Everything You Need to Know
About Customer Support Software

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Whether you’re a small business trying to grow your customer base or a large business thriving in a global market, providing great customer service is one of the best ways to give your brand a competitive edge.

Research suggests that 60% of customers will switch to an alternate brand after 2 to 3 bad support experiences, and 30% of them will make the switch after only a single bad experience. That’s how demanding customers are today! And that’s why delivering timely, accurate, and empathetic customer service is so essential for brands that want to turn their first-time customers and prospects into lifelong loyalists.

But let’s be honest. Consistently delivering superior customer experiences is no child’s play. It requires a mix of the right strategy, the right people, and most importantly, the right tools to be able to turn your customer-centric vision into action.

And often, your first step towards realizing this vision of offering stellar customer service is investing in robust customer support software.

Customer support software is the most essential tool to help your support team improve the efficiency of your support operations and the quality of your customer service. It helps make the assignment and tracking of customer requests simple, fosters better collaboration between teams and across functions, streamlines workflows, and automates repeatable tasks.

Furthermore, the right support software can also help you enhance your product, business strategy, and overall customer experience by giving you access to actionable data about your support quality and performance, as well as valuable customer feedback.

This article will give you a detailed account of what customer support software is, the various types of customer support software, its key benefits and features, and how you should choose the best one for your business.

What is customer support software?

If you’re running a business, whether it's e-commerce or brick and mortar, effectively supporting and communicating with your customers is critical to your brand’s reputation, success, and growth, especially in today’s digital age. The communication needs to be immediate and accurate so customers can get their issues addressed as soon as possible. At the same time, your employees shouldn’t get burdened trying to keep up with large volumes of customer queries as your business begins to scale.

This is why your business needs the right kind of customer support software.

A customer support software (also referred to as helpdesk ticketing software), as the name suggests, is a type of application meant to assist an organization’s customer service team in resolving customers’ issues efficiently and effectively. Think of it as a second brain for your customer support team. Support software helps you organize incoming customer requests by assigning them to designated agents. It also lets you track the status of customer requests and customize different kinds of reports to monitor your team’s performance and support quality.

What are the different types of customer support software?

There are different types of customer support software out there, but knowing which is the best fit for your company’s needs, goals and expectations is important. Below are types of customer support software that you can choose depending on your business type, size, and requirements:

Types of customer support software based on channels

Email/shared inbox helpdesk software

A shared inbox or email helpdesk software typically consists of a central mailbox (for example, [email protected] or [email protected]) for your customer service team to access and collaborate on all customer emails. With a shared inbox helpdesk software, you can easily assign customer emails to designated agents in your team and track the progress of every email. Additionally, you can also tag emails on the basis of priority or type, allowing your team to respond to pressing customer requests faster.

An email helpdesk can even help your team have private and contextual discussions on complex customer queries without ever having to leave the software. This results in lesser distractions and more focused work.

An excellent shared inbox helpdesk software also comes with advanced features like automations, analytics, feedback surveys, and SLA management.

Apart from improving your team’s efficiency, enhancing your support quality, and streamlining your workflows, a shared inbox helpdesk software offers your customers an easy way to reach out to you for help. Data suggests that 62% of customers prefer contacting brands for customer support via email. Investing in a good shared inbox is thus critical for companies that want to offer great customer service and enhance customer satisfaction.

Email/shared inbox helpdesk software

Hiver’s shared inbox software helps support teams collaborate effectively

Live chat

Today, customers expect businesses to be available for them even at the ungodliest of hours. They want instant responses and easy access to the information they need. With the help of live chat, businesses can offer real-time support to their customers 24x7.

One of the most significant benefits of providing live chat support is that it allows support teams to easily handle routine customer requests, thereby reducing customer wait time and agent workload.

Also, when you offer your customers and prospects the help they need at their own convenience, you are more likely to earn their trust and their business. According to Forrester, 53% of US consumers will abandon their online purchase if they don’t find a quick answer to their question on a company’s website. On the contrary, consumers who use live chat are 2.8 times more likely to convert than those who don’t.

No surprise that live chat is becoming a popular support channel amongst brands both big and small. Apart from chatbots, messaging channels like SMS, WhatsApp, and Facebook Messenger are also garnering popularity.

Service desk software

The terms “helpdesk” and “service desk” are often used interchangeably across different teams and organizations. Helpdesks were first popularized as a way to manage queries to internal IT departments.

