethren, they have much higher volume with lesser-paying users. Because of that, the focus on support in B2C can lean towards things like community forums or a heavier focus on ticket deflection.

While there are certainly some businesses that are customers of B2C software, and there are some enterprise functionalities for B2C products, traditionally things like agent reporting saved replies, and agent coworking features will be more important for managers of B2C customer support teams. Because the volume can be higher in a B2C inbox, customer service management will benefit from having tools that stop duplicate tickets from being sent or let agents know that they are both working on the same conversation.

3. Using a helpdesk within a customer service team

Helpdesks are useful on both sides of a team: for both customer service representatives and for their managers. Obviously, though, the concerns and values are different for each role. In order to dig into that a little bit more deeply, we’re going to take some time explaining the differences between each role, and then which aspects of a helpdesk system they would be most likely to use on a daily basis for their role.

Customer Service representative
A customer service representative is responsible for answering any incoming tickets or inquiries in whichever channels are available for your current customers. They might also be responsible for updating your helpdesk tool’s documentation (both internal and external). It is possible that they may check their performance metrics without encouragement, but if not, you, as their manager, should encourage them to do so. The functionality within the help desk that they will use the most is likely going to be the automation, ease of use, productivity boost and the actual ability to support customers in the interface. When looking for a new helpdesk, be sure to consult them on both of those two features.

Customer service manager
A customer service manager isn’t likely to spend a great deal of time in the inbox beyond looking at analytics. Occasionally they may get into the inbox to get their hands dirty and see how things are, or to handle an escalation, but they should, for the most part, be out of frontline support. Given that, what they likely care about when it comes to selecting a help desk, is how robust the reporting and analytics are as well as how customizable. These options are incredibly important to pay attention to when hunting for new helpdesks for support teams to use.

It’s also possible that you may have some role in between the customer service manager and customer service representative. This may be a specialist, or a team lead, or even someone with a slight engineering background. They will likely care about a balance of the two things between manager and representative: they’ll want to see how the whole team is doing and where they could get better, but they’ll also still need access to the tools like editing documentation, writing tickets, integrations and adding new tags.

How to choose the best helpdesk

No two helpdesks are the same. With hundreds of help desk systems to choose from, it can be incredibly stressful and nerve-racking to figure out which one will be the best fit for you. Especially if you’ve never used one before. Before going anywhere, make a list of your must-have features, but remember not to be too stringent. While it’s good to have features in mind, it’s better to approach this while trying to solve specific problems or attain goals. Beyond that, though, here are some recommendations for important considerations when thinking about signing up for a new helpdesk.

How much does it cost?

No matter whether you’re a tiny company, or a large corporate business, money is still important and you will still need to ask your boss for the money to cover this new purchase. Consider both how much it will cost you right now, and how much it will cost you moving forward. For example, yes, $50 per month per person seems fine when there are two of you, but what if you grow exponentially and the customer success team wants in on your membership? That’s quite costly!

What features does it have?

Remember that list from above? Bring that back to mind now. It could even be a spreadsheet. Maybe helpdesk systems offer similar features but with slight differences. If one of the features that you care about is not exactly as you would want it to expect it to be, don’t go with that helpdesk. The tool that you are using to provide support and help to all of your customers is not the time to sacrifice anything that you believe to be important or care about.

How easy is it to use?

Most help desks offer free trials for a few days, or up to a certain amount of users. Make sure to take advantage of that and get anyone who might possibly use the helpdesk in there during the trial. If you think that, someday, your engineers my do a rotation in support, have them try the new tool too. It is important that the tool be as intuitive and straightforward as possible—no one wants to go into the helpdesk trying to help a customer, and be instantly confused and frustrated.

What is the support like for the helpdesk?

As someone who works in support, you know how important it is to get good support and be able to reach someone when you need to. Before you sign up for a new help desk, do your due diligence on what their support looks like. For example: do they offer email support? Do they only offer certain types of support for certain tiers of customers? What channels do they offer for support? Make sure that you find a helpdesk tool that’s going to be able to support you in a way that makes sense for your needs. A great way to test this is by sending a ticket into their helpdesk and seeing how quickly you get a response back, and what kind of quality you can find in the response.

Integrations?

