A young woman employed by a call center is wearing a headset. She is smiling, talking to a customer, and typing in notes on a desktop computer.
When choosing a help desk software solution, it's imperative that it will complement your business model and systems so that it can help you lower costs and improve efficiency. — Getty Images/Violeta Stoimenova

Customer support services take a big bite out of your budget. And if it is not done correctly, it can impact customer retention and your brand reputation. Features of help desk software like ticketing and self-service tools can lower costs while improving customer experiences.

But it's not enough to simply pick software for its toolset. You must understand how the features work and what problems they solve. More importantly, small and midsized businesses (SMBs) should choose help desk software to fit specific use cases. Explore top capabilities to see how they'll fit into your workflows.

Shared inbox

Unified inboxes are a core feature of help desk software. They put customer conversations in one spot, eliminating missed messages and siloed services. Employees log in to a shared inbox to view new and assigned messages. The platform captures agent details, so you always know who replied or followed up.

Email-based helpdesk software like Freshdesk lets you schedule messages and create canned responses. The team inbox handles multiple channels, including websites and social media. Alternatively, Hiver turns your Gmail account into a shared inbox. You can track resolution statuses and enable rule-based automation or round-robin assignments.

[Read more: How FedEx Helped a New York Floral Company Offer Nationwide, Customer-Centric Service]

Help desk ticketing

Customers fill out and submit forms using stand-alone ticketing system features. But many platforms turn messages from any channel into tickets. Whether someone messages your social platform X support channel or emails your help desk, each conversation gets a unique number and goes to your shared inbox.

SMBs can customize records to ensure agents have the essential information in front of them, like order history or web activity. Together with automation tools, help desk ticketing routes issues to the right team member and can even prioritize them.

Automation

Automation is a critical component of help desk software. Many systems offer rule-based workflows to route, assign, and even close cases automatically. Think of it this way — if a message contains the term "payment" or "refund," what should happen next? You can route emails with these keywords to your financial department or a specific person.

Help desk features can tag messages for renewals, sales, or by priority. You can automate agent reminders or reassign tickets if they haven’t been addressed within the designated time frame.

Email-based helpdesk software like Freshdesk lets you schedule messages and create canned responses.

Help desk collaboration tools

Every employee needs help from time to time. In-app collaboration tools keep everyone on the same page and prevent the back and forth that comes with email. Most systems have help desk features like shared ownership, collaborator tagging, and agent collision alerts.

With tags, an agent can @mention an internal or external collaborator. Suppose your customer service team reviews all messages requesting refunds to ensure they meet the requirements before sending them to the finance team. They're about to deny a request, but it's on the line and needs final approval. The service representative can tag the finance manager and leave a note or assign them a task.

Another option is parent-child ticketing, a help desk feature offered by Freshdesk. In this scenario, you can convert complex issues into multiple subtasks, which different teams work on simultaneously. This is similar to shared ownership options offered by other vendors, which lets collaborators view and change ticket status, see the customer profile, and access the knowledge base.

With multiple users potentially resolving tickets simultaneously, agent collision alerts are crucial. It warns team members when another employee is working on the same ticket.

[Read more: Mastering the Customer Experience]

Knowledge bases

Canned responses can help agents resolve standard issues quickly. But less common problems can be challenging. That's where an internal knowledge base comes in. Think of it like your own Google or Wiki system. Conversely, it can double as a customer library of help articles and FAQs.

For example, Zoho Desk supplies agents with knowledge base articles related to the current ticket. You can turn customer issue insights into valuable customer support resources with Salesforce Service Cloud. In addition, your reps can share links with clients so they can view videos or step-by-step instructions while receiving live assistance.

Live chat

You can opt for separate live chat software or a help desk system with live chat features. Native chat tools typically feed into your team inbox. You can customize the appearance to match your brand and combine it with chatbot interactions. Help desk solutions may support proactive messaging when you target site visitors based on their time on the page or a specific URL.

Reporting and analytics

All help desk software features include reporting and analytics. However, customization options may differ.

Some solutions that help desk tools can offer include the following:

  • Prebuilt reports: Lightly personalize out-of-the-box documents to measure help center metrics like service level agreement rates, average handle times, or customer satisfaction scores.
  • Dashboards: Create dynamic panels for executives, managers, and agents. Display employee-specific information on real-time performance metrics.
  • Executive reports: Automate top-level data points on team and business performance for company leaders.
  • Custom reports: Use low-code or no-code solutions to build and style charts, graphs, and more.

Integrations

Connecting business applications to help desk software saves employees time and, ultimately, makes processes smoother. Most ticketing systems integrate with email services, social media channels, websites, and messaging apps. These connections allow you to use shared inbox and ticketing features.

However, to completely unify customer support, you can integrate your business phone system or call center software. With this feature enabled, users can escalate interactions to a voice or video meeting without leaving the help desk software.

Companies that use help desk software to process payments will want a system that syncs with their credit card processing service or invoicing and accounting system. Likewise, if information technology support relies on Jira or Slack, then these integrations are critical. Indeed, several help desk vendors integrate with customer relationship management and project management tools.

[Read more: How to Choose a Third-Party IT Provider Specializing in Small Business]

Self-service portals

Some consumers would prefer to help themselves before contacting support. And if they find answers, your business saves money because that's one less email or phone call. With help desk software, you don’t necessarily need website resources. Many let you generate a help center in minutes without coding.

Most help desk platforms also support community forums. You can make it public or restrict visitors. Some help desk software features let you convert forum answers into knowledge-based articles.

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