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What Is A Help Desk, Why Do You Need It, And What Features To Look For

A call center group with headsets providing help desk support and seeking essential features.

Many people mistakenly believe that a help desk is a customer relationship management (CRM) tool or a help desk is just a live chat. That makes them end up choosing the wrong help desk software for their business.

That’s why we need to talk about a help desk. Seriously. 

In today’s post, I’ll give you a clear understanding of “what is a help desk.” You’ll also learn:

  • The differences between a help desk, a CRM, and a live chat
  • Why you need a help desk solution for your business
  • Essential features of a help desk so you can know how to choose the right one

Let’s go!

What is a help desk?

In the real world, a help desk is a place where you can go to get answers to your questions, such as an IT help desk. It offers a single point-of-contact for you to get assistance. But in the modern, virtual world, a help desk looks a lot different. 

A help desk (also a help desk ticketing system or help desk software) refers to a technology space where your team members work together to manage, organize, respond to, and report on customer requests (or tickets).

Here is an example of Gorgias help desk ticketing system

Is a help desk the same as a CRM?

The answer is No.  

CRM stands for customer relationship management. As its name implies, CRM software is a system for managing relationships with customers. It’s one central place that helps organize all the details of your leads and customers. Using this system, you can get a full picture of every customer and understand the status of every customer relationship. 

Because a CRM focuses on sales and accounts, it typically doesn’t have functionalities for ticket management—which is the most fundamental part of a help desk. 

This is the reason why if you’re looking for help desk systems, you shouldn’t choose Salesforce, Zendesk, or Kustomer. These platforms are more about CRM than help desk management. 

Is a help desk the same as a live chat?

(Again) The answer is No.

A live chat is an online messaging app that allows you to chat with website visitors in real-time. It’s a great alternative to phone calls or emails because all you or your visitors need to do is to type the message inside the chat box and send it. 

Here is an example of Gorgias live chat:

As you can see, a live chat focuses on messaging on one channel: your website. It doesn’t consider customer requests on other channels like email, phone, and social media. Apart from this, a live chat is often just a component of help desk software. 

Benefits of using help desk software 

Using the right help desk software can make a whole lot different to your end-users and business performance. More specifically:

Quick response times:

Help desk software like Gorgias allows you to answer customers’ questions quickly. This helps you create a good impression and maintain a long-lasting relationship with them. 

No missed or lost tickets

A help desk support tool gathers all of your customer conversations from multiple channels to one single dashboard. So, you can be sure you’ll never miss or lose any tickets. 

Enhanced agent productivity

With a help desk, you can eliminate tedious tasks, automate workflows, and improve communication among your team. Its reporting and dashboard features also give you a full picture of what your team is doing well and what needs to improve. Hence, you can adjust your work process or provide instant training to enhance skills for agents. 

Improved business operations

A help desk app allows you to streamline your business operations. You can meet the SLAs (Service Level Agreements) and prioritize specific actions as and when required. 

Better bottom line

Ecommerce help desk software like Gorgias allows you to start a chat with customers during their decision-making process. This way, you can guide them through the buying journey and eventually checkout.

That’s pretty amazing, right? You’d better use a help desk right now.  

But don’t rush because it can cause you to choose one that doesn’t help your needs. Let’s move to learn which features you should look for in a help desk. 

Essential features of a good help desk app

Here are the key features of a help desk ticketing system. Use it to choose the right help desk that best suits your business needs.

1. Multichannel communication 

Your potential customers now want to talk with you from everywhere. They don’t stick with emails or phones anymore. So your chosen help desk should support popular channels, including:

  • Email
  • SMS messaging
  • phone 
  • Live chat
  • Social media like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram

2. Ticket management

Efficient ticket management and ticket tracking are the foundation of any help desk software. It must offer you the capabilities to effectively organize and monitor customer tickets at any point of the day. 

Features to note:

  • Creating, closing, re-opening, submitting, and resolving tickets
  • Assigning and reassigning help desk tickets 
  • Ticket routing, categories, and tags 
  • Public and private actions on tickets 
  • Canned responses, rule-based automated messages 

3. Self-service portal

A self-service knowledge base is an online library that provides customers with answers and helpful information. 

When a customer goes to a troubleshooting knowledge base/FAQ, they expect to find a solution to their technical problem. That’s why you should choose a help desk that allows you to design a top-notch self-service portal.

Features to note:

  • Knowledge base articles
  • Community forums
  • View and submit tickets
  • Customization options 

4. Automation capabilities

A good help desk should give you automation capabilities to reduce redundant tasks while making it easier for you to build better relationships with your customers. 

Features to note:

  • Assign responsibility to specific support agents
  • Add internal notes based on private discussions
  • Monitor support-ticket status and update conversations
  • Avoid duplicate replies (collisions) in real-time
  • Escalate conversations to non-support departments
  • Enable canned responses to automate regularly sent messages

5. Reporting functionalities

Reporting tools allow you to measure, analyze, and track your customer experience and help desk agents’ performance. They should bring your metrics into a single, interactive dashboard you can use to make real decisions and improve your bottom line. 

Features to note

  • Ticket-related metrics like tickets created, replied, closed, sent, resolution time, response time, etc. 
  • Customer satisfaction like the percentage of how many surveys were responded to, the average rating, and rating distribution. 

6. Third-party integrations 

Is your chosen help desk easy to connect with other tools? Any pre-built integrations? How many different integrations are available, and how many of them do you actually need? Do you have to pay for integrations? These are the questions you should keep in mind when looking for a help desk tool. 

Integrations to note depend on your needs. For example, if you want an eCommerce help desk, you should choose the software that has tight integration with ecommerce platforms and apps you’re using. In this case, Gorgias is the best choice.

Meanwhile, if you’re a large IT team, you may want to consider help desk software like Jira Service Desk because it provides many IT-focused third-party integrations. 

Final thought: if you have an ecommerce business, you probably need a help desk 

Many businesses have been using a help desk, and the results are amazing. Their customer satisfaction is higher, and so is agent performance. Some even report a higher conversion rate since using help desk software for customer support.

I hope that this article helps you understand clearly what a help desk is, how it’s beneficial to your business, and what you should expect from a help desk. Use it to choose the best help desk software that serves you well.

In case you want to try Gorgias, join our buyout program and get full access to all features at almost no cost.

Lavender is a content writer passionate about SaaS and e-commerce industries. She's obsessed with research, writing, and reading to publish high-value content for online store owners.

Special thanks to our friends at Gorgias for their insights on this topic.
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