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In this post we are going to explore key capabilities you need in a Help Desk Software in 2020.

What is a Help Desk Software?

Help Desk Softwares are used to organize and manage customer requests optimizing for the best customer experience.

 

About our analysis:

For our analyses, we have looked at every feature implemented across multiple Help Desk vendors and then we have normalized those features for comparision. The normalized features are then classified into individual buckets of capabilities. After the classification of features, we aggregate them to see which capability has the most number of features implemented across multiple vendors. This exercise helped us answer a couple of questions

  • What are some core building blocks of a Help Desk Software across the whole industry?
  • Which capabilities leads in terms of number of features implemented in a Help Desk Software across the whole category?

 

Help Desk Software Features Heat Map. Figure 1.

Based on our data analysis, what we see above (Fig.1) are the core functionalities available in a Help Desk Software. We can think of them as the core building blocks of a Help Desk Software. In this case, we see Ticket & Case Management category leads in terms of the number of features implemented across multiple vendors followed by a category termed Systems Operations and Communication Channels. What this tells us that the industry collectively has agreed on what core components of a Help Desk Software are.


In the following section we are going to look at what makes those capabilities important and the some examples of features implemented for each of them.

Below are the 12 core capabilities of a Help Desk Software based on their implementation in leading products:

  1. Ticket & Case Management

  2. Systems Operations

  3. Communication Channels

  4. Service Management

  5. Reports & Analytics

  6. Digital Platform

  7. Knowledge Management

  8. Customer Service & Support

  9. Customer Relationship Management

  10. Identity and Access Management

  11. Application Integration

  12. Language Support



Let’s dive deeper into each of these capabilities:

1. Ticket & Case Management

Ticket and Case Management is a central registry where all the customer requests are tracked. It tracks each of those cases through the lifecycle of the ticket.

Why is Ticket & Case Management important to Help Desk Software?

Ticket and case management has evolved from being a simple list of trouble tickets to a full-fledged workflow management system. There are a lot of places where automation has made it easier to deal with an ever increasing number of requests both in terms of volume and diversity. This module is generally used in collaborative settings and therefore encompasses functionalities like resource allocation, time accounting, priority management, oversight workflow.  Having a centralized repository makes it easy to automate and to apply workflows.

To meet capabilities for Ticket & Case Management some of the key features implemented are:

Automated Assignments, Triage, Queue, Shared Ownership Skill-based routing, Escalations, Time Tracking, First Response Time, Workflow Management,  Canned Response, Macros/Scripts, Notes, Context, Custom Labels/Tagging, Custom Fields, Triggers, Attachments, Export, Linked Tickets, Annotation, Conditional Fields, Split & Merge Tickets, Search & Filter, Custom View, Watch ticket, Audit Logs etc.

As we see, Ticket & Case Management plays a key role in automation, tracking & managing customer requests. It's hard to imagine a Help Desk Software without this capability and therefore, the number of features implemented dominates compared to any other category.

 

2. Systems Operations


Systems operations refers to the ability of the software to run reliably and with a certain level of performance. With Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) offerings, the challenges are different than if the applications were hosted on a customer's own data center.

Why is Systems Operations important to Help Desk Software?

For a cloud-hosted solution, operational activities have become very critical as the software solution is available to anyone who has access to the internet which exposes it to malicious attacks or unauthorized access. With SaaS, there is no direct access to the physical infrastructure where the application is hosted which makes it challenging for businesses to perform operational  activities like backups & restore of data. To overcome this challenge, software vendors have implemented administration and systems operations capabilities to perform those operations.