Back when computers were still a novelty, teams used helpdesks to guide them with all IT support queries. Eventually, IT helpdesks metamorphosed into service desks – a fully functional customer-facing helpdesk that helps teams resolve customer requests.

Service desks, like helpdesks, are also customer-facing portals, but include other moving parts such as a knowledge base, an internal support system, and IT asset management.

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Knowledge base

A knowledge base is a type of customer self-service portal that allows customers to find answers to their queries on their own – at their own pace and convenience. It can comprise various content formats, including frequently asked questions (FAQs), video guides, glossaries, how-to/troubleshooting guides and more.

A knowledge base serves as a helpful guide for your customers as well as your support team to resolve common product or service-related issues quickly. Like live chat, a knowledge base helps you offer your customers 24x7 support.

With the help of the right knowledge base software, your support agents can easily document, publish and update relevant content to help customers enjoy a good self-serve experience. You can also opt for a knowledge base software that offers reporting capabilities to help identify trends about what people are searching for. This can help improve the quality of the content you put up on your knowledge base, as well as that of your product or service.

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Hiver’s extensive knowledge base

Phone support

In the modern era of AI-backed omnichannel and multi-channel support, many customers still prefer reaching out to brands via phone calls. In fact, according to a recent survey report by Hiver, almost 50% of customer service teams say phone is their busiest support channel, beating email and chat support.

Today, with the help of cutting-edge features like call recordings, call monitoring, automation, reporting, and analytics, call center software helps customer service teams deliver exceptional customer experiences while staying efficient.

Phone support

Even today, phone is one of the busiest support channels

Types of customer support software based on their deployment models

Web-based customer support software

Traditionally, customer support software was installed on company servers. This type of software is often called 'on-premise' because it resides on the company's computer network.

Web-based customer support software, on the other hand, is a type of customer support software that can be accessed from any computer with an internet connection. It offers several cost-saving advantages, including reduced hardware costs and increased employee mobility, making it easier for companies to scale their customer service operations.

For these reasons, web-based helpdesk systems are very popular with small and medium businesses that cannot afford a dedicated IT staff for software maintenance, backup and security.

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Cloud-based customer support software

Cloud-based customer support software is provided in the form of software as a service (SaaS). It is similar to a web-based customer support software, given that they are both hosted on remote servers.

The biggest difference between the two is that cloud-based helpdesks, unlike web-based helpdesks can be accessed with or without a web browser. Companies’ data can be cached locally, meaning that the app can work offline and sync whenever the internet comes back.

On-premise customer support software

On-premise customer support software, as discussed earlier, is installed on a company’s own servers. This gives companies the greatest control over their data. Once the software is purchased, companies usually have to take complete responsibility for maintenance, security, and data backup. Alternatively, they can also pay the vendor additional charges to manage the same.

On-premise helpdesk systems will generally have more features and are more tailored to a company’s needs than online solutions. Since the company owns all the data, it can integrate the customer support software with other systems and set up as many or as few users as it wants. However, it is a very expensive investment, and can be difficult for smaller companies to afford.

Enterprise customer support software

Enterprise customer support software offers robust customer support capabilities for large-scale organizations. In addition to equipping support teams with all the necessary tools to effectively service their vast customer base, enterprise helpdesk systems also foster easy interdepartmental communication to maximize employee productivity and break down silos.

Usually, enterprise customer support software is custom-designed to suit the individual needs of an organization or its industry’s workflows. Standard features that many enterprise helpdesk systems include are CRM systems, collaboration tools, knowledge base, account management, service request fulfillment, and survey management.

Open-source customer support software

Open-source customer support software, unlike proprietary software, allows companies to access its source code. It also allows for easy customization of helpdesk systems to suit a company's needs and preferences.

Given that open source helpdesks allow companies to modify it, fix bugs, and add unique features, organizations need to have the necessary programming capabilities and a dedicated IT department to continuously implement these changes. If not, it can negatively impact the end customer experience.

What are the benefits of customer support software?

Customer support is one of the most time-intensive and complex aspects of a business, but an indispensable one, if you want your brand to grow and thrive.

With the help of the right customer support software, you can deliver impeccable quality customer service to all customers alike.

Let’s look at some reasons why investing in support software is so important:

It reduces agent workload

One of the primary benefits of support software is that it reduces agent workload. It can streamline your support team’s workflows, automate routine tasks and allow agents to save responses to common customer queries as templates. As a result, agents can handle regular customer queries with ease and have more time on their hands to focus on complex customer issues. This also helps ensure that all your customers enjoy memorable experiences consistently.

