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12 step guide to choosing the best customer service software

8 min read
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Customer Service
choosing-best-customer-service-software
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Today, customers have a wide range of options to reach companies: live chat, social media, or the most popular of them all – Email (as affirmed by a 2018 report by Forrester).

The report also found that 54% of respondents had used email for reaching out to customer support in the past year. Okay, so email-based customer support is critical to businesses – no doubts there.

Interestingly, as technology advances at a breakneck pace, so do customers’ expectations. In a Salesforce survey, 80% of consumers stated that immediate responses from support teams is not just important – it significantly influences their loyalty towards the brand. 

And that’s where a powerful customer service ticketing software can help. When customer service teams have reliable software to fall back on, they can shift focus to the bigger picture: providing memorable customer experiences.  

But, with a wide range of customer service ticketing software available, choosing the right one for your business can be a challenge.

And that’s why we’ve put together this guide to help you find the perfect customer service ticketing software in 2020. 

Let’s dive in. 

FACTORS TO CONSIDER BEFORE LOOKING AT SOFTWARE

You don’t necessarily have to use the best customer service ticketing software out there. Instead, choose software that is best for you and your team.

Customer service agents have numerous challenges to grapple with: software bugs, multiple service channels to monitor, and a constant stream of customer requests. 

They also have to make client interactions feel personable, and not informal and rote.

Moreover, they often have to deal with irate customers, discounts and feature requests they cannot fulfill, as well as queries they don’t have an answer to. 

Customer reps clearly have a lot to do. It would make sense to first figure out what they need.

1. What are the requirements (and goals) of your team?

Remember, any software you pick will only play a supporting role, with the leading role belonging to your support team. Thus, it’s crucial to ask them about what they require of a customer support ticketing software.

If your team has been using another help desk tool thus far, ask them what they like or dislike about it.

For instance, teams that use Gmail for customer support often complain of a cluttered inbox, lack of easy discussions around customer requests, and a lack of ways to keep track of resolved queries.

On the other hand, teams that use feature-heavy tools for managing support have to deal with complex interfaces and additional training.

Support reps want software with a simple interface: one that helps them assign requests easily – one with a simple learning curve. 

Once you’ve identified the needs of your team, it’s time to talk shop. 

IMPORTANT CRITERIA FOR EVALUATING SOFTWARE

We’ve identified a few essential criteria for evaluating software. This should help you narrow down your options – before you devote time to further research and testing. 

However, remember, you will only be able to find the right fit for your business, by looking closely at criteria that matter to your customers and team members.

Instead of opting for software with an endless number of features, look for options that can get “your” job done.

2. Is the software easy to use?

Complex software will be a headache for your team. Remember, you’re investing in customer service ticketing software to simplify support for your agents, not complicate it. 

The software you choose should be easy to set up, navigate, and most of all, increase the productivity of your agents. 

While evaluating software, pay attention to the following details:

  • Are the main menus easily accessible?
  • Did you notice any complex terminologies?
  • Did you have to browse endlessly to find features?

If you had a problem navigating the software, it’s likely your team will too. 

Another aspect you want to pay attention to is the design of the software. Your agents will likely spend a good part of their day in your customer service ticketing tool, so you want to ensure it is intuitive to work with.

“Design” does not merely refer to fancy images or over-the-top colors, rather the overall synergy of elements such as fonts, colors, buttons, and other visual elements. 

Ultimately, software with a clean and welcoming interface will be simpler for agents to use. 

If you use Gmail, something that works on top of it and blends in neatly, would be just great for you.

choosing-best-customer-service-software

3. Is it easy to set up?

Along with a simple interface, a customer service software should have a simple learning curve. This is where user onboarding comes in. User onboarding is the process of equipping customers with enough information, so they can find value in a product and know how to use it. 

While good onboarding processes often include product tours, contextual cues, demos, emails, and learning-by-doing options, the benefit of the product should be apparent as soon as users sign up for it.

You should be able to perform basic functions such as creating replies and email templates, and setting up teams in the app, without needing additional support.

The more intuitive and easy the app is to use, the less training new team members will require. This saves both time and money for your business.

4. Is it scalable?

Your business will grow in a few years, and you want your customer service software to grow with you. As your business expands, so will the number of customer requests and service agents. 

