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The general idea of a company is to create new customers and retain existing ones. The best companies follow a customer-oriented credo. But keeping customers happy isn’t easy. A well-honed customer support team is just one part of the equation that goes into making a customer-centric company.

To keep every smile intact, you also need the help of technology. In Customer Relationship Management (CRM), this comes in the form of a help desk solution which is a combination of a business process and a software service to handle all customer requests, feedback, and complaints. It starts with a point of presence which could be an online forum or a customer service agent as the customer interface, and software managed issue-tracking system at the backend. You must have heard words like live chat, email support, or ticketing thrown about. All these go into a help desk solution. If you run a business, Freshdesk is a cloud-based help desk system you should look at.

Freshdesk – Where Does It Fit In Your Plans?

Freshdesk

The help desk vendor market is a large one, but with few major players. Today, any company – big or small – that has a service management plan in place needs a help desk. A few questions crop up when it comes to implementing a solution –

Is it costly to implement?

Will it be too complicated for our support staff?

Will it require time to set-up or scale up?

Will it support all our product lines?

The idea of Software as a Service negates a few of the worries, and Freshdesk is a fine example of the SaaS model. Freshdesk is completely in the cloud and gives your customer support team 24×7 access from anywhere in the world. You don’t need to be desk-bound with this help desk application. Freshdesk has also bolstered the customer support channels by including social media as a point of presence for customer feedback along with the traditional email and telephone. Twitter and Facebook presence allow any company using Freshdesk to use it as a marketing and branding tool too.

The appeal of Freshdesk and what I consider it to be its unique selling proposition lies in the cost-effectiveness of its various plans for the small and medium enterprises who are looking to give their customer support team an efficient, easy-to-use help desk system. There’s also the rather unique aspect of gamification which we will look into later.

Let Customer Support Take Root

Before you start feeling overwhelmed with the idea of using a help desk service for your small company, let me mention that Freshdesk comes with four flexible plansSprout, Blossom ($19/month or $192/year), Garden ($29/month or $300/year), and Estate ($49/month or $480/year). The “fresh” names and the plans should cover the organic growth of your company from a startup with minimal support requirements to an expansive enterprise with advanced needs. You can try the full-featured Freshdesk with a 30-day trial after which you are required to pick a plan.

The Sprout “free-forever-for-three-agents” plan is an ideal entry point for small businesses that use email as their main support tool. Other competing service providers don’t even offer a forever free plan.

If your support requirements grow, you can add more agents at a low cost of $15 per agent. Another flexible feature is the day pass which allows you to temporarily assign someone to support at just $1 a day. You can of course, upgrade to the higher plans anytime.

Get Going With Freshdesk

You can jumpstart your customer support process in four easy steps. After registering and logging in, you have to set up a primary support email address which will be the address for communicating with customers.

Freshdesk

In the second step, you can add the three agents if you have opted for the free Sprout Plan. The third step is where you get to play with the look of the help desk by adding elements like a logo and changing a few colors in the default theme. In fact, if you are keen, Freshdesk allows you to edit the theme’s CSS file and “brand” the look of the help desk. This is vitally important if you are trying to build up your company as a brand and need a consistent look across all customer interface points. One of the features on offer is the ready-to-use gallery of FreshThemes.

Freshdesk

In the fourth and final setup step, add your Facebook and Twitter company pages and feeds which will enable you to cover your social interactions and respond to them from within the help desk.

Pilot the Help Desk from the Dashboard

Freshdesk

As you can see in the above screenshot, your customer support activity streams are collated on the dashboard for a quick glance.

The ticketing system is at the core of any help desk software. Freshdesk converts every incoming request from email, website, telephone, and social media into tickets.

Freshdesk

Here are some highlights of the Freshdesk ticketing system:

  • Tickets can be organized with custom fields specific to your business.
  • Set up email notifications for tickets and respond to them from your inbox.
  • Help desk tasks and new ticket creation can be managed from the email inbox.
  • Automated ticketing prioritizes all support tickets and assigns them to the right agents.
  • The Freshdesk inbox is protected by spam filters and custom spam rules.
  • Ticketing solutions can be converted into a centralized knowledge base for reference.
  • The knowledge base is used by Freshdesk to suggest possible solutions to customer problems.
  • On Freshdesk each agent can use his or her own language. Freshdesk currently supports 12 languages.
  • Customers have access to self-service portals where they can find solutions themselves, engage with the community, and find the status of their tickets.
  • Customer SLAs (Service Level Agreements) can be mapped to the tickets and customers guarantees enforced.
  • Log and generate time-sheets and compare billable vs. non-billable time spent to invoice customers automatically.
  • Time-sheets and other tracking reports can be generated quickly for performance appraisals.
  • Repetitive and common help desk tasks can be converted into automatic workflows.

Gamification Is a Part of Customer Support

One of the more unique elements on Freshdesk is the Support Arcade. Dealing with customer support day in and day out can get pretty mundane, and the quest for badges and trophies helps to spice up the competitive spirit among the agents. Points are awarded based on how quickly an agent can tackle a ticket and resolve it. Bonus points are attached to improving the all-round customer experience. Custom quests can be planned by the management which can cover areas like more community participation. Trophies like the Sharp Shooter, Speed Racer and the Happiness Champ are at stake, and a place of pride on the leaderboard.

Gamification is also a fun way to improve performance with minimal management intervention. It’s also probably a better route to bring someone up to the skill levels required.

Simplicity with Economy

Decidedly. The help desk application covers all the corners and wraps it in a very economic package. Plus, if you have a small business, their $0 offer is hard to beat. Though the features are restricted in the free plan, you can make do easily with giving your limited set of customers support with email. Behind the scenes, you have Freshdesk’s ticketing and automated processes to back you up. As the cloud application is built with HTML5, support agents can use its responsive interface just as seamlessly with a mobile browser.

The day passes can help you scale up in an emergency; alternately you can immediately scale up to the other plans in the tiers. I also liked the fact that Freshdesk is a pay-as-you-go service and you can cancel anytime (you will only be billed for the current month), plus it allows you export your data without hassle. So, it doesn’t trap you into its service if you are dissatisfied.

Ultimately, the use of a help desk solution also depends on the nature of business, its varying product lines, and the best practices it wants to implement. The smooth and easy-to-understand interface should help any business set up customer support with minimal fuss.

  1. Rahul
    August 22, 2013 at 11:04 am

    Helpdesk and live chat tools are very important for any SMB. Everyone want a quick response and if you are business with website, you should provide your customer an option to contact you instantly or may be a complaint to customer support. All he/she will seek is the option to do it from browser itself. Nobody want to pick their phone, wait for support people to respond.

    FreshDesk is a good option for using helpdesk facility. You can also use ClickDesk for live chat solution. Having both option gives you website owners a very good chance to convert a visitor into a customer.

  2. himagain
    August 22, 2013 at 1:57 am

    A vastly underestimated facility that even very small businesses need is a customer response and support program if most, or all the business is done online without face-to-face contact.
    It is the only way to successfully increase your business without spending an awful lot of money on promotion.
    But perhaps the biggest bonus is that if you institute a sensible contact control program such as this one appears to be, you can save a lot of time and go to bed much earlier.

    • Saikat B
      August 22, 2013 at 3:52 am

      Absolutely. Word-of-mouth might be old fashioned but it is still the way to go. The great companies realize that it costs more to bring in a new customer than it takes to retain an old one. That's where the importance of CRM lies -- keeping your loyal customers happy.

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