To meet capabilities for Systems Operations some of the key features implemented are:

Network Infrastructure Operations

IP Restriction, Remote Desktop, Remote Access, SPF/DKIM Deliverability, settings, Live View of site visitors, SMTP, Network Access Restriction, External Links, Email dispatch via web services, SSL Support, Digitally signed emails, dmarc, Spam protection, Subdomain, Domain Restriction, API Rate Limit, Processing information from external sources, Encrypted Communication, IP Whitelisting, IP Ranges


Server and Device Management Operations

Sandbox, Custom Domain, Data Center, Test Environment, Disaster Recovery, Auto Discovery
Data Migration Assistance, Data Isolation, Mobile Passcode, Hosted Servers, Agent Device Management, Remote Management, Data Hosting, Data Recovery, Data Export, Mac Agent, Cloud Platform, New Device Notification, Owner & Responsibility Assignment, Device Data Log,
Optimized Cloud, Monitoring, Account Data Storage Region, Snapshots, Archive, Enterprise tier, Trail Environment, Multitenant, Status Page, Geo-redundant, Host Mapping, Deployment, File Transfer, Large Files


Misc. Operations

CSS Style, Corporate Design, Time zones, Multi Brand support, Quality Assurance, Themes
User limits, Holiday Calendar, Group clients, Call Center Ready, Onboarding, Privacy,
Staff Hierarchy


3. Communication Channels


A communication channel in Help Desk is a mode through which a customer can contact the service provider for any kind of request the customer may have.  It used to be that customer would either walk-in or call to get help from the provider with any issue or request they may have but communication channels have evolved over the last decade or so and can be broadly classified into three categories:

Formal Communication Channel: This channel is more structured with the expectation of a certain level of service.

Some of the features implemented are:
Chat, Bot, Phone, Email, Call Tracking, Twilio, Mailboxes, Automated Dialer, Announcements, Voip, Video Chat, Remote Desktop

Informal Communication Channels: These are unstructured and usually there is no set agreement about the level of service.

Some of hte features implemented are:
SMS, WhatsApp, In-app messaging, Voice Bot, Push notifications, Web Widgets, Blog

Unofficial communication Channels: These are either created by the user community or sometimes by the vendor themselves. This can be a user forum, social media, app review websites etc. The communication may or may not be tracked by the vendor and there is a high likelihood of getting a response from the user community rather than the vendor.

Some of the features implemented are:

Google Groups, Forums, Social Media, App Review Sites

Why are Communication Channels important in a Help Desk Application?

Customers used to contact the help desk either through the web, phone or email. This has changed in the last few years. Customers have started to use informal communication channels like sms, social media, blogs and community forums to seek help. Most businesses have decided to be part of the conversation rather than ignoring it altogether. Research has shown that the more engaged a customer is, the lower the likelihood of a customer to churn.  It has become imperative for businesses to include as many communication channels as possible.


4. Service Management


Service Management is a collection of the all the activities which are used in support of services used to deliver, manage, plan and change to customers.  All the changes performed to the application go through a change management process where they are tracked and approved by a change approval board committee. Problems and issues which tend to repeat are tracked using the problem management process. There is a root cause analysis performed so that if and when the problem happens again, the solution is readily available. There is a certain level of service expected either contractually or just from customer experience point of view and that is tracked using Service Level Agreements.


Why is Service Management important to Help Desk Applications?


Businesses have to manage a certain level of service to ensure that their customers are happy with the product and services they offer. Upgrades and interruptions are part of any service which has to keep up with the changing environment and keeping your customer engaged through the process helps both the parties in planning for those planned interruptions in service. To do that, formalizing and communicating those agreements has become an important step in setting the expectation with the customers. This module helps in not just formalizing those agreements but also keeping track throughout the lifecycle.
            
To meet capabilities for Service Management some of the key features implemented are:
        
Change Management, Change Approval Board, Business Justification, Problem Management,
Root Cause Analysis, Known Errors, Configuration Management Database, Configuration Items, Network Discovery, Asset Management, Vendor in contract, Incident Management, Service Request, Service Level Agreements, Financial Management, Customer Satisfaction Rating, Managed Service Provider, Release Management, Customer Service Center


5. Reports & Analytics


In a Help Desk Software, reports & analytics dashboards play a key role in smooth operations of the help desk by measuring and continous improvement. There are various kinds of reports provided out-of-the-box by vendors like agent performance, agent dashboard for agent productivity, timeline view, gantt chart for service timelines, dynamic filters and search feature to find requests and tickets on various criteria.

Why Reports & Analytics capability is important to Help Desk Software?


Operational efficiency and managing service levels are some of the key elements in running an efficient and productive help desk. To do that users need more visibility into the system and to ensure no customer requests slip through the crack causing either a breach in service level agreement or a bad customer experience.

