Today, businesses looking for a software solution to help them track, manage and rapidly respond to customer queries that come in via phone, email, web forms and social media sites have many excellent choices. And while not every solution may be the best or right for your business, in a recent informal poll of business managers and IT professionals, Zendesk, Kayako, Assistly, UserVoice, Zoho Support and Freshdesk all received top marks. To find out which one is right for your customer support needs, we've provided a summary of each tool's top features, as well as a link to the company website, where you can see a demo and sign up for a free trial (and find out about pricing).
Zendesk, a popular cloud-based help desk software solution, likes to say it is easy to use, easy to scale, easy to integrate and easily improves customer management – and the customers Enterprise Apps Today heard from agreed. "We absolutely love Zendesk, the tool we use to manage our customer support," said Sander Daniels, co-founder of local services site Thumbtack.com, which receives more than 7,000 customer inquiries weekly. "We used to manage these customer inquiries through Gmail, but the burden of responding to each one of these customers individually became too much." So Daniels went in search of a better solution and found Zendesk.
Among his (and other customers') favorite features: all customer interactions are centralized in a single database; you can create "macro" responses to frequently asked questions; you can prioritize incoming messages according to their importance so you can answer the most important inquiries first; you can easily track the performance of customer service agents; and you can receive inbound and make outbound phone calls directly from the software.
Zendesk also received high marks for its mobile apps. "So many web services make mobile applications that feel like bolted-on afterthoughts made to check a box on a features list," said Marc LaFountain, vice president of support at Tumblr, a blogging software company. But not Zendesk. "Their mobile applications are incredibly useful and elegant," he noted, especially Zendesk's iPad app.
Kayako has been developing on-demand (SaaS) and downloadable open source help desk and live chat software solutions for more than 10 years. Among its many features, Kayako gives organizations the ability to: centralize and manage customer queries, whether via email, web forms, self-service, telephone or live chat; automate ticket tracking; import tickets from a current ticket system and customize ticket views; create a knowledge database with standard answers to frequently asked questions; and set reporting and escalation rules.
Customers such as Lester Holmes, customer technical support manager at Pearson PLC, also liked Kayako's flexible live chat, where "the customer has the ability to select a local language support specialist based on availability and then start a chat in their local language," he said. "The process is seamless, and truly adds a human touch when engaging our customers over the Internet. By using live chat for customer support, we find that issues resolved quicker, there is less to-and-fro, and customers are much happier as a result."
Freshdesk's help desk software, which provides support for multiple languages and time zones, comes with many helpful features, including converting customer emails into support tickets, a spam filter and the ability to manage service level agreements (SLAs) and prioritize customer tickets. With Freshdesk, organizations can also customize ticket fields, add their own fields and customize the self-service portal. You can also build a knowledge repository for customer agents to refer to, create forums and integrate the software with Google apps.
Zoho Support's web-based software helps organizations prioritize, manage and close customer requests quickly. With Zoho Support online help desk software, businesses can build and publish knowledge databases, analyze and improve the performance of their customer support team, provide customer portals and more. Features include the ability to customize your support-request page and fields according to your requirements to manage your support requests effectively (ticket management); automated contract and service level agreement (SLA) management; standard and customizable reports; alerts and notifications; and a self-service customer support portal.
Assistly's cloud-based customer support software allows organizations to communicate and respond to their customers whether they are interacting with you via email, social media (Facebook, Twitter), your website, the phone or live chat – and organizes all your customer information in one place. Among its many features, Assistly provides what it calls "airtight case management," meaning you can easily track case status, assignment and progress using labels, case histories and customer profiles. You can also set business rules and filters for requests to ensure issues are monitored and prioritized. And with Assistly's "dynamic knowledge base," users can connect with corporate databases directly from the Assistly Agent Desktop.
UserVoice was created as a way for customers to provide feedback and for companies to track and respond to that feedback. The company recently launched UserVoice Helpdesk, "a simple, easy way to track and respond to customer issues, without all the stuff you don't need." With UserVoice Helpdesk, companies are notified of, can respond to and track customer support requests through a user-friendly web-based interface or email. The software also comes with a handy feature called Instant Answers that provides customers with relevant answers while they're submitting a support request so agents don't have to answer the same question over and over again. And for organizations that want both feedback forums and help desk/case tracking support, there's UserVoice Full Service.
Other, more specialized customer support tools also worth a look are: GetSatisfaction (a popular tool for building online communities), TeamSupport (a web-based, enterprise-class customer support management system designed for B2B technology companies as well as institutions providing internal support), HelpJuice (a new tool that automates updating your support page) and Pidgin (a free chat client).
Use a customer support tool we didn't cover? Please add it to the list via comment – just click "Submit a Comment" at the bottom of this article.
Jennifer Lonoff Schiff is a regular contributor to EnterpriseAppsToday.com and runs a marketing communications firm focused on helping small and mid-sized businesses.