Questions People Ask about Help Desk Software
Want to get familiar with common help desk software terms and practices? Let's dive into some questions that people often ask us.
What is help desk software used for?
Companies, organizations, and individuals use help desk software to set up either an internal IT help desk (usually called an IT service desk) or a support portal for their customers or users (aka a customer support portal).
IBM coined the help desk term in the 1980s. IT professionals and some frameworks have more precise definitions, but most people consider a help desk as simply a place they can get help when they encounter problems with a product or service. Let's break it further down a bit:
IT Service Desk
If you work in a company or an organization, your IT department likely uses help desk software to track employees' issues with IT equipment. We call this an IT service desk.
For example, if your computer doesn't power on or if the printer is offline (again...) or if a software you use is throwing you a nasty error message, you let your IT department know. They often issue a "help desk ticket" that helps them track the issue's progress until resolving it.
So, your IT department uses help desk software to record all the IT-related issues, assign personnel to work on those issues, and track the status of each case. Help desk software usually comes with reporting functionality to identify common problems and improve their operations over time.
Customer Support Portal
If you are selling a product or providing a service, you need your clients to contact you when they run into problems or have questions. When you have just a handful of clients, you can keep things simple and use your email address and mobile phone. However, as you grow and receive more and more inquiries, you will notice it is hard to keep track of everything, especially when your team grows with you.
To keep in control, use help desk software to set up a customer support portal. It will be a place where your customers can reach out to you, and similarly like in an IT service desk, the help desk software will assign a tracking number (a ticket) to each question or request, allowing you to forward it to someone from your customer support department, communicate back and forth with the customer, and track the status of each request.
Other uses for help desk software
Over the years, we've seen people use our Hesk to fill a variety of other use cases, from maintenance and repair organization and internal order-tracking to an offline store ordering system, to name a few.
As long as you need to enter something into a system, assign it to someone, and track progress, help desk software can likely help you do that.
What is the best help desk software?
There is no one-size-fits-all in computer software, and help desk software is no exception to this rule. The honest answer is: it depends.
Let's look at two options for two different needs:
If you are starting out, have a small department, or want something simple to get the work done, consider Hesk - free help desk software that will enable you to:
- set up an IT help desk or a customer support portal,
- receive, organize, and prioritize issues and inquiries from your customers or users,
- create support tickets and automatically assign them to staff as they come in,
- track the progress of each support ticket until you resolve the underlying issue,
- set up a knowledgebase; a collection of self-help articles,
- use reporting to identify what the common problems are,
- and more.
Hesk is available free of charge as an on-premise solution or as a cloud-based help desk.
Official website: Help Desk Software HESK
Rather than customer support, SysAid designed its software specifically to set up a powerful IT service desk. It comes with all the bells and whistles:
- Submit, track, and assign tickets,
- Asset Management,
- Remote Control,
- Mobile Device Management,
- ITIL (Change/Problem/Incident Management),
- Mobile Application,
- Live Chat,
- Calendar & Scheduling,
- Automation and workflows,
- API and third-party tool integration,
- and so on. You get the idea :)
In other words, SysAid is a complete help desk and ITSM solution with tools that an IT Professional will need for easy and efficient IT support.
Official website: SysAid
Other help desk software alternatives
Use your favorite search engine to find other help desk software solutions that match your specific needs.
Some good search terms that will help you find your perfect match are:
- help desk software
- IT service desk software
- customer support software
You can be even more specific, for example:
- IT help desk software for K-12 schools
- on-premise help desk for small companies
- open-source help desk software
You know your needs best, so be specific!
What should I look for in help desk software?
Some features to look for in help desk software are:
- Submit, track and assign tickets. This should be given for any help desk software; once a support request comes in, the help desk should issue it a unique identifier that will allow you to track the status of each specific ticket.
- Integrated knowledgebase. After a while, you will likely find that many users encounter the same or similar issues. By creating a knowledgebase, filled with answers to frequently asked questions (FAQ), guides and articles, you give them a self-help resource that will reduce the number of help requests you receive.
- Custom fields. Often you need specific information from your users, so the help desk software should allow you to customize your ticket submission form with custom input fields. This way, you get the data you need on the initial request without asking for it in a reply.
- Mobile application or mobile-friendly design. Unless you are supporting a specific set of users with desktop computers only, your help desk must be mobile-friendly and usable on a wide range of devices with different screen sizes (also called responsive).