It enhances team collaboration

When you’re a startup, your team is small and collaborating on customer requests, easy. But as your company grows and the team expands, the number of incoming customer requests is bound to grow as well. Dealing with a large volume of customer requests of varying complexities can make collaborating within and across teams a considerable challenge. That’s where customer support software can help – it can aid effective team and cross-functional collaboration.

With features such as private Notes, customer support software allows agents to have contextual discussions about customer requests without switching tools. Using shared drafts, agents can work together to draft the perfect response to a customer’s query. Furthermore, collision alerts prevent agents from stepping on each other’s toes by notifying them when someone is replying to a customer ticket they are looking at.

team collaboration

Collaboration is extremely important for workplace efficiency and task alignment

It provides insights critical to business growth

Apart from helping you manage your customer queries in a streamlined and efficient manner, customer support software can also go a long way in providing insights critical to your business’ growth. It makes the process of customer feedback collection easy. When you know what your customers want, you can fine-tune your product or service to better suit their needs and expectations, thereby ensuring greater satisfaction and retention.

Additionally, customer support software provides you with insightful reports such as CSAT reports, agent performance reports, and customer conversation reports. Such actionable and real-time data can help you keep your team’s performance and customer service quality in check while closely monitoring changing trends in customer requests.

It enhances customer loyalty

Great customer support software allows you to view all of your customer requests in a contextual and structured manner. It gives you the necessary information and the right tools to deliver fast, empathetic and effective responses to customers' issues.

Given that almost 70% of customers consider customer service as a crucial aspect of their purchase decisions, providing memorable support experiences can go a long way in establishing customer trust and loyalty.

Loyal customers are likely to stick with your company for the long haul –they will talk about your brand to their friends and family. Consequently, implementing customer support software can help you deliver superior quality customer service, and that, in turn, can earn you a lifetime of loyal customers.

What are the key features of customer support software?

The market is crowded with numerous customer support software with diverse feature sets, not all of which are essential. Too many unnecessary features can complicate and slow down your helpdesk ticketing system.

To simplify your search for the right software, we’re listing down the only key features you must look for in your customer support software:

Assignment and tracking

The most essential feature of any customer support software is its ability to assign and track customer requests easily.

When you’re a small team with few customer requests to handle daily, you can manually assign and check the status of every customer request and your team’s response to it.

The problem happens when your business begins to grow, and customer queries start to mount. Without a proper system in place for routing incoming customer requests and tracking the status of each customer query, chaos is bound to ensue. Your team will miss out on critical customer requests and won’t have any way to know who’s working on what.

That’s why your helpdesk support software should allow you to easily assign the responsibility of every incoming customer request to specific team members. You should also be able to check the status – open, pending, or closed – of every customer query. When your entire team is aware of each other’s tasks, customer service becomes more efficient, and no customer queries slip through the cracks.

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Hiver lets you easily assign and track support requests

Organization and tagging

Your customer support software should also come with a functionality that allows you to organize and prioritize support requests based on certain predefined conditions such as type or urgency.

Effective organization of incoming requests, which you can achieve with the help of tags, allows you to add a structure to all your customer interactions. This way, your customer service team knows the specific course of action for handling different categories of support requests.

For example, if you receive a request from a high-profile customer account, your support software should allow you to tag it “high priority” or “critical.” Your team can then address that query on priority.

Tags can also help you pull up specific customer requests you’re looking for, automate tasks based on priority or type of request, and view your team’s performance across different aspects.

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With tags, you can organize support requests based on multiple predefined conditions

Collaboration

If your customer support software doesn’t foster seamless internal collaboration, it’s not worth your buck.

Support software with collaboration features like private notes can drive your team to work as a cohesive unit to give your customers the kind of high-quality customer service you aspire to. Your team members can have private and contextual discussions about specific customer queries without ever needing to switch tools.

Another essential collaboration feature, especially in email-based customer support software, is shared drafts. With the help of shared drafts, two or more team members can work together on crafting the perfect reply to a customer’s query.

A good email-based customer support software should also come with a collision alert feature that notifies team members when someone else is working on an email they are looking at. This way, your team can avoid the embarrassment of sending conflicting emails to customers.

