by Michele Nachum
Published on 24 October 2011
I have reviewed a few very good help desk applications but when I tried out Zendesk - I really understood for the first time why the solution, one of the largest and longest running products on the market, is considered one of the best. You don't have to be an expert in setting up a help desk app because Zendesk will show you how. Actually it is like interacting with a really, really good online help desk. The solution provides videos, webinars and if you don't have time to listen to all that as you go through the set up process, Zendesk will help you with friendly step by step instructions.
Zendesk has been around a while- since 2007 and that is considered pretty good in this industry. What makes Zendesk unique is that they have the bases covered. They understand why small to mid-sized businesses (SMBs) need help desk applications and they know that many businesses may not have the cash to hire a dozen or more help agents to manage the process so they help by offering affordable pricing alternatives when you cannot budget for round-the-clock support. The pricing models are easy to understand and you can basically get started for as little as $9 a month for three agents. In addition, the solution allows you to create FAQs, white papers and other documents, community forums and more to help your customers when your agents are not on duty.
What Does it Look Like?
Zendesk is a pretty simple program to navigate - though it is not intuitive at first so it is recommended to take some time to learn the program.
Once you sign onto Zendesk, you are given a support email, website and a number of tools to assign certain requests to your agents, allow your customers to contact you in multiple ways including email, Twitter, etc. You can create canned answers so your customers know that their request will be attended to.
That said, my advice - watch the videos and follow the set-up instructions so you can learn your way around the ribbon and understand how to set up Macros and Triggers which in the end will help you set up a custom help desk that fits your company's needs. Once you explore, it does become much easier and navigating through the interface is pleasant and pretty easy. But don't skip the steps - take an extra 10 or 30 minutes to engross yourself and I believe you will be pleased.
As I mentioned above, the Zendesk does an excellent job of helping you get started with step by step instructions. It will ask you if you want to practice sending a help desk message to yourself and all you have to do is sit back while Zendesk takes over and shows you how it's done.
The first step is to set up your email and help support site. The program is emailed-based and you will first you will create your Zendesk support email address which looks like this firstname.lastname@example.org and you can eventually change that out to become branded to your company. You also need a website that becomes your virtual support center and using my fake company, I created http://mlncommunications.zendesk.com. Of course this can be linked to your company website as well as change out the URL to become aligned with your business through a process called Host Mapping. You can also customize your support site with logos and other images to make it your own.
Once you set up your page and email, you can start inviting and assigning your spport agents. The system also allows you to set rules to route certain types of requests to one agent or another and all this can be handled in the set up process.
Macros are an important part of the set up process and something you can change and add over time. Basically Macros allow you to set up predefined answers to customers' help request. The canned answer can read like this: "Thank you for contacting us, a support agent will contact you in the next two to four hours." This does add a friendly touch - and assures your customers a human being will heed their request eventually.
Help Tickets areat the heart of the solution and that is where you have the chance to ensure your customers are not left stewing in a pot of insecurity and confusion. When you get a help request or ticket, it goes into your View section on top of your screen. Within View there are a few places you can put your requests like "Unsolved Tickets" - so you can organize and keep track of your tickets.
Another feature that Zendesk offers is the ability to prioritize or make certain requests are taken care of in a timely manner. You can create Automations to take care of these time-sensitive alerts by going to your Manage tab at the top of the screen and click on add automation and add rules and alerts for the following: Alert me when a ticket hasn't been assigned in over a day."
Triggers, which can also be found in the Manage tab on the top of your screen, are like rules you can set up to help you manage your tickets and customer flow. For example, when a certain issue occurs, the customer can receive canned responses, or you can create triggers so a certain type of ticket can be sent to the right agent. You can create action-based notifications to inform customers of status updates or even create time-based notifications, or "automations," to escalate unanswered support requests or send reminders to your support staff if tickets have been left unassigned or rated unsatisfactory.
These days customers like to interact in different ways, so Zendesk offers email, web, Twitter, phone, and live chat channels for customer support. In addition, Zendesk includes mobile apps for iPhone, iPad, Android & Blackberry, so you can respond to your customers essentially from anywhere.
This is an important part of your process (though I suppose it can be a little painful depending on the answers.) But if you choose, Zendesk will contact your customers after the ticket has been taken care of and offer the customer a chance to rate your help desk service. This provides you ample opportunity to get honest feedback and improve where necessary.
Like many solutions, the reporting feature is key to understanding how well your help desk is faring. According to Zendesk. the solutions includes basic built-in reporting so that you can easily see the volume of requests that you're dealing with over time. In addition, Zendesk includes built-in graphs show you the performance of your support enabling you to analyze ticket volume by status,priority, type, group or any custom field or tag. You can view information in graphical and tabular format that demonstrates your overall efficiency and resolution time so that you can better deliver on Service Level Agreements(SLAs).
Other Nifty Zendesk Features:
Zendesk provides a lot of great features in addition to its main apps for creating your help desk. Here are few things to note when you are looking into Zendesk:
Share out Tickets/Knowledge with your customer base - You can help your customers even before they contact you by showcasing in documents or community forums how common help issues have been addressed. Zendesk enables you to have FAQs and other documents on your support site to allow your customers to first read through before contacting the help desk. Also, if you do not have round the clock support, these features will enable your customers to take a gander at these helpful documents while they await a live response.
Integration with other CRM programs -If your company already has a web-based CRM application, Zendesk can integrate with certain CRM apps so all of your customer interactions and data are centralized into one place. Zendesk includes out-of-the-box integrations with Atlassian JIRA, GoodData, Google Analytics, NetSuite, Salesforce and more than 60 others.
Single Sign-On (SSO) via SAML or remote authentication - For easy access to your Zendesk without a separate login, leverage SAML or remote authentication to integrate with your existing Identity Management system such as Microsoft Active Directory or LDAP.
Invoicing - Zendesk provides an invoicing feature if you charge your customers for help desk assistance.
Is it for you?
Zendesk is a very complete help desk app - and is scalable to any size business that needs their services. Any company that sells products or services that demand customer assistance should look into a help desk tool. There are many fine solutions out there - and Zendesk is one of the better ones in terms of its own client support, training and host of features to to help make your help desk as "helpful" as possible for your customers.
Obviously not all businesses need a help desk - some can get away with a simple FAQ on their site. But for services that are complicated - having a support team that allows you to interact with your customers on a 1:1 basis is a tremendous ROI. Go ahead and splurge folks and keep your customers from running away to your competitors. Because they will if you don't help them.
Ratings: ease of use 4/5, features 5/5, value 5/5 and ease of deployment 5/5