- Reporting. You want to know which categories or departments receive the most tickets, during what days, on average, how long it takes for each ticket to be resolved, how fast your staff responds to tickets, and other metrics.
- Automation. For example, you want the help desk to escalate support tickets automatically. If a ticket is not resolved or responded to within, say, 24 hours, the help desk software should either notify you, up the priority or assign the ticket to another agent.
- Asset management. Internal IT help desks will usually want to track their assets under their support and management (computers, printers, and other devices).
- Multi-language. This one only applies if you provide support in multiple languages, but something to consider when deciding.
- On-premise or cloud (SaaS) help desk. A remotely hosted (cloud, SaaS) solution usually means the most hands-free operation as you don't have to worry about installation, maintenance, upgrading, and backing up your help desk.
- Cost. A help desk should give you all the tools you need without breaking your budget. Keep in mind that most help desk software solutions will charge you a per agent fee and that a complex solution will have a steep learning curve and require staff training.
While the above features can serve as a starting point, you should write down your support process and identify the features most important to you.
What is a help desk ticketing system?
A help desk ticketing system is just another word for help desk software. It accepts, prioritizes, assigns, and tracks help desk or customer support issues.
It's called a ticketing system because each request a user or a customer submits to the help desk is assigned a unique identifier - a support ticket is born. Typically, the support ticket will also have other properties, such as priority and status, and will be assigned to a proper department or staff member.
A proper ticketing system will accept requests (tickets) from various sources, such as email, web form, social media accounts, and telephone.
What are the advantages of a help desk?
Help desks break down and organize the support process into simple steps that are easy to understand and track, thus making your IT or customer support work a lot easier and more effective. A help desk, for example, will:
- provide and advise your users with self-help resources (knowledgebase articles, guides, downloads),
- receive support requests via email, web form, telephone, social media accounts, APIs,
- assign a tracking number to each support request, making sure it doesn't get lost,
- help you categorize tickets by department and priority, so you know who it is for and how urgent it is,
- allow you to assign the ticket to a person, so you don't have multiple staff working on the same issue,
- identify unresolved issues,
- notify you if a support ticket has not been resolved or replied to in time,
- prevent lost or deleted emails; all the communication is stored in the database, available anytime,
- pinpoint areas where your support is lacking and you can improve either by writing more self-help resources or hiring additional staff.
In short - a help desk will help you make your support work much more organized and effective.
What are the disadvantages of a help desk?
The main disadvantages of starting a help desk are upfront costs and required support staff training. Compared to providing support over email, this can be quite the toll on smaller organizations with limited budgets and those just starting out. What can you do about it?
Upfront and recurring costs
Most help desk software companies will charge you a "per agent" fee, meaning you pay a recurring monthly fee for each support staff member (help desk agent) using your help desk to provide support to end-users (employees, customers, clients, students, ... whomever your intend to help with your help desk). While unlimited end-users can access the help desk to report issues and ask questions, it is the number of your support staff (people who respond to support tickets) that will determine your ongoing cost.
Additionally, IT service desks will likely need to track assets, for example, computers, monitors, printers, etc. Software designed to power IT service desks will charge you more the more assets you need to track.
Here are some ideas that will help you save a buck or two when comparing different solutions:
- Do you need all the features the software offers? Think of the 80/20 principle: 80% of the time, you will only use 20% of the features.
- Can you reduce the number of support tickets you receive (and the number of support agents required) by writing a comprehensive knowledgebase?
- Is there an open-source or a low-cost solution that does what you need?
- Does the help desk provider offer discounts for paying yearly instead of monthly?
- Are you able to start small and scale your way up in plans (and fees) as your needs grow?
- Do you have the in-house infrastructure available to install the help desk software, or do you need to go with a cloud provider?
Support staff training
What makes a good and effective help desk? Ultimately, the people who run it. No matter what software you use and how you organize it, it's the people who will interact with your users or customers who make or break the help desk.
Before your help desk goes live, you will need to train your staff to use the tools at their disposal effectively. Large and complex software solutions will have a more steep learning curve than small and simple alternatives.
Sometimes opting in for a simpler solution will not only be cheaper but require less training and will allow you to get your help desk up and running quicker.
Have other help desk-related questions?
We hope you enjoyed this guide and that it helped clarify some terms often used in the help desk industry.
Let us know if you have any other questions you would like answered regarding help desk software!