Collaborate with your team using private Notes arrow Collaboration

Hiver Notes let you collaborate with your team – contextually and privately

Analytics

If you want to keep your team’s performance and support strategy on track, relying on guesswork might not take you far. Keeping a tab on critical customer service metrics will give you more accurate and actionable data to base your decisions on.

That’s why your helpdesk software should come with robust data and analytics capabilities. Your helpdesk should allow you to understand things like:

  • How quickly your team is responding to customers;
  • How fast they are resolving customer requests;
  • What kind of customer feedback is the team receiving and;
  • Whether there are any spiking trends in the type of support requests the team is receiving.

As per research by McKinsey Global Institute, data-driven companies are 23 times more likely to acquire customers and 19 times more profitable than their competitors. Analytics and reporting features should thus be high up on your list of priorities while choosing your support software.

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Hiver’s rich analytics and reporting features help you gauge your team’s performance and support quality on a variety of factors

Escalation

There ought to be days when your customer support team has to deal with a slew of customer requests. To prevent any delays in responses to customer queries during such times, you need to make sure that you set ground rules for your team in the form of Service Level Agreements or SLAs.

An SLA is a promise you make to your customers, assuring them that you’ll meet or exceed their customer service expectations. SLAs are essential for establishing customer trust in your brand.

SLAs are also essential as they help set clear guidelines of performance for your team. If a team member defaults on an SLA target, their query will get escalated to the manager in charge.

As per research by McKinsey Global Institute, data-driven companies are 23 times more likely to acquire customers and 19 times more profitable than their competitors. Analytics and reporting features should thus be high up on your list of priorities while choosing your support software.

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SLAs help set guidelines of performance for your support team

Feedback collection

Your support software should also make it easy for you to keep a tab on the customer sentiment.

Customer feedback is essential because it not only gives you a peek into customers’ perception of your product and service quality but also helps you make consistent improvements in your support and product strategy.

Your customer support software should allow you to send out simple Customer Satisfaction (CSAT) surveys after every customer interaction.

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Hiver’s CSAT surveys help you understand how happy your customers are with your support quality

Integrations

Lastly, you should also ensure that your helpdesk solution integrates with other necessary helpdesk tools that your team will need to use, for example, CRM software like Hubspot, messaging systems like Slack, social media tools like Facebook and Twitter, etc.

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How to choose the right customer support software for your business

Figuring out which customer support software is right for your business can be a real challenge. While the right helpdesk system can improve your support team’s performance and efficiency, create memorable experiences for your customers, and foster business growth, the wrong software can raise your costs and hamper customer relationships. That’s why, when deciding on which customer support software to opt for, ensure you answer the following questions:

right customer support software for your business

Things to consider while deciding on which support software to invest in

Is the customer support software easy to implement and use?

The last thing you want is to invest a huge sum of money in customer support software that’s packed with cutting-edge features but takes forever for your team to get accustomed to. Rather than making life easier for your team and support faster for your customers, helpdesk software with a complicated interface can make it challenging for your team to handle the most basic of tasks.

You need to invest in a helpdesk system that comes with a clean and straightforward interface that your team can get comfortable with right from the get-go. Remember, the easier your customer support software is to use, the more efficient your team becomes.

Does the customer support software drive seamless internal collaboration?

Effective collaboration is one of the most underrated yet crucial aspects of a successful customer service strategy. High-performing customer support teams encourage internal and cross-functional collaboration, which in turn allows them to resolve more complex support issues faster and more effectively. And the customer support software you choose plays a pivotal role in encouraging this seamless collaboration.

Whether your customer service team works in-house or remotely, your helpdesk system should allow all team members to keep track of the team’s workflow and tasks. The support software should encourage team members to make the best of each other’s expertise in order to give customers the best experience.

For example, suppose a new support rep in your team needs help responding to a complicated customer query. In that case, your customer support software should make it easy for them to rope in experienced team members and get their assistance in crafting the perfect response to the query.

Additionally, your customer support software should also encourage your support team to have contextual discussions about customer requests without needing to switch tools.

Does the customer support software have automation capabilities?

A customer service team deals with a lot of tasks of repetitive nature on a daily basis. Handling them manually can get not only time-consuming but also incredibly chaotic and expensive. Therefore, choosing a customer service solution with automation capabilities can help your team save a lot of time and money by streamlining workflows and staying organized.

Your helpdesk system, for example, should allow you to automate the process of assigning emails and categorizing them based on certain predefined conditions.

