50-100% more time.
A detailed look and what is an email help desk software and how it can help your business
Think of an email help desk as a second brain for your customer support team. It helps you organize customer requests, assign them to agents, and track their status. It also lets your team communicate internally. All of this, within an ever-familiar email inbox.
While it's okay to use email for customer support in the beginning, as your business scales, so do customer requests. Soon, your customer support team is juggling customer queries and bulky email threads, with no way to track high priority requests. The result? Missed customer emails, angry customers, and an overworked support team.
An email help desk presents a simple solution for this.
“Simply put, an email help desk is a system to ensure customer request emails are answered in a timely manner.”
Modern email help desk software has superpowers such as automation, collaboration, tagging, reporting, and analytics, to help you deliver stellar customer support experience. While your customer support team focuses on providing friendly, human experiences, your email help desk software does the heavy lifting in the background.
Apart from providing customer support, an email help desk can also double up as a collaboration tool for teams such as finance, accounts, IT, client servicing as well as remote teams. We’ll delve into each of these use cases in the next section.
Three decades after it was launched, email still continues to be reinvented. Why? Because, even today, email dominates a vast majority of professional conversations.
Customers prefer using email to reach out to companies for help, communication within teams flows through email, and thousands of formal, professional exchanges happen over the medium too.
Thus, it makes sense for companies to invest in a robust email help desk.
If you’re still on the fence about whether an email help desk is right for you, take a look at the most common ways an email help desk helps different teams:
An email help desk neatly organizes customer queries in one central inbox for all your support team members. From here, support executives can assign requests to others as well as track the status of each request. The result? No more duplicate responses, or worse, missed customer emails.
For smooth collaboration, an email help desk also allows you to share private notes about customer emails, right alongside the original request. With automation and tagging, you can put repetitive tasks on auto-pilot, while the analytics tab shows you the overall performance of your team.How to manage customer conversations from Gmail
Purchase orders, bank statement reconciling, and expense reimbursement often involve a string of email exchanges. This is not just cumbersome, but also leads to payment delays. The simple solution? A dedicated email help desk for your finance team.
Teammates can quickly assign orders to teammates, automate recurring payments, and tag emails by type and level of priority. They can also monitor billing processes with the help of notes. Thus, you're always on track with billing, reimbursements, and other payments.How can Finance teams deliver great customer service
Onboarding new clients is seldom a send-it-and-forget-it process. Often, it takes months of lengthy conversations over email to successfully onboard new B2B clients. Why not use an email help desk to organize your client communication in one place?
Incoming emails from clients can be turned into tasks for teammates and all client activities are made available as a single timeline. Thanks to Notes, teams effortlessly collaborate without ever leaving their inbox. Finally, Tags offer a handy way to organize clients by type of work and size of client.How client servicing teams can build great relationships
The term “help desk” evolved from a need for dedicated IT help desks. Evidently, IT helps desks are busy with a wide swath of requests on a daily basis such as broken systems, requests for access, asset requirements, and so on. An email help desk helps add structure to an overwhelming pile of emails for IT teams.
Each incoming request is automatically assigned to members best suited to solve them, and the team is always in the know about the status of requests. A help desk also makes it easy to discuss requests internally, without relying on external collaboration tools.Make your IT help desk super efficient with Hiver
Anyone building a successful operations team will attest to this: communication is a major barrier to getting work done on time. A lack of coordination among the team fails to build accountability, and projects get delayed.
Email delegation with a help desk speeds up an otherwise sluggish operations team. Teams have the option to automatically allocate work based on clients, track orders and invoices at a glance, and share private notes about orders with other team members.Learn how Operations teams manage emails with Hiver
Remote teams do not have the luxury to saunter over a colleague's desk to discuss the status of emails or any other topic of urgency. In order to stay connected with their teams, remote workers often juggle a large suite of collaboration apps.
An email help desk for remote teams eliminates the need for using several different apps for communication. With a help desk, they can easily assign tasks to their team, check on their status from time to time, as well as have private work conversations.Learn how Remote Teams collaborate super-fast with Hiver
Modern email help desks often include an expansive list of features, most of which tend to clutter the software. To get the most out of an email help desk, you'll only need a handful of elementary features.