To meet capabilities for Reports & Analytics some of the key features implemented are:

Metrics Reporting, Survey Report, Helpdesk Report, Agent Performance, ITIL Report, Agent Dashboard, KPI Dashboards, Time Sheet, Net Promoter Score, Satisfaction Prediction, CRM Analytics, Feedback, Report, Analytics, Dashboards, Drill-down, Timeline Views, Custom Views, Report Builder, Gantt chart, Filters, On-demand custom reports, Scheduled custom reports, Export to PDF, Dynamic Finder result views, Real-Time Visualization, Business Objects, Custom Statistic Reports, Business Intelligence


6. Digital Platform


Digital Platforms is a place where the application can run or can be accessed by users.

Why Digital Platform capability is important to Help Desk Software applications?
There has been an exponential growth in the number of devices which has led to development of new platforms. More people are accessing the internet on smartphones than on the web. There is a certain segment of the population which skipped desktop computing altogether leap-frogging to mobile devices. What that means is the vendors can’t afford to ignore these platforms and have to provide a first-class experience for each of these devices as that may be the only interaction with the application by the end-user.

There are multiple platform-as-a-service providers like Salesforce, Shopify, Facebook etc and hardware/software platforms like iPhone/iOS, Android, Windows Phone etc. where vendors have built applications along with the desktop and the web browser support. Some vendors also offer third party add-ons on their platform like Gmail where you can install an add-on to change the behavior of the application.

To meet capabilities for the Digital Platform some of the key features implemented are:

iOS, Android, Windows Phone, Mobile, Web Widget, Spreadsheet, Salesforce, Marketplace, Desktop App, SDK, Add-ons


7. Knowledge Management


Knowledge Management is a process of organization of product knowledge in the form of user guides, knowledge base, community forums and various forms of training. The main goal of knoweldge management is to empower users by providing as much information about the product as possible through multiple mediums.


Why is Knowledge Mangement capability important in Help Desk Software applications?
Based on the growth and adoption of the knowledge base, it appears that users prefer to search solutions by themselves rather than helped by a customer service. There has been a shift in user behavior in how they use complex applications and workflows, rather than reading manuals ahead of time they are looking for help on-demand within the context of the problem they are dealing with instantly rather than going through lengthy training sessions or manuals. Generic training either in-person or using videos have the same limitation. Everyone retains different things based on what interests them or influenced by their life experiences. A technically savvy user is going to look for patterns in the application as compared to a business user who is going to focus on the process. To address the long-tail of user experience, a searchable knowledge base has been very popular in the software industry in general.

Knowledge management has a similar problem as a digital platform, one-size does not fit all and the knowledge base has to cater to the platform which has led vendors to develop multiple channels in how their product knowledge is dispersed. Some of the popular ones are knowledge articles with self-serve portals, community forums, FAQ pages, sitemaps etc.

To meet capabilities for the Knowledge Management feature, some implemented characteristics are:


Knowledge Base, Forums, Product Training, Customer Portal, Self-Service Portal, FAQ Site, Community, Bulk Action, Product training, Version, Multilingual, Forum Articles, Sitemap, Q & A, Webinar, Help Guides, Topic Approval


8. Customer Service & Support


Customer service and support, refers to the services included in a software with the aim of assisting customers in making use of the product. It includes assistance in planning, installation, training, troubleshooting, maintenance and upgrading of the product. Some vendors also offer professional services where clients can either extend the product or customize the existing offering.

Why is Customer Service & Support capability is important to Help Desk Software?
One of the distinguishing factors for a vendor is how they treat their customers. Most successful companies have great customer service as a common denominator. As the complexity of businesses grows the support also increases in complexity which has led vendors to build various solutions like 27/7 support, customer feedback surveys, gamification etc.

To meet the capabilities for Customer Service & Support some of the key features implemented are:

Business hours, 24/7 Support, Email Support, Rate Support, Chat Support, Feedback, Detector, Surveys, Legal Assistance, Professional Services, Work hour Setting, Dedicated Account Manager, Customer Engagement, Field Suggester, Time zones, Multiple SLA, Out of office hours, Software Engineer Support, Toll-free, Advertising Billboards, Data Visualization, Appointments, Thank you detector, Non-business hours routing, Blab Support, Guest Users, Video, Hands-on Support, Gamification, After call work, Lifecycle


9. Customer Relationship Management


Customer Relationship Management is a repository where customer information is stored like contracts, contact information, billing address etc.