Are there any make-or-break tools that your company uses that would change your life if they were integrated into your helpdesk? An integration will connect the two services together and make their communication seamless and easy. That’s the kind of thing to consider when moving forward in your selection. For example, if development tracks everything in JIRA, an integration between your helpdesk and JIRA would help with engineering escalations. If you use Zoom for video calls all the time, it may be beneficial to have a way to launch it directly from inside of your helpdesk’s interface. Think about these things and any other tools for support that you use on a daily basis, and make sure that you include them in your analysis of any new helpdesk.

Things Your Help Desk Needs

There are more helpdesks out there than we can count, and some of them have extremely varied feature sets designed for specific industries or groups of people. That being said, there are a few core features of a helpdesk that should always be present.

Analytics

You need to be able to know what’s happening in your help desk. How long is it taking to respond to tickets? Are people waiting days for answers? Are they happy? What do they care about? These are all answers that can be provided by the analytics in your helpdesk system. Beyond that: they can help you measure agent performance, and highlight trends or problems for your product and marketing teams. Powerful stuff.

Integrations

Have you ever used something like Slack, Gsuite or Shopify and wished that there was an automatic integration with the email provider you were using to write? Luckily, with most helpdesks, there are direct integrations with common tools that help you gain even more context about your customer’s wants and needs.

Multi-channel support

Even if all you are offering to your customers right now is email support, a good helpdesk should offer you the option to give them more. Look for helpdesks that offer the ability to switch seamlessly between channels so your customer will never have to struggle or be told to “just email in to support” when they are already on the line with someone who should be able to help them.

Automation

A good helpdesk will allow you to automate simple functionality like workflows, or saved replies. An excellent helpdesk tool will enable you to do things like enforcing SLAs, reassign a sick team mate’s tickets, and use much more advanced automation to step your support game up a notch.

Customization

It doesn’t seem like a big deal, but being able to customize things like your autoresponder and contact form can be huge. You take such painstaking care of the rest of your customer experience and product journey, why let it lapse with this one detail? Your helpdesk tool should allow you to customize as you see fit—everything down to the reporting.

Self-service

You want your customers to help themselves. You want to empower them to get the answers on their own and not have to wait for you to get back to them via email, text or phone call. Your helpdesk should offer you the option to create documentation that fits the needs of your business and your customers, and allow you to surface it in a way that makes sense to your target demographic.

Collaboration

Your support team members will need a place where they can collaborate and offer constructive and positive insights on tickets and knowledge base articles. Find a helpdesk service that allows for easy collaboration between team members and has some tools that encourage it.

Ease-of-use

Take the helpdesk for a spin—most products have a free trial version that you can use to test and see how it feels for your team. See if it feels natural to your team members, or if there’s anything you have to force. If you have to force it from the get-go, or something doesn’t make sense, another helpdesk might be a better fit for you.

Want to try a helpdesk for free?

A good helpdesk should make it easy for your business to handle customer queries efficiently and create an exceptional support experience. Choosing a software that helps you do this can be difficult—everyone needs something a little bit different. Whatever you choose should adapt to your workflow and support style so that it’s easy for your agents to navigate and respond to customer issues ever more rapidly.

The right helpdesk will help your team consistently create the quality of customer service you want to provide. That’s why over 150,000 businesses choose Freshdesk. With a powerful suite of features built into an intuitive UI, your agents can sign in and start resolving customer issues right away!

What is a helpdesk?

Straightforward and affordable pricing

MONTHLY
YEARLY
SPROUT

For getting started

FREE

for UNLIMITED agents

  • Email Channel
  • Freshcaller Integation
  • Basic Social Channel
  • Freshchat Integration
  • Knowledge Base

BLOSSOM

Perfect for small teams

$ 19

/agent/month billed yearly monthly

Everything in Sprout and…

  • Advanced Social Channel
  • Team Huddle
  • Satisfaction Surveys
  • Custom Domain Mapping
  • Time Tracking

GARDEN

Ideal for growing teams

$ 35

/agent/month billed yearly monthly

Everything in Blossom and…

  • Multilingual Helpdesk
  • Ticket Templates
  • Community Forums
  • Scheduled Reports
  • CSS Customization

FOREST

Made for enterprises

$ 89

/agent/month billed yearly monthly

Everything in Estate and…

  • IP Whitelisting
  • Custom Email Servers
  • EU Data Center
  • Skill based ticket assignment