Finding a help desk ticketing system can be tricky.

With so many options and features to consider, overwhelm can quickly sidetrack a straightforward process with a clear endgame. Taking a step-by-step approach to choosing the ideal help desk ticketing system helps everyone stay on track — and, eventually, benefit from the tools they need to do the work they love.

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The ultimate guide to choosing a help desk ticketing system

We’ll walk you through the best questions to ask and outline some extra tips that will help guide you to the best support ticket system for your business. Just remember: There’s no right answer. The end is inherent in the means; investing in a thorough selection process ensures a great investment for your team.

At Help Scout, we intentionally don’t use the term “help desk ticketing systems” or refer to “tickets” at all. We believe that customer support interactions are conversations between real people. We want every aspect of our work, especially our customer messaging platform, to support this personal approach rather than undermine it with words.

For better or worse, though, people use the language of “tickets” and “ticketing systems” when they’re looking for the best solution. Our intention is to give them the following information to consider, and our hope is that whichever solution they choose, it’s one that puts people first!

What is a help desk ticketing system?

A help desk ticketing system is your support team’s toolkit. It gives a team the everyday tools they need to do their job well, from answering tickets to collaborating with other team members. Different systems flex a range of capabilities. You can choose a help desk that includes all of your requirements or one that serves as a hub for integrations that collectively form your support stack.

Either way, a help desk is the center of your support team. If your team was running a ship, it would be the “bridge” or command center. If you were in a kitchen, it would be your oven and stovetop. It’s where you work every day, whether you’re a customer support professional, manager, or support leader.

As you consider whether to invest in a help desk, appoint a specific team to manage the selection process unless you’re a very tight team. A manager or senior leader, plus two high-performing support professionals and a junior-level customer service professional can bring balance to the conversation. Together, they can assess whether you need a change and which direction to move in if the time is right.

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How can a help desk ticketing system help you?

A help desk ticketing system helps you transform potential challenges or complaints into wonderful customer experiences. If your team members have the training and support they need to offer empathetic, effective, and efficient customer support, they can leverage a help desk to transform retention rates — and collectively take ownership over a specific aspect of the revenue stream.

Without a help desk, a small team can still provide great support. But it’s difficult to go above and beyond for customers at scale and even more challenging to measure the success of the team’s efforts. A support ticket system isn’t just a tool for support professionals; it’s also the way that managers and business leaders can assess and optimize the customer experience. If you want to leverage a support-driven philosophy to drive growth, your team needs technology that empowers a better way of helping people.

Think about the kind of information support professionals receive every day through a help desk. Not only can it centralize indispensable metrics about individual and support team performance, but it’s also a treasure trove of data that can empower every aspect of a company, from product through sales.

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Just imagine, for example, that you roll out a change to one of your most beloved products. If your help desk experiences a flood of negative customer feedback, that’s business intelligence that would otherwise be difficult to analyze and present in a digestible form. In this scenario, support leaders can share clear, up-to-date data that leaders can use to realign or fortify their decisions moving forward. In other words, a help desk also becomes the catalyst for cross- department collaboration and ensures a company’s alignment with the needs of customers.

Who can use a help desk ticketing system?

If your day-to-day efforts on a support team are not translating to a positive customer and employee experience, it’s time to consider a new help desk. Everyone in this industry works hard. But when there’s a genuine gap between the aspirations of a company and the ability of a support team to serve people well, it can cause high employee turnover and low customer satisfaction.

Most small support teams start with a simple, cheap solution like a shared inbox or an email distribution list. It seems to work well until your business starts to scale. All it takes is one request for help falling through the cracks for you to lose the trust of an important customer.

That’s where a help desk can come in. If you can empower your team with a support stack that gives them transparency, insights, accountability, and the space to collaborate, they actually have a shot at making people’s lives better. Here are some indicators that your team is ready for a new way of doing things:

Happiness Report

8 signs you’re ready for a help desk ticketing system

01 Support tickets keep slipping through the cracks
02 Team members respond to the same ticket
03 You don’t know who has been working on a complicated support issue
04 You have no support-driven insights into how happy your customers are
05 Morale is low; your best support pros are frustrated with the current system
06 Team feedback is completely subjective and is not connected to metrics
07 It’s impossible to collaborate in real time with transparency into tickets
08 Your boss wants you to uplevel or bring consistency to the customer experience

The selection process shouldn’t just be an audit of the technology your support team uses and what they need moving forward. It should include a larger assessment of what’s working and what’s not working with the overall strategy. Great tools are only helpful if they’re implemented with a customer-first approach that values the work of support teams.

