Anyone making decisions for a support team will need to choose a new tool for their team at some point.

Whether you’ve outgrown a shared mailbox or found the current tool is lacking key features, it’s important to keep the interruption to a minimum when making the change. Before considering the specific features you should look for in a help desk, let’s take a look at why you need one, and also provide you with some talking points to convince the decision-makers that it’s worth the investment.

Help desk software isn’t just an upgraded email inbox. It’s a tool that works behind the scenes to manage your incoming support tickets across email addresses, even if the email your customer receives looks just like one they’d get from a friend. While these tools are commonly known as support ticketing software, Help Scout takes the friendly email one step further. Instead of tickets, we call customer interactions “conversations” to highlight the focus on being human in support instead of cranking out robotic replies all day.

The right ticket management software will help your team with collaboration, efficiency, automation, prioritizing incoming interactions, analysis, and beyond. While free help desk software may be tempting, chances are your team is likely to outgrow the available features at some point. Be sure the one you choose allows for growth and will scale with your organization.

10 key features to consider before choosing ticketing software

Modern help desks let you communicate more easily with your customers, track the metrics that’ll help you understand the demands of the work, and connect you with the technology your team needs to be successful each day. Here are 10 features you should be looking at to help narrow down the best option.

1. Ease of use

Before committing to any help desk, it’s essential to ensure it’ll be easy for your team to use. A brand new tool always requires an adjustment, and transitioning the entire team isn’t a simple decision, but some will serve your team better than others and are worth the effort. As you make your decision, consider the ways your team successfully works now. Do many team members use keyboard shortcuts to efficiently move through support conversations? Your new tool better support them! Anyone who’s worked on a computer long term knows reducing mouse-use can be essential for keeping wrist pain to a minimum.

Is the interface intuitive and simple to use? Can you make workflow changes easily without contacting an administrator or your account manager? Before making a final decision on a new ticket management software, check out a demo or trial for your top few help desk options and verify which one will be the best fit for your team in the long run.

2. Customization and integration

When choosing your ticketing software, it’s important to consider the other tools you’ll be using alongside it, as well as your organization’s particular needs. Look for support ticket software that allows for integration with your must-have tools, as well as options to customize your set up to best fit how you’ll use it. Customizations to areas like the dashboard, reports, and self-service area will help you provide exactly the type of support you want for your customers (and your internal stakeholders, too!).

3. Security

With all the private customer information stored in your help desk — along with a full team of people accessing it — security is essential. Look for a tool with role-based permissions to limit access to specific areas to only those who need it. For extra protection when logging in — in addition to encouraging strong passwords for every team member — a help desk with two-factor authentication will prevent unauthorized access.

Depending on the type of data you store and your geographic location, you may need a help desk that is HIPAA compliant or that complies with GDPR requirements too.

4. Support for the tool

Before diving into new help desk ticketing software, check out what kind of customer support the vendor offers your team as you get set up and throughout the lifetime of using their product. If install, setup, and troubleshooting issues are all on you, you might want to keep looking for a better option. Some places may provide different levels of support based on your plan level or charge for full assistance, so be sure to dig into the details and factor any additional costs into your overall budget. Send in a test email or start a support chat, and see what kind of response you get back!

5. Collaboration

Whether your support team is made up of two people or 200, your help desk must enable successful collaboration between them all. One of the reasons we shy away from the term “ticket management software” in Help Scout is that the term “ticket” feels like a transaction between two parties, while a “conversation” instantly feels more collaborative. When you think of each support interaction as a conversation with the customer, it feels more natural to invite more people into the discussion.

Look for a tool that will help keep everyone on the same page and prevent any customer conversations from getting lost in the queue. With features meant to specifically foster teamwork and communication, a help desk will assist you in bringing the right team members into any conversation, keep everyone informed, and better serve your customers. Help desks may include collaboration features like warnings when two agents are on the same conversation (to avoid sending confusing double replies to the customer) and the ability to @mention other team members in notes as you work together to solve problems and keep each other in the know.

