Does Your E-Commerce Business Need a Help Desk?

Justin Golschneider | August 27, 2019

Not every e-tailer needs e-commerce help desk software. It’s rarely (if ever) free, it takes time to set up, and it forces teams to change how they work. Sometimes, it isn’t worth the resources it eats.

But only sometimes.

In most cases, a help desk will save time, money, and keyboard-sore fingers. Whether it will do that for you depends on the way your team serves its customers.

What is e-commerce help desk software?

A help desk serves as a customer contact platform for all your customer service. For an e-commerce company, this might mean pulling in information from several sources:

  • Emails from your online store
  • Messages from marketplaces like Amazon and eBay
  • Phone call logs
  • Live chats

You can help all your customers from the same browser window, and all support records end up in the same place.

Help desks also come with tools to make support easier. For example, you can create a library of saved replies so you don’t have to retype the same answer 20 times a day. Your customers never asked you to sacrifice your carpal tunnels, after all!

Now you know why help desk software is useful. But do you need it?

Using a help desk means learning a new system. That takes time and effort, which your team may be unenthusiastic about investing.

You may not need all the tools included, either. Many bells and whistles are nothing more than unwanted noise.

Ask yourself these five questions before putting in your time and money. The more often you answer yes, the more likely an ecommerce help desk will pay off for your business.

1. Do you need to make multichannel support easier?

How many support channels do you use? Definitely email, right? How about eBay messaging? Amazon messaging? Chat? Others?

If you’re dealing with more than one, you’re providing multichannel support. Almost every ecommerce business does. Since different channels have different interfaces, passwords, sets of tools, and message archives, they tend to get isolated from the rest of the business.

Siloing each channel like this can cause huge problems:

  • Inconsistent support across different channels (which can drive off 73% of your customers)
  • Difficulty prioritizing requests
  • The need to create and maintain redundant systems
  • Trouble collecting and analyzing support data
  • Longer training times for employees who serve multiple channels
  • Slow responses as agents switch from screen to screen to screen and back again

A help desk puts everything in one place and eliminates all the above issues. Most help desks support email by default and can pull in other channels with the help of upgrades and apps. For example, Help Scout’s Beacon adds live chat, and ChannelReply enables support for eBay and Amazon.

Channels are what make e-commerce help desks different from run-of-the-mill customer service software. Not every program works with marketplaces like eBay. A good e-commerce support platform will allow you to integrate information from outside sources. Make sure the tools you want would work with the channels you support.

When you can go from flipping through browser tabs all day to answering everything on a single screen, it’s magic.

2. Would a help desk save you time on replies?

More than 40% of your customers expect their emails answered within six hours. Most companies fall far short of that demand. In fact, a 2018 study by SuperOffice showed the average response time to be over 12 hours.

Take a look at the support tools you use right now. Do they make it possible to meet response time expectations? If not, could you make better use of them?

Take Amazon as an example. Their email templates let you save answers to common questions and enter them with two clicks, much like saved replies in a help desk. Are you taking advantage of tools like these, or are they getting ignored?

A few hours learning and setting up the tools available to you might turn into that much time saved every week. Make sure you know what you have in the shed before driving to the hardware store.

When you understand what you already have, check whether a help desk would be a step up. Most will let you:

Few other support systems offer so many time-savers. In addition, help desks make these tools available across all of your supported channels, not just one.

Would these make customer service easier for your team, or do you already have all the tools you need to reply as fast as possible?

3. Do you have trouble telling who helped which customer?

Have you ever looked at a teammate’s response and wondered, “Who wrote this?” Maybe the responder was less than professional. Maybe the author had some information that you don’t, and you’d like to pick their brain. Whatever the case, you need to know who sent that message, but there’s no way to tell.

Some support systems (like eBay’s) don’t track who wrote which response. Agents can always write in a signature, but that slows them down and invites inconsistencies.

Help desks provide separate accounts for everyone on your team, logging who wrote which reply and when. They also make it easy to view all of a given agent’s responses. No more guessing.

4. Are support records scattered?

Collecting datapoints on support can feel like chasing marbles down a hill. Every time you pick one up, others roll further away as more requests come bowling in. If you’re dealing with multichannel support, it gets even worse as they bounce down side roads and skitter into the bushes. For a time you may keep up using a spreadsheet like the one below, but it very quickly becomes unsustainable.

Here are some signs your team may be chasing too many marbles:

  • Customers write in about a prior request, but agents can’t locate it and have to ask them to re-explain the situation
  • Team members often ask each other for info they can’t find on their own
  • Large-scale problems go unrecognized for too long because patterns are hard to identify
  • When the support manager is asked to provide a statistic, they have no information

You might have little trouble if you only provide support from one email address. However, if you have messages in half a dozen systems, you’ll be rolling down that hill like Princess Buttercup.

Help desks put all your marbles in a nice, level box so they can’t roll away from you. With all your customer service in one place, all your records are in one place as well.

Most help desks will even sort your datapoints with deep search options. They make it easy to find every message from a given person, whether that person is an agent or a customer. More advanced features like Custom Fields allow you to track details unique to your business, such as SKUs or shipment tracking IDs.

Do whatever it takes to avoid losing your marbles.

5. Are you unable to make important decisions due to a lack of data?

OK, so you’ve collected your basic info. You have your marbles. Now what? Does that data mean anything, or are you going to have to spend some quality time with Excel and PowerPoint?

Help desk reporting tools can gather info and crunch numbers fast. Some can show details like your busiest times and days, average first reply times, and customer satisfaction statistics.

This actionable data powers smart decisions. You’ll know when your customers need you most, where there’s room for improvement, and whether new strategies are working. If you’re sick of making decisions in the dark or spending hours in spreadsheets, a help desk will … well … help.

Recommended Reading

Do you need an e-commerce help desk?

The value of an e-commerce help desk will differ for every team. Your team has to decide: Will this software simply be an added expense and headache, or will it be a better way to communicate with your customers?

If you answered yes to the questions above, you may be a great candidate for an e-commerce help desk, and Help Scout is here for you when you’re ready.

Justin Golschneider

Justin has worked in online customer service since 2014. He serves as VP of Customer Success for ChannelReply and lives in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom.