What Is a Helpdesk, Why Do You Need It, and What Features To Look For

Jordan Miller
Jordan Miller
Last updated on 
February 23, 2021
February 23, 2021
What Is a Helpdesk, Why Do You Need It, and What Features To Look For

We’ve all heard countless times that it costs far more to get new customers than to retain existing ones. But if that’s the case, then shouldn’t more businesses focus on keeping customers by giving them exactly what they want?

It might surprise you that what they want is self-service options. In fact, 88% of respondents to a recent Microsoft survey report that they expect businesses to have online self-service support portals like helpdesks. But with this being the case, it’s pretty bleak that only 42% of teams are using self-service helpdesks to resolve customer issues. 

In this article, we’ll explore the benefits of using a helpdesk and provide tips to help you use this tool effectively to improve customer experience — which will help you retain more customers. Keep reading to find out why it pays to become part of the 58% of teams that actively use a helpdesk.

What is a helpdesk?

A helpdesk is commonly known as a place where customers go to get answers to their questions. In the ecommerce world, businesses use helpdesk software to help their customers with issues and questions surrounding products and orders.

Helpdesk software tools allow teams to collaborate on managing, organizing, responding to, and reporting on customer requests (or tickets). This is particularly important since there are several key metrics to track relating to customer tickets, such as first response time (FRT), average resolution time, unresolved tickets, and customer satisfaction (among others). These metrics can help you better understand how your customer service team is performing and gives you solid data — versus relying solely on customer feedback. 

It’s important to note that not all helpdesks are created equal. Helpdesks are a broad category that can range from simple ticketing systems to all-in-one customer service platforms like Gorgias that offer help centers, self-service options, automation workflows, and robust reporting. There are many tiers of helpdesks, and needs and handling will vary widely between brands. That said, it’s important to research the options thoroughly and pick one that solves all your needs in the present and near future. 

Types of helpdesks 

Helpdesk ticketing systems are crucial for simplifying the customer support process. It becomes very chaotic to manage increasing customer tickets as your business grows without a centralized helpdesk ticketing system. But what type of helpdesk do you need? There are four options.

Digital or cloud-based helpdesks

Digital helpdesk providers host your helpdesk on their server and you pay them either a monthly or annual fee to use it. This option is ideal for small- and medium-sized businesses that don’t have an in-house IT team. You avoid the hassle (and expense) of hosting and maintaining the helpdesk software yourself. Gorgias has a cloud-based helpdesk system that integrates with leading ecommerce store providers such as Shopify, Magneto, and BigCommerce.

On-site helpdesks

This is the DIY option for helpdesks. Your company could purchase the software license for a helpdesk software tool and then host the software on your servers. The greatest benefit of this type of helpdesk is that you have complete control over data and security. Also, the helpdesk will be specifically tailored to your organization’s needs.

Enterprise or large organization helpdesks

Enterprise helpdesks can either be digital or on site, but what distinguishes them from other types of helpdesks is that they are specifically built for large organizations. This means that they are far more expensive and complex.

Open-source helpdesks

An open-source helpdesk allows developers to freely access the source code without having to pay for proprietary software. This type of helpdesk is often free, but you’ll need an IT team to build and customize the software to suit your company’s needs. It’s also important to note that this type of helpdesk is more susceptible to customer data breaches and attacks.

Is a helpdesk the same as a CRM?

No, a helpdesk isn’t the same as a CRM.

CRM stands for customer relationship management and is a system for managing relationships with customers. It’s one central place that helps organize all the details about your leads and customers. Using this system, you can get a full picture of every customer and understand the status of every customer relationship. 

A CRM typically doesn’t have functionalities for ticket management because its primary focus is on data from sales and accounts. But ticket management is a fundamental component of a helpdesk — hence the difference between both software solutions. Platforms such as Salesforce are sometimes confused as helpdesk tools, but their focus is primarily CRM, not helpdesk management.

Strong helpdesk platforms like Gorgias do have some features of CRMs, like aggregating all interactions with a given customer in one location alongside loyalty data, marketing campaign responses, etc.

Is a helpdesk the same as a live chat?

No, there’s a key distinction between helpdesk software and live chat tools: the medium. Live chat tools are typically hosted on websites and allow website visitors to communicate with a brand in real time. Helpdesk software pulls customer requests from multiple places such as email, phone, and social media. Live chat is a component of more robust helpdesk software, but not vice versa.

Here is an example of the back-end of our live chat feature at Gorgias, which shows up in the same customer view as all of the customer’s other interactions:

Is a helpdesk the same as a service desk?

While helpdesks and service desks are both facets of an organization’s customer support strategy, they’re not the same thing (though some places use the term interchangeably). Both contribute to the end user’s support experience, however, service desks focus on broader support issues like account management. Helpdesks, on the other hand, deal with more immediate break-fix issues like product queries, password resets, etc.

Service desks are also more proactive, dealing with process-oriented issues, while helpdesks are largely reactive: People contact a help desk because something happened, whether it’s a product malfunction or a billing issue within your ecommerce store.