Use this process as a time to include your team members and dig into their experiences on the job. They know better than anyone else what makes customers happy and how their day-to-day can ladder up to a stand-out customer experience. Ask these support pros to be as granular as possible about what’s not working, so that you can choose a system and build processes that transform those tangible pain points. The best part? A good help desk will give you the data to track these quantifiable improvements, so you can pivot and realign as you go.

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What to look for in a help desk ticketing system

Matchmaking your team’s needs to your first-choice support ticket system ensures that your team can boost the customer experience through each and every one of their actions. As you look at options, consider how your customers prefer to interact with your company. Do they prefer to call or email? How soon do they expect a response from your team? Would you be comfortable using self-service tools?

Even if your current system doesn’t have an easy way to answer these questions, your selection team can sift through a shared inbox and speak to the team about it. If your customers could wave a magic wand and have their needs met, what would that look like?

The same way you dig into the priorities of your customers, you need to assess the needs of your team. Make a short list of must-include capabilities or functionalities of the help desk or support stack.

These questions are a jumping-off point that can help you assess each feature your team wants to prioritize:

  • What value does this feature add to our customers and to our team?
  • Do we need to connect this feature to other products or services? If so, is that possible?
  • Do we need to adhere to any technical requirements, like data formatting?
  • Are there legal requirements we have to meet as a team (e.g., data storage)?

As you walk through this process, remember that a help desk doesn’t have to include every feature on your list. Sometimes, the ideal fit is a customizable support stack with a core help desk tool that integrates with other apps and products to build your dream solution.

We recommend that support teams look for 3 key attributes across these different features and a support stack:

01

Transparency

A good support ticket system makes it clear when a support professional is already working on a ticket, so customers don’t receive multiple messages. In Help Scout, Traffic Cop indicators show you who is working on what issues in real time.
02

Accountability

The ability to assign tickets means that nothing gets lost in the shuffle, especially when a team member takes time off or exits the company. Help Scout builds consistency by giving managers the oversight to assign or reassign tickets as needed.
03

Insights

Insights into your team’s performance and customers’ happiness can transform the way you do things. Help Scout prioritizes easy-to-use reporting that include the busiest days and times for support requests, the most popular topics people write in about, and opportunities to automate processes.

Incorporate these three overarching priorities into your list of features. From there, you can begin filtering through available help desks and integrations on the market. Assessing product details is important, but you would benefit from reading through customer stories first. By starting with the stories, you can see how a help desk works in real time. Look for solutions that align with your own priorities before getting into the nitty-gritty details of the product.

Making a final choice

When the team arrives at a short list, you get to have some fun: Take each help desk ticketing system for a test drive. Ask everyone to work with each help desk from the perspective of both a customer and a team member. Collaborate on “fake” tickets and get a feel for how this system would affect your ability to work together. You’ll also want to pay close attention to the reporting capabilities — both the level of detail and the usability of the metrics are important.

Here are some questions to consider:

  • How can this help desk scale with a growing team?
  • How does the customer experience align with your brand? (In Help Scout, for example, customers only receive personal emails.)
  • How comfortable is your team using it? (Look for details like quick load times and great search capability.)
  • How detailed and user-friendly is the reporting data?
  • What is the support experience like? Chances are, the best help desk ticketing system also offers teams great support.
  • How useful is it for managers?

Following these steps will bring you to a help desk ticketing system that elevates your team’s ability to make people’s lives brighter every day. By giving you a dynamic tool to prevent internal challenges and solve customer problems, a great help desk can be the key to retention and growth.

Elizabeth Wellington

Elizabeth Wellington

Liz writes about business, creativity and making meaningful work. Say hello on Twitter or through her website.

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