Help Desk Tips is a weekly series featuring best practices and tips from support professionals on optimizing your help desk and support department.

Right behind a good memory and Post-It notes, Search is the quickest way to find customers, conversations and knowledge base articles in your help desk account.

And, while a quick type-search-term-and-press-enter is often the default, you can increase your productivity by searching more efficiently, locating the info you’re looking for faster than having go through pages of results.

Search Hack #1: Search for exact phrases

Support professionals are all too familiar with customer query deja-vu: You receive an email with a complex problem, and you vaguely remember answering something like it in the past, but you don’t have that reply as any easy reference.

“The times in support I’ve been the most grateful for a robust search feature are when I need an answer to a complicated email, remember I answered a similar email before, but can only remember one small detail about it,” says Help Scout’s Emily Triplett Lentz.

The fix: Do an exact phrase search to surface the conversation so you can repurpose some of your original answer. Just type a phrase inside quotes “like this” into the your help desk’s search bar to find the conversation you’re looking for. Then create a saved reply so the answer is more readily available next time.

“I find the previous email using the weird term I can remember, then create a saved reply to make it easier on myself next time,” says Emily.

Search Hack #2: Apply and/or logic

Using and/or logic is helpful in creating specific workflows, like tagging conversations that contain both “billing” and/or “urgent” to help your team prioritize their work.

Using and/or logic in search

Using a space between “operator” terms only provides results that contain both operators, and using a comma within an operator triggers results that are either/or.

Time Hack #3: Exclude -a word

If you want to exclude specific words from your results, add a dash before those words. For example, to find all conversations about integrations except those relating to GDocs:

Exclude a word in search

That’s it! All the benefits of subtraction, without having to wonder if you have to borrow from the tens column.

Time Hack #4: Use Timeframe filters

As you scroll down the Search page, you’ll see there are options to get even more granular with the results — like adding filters to narrow down searches by date range.

In Help Scout, you can do this by scrolling down to Timeframe on the left sidebar and choosing from the following:

  • after (for results after a certain date)
  • before (for results before a certain date)
  • between (for results between two dates)
  • on (yep…this is for results on a specific day!)
Search workflow

Help team leaders could use timeframe filtering to quickly review their team members’ work during a particular day or week, which is super handy for continual quality improvement.

BONUS: Fixing failed searches

Get ahead of the queue by looking at what customers are searching for but not finding and creating docs with the answer! Fix your failed searches»

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Nadia Basil

Nadia Basil

Nadia is a product marketer and Help Scout alum.