How to identify what you want from your online helpdesk

Ever since the coming of the Internet, businesses have had to embrace multiple channels of customer support. Which, of course, leads to the question of how to handle all those channels. Customers want consistent service experiences across multiple channels – a reasonable expectation that’s almost impossible to accommodate when you use different tools for different channels. Using multiple tools means that you get only bits and pieces of the whole picture, thereby leading to disparate interactions with the customer. So how can you unify your support processes and create a more coherent experience?

Enter support software, aka the age of the helpdesk. A help desk tracking software consolidates all your support requests to give you the big picture while simultaneously letting you drill down into issues. It helps you deliver contextual customer support without your agents getting in each other’s way.

With so many options out there, though, how do you choose the helpdesk that will work well for your unique circumstances?

The Big Questions

Here are the questions you’ll need to answer to find the helpdesk that’s right for you.

Internal vs external?

The first thing you need to decide when looking for a helpdesk is what you’re going to use it for. Who are your end-users, and what are the tasks you want to be able to perform with your helpdesk?

Depending on the answers, you can determine if you’re looking for an internal IT service desk or a customer support helpdesk. Although there are similarities, the two are not interchangeable.


Hosted vs on-premise?


Think of an on-premise helpdesk as owning a car – you pay a one-time fee for it, after which you’re responsible for maintaining it and making sure it continues to run well. On the other hand, a hosted or SaaS helpdesk is more like a car rental service; you pay a monthly premium, but the provider takes care of everything for you.

On-premise systems let you personally control how protected your data is. You set the rules, you customize the hardware and so on. The downside is that the rigidity of an on-premise system can get in the way – your team might find itself unable to support customers on the go, or you might have to let everything grind to a halt while you push out a bugfix or update manually. Not to mention the hours of training your agents (and IT team) will have to put in to learn the helpdesk in the first place.

This is where a SaaS helpdesk shines in comparison, because the helpdesk provider takes care of maintenance and upgrades. Your team can access the helpdesk from anywhere, using any device. You will have to make peace with the fact that your data is being hosted on somebody else’s servers, but you can assuage any worries by selecting a provider that uses a trustworthy near-impossible-to-hack service.

Pay-by-agents versus pay-per-tickets?

Some helpdesk providers charge based on the number of tickets created in a month. If you’re a small business that follows the all-hands-on-deck approach to support and you don’t receive a lot of tickets, this could be less expensive than a by-agent pricing plan and therefore a good option for you. (Although, only so long as that not-many-tickets situation lasts.) Of course, past a certain ticket volume, you’d be better off going for a per-agent plan instead.

Customer-facing portal versus an invisible helpdesk?

A customer-facing portal is essentially a self-service portal with a knowledge base and community forums. An invisible helpdesk, on the other hand, is so called because it is invisible to the customer; you might as well be using Gmail or another email service to support them.

Some businesses prefer to have a customer-facing portal that demonstrates their commitment to making their customers happy; not to mention the added advantages that a knowledge base (reduced volume of tickets) and community forums (better customer engagement) bring to the table. Others choose an invisible helpdesk because they want their support to be as personal as possible – to make it seem like it’s going from one inbox to another with no automation in the middle.

Nothing worthwhile comes easy

Finding the right helpdesk can give your support team the shot in the arm it needs to stay a step ahead and a level above everybody else – but you’ve got to lay the right foundation first. Answer these questions, though, and you’ll be well on your way!