Okay, here’s the tricky part: how do you ensure that your help desk software is geared for scalability? Well, we think you should watch out for a few indicators:

  • Check out a few case studies on the website – to see if large teams use the software. Another cue to look for: whether teams across the organization use the software (finance, accounts, operations, or anybody else).
  • Explore the Pricing page – to see if there is a full-fledged plan for large teams. Look out for an “Enterprise” plan. Watch out for “no limits” on the number of team members, or “no cap” on the number of times you can perform a task. 
  • See if the automation feature supports a wide variety of actions (you’ll need them more when your team grows). You must look for canned replies as well.  

If the above checks yield favorable results, you can be confident that the customer service solution will scale up as your team grows. 

5. Is it remote-friendly?

Remote work has been around for a while, but an increasing number of companies are now waking up to its benefits. In February 2020, the pandemic plunged half the world into a state of lockdown, and workers were forced to work from home.

According to CNBC, a  number of companies plan to allow their employees to work remotely, even after the threat of the virus abates. In short, remote work is here to stay. 

Planning to reap the benefits of remote work? You need customer support software that equips you to do so. 

As a remote team, it is not possible to walk over a coworker’s desk to discuss a customer request. Nor is it possible to get coworkers to jump in on customer calls.   

To succeed as a remote customer support team, it’s key to use a tool that facilitates communication, collaboration, and task management, all in one place. 

You need a customer service ticketing software that helps you: 

  • Assign customer requests to the right agents/team members with ease
  • Check the status of requests (pending, unresolved, and unassigned) 
  • Discuss customer requests privately with your team  

Be sure to look for these specific features when browsing software websites, and then pick your favorites. 

Oh, by the way, our team has been working remotely for the last few months, and we’ve used Hiver successfully to keep delivering great support to our customers. 

You’d find this interesting: How Hiver uses Hiver for remote work

6. Does it ease team collaboration?

Collaboration is one of the mainstays of stellar customer support, not just remote work. Hence, it’s worth reiterating that your customer support software must facilitate smooth collaboration. 

All team members should be able to keep a tab on each other’s responsibilities, pending tickets, and status of response to requests. This way, the team avoids duplicate effort and is more productive. 

Along with helping the customer service team stay informed, the tool should also help them collaborate with other departments in the organization. Customer service issues are often interlinked with other departments, such as engineering, billing, operations, and marketing.

Instead of pushing emails from one inbox to another, agents should be able to rope in other team members with a simple “@mention” or a similar effortless option. This will ensure customer queries are solved in a timely manner. 

The ability to share notes on customer requests privately is key to effective collaboration too. Your agents should not have to juggle multiple apps simply to ask whether your promotional offers are still on, or how long your website will be down.

choosing-best-customer-service-software

7. Is “reporting” robust enough?

You’ve probably heard the adage, “What gets measured, gets managed,” often attributed to Peter Drucker. 

First, let’s talk about tracking metrics. Which are the most numbers you want your customer service ticketing software to track? To put it simply, there are two types of metrics you want to keep an eye on: quantitative and qualitative metrics. 

The former will show you the performance of your team in absolute numbers. Think average handle time, time to first response, interactions per resolution, volume of requests, common trends in requests, and unsolved requests.

The second, as the name implies, measures the quality of service offered to customers. Your customer satisfaction score, net promoter score, and customer retention rate should help you here.

Apart from these, you also want to be able to measure individual employee performance, so you can nudge them in the right direction. 

You’d find this super useful: 18 key customer service metrics + How to use them

You must also ensure that the software helps you measure trends and correlations over a period of time. The ups and downs in your team’s performance are what will ultimately lead them to improvement. 

choosing-best-customer-service-software

Another feature that helps you track and report changes around customer requests is the ability to add tags. With the help of tags, you can measure the growth or decline of queries around a specific feature or type of request over a period of time. 

Tracking and reporting customer service metrics is essential if you want your team to reach their full potential.   

8. Does it support automation?

Customer service teams that move fast often have a secret weapon in their arsenal: automation. 

Here’s what to look for: 

(a) Automatically assigning requests

Believe it or not, with a little bit of tinkering, it is possible that all your customer requests fall into the hands of the right agent, and none of your tickets get lost in the process. Imagine the number of hours, effort, and resources saved if you implement this in your team.

To make this work, your software should allow you to set up a few simple “if this, then that” rules around your customer requests. Based on keywords such as billing, bugs, sign up, and deactivate, your tickets will automatically be assigned to your team members. 