Why is Customer Relationship Management capability is important to Help Desk Software?
Tight integration with either the in-house CRM system helps the support staff in better understanding of what the customer needs using the data stored. It also makes it possible to cross-sell a solution which may be a good fit for a customer. A lot of companies use Help Desk as one of their marketing channels for other products and services and having an integration with CRM makes that possible.

To meet capabilities for Customer Relationship Management (CRM) some of the key features implemented are:

Resource booking for appointment scheduling in CRM, CRM forms, Business Project Automation in CRM, Leads, deals, contacts or companies directory, Quotes, Invoices, Sales Center, Sales Generator, Migrate from other CRM, Keyword Analysis, Kanban View, Recurring deals, Bulk email, Call Tracking, Convert leads to contact, company, deal, Convert quote to deal, invoice, Retargeting in ad network, Edit rules, triggers in business process designer, Convert deal to quote and invoice, Built-in telephony, Required fields by stage, Document Generator, Client Profile, Product catalog, Pipelines, Sales intelligence report, Email from CRM, Voice broadcasting, Conversion Tracking


10. Identity and Access Management


Identity and Access Management (IAM) is a framework of policies and technologies for ensuring that users can be authenticated and authroized to use company resources.

Why is this capability important to the Help Desk Application?
As discussed previously, users are now not just outside the company network but are also using their own devices to access resources on the company network. This has led vendors to find solutions where they are not limited by one way of authenticating and authorizing users. The complexity of authenticating a user has increased so much that there are dedicated vendors who provide this service.

To meet capabilities for Identity and Access Management (IAM) some of the key features implemented are:

Roles, Teams, Authentication, Authorization, User Settings, Permissions, Provision, Notifications, Group Permissions, Unlock Account, Access Permissions, User Access, Customer Data Modification Permission Controls, Password reset, Separate users into multiple teams, Custom user permission roles, Viewer account, Configure Team Settings, Configure Team Rules, Team Contact Manager, CSV Import, Teammate templates, Departments (staff group), LDAP


11. Application Integration


Application Integration is defined as connecting two separate applications in a way that the data can be shared between them.


Why is Application Integration important to Help Desk Application?
Help Desk is one of the only areas where customers interact with vendors throughout the lifecycle of their usage. It’s imperative for vendors to have as much information available to the support staff as possible. For the information to flow no application can live in isolation and to that the applications have to be integrated. Integration can mean different things to different people but for most part it is sharing of information between 2 or more systems. To do that a lot of Help Desk vendors have either built out-of-box integration with other critical systems or have provided application programming interfaces (APIs) so that Help Desk can be extended to integrate with other systems.

To meet capabilities for Application Integration some of the key features implemented are:

API, Zapier, LiveChat Integration, Apps, Website Integration, Private Custom Apps, API Access, Custom Plugins, Webhooks, Google Play Store App Reviews, Dashboard, Web Service Collection, Marketplace, Operational Data, Facebook Integration, Twitter, Integration, Quickbook, Cloud Telephony, SAML/SSO Integration, Email Integration, Plugins, Salesforce Integration, Hubspot Integration, Pipedrive Integration, CRM Integration, Automation Integration, Data Import, SIP Connector, Voip

12. Language Support

Language Support is internationalization of a software application so taht it can be tranlated into various languages and regions.

Why is language support important to Help Desk Application?
With the increased usage of internet enabled devices, businesses have an ability to go global. A store around the corner can now support a sale originating from Omaha to Osaka. The critical thing is being able to support customers in the language they are comfortable with and Help Desk software have made that easier by integrating languages from around the world.

To meet capabilities for Language Support some of the key features implemented are:


Multilingual, Language Translation, Language Setup, Multi-language placeholders, Email templates, FAQ



In conclusion, these twelve capabilities are the building blocks of a help desk software based on what the customers and vendors have agreed to in 2020.