I am a tiny business of one employee (me) and several contractors who come and go depending on the task or project who benefited from the use of a ticket support system.
Benefit of a Ticket Support System
Over the last couple of years, I experienced a surge of emails which I sift through looking for customer requests on a daily basis. And it isn’t a one-to-one relationship. An email could have several requests in it or one request could be tied to multiple emails.
Last year, I went in search of a ticket support solution that would allow me to:
- Create support tickets simply by forwarding emails to the service.
- Merge tickets when I forward multiple emails having to do with the same request.
- Prioritize tickets (high, low, …) and categorize them (new feature, bug…)
- Allow my customers a way to log in and see all their requests in one place.
- Track time spent on a ticket and be able to run reports to bill clients
- Create a simple to-do list for a request (nothing as complicated as a project management tool)
- Set a due date and a start date.
- Filter the list of tickets based on urgency, client, and so forth.
All this while keeping things simple as I am, for the most part a one-woman show. I don’t need to route tickets based on the type of request or manage a knowledgebase or FAQ area. My finalists do have these features so there is plenty of room to grow. =-)
My finalists were Freshdesk*, and Helpscout. I was so torn between them that I actually used each of them individually for several months before I finally made a decision.
I tried out quite a few CRMs, project management tools, and help desk/customer service systems. And yes, there are some well known systems like ZenDesk that did not make the cut – mainly because they didn’t suite my business.
Freshdesk* and Helpscout have these ticket support features. Forward emails from your inbox and it creates a ticket for you with the person who originally sent the email as the customer. You can then:
- Assign a type of request and priority.
- Send a followup email to the client and have it logged with the ticket.
- Setup canned responses that can be sent to the clients.
- Send you an email notification when a client replies to the ticket.
- Write a note that is viewable only to your support staff or to your client as well.
- Change the status to open when you start working on it.
- Change the status to closed when you have completed it.
- Assign a person to be responsible or the ticket (can be automated).
- Sort the list of tickets for just one client or by priority.
Add your web support person and assistant to your team so they can answer tickets for you and they come from your email address.
As your business or support staff grows, turn on other features such as
- A Knowledgebase/Self-Help section so clients can find the answers as they enter in the request
- Automate who gets assigned a ticket based on the type of request
- Setup automated workflows and canned responses
- Integrate it with your other systems such as accounting, time tracking, web forms, etc.
HelpScout – Conversation Based Solution
HelpScout is the simplest solution. It is group mailbox which allows you to track conversations (or requests), add notes and a status. For an additional cost, you can get the Plus package that allows you to set due dates and other custom fields.
I recommend this product to my clients who work with an assistant as a way to use one email address while being able to identify who did what.
PRO: You can create separate mailboxes.
This is great if you have several different brands or, if you have a complicated client. You could create a separate mailbox for a client who as a team of individual that interact with you. You could then give the main person, a user id to access that mailbox and see all the tickets.
PRO: Setup a user portal on your WordPress site
There is a great WordPress Plugin from SproutApps that allows you to setup an area on your website where your customer can see all their requests, create a new one or reply to an existing one. It uses the email address associated with the logged in WordPress user to display the appropriate tickets.
CON: You cannot view all your customers in one place.
It’s is the system’s biggest downfall, in my opinion, that it cannot be used as a simple CRM. You can store contact information and customer notes in the customer profile BUT there is no way to view all your customers in one place. You need to open up one of the customer’s tickets (or conversations) in order to access the customer’s profile.
If you want to add a new customer who has not yet sent you a request, you need to open a ticket and give it a brand new email address. You can then fill in the customer profile associated with that email address.
The best bet is to use an external CRM that integrates with HelpScout such as HighriseHQ. Being as it is mostly just me, I don’t want to invest in a full CRM.
FreshDesk* – Simple CRM, Time Tracking and more
While still easy to use, Freshdesk* has a few bells and whistles that HelpScout does not have which are great for the micro business.
PRO: Customer tab can be used as a Simple CRM
- View all your Companies and Contacts in the one place.
- Click on a contact to update his or her information.
- Add new customers to the system before the first request is entered.
- Give a contact permission to see all tickets for his or her company.**
You could track opportunities and prospects, but first you need to decide if you want to clutter up your system.
PRO: Time Tracking
If you get the the Blossom package or higher, you can track your time for each ticket. Freshdesk* can integrate with Quickbooks and automatically create a time entry item so you can quickly add it to your invoice.
I turned off the Quickbooks integration. Instead, I only put one line item on the invoice for the total time, save a time tracking report to a PDF and attach it to the invoice.
In my line of business, I will work on a ticket multiple times over several days. While the Quickbooks integration was accurate, I found it a bit scary. =-) The Quickbooks integration creates a new time activities for each time activity you create in a ticket and will update a time activity if you restart the timer. It could make invoices really long if you have many time activities for a client and I was worried if I restarted a timer that it might track the time wrong.
PRO: Simple Project Management Tool
This wasn’t one of my requirements, but I found it so beneficial for my more complicated requests because I don’t need a full featured project management tool.
- Assign start and due dates
- Create a simple task list with checkboxes to click on when then they are finished. Yeah, you could always create a note with a bullet list of tasks to do, but it is not the same.
PRO: Integrate it with your WordPress site
FreshDesk comes with a customer portal feature, but if you would rather have your own… There is a FreshDesk plugin that allows you to setup an area on your website where your customer can see all their requests, create a new one or reply to an existing one. It uses the email address associated with the logged in WordPress user to display the appropriate tickets.
CON: Forwarding emails is not very clean
If it wasn’t so convenient to be able to set start/due dates, track time, and have a task list, I would switch back to HelpScout because of this.
(1) When I forward emails to FreshDesk, it keeps the “Fwd:” in the subject line. This means that I have go in and delete that from the subject line of the ticket.
(2) I am carbon copied on all replies for the tickets I forward into the system. Since these tickets are also assigned to me, I get a duplicate email notification that a reply to a ticket was made and it clutters up my Inbox again. This might not be so bad if I was part of a large support team and wanted to keep track of the status of tickets I forward, but it would be great if in my account, I could choose to not be cc’d.
CON: No multiple brand feature included
Unlike with HelpScout, the package does not allow you to create multiple mailboxes to separate support for different brands. You would need to buy another FreshDesk account.
In my business, this can be a bit frustrating. I do run multiple brands together. I use tags to identify which ticket goes with which brand but it is hard to have separate views of just one brand or the other.
ApolloHQ – Full Featured CRM, Project Management Tool, and Support
I used ApolloHQ for a couple of months for all my ticket support and for a couple of development projects and it rocks! It has a full featured CRM that can handle prospects and opportunities and a robust project management tool.
You could use ApolloHQ as a simplistic ticket support system. You could forward an email to the system and it can create a task to be done. But it isn’t as easy.
It just didn’t suit my business which really runs 90% of the time on client requests via email. For my web development projects, I do need something more robust than a ticketing system. I use Google Drive and a spreadsheet to keep track of all I have to do. This works for my small business.
We picked FreshDesk*
It really comes down to what fits. FreshDesk* is simple and fits this one-woman operation.
For you, I recommend trying out several and seeing what fits best. Not two business are the same when it comes to how they operate and what systems they already have in place. For example, if you are using a full-service CRM, you only need ticket support – anything more would be overlap.