(b) Autoresponders

Autoresponders in customer support get a bad name and are often criticized for making support feel robotic and impersonal. Of course, it can feel robotic if your autoresponders start with “##Please don’t type above this line##” or your emails are sent from “Customer service representative.”

The fact is that it’s virtually impossible to be present 24/7 to answer customer queries as soon as they roll in, even if you have a globally distributed team. The key is to make your auto-responder sound as human as possible. Here’s an example to get you started: 

“Hey Paul, 

Thanks so much for reaching out. I just wanted to let you know we received your request. While this is an automated email, I assure you someone from my team will be in touch with you in the next 24 hours. For your reference, our business hours are __ to __ PST. 

Until then, thanks for your patience.

Have an awesome day! 

Cheers, 
Sabrina”

(c) Saved replies

These are replies agents often find themselves typing in response to common queries. Instead of typing the same response over and over, it’s best to look for software that allows agents to save their best replies and use them later. 

WHAT TO DO AFTER THE INITIAL RESEARCH

Once you’ve evaluated the list based on the criteria listed above, you should have narrowed down your list to 5-7 customer service ticketing software options.

From this point, you want to get a feel of what it is like to actually use the software – and how reliable it proves to be in the long term. 

Here’s what you can do to finish your final leg of research: 

9. Take a look at review sites

Often, reviews by bloggers, tech websites, and app marketplaces will paint a different picture than the website or the “feature” pages of the software.

Websites such as Capterra, G2, and CNET will help you learn about the general pain points, common bugs – and even the quality of customer support the product delivers.

You don’t just want to dig for the dirt though. Note down positive themes that seem to appear frequently while going over user reviews.

The key here is to go through as many reviews as you can. We know this sounds obvious – but most people have a tendency to form an opinion rather fast. We’d say read up (or even skim through) 50 reviews or so. That’s when you’d start noticing a pattern.

10. Speak with power users

While review sites do provide you with a deep overview of the software in use, power users of the product can give you the real scoop – the stories that people don’t tell on review sites.

The key is asking the right questions. The most important bit you want to ask them: what happens when things go wrong?

There will always be downtimes, or when things don’t work the way they’re supposed to.

How a company handles such situations will tell you how much they care for their customers – whether they’ll help when you really need them.

And getting in touch with power users is not all that difficult. LinkedIn, Twitter, Reddit: pretty sure they’ll be around in one of them.

After this last bit of research, you may want to pare down your list even more, and only keep 2-3 software options for first-hand testing. 

11. Test the software/ask for a demo

All said and done, only personal experience with a software helps you understand how easy and intuitive it is to use.

In the present day, pretty much every software offers free trials – be sure to take advantage of those. The good thing is that most of them will offer full-feature trials.

When testing software, be sure to keep all your important criteria in mind. Make notes on features you like and dislike, so it helps you compare how each software fares.

You can also request for product demonstrations; comes in handy as you can ask questions – and discover the features they’re really proud of. Be sure to include a few people who’ll be using the software.

You also want to find out first-hand if the software offers good customer service. Use their self-help tools, send an email inquiry, or reach out to their live chat team.

Only a company that offers great customer service and cares about its customers, can empower others to do so.

12. Review your test results

Once you’ve tested your shortlisted software, it’s time to go over the results with your team.

Take a look at your notes and those of your team, and do a quick “what works” and “what does not work” analysis. 

At this stage, it’s super important to also keep your future requirements in mind. Take a moment and think up what you might need a year/two down the road. Again, it sounds obvious but it’s easy to fall for something that fits into the present – but might not scale very well.

By this point, you’ll likely have a winner that everyone in your team agrees with. 

Remember, even though you may have spent a considerable amount of time choosing a customer service ticketing software for your team, the impact it will have on your customer service and performance is immeasurable. 

Take out time. No haste.

Meet Hiver.

A customer service software that helps G Suite users manage customer conversations right from Gmail

Over 7000 customer service teams use Hiver to deliver brilliant customer support, including the likes of Harvard University, Lonely Planet, Hubspot, Oxford Business Group, Capterra, among others.

You can always sign up for a 14-day Free Trial to see if Hiver works for your team.

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Farheen Gani is a content marketer and writer for SaaS companies. She helps businesses grow with customer-focused content. She loves geeking out about content marketing on Twitter (https://twitter.com/FarheenGani) and her blog (https://www.farheenganiwrites.com/blog/).
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