6. Saved replies

Your support team likely gets lots of similar queries, especially from newer users or regarding general account information. Craft saved replies to handle the more generic and predictable questions quickly and consistently. Simple issues, like password resets or questions about a specific product feature can often easily be answered with a saved reply that’s just a few clicks away and only requires minimal agent time. Your support ticket software should make staying on top of your queues easier for your entire team, so a feature for storing frequent replies (that also allows for personalization) is a must!

7. Self-service support options

One piece of providing one-on-one customer support is knowing when to get out of the way and provide your customers with an option for self-service support. Instead of answering the same simple questions over and over, try to help your customers help themselves by setting up a knowledge base or FAQs they can access directly. Since 81% of customers will try to help themselves before reaching out to your support team, providing them with the information to do so will be immediately beneficial to your team, by both reducing the number of incoming questions in the queues that require an agent’s time and by satisfying your customers more quickly. Not only is offering self-service support beneficial to your customers, but the time saved providing one-on-one help will be beneficial to your organization’s bottom line, too.

8. Automation

Like self-service support, automation can help your team get back to customers with personalized assistance more quickly by completing the more mundane sorting tasks for them. When looking for things to automate, consider workflows that will automatically send incoming messages meant for other teams to the correct queue and sort out the most urgent support requests for a quicker reply. An automation to update a batch of users all interested in the same topic may be useful, too. For example, if three dozen customers emailed you over the past few months pointing out a bug in your software and now your development team has deployed a fix, why not update the customers? If you’ve tagged each conversation about this bug as the messages came in, once the change is done, you can send an email alerting the appropriate customers that the bug has been fixed.

Whether your support team currently uses automations or wants to in the future, your new support ticket software must include that option. Even if your incoming queries are manageable now, as your customer base grows, so will the questions, and you’ll be glad for the chance to help customers more quickly and organize your queues without your agents having to perform every little task manually.

9. Tagging

No support ticket software would be complete without the ability to organize your customer conversations. Beyond sorting them into queues for managing replies more efficiently, the ability to tag conversations for further organization, automations, and future reporting will be a big help too. If you use automations to sort conversations — or even reply to them automatically — tags can help make it happen. Tags can also be used to help produce your reports for keeping track of progress and measuring your success.

10. Reporting and metrics

Anyone trying to track the output and success of a support team knows metrics and reports are essential. Your new help desk ticketing software must make it possible to deeply understand the quality of your support. It’s worth figuring out who makes it easiest to uncover these insights as you decide on a new tool before you trap yourself in an endless cycle of difficult-to-understand reports and unwieldy spreadsheets.

A help desk can help you use metrics to figure out your customers’ most frequently asked about topics, your team’s busiest hours, response times, which saved replies get the most use, and how many customers access the knowledge base articles — and which ones.

But help desks don’t stop at simply collecting and tracking metrics. Next, you’ll need those metrics turned into reports. Look for support ticket software that creates reports you can work with and share with those around you. Check for options including things like advanced filtering, the ability to save custom views for repeated use, and export options in case you need to access your data outside of the software in a spreadsheet instead.

Find the best ticketing software for your team

Choosing a new ticketing software for your entire support team can be a nerve-wracking prospect. You want to get it right, and you certainly don’t want to be stuck making another change again soon because the first one you picked wasn’t quite right. To avoid the headaches, be sure to check out each of the 10 features above — plus any specifics you’ve thought of for your organization — and rank each option before making the move. Once you’ve narrowed it down to your top few options, check out their demos and set up a trial to have some of your team members give it a try.

By carefully considering ticket management software and finding the best fit for your organization, you’ll set your team up for success and delight your customers every day.

Sarah Blackstock

Sarah Blackstock

Sarah is a freelance writer specializing in technology and customer support and a former Happiness Engineer at Automattic. Connect with her on Twitter and LinkedIn.