Benefits of using helpdesk software

Above all else, helpdesk software helps you improve customer satisfaction and leads to more happy customers for your brand. Below, we’ll explore five of the most significant benefits of incorporating helpdesk software within your organization.

Better bottom line

Customer experience solutions have been proven to produce a 633% ROI increase over three years. Although helpdesks weren’t singled out in this Forrester study, the fact that they play a role in improving customer satisfaction means they also yield a positive ROI as part of the customer support function. 

Helpdesks contribute to increased revenue. In fact, Gorgias’ helpdesk resulted in over $9 million in revenue for BrüMate’s exclusively from the support team.

Quick response times

Zendesk finds that 66% of customers expect to engage with someone immediately whenever they reach out to a business. But what’s “immediate”? HubSpot defines it as 10 minutes or less in this study, where 90% of participants rate an immediate response as “important” or “very important” when they have a customer service inquiry. Helpdesk solutions organize customer queries in a way that makes it easier to sort these queries in order of priority and, therefore, respond faster.  

See how our customer, Emuaid, used Gorgias’ automation functions to drastically reduce their first response time to 48 seconds (a 8% decrease). Since using Gorgias, their tickets are now centralized into one place, their customer support process is streamlined, and their agents are more productive than ever.

No missed or lost tickets

Things get messy when a company doesn‘t use helpdesk software — there‘s an unclear chain of support ticket handling. This frustrates customers because they have to repeat themselves to each new support agent they speak to. A helpdesk support tool organizes all your customer conversations from multiple channels into one dashboard, ensuring you never miss or lose any tickets. 

For example, Milligram was able to use Gorgias to integrate into their full tech stack to condense their customer service tickets into a single platform. The result was a 33% reduction in response time and an uptick in ticket volume

Comprehensive customer information in one ticket view

While not all helpdesks offer this functionality, it's a gamechanger for the ones that do. For example, Gorgias shows all historical order information and every interaction a customer has had with your brand — including on social media. This context allows you to understand where the customer is coming from from the first message, leading to a quicker, more productive conversation. You can even bring in customer information from other ecommerce apps like Klaviyo and Yotpo in the ticket’s sidebar view.

Combined power for your favorite apps

Your apps are stronger together. With the right helpdesk, that's a reality. There’s nothing worse than using multiple customer service tools that don’t talk to one another, so choosing a helpdesk that integrates with the tools you already use can make a huge difference: Your agents don’t have to hop in and out of apps, and all the customer information they need is accessible from one spot.

Enhanced agent productivity and collaboration

HubSpot research finds that 86% of teams using a helpdesk report greater productivity. This isn’t surprising since helpdesk software:

  • Improves communication in a customer support team
  • Allows your team to prioritize requests so that the most urgent and time-sensitive queries can be addressed first through a triage strategy
  • Enables your customer service team members to create an escalation plan so that urgent queries are given to the right teams

For instance, Death Wish Coffee Co. used Gorgias’ helpdesk tool to win back lost time for their support team. They had an ambitious goal of hitting a 200% growth target and saving 10 to 15 minutes helped them achieve the focus necessary to make that happen.

More consistency in your customer experience

Figure out your best messaging and save it as a macro for your whole team to use. This speeds up your helpdesk process, leading to a more reliable first response time, bringing consistency to your organization's CX, and helping your whole team (even the newer members) make a bigger impact by having the right words every time.

Improved business operations

Helpdesk software helps you create more efficient business processes. All of your metrics are brought into one system for better reporting, there’s a central dashboard that makes it easy to track customer issues, and all of this data can be used to better inform business decisions and optimize your support process. You’re also better able to meet your service level agreements (SLAs).

Reclaimed agent time 

Automate repetitive requests, use templated responses to respond faster, and keep your agents from burning out so they can spend more time on the tickets that actually move your business forward. 

Princess Polly was able to do just that. Since using Gorgias, Princess Polly increased their customer service efficiency by 40%, lowered resolution time by 80% and first response time by 95%, and improved one-touch tickets by 15%. 

Essential features of a good helpdesk app

A good helpdesk app must have six key features to make technical support easy for both your customers and your helpdesk team. Let’s look more closely at why these features are important.

1. Multichannel communication

Google, in partnership with Forrester research, conducted research on what businesses need to know about communicating with customers. They discovered that customers prefer asynchronous communication such as text, social media, third-party messaging, and chat through a mobile app when trying to communicate with a brand. The businesses that do well are those that provide multichannel communication (whether asynchronous or in real time). In fact, these businesses do so well that they are 3.4 times more likely to experience revenue growth, according to the study.

A good helpdesk app pulls all customer queries and interactions from multiple sources into one platform, including social media interactions. There‘s no need to make futile attempts at keeping tabs on communication across all these channels. So, your customers can communicate with you on the channels they‘re most comfortable with rather than being forced to submit support tickets.

Features to note:

  • Supports all the channels where your customers might show up, including email, live chat, phone, SMS, messaging apps (WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger), and social media
  • Aggregates of all of those channels in one ticket view per customer
  • Allows agents to like and reply to comments on social media

2. Ticket management

It‘s important to note that your helpdesk must offer you the capabilities to effectively organize and monitor customer tickets at any point of the day. 