Let's take a look at each of these below.
The crux of an email help desk is a shared inbox ([email protected] or [email protected]): it is where all incoming emails are stored for organization. From here, team members can access emails, assign them to others, tag emails by topic, and also share private notes about emails.Manage shared inboxes with ease
Email delegation allows team members to take responsibility for every incoming email. Assignees are notified in real time of an assigned email, and the entire team is aware of tasks undertaken by each member.Assign emails effortlessly
Instead of relying on external tools and apps to chat with teammates about a specific query, an email help desk lets you communicate within the app itself. Usually, this is done with the help of private notes that appear alongside customer, client, or internal requests.Hassle-free internal collaboration
Automate mundane tasks with ease. For example, assign emails with the word “billing” to the finance person on your team. You can also use the round-robin assignment feature in email help desks to ensure that customer support emails are assigned equally among active team members.Automate your email workflows
Tags are the default way to categorize and filter emails based on specific conditions: type of query (marketing, finance, IT), customer type (if you want to prioritize emails from paid customers), departments in your organization, or teams in a specific department.Organize emails for efficiency
An email help desk helps you track the number of conversations, first response times, and average resolution times—and drilled down individual metrics such as resolution time, workload, and CSAT scores. At a glance, you can see your top performers—and the ones struggling.Measure team performance
Customer feedback is the cornerstone to providing top notch customer support. To be effective, you must survey customers when they’re most likely to answer. For example, a quick question at the end of an interaction is more likely to yield results than a long-winded questionnaire.Get customer feedback quickly
Customer service reps repeatedly find themselves typing answers to common queries. To save time and effort, an email help desk allows them to save frequent replies as email templates, that can be used by all team members. It really helps bring down email response times.Templates for faster and better replies
Here are the most important features to look for in an email help desk.
A messy, tangled email help desk is as good as no email help desk. This is why ease of use is a primary requirement.
What is ease of use? The ability to accomplish basic tasks without jumping through multiple hoops, a clean and welcoming interface, and the ability to find key features without endless scrolling. The easier your email help desk is to use, the more value your team is likely to derive out of it.
You may be familiar with the term “tickets”. Often used to simplify the tracking of customer emails, typical customer tickets are sent from impersonal company accounts such as “[email protected]” and the like. They also tend to have ticket numbers and the line “Please do not type above this line” at the beginning of an email.
Such emails leave a sour taste in a customer's mouth. Thus, it's important to choose an email help desk software that makes your support emails appear friendly and personable to customers, just like any other emails they might receive.
Ever so often customer support reps might need help on a query, or your employees might want to tag other members on a conversation they think is worth their attention. Email help desks that enable private conversations save teammates from juggling myriad communication apps, and get their work done faster.
When private discussions and notes are right alongside a conversation, everyone involved can follow along without losing context.
After every interaction, it's important to gauge whether customers are satisfied or they found the service lacking in any way. The best way to do this is to simply ask them a quick question at the end of a customer support interaction. An email help desk helps you insert these, so you constantly have a pulse on customer’s sentiments.
It's critical to keep surveys prompt and relevant, so customers don’t abandon them altogether.
As data collection mounts globally, so do the instances of hacking and security breaches. No company, big or small, is entirely immune to security breaches. However, an email help desk must take all possible measures to safeguard the emails of it's users and their customers. Further, they should also not store customer emails, or sell them to third-party vendors for use.
The best email help desks don't require hour-long webinars sessions with the company’s reps to learn the software. They have intuitive in-app onboarding flows that get you up to speed as soon as you sign up.
Look for apps where you can smoothly perform principal tasks such as creating replies, assigning emails to your team, and tracking their status with ease.
While simplicity and ease of use are quintessential, so is the ability to scale. Your business is (hopefully) a fledgling entity that will grow in a few years (or months).
To tackle a larger volume of conversations, both externally and internally, you need an email help desk that keeps pace with your business.
Be sure to check if a given software is used by large businesses, and if they have any plans or pricing that points to the size of teams that use it.