Automations not only help make support teams more efficient but also free up their time to handle more pressing support tickets.

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Does the customer support software have robust data and analytics capabilities?

Another fundamental question you must ask yourself before investing in helpdesk software is whether the options you’re considering come with robust analytics capabilities that allow you to track metrics important to your team.

Your customer support software should allow you to keep a tab on your agents’ workload and performance. It should allow you to track important support metrics like your team’s First Response Times, Average Resolution Times, and CSAT scores. With the help of these analytics, you can identify whether your team’s performance is in line with the customer service goals you set. Analytics can also help you make consistent improvements in your support strategy and product features.

Is the customer support software secure?

The number of data breaches has skyrocketed over the past few decades. Therefore, it’s only prudent to consider the security and privacy aspect of the helpdesk software you decide to implement. You must further ensure that your helpdesk ticketing software doesn’t store customer tickets or sell customer data to third-party vendors.

Is the customer support software scalable?

As your business grows, your helpdesk solution will need to scale as well. That’s why, as a startup or small business looking to invest in customer support software, pricing shouldn’t be your only point of consideration while evaluating options. You need to look for a helpdesk ticketing system that you can customize and scale as per your changing business size, needs, goals, and strategies.

Ensure that the software you’re considering offers different pricing plans for different team sizes and is used by large or enterprise-scale businesses.

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Which is the best customer support software out there?

Now that we’ve covered all the basics you need to keep in mind while investing in helpdesk software, let’s look at some of the best software out there for customer support:

Hiver

Hiver is the world’s first Gmail-based helpdesk. Given that it works right out of Gmail, customer support teams can get comfortable using it right from day one. It comes with sophisticated helpdesk features including email assignment, tracking, automation, analytics and reporting, customer feedback surveys, and more.

What sets Hiver apart from most modern helpdesks is its ability to humanize customer service. It doesn’t convert customer requests into tickets, helps personalize customer interactions, and drives meaningful customer relationships.

Hiver’s customer support is also known to be one of the best in the industry.

Pricing - Starts at $12 per agent per month

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Zendesk

Zendesk’s support software is popular amongst large-sized support teams. Its basic plan allows you to manage social customer communication channels like Twitter and Facebook along with email. Its higher-tier plans also include channels like phone and chat, along with custom reporting functionalities.

Although it is one of the most sought-after support software solutions in the market, it is relatively costly and complex in terms of initial setup and adoption.

Pricing - Starts at $19 per agent per month

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Help Scout

Help Scout is a popular helpdesk software that offers email, chat, and knowledge base solutions for teams to manage their support requests. Its higher-tier plans for large teams and enterprises can even be customized.

Despite being costlier than other software in the helpdesk category, Help Scout does not offer phone or social media support.

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Freshdesk

Freshdesk offers support software for enterprise-level teams. Teams can choose between its helpdesk solution or omnichannel support.

Freshdesk’s helpdesk solution offers email, Twitter, and Facebook support and is apt for smaller businesses owing to its lower cost than its omnichannel product.

Its pricier omnichannel product also comes with advanced features like AI responder and field service management as add-ons. But again, like Zendesk, Freshdesk can get complicated for support teams looking for simple and effective software.

Pricing - Starts at $0 per month

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Zoho Desk

Zoho Desk offers customer support software for small to medium-sized businesses. Its software includes standard helpdesk features to help optimize support processes along with solid automation, tracking, and reporting functionalities.

Although Zoho Desk’s software plans are priced slightly lower than its competitors, its standard plan (priced at $12 per agent per month) lacks many essential helpdesk features like collision alerts, round-robin assignment, etc. On the other hand, its higher plans are packed with an overwhelming number of features that support teams may not need.

Pricing - Starts at $0 per month

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Conclusion

There is a saying that you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression. Investing in the right customer support software will not only help you make the perfect first impression on your customers but also equip your team with everything they need to deliver memorable customer experiences consistently.

But we get it. Deciding on which customer support software to invest in can be a time-consuming and arduous process. However, given that the decision is bound to have a bearing on your company’s long-term growth and success, you should make your choice as thoughtfully as possible.

Making a mistake while choosing your support software can result in unhappy customers, disgruntled customer service agents, and messy support processes.

Remember – your customers don’t just buy your products; they invest in your brand. They invest in the quality of your customer support and your ability to empathize with their problems. The support software you choose should act as your team’s right hand in making your customers come back to you every time!

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