Features to note:

  • Creating, closing, re-opening, submitting, and resolving tickets
  • Assigning and reassigning helpdesk tickets 
  • Automated ticket routing, categories, and tags 
  • Public and private actions on tickets 
  • Canned responses, rule-based automated messages 
  • Comprehensive ticket views that show historical customer interactions

3. Self-service portal

A self-service knowledge base is an online library that provides customers with answers and helpful information. 

When a customer goes to a troubleshooting knowledge base or FAQ, they expect to find a solution to their technical problem. This is why you should choose a helpdesk that allows you to design a top-notch self-service portal.

Features to note:

  • Knowledge base articles
  • Community forums
  • View and submit tickets
  • Customization options 

4. Automation capabilities

Helpdesks allow you to automate much of ticket communication. For instance, if a lot of customers need immediate help with issues already covered in your knowledge base, an automated response can direct them to the relevant resource — reducing the time spent on tickets.  

A good helpdesk should give you automation capabilities to reduce redundant tasks while making it easier for you to build better relationships with your customers. These automation capabilities will also help you resolve customer issues faster. Here’s an example. Loop earplugs used Gorgias’ automation add-on and integrations to decrease response and resolution times, and reduce “where is my order?” queries from 17% to 5%.

A mix of automation and self-service can deflect up to a third of your incoming tickets, according to Gorgias data, freeing your agents up for the tickets that matter to your business.

5. Reporting functionalities

A helpdesk should have reporting tools that allow you to measure, analyze, and track your customer experience and helpdesk agents’ performance. They should bring your metrics into a single, interactive dashboard you can use to make real decisions and improve your bottom line. 

Features to note: 

  • Ticket-related metrics like tickets created, replied, closed, sent, resolution time, response time, etc. 
  • Customer satisfaction like the percentage of how many surveys were responded to, the average rating, and rating distribution 
  • Reporting on most commonly used tags and intents to understand what types of tickets are making up the bulk of your ticket volume
  • View of most common product issues being brought to customer support team so you can make improvements

6. Third-party integrations

Is your chosen helpdesk easy to connect with other tools or pre-built integrations? How many integrations are available? How many integrations do you actually need? Do you have to pay for those integrations? These are the questions you should keep in mind when looking for a helpdesk tool. 

For example, if you want an ecommerce helpdesk, you should choose the software that integrates well with the ecommerce platforms and apps you use, like Klaviyo, Recharge, and Yotpo — making Gorgias a top contender.

Meanwhile, if you have a large IT team, you may want to consider helpdesk software like Jira Service Desk because it provides many IT-focused third-party integrations. 

Features to note:

  • Seamless integration of different apps with your helpdesk, bringing all of the customer data into one view
  • Deep integration with the functionality of those apps for multi-app workflows (e.g. building segments in Klaviyo from Gorgias attributes, like a win-back campaign)

Key helpdesk statistics 

If you’re still not quite sold on the value of helpdesk services, let’s take a look at some numbers. Here are some eye-opening statistics that show just how crucial helpdesks are in helping your business provide the best possible customer service experience.

The helpdesk market size is projected to reach $11 billion by 2023

This statistic comes from research published by Transparency Market Research. In 2020, the online helpdesk market size was $8.9 million and is projected to increase to nearly $20 million by 2028. Therefore, not only will helpdesks continue to increase in popularity, but online helpdesks will take a bigger piece of the pie as time progresses.

90% of consumers regard resolution as their most important customer service issue

A helpdesk is useless if customers still aren’t getting their issues resolved, as this statistic by KPMG supports. A helpdesk can’t be used as a bandaid to hide other customer service issues that may exist within your company. Make speedy issue resolution a priority and if that isn’t happening, dig a bit deeper to discover underlying issues.

84% of shoppers are willing to spend more on products/services to get better customer service

This statistic comes from research by Gladly. As mentioned earlier, good customer service improves your bottom line. People will spend more money and become repeat customers if you offer the right support.

Experiences that don’t meet expectations cost businesses up to $4.7 trillion annually

Qualtrics finds that many customers are dissatisfied with the service they receive from brands, and that dissatisfaction costs a pretty penny.

One of the things you can do to make customers happier is provide an omnichannel experience where they can voice their concerns via their choice of online platform (social media, live chat on your website, etc.). The trick is to respond to them as quickly as possible and work swiftly to resolve their issue to provide an excellent customer service experience — poor experiences will cause your company to lose money.

Final thoughts: Helpdesks are CX must-haves that keep you ahead of the competition

The research is there: Customers want self-service options, and helpdesks are an easy way to boost your bottom line, reduce your response time, and free up time for your agents to handle more complex tickets. Getting into the heart of the customer journey and creating a solid customer experience can help you delight existing customers, and draw in new ones. 

Using a helpdesk as part of your customer support strategy can have some truly amazing effects. Not satisfied with your current helpdesk solution or don’t know where to start? Learn how businesses like yours saw major results after partnering with Gorgias.

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