Easy collaboration keeps your teams running like well-oiled machines. It is even more crucial if your team is fully remote. To enable this, an email help desk must allow everyone to keep a tab of each other's responsibilities and view the status of all incoming emails (pending, open, and unassigned).
This refers to the ability to automatically assign tasks or emails to your teammates. A powerful help desk automatically distributes all emails as tasks among available team members equally and assigns emails based on conditions such as subject of email or sender of the email.
An email help desk must help you track metrics such as number of conversations, time taken for first response, and number of resolved queries in a given period.
Generally, an email help will provide you with reports such as conversation reports, tag reports (filtering emails based on specific tags), and employee reports that help you your team’ performance from a quantitative perspective, while customer satisfaction reports help you to see the quality of service provided.
Without tagging and organizing, your inbox is likely to be a mess. Adding tags to emails helps you quickly pull up relevant data, automate tasks based on tags, and also view the performance of your team based on specific topics.
There are several ways you can harness tags in an email help desk. For instance, if you’re using it to provide customer support, you can tag emails by type of query (product marketing, billing) for automatic assignment.
Picking the right number of help desk metrics to measure can be tricky. Track too many and sheer numbers will paralyze you into inaction. Track too few and you’ll be left with little data to act upon. It's best to use trial-and-error and find the perfect number of metrics that provide you with actionable data about your organization.
No matter how many you choose to track, here are some all-important help desk metrics that each team should keep an eye on:
This refers to the total number of emails your help desk receives on a given day, month, or year.
Ticket volumes reveal a world of data. First, you can find your busiest days or months, and prepare your team for a surge in requests. Second, you’ll be able to identify frequently occurring issues and find solutions to tackle them. For instance, if a large number of your tickets are product-related, a product development review may be in order.
The goal with ticket volumes is not simply to reduce the number, but also ensure that recurring issues are solved for good.
This is the time that elapses between a customer first reaching out to you, and when they first receive a reply from your end. In a world that values speed, first response times are of paramount importance.
Even though 30 minutes is a tall order to match for most support teams, try to use internal benchmarks and standard times to measure your team’s performance. It also helps to set customer expectations early on, and let them know how soon they can expect a response on your website or social media channels.
Quick first response times buy time for your team to solve the customer’s problem in a satisfactory manner.
This is the time your team takes to actually solve a customer’s problem. Swift first responses are good, but quick resolution times are golden.
A combination of organizing product knowledge, coordination between teams, and a good attitude can help agents deliver customer resolutions in a record time.
Beware of misleading resolution times though. If your support team closes customer requests without truly solving them, it will only hurt your business.
The refers to the number of emails exchanged between a customer and representative before an issue is resolved. Unsurprisingly, customers prefer as little back and forth as possible when looking for support.
If you regularly find the number of interactions per ticket to be high, it could be due to two reasons. First, your representatives may not be teasing out the right information out of customers early on, and thus, unable to solve queries.
Or your customer support queries may not be assigned to the right representatives. Train your support team to ask relevant questions early on and assign tickets based on the expertise of your team to save customers the hassle.
Customer satisfaction surveys can reveal how customers feel about a particular instance of customer support when they reach out for help. Generally, these are attached at the bottom of support emails and enable customers to give instantaneous feedback. If a customer responds negatively, you can also add follow up questions to find out why.
Can a single score meaningfully quantify customer satisfaction? Unfortunately, no. In order to get an unfiltered picture of how customers feel about your product and service, use customer surveys along with metrics such as NPS, as well as customer interviews. Touch base with customers on a regular basis over email or phone calls to gauge their thoughts.
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The terms “help desk” and “service desk” are often used interchangeably across different teams and organizations. Help desks were first popularized as a way to manage queries to internal IT departments.
Back when computers were still a novelty, teams used help desks to guide them with all IT-related queries. Eventually, IT help desks metamorphosed into service desks: a fully functional customer facing help desk that solves customer requests.
Today, help desks are generally considered to be tools that help companies better organize and answer customer requests. In some instances, they are also used for internal communication.
Service desks are also customer-facing portals, but include other moving parts such as a knowledge base, an internal support system, and IT asset management.