What Is a Helpdesk, Why You Need One, and Features To Look For

Jordan Miller
Jordan Miller
Last updated on 
September 19, 2022
February 23, 2021
What Is a Helpdesk, Why You Need One, and Features To Look For

We’ve all heard that customer experience is the new battleground for businesses. Between the rising costs of customer acquisition and the huge benefits of loyal customers, your ability to quickly satisfy customers is key to customer retention and long-term growth.

Some small businesses manage customer service requests directly on whichever support channel customers use. But this approach doesn’t support growth because you’ll lose hours each week shuffling between email, Facebook, and Instagram (or wherever your customers contact you) and copy/pasting information between platforms. Plus, you won’t have access to time-saving automation features and highly requested self-service options — more on those below. 

In this article, we’ll explain the top benefits of using a helpdesk and provide tips to help you use this tool effectively to improve customer experience — which will help you retain more customers. Keep reading to find out why it pays to become part of the 58% of businesses that actively use a helpdesk.

What is a helpdesk?

A helpdesk is commonly known as a place where customers go to get answers to their questions. In the ecommerce world, businesses use helpdesk software to help their customers with issues and questions surrounding products and orders.

Helpdesk software tools allow teams to collaborate on managing, organizing, responding to, and reporting on customer requests (or tickets). This is particularly important since there are several key metrics to track relating to customer tickets, such as first response time (FRT), average resolution time, unresolved tickets, and customer satisfaction (among others). These metrics can help you better understand how your customer service team is performing and gives you solid data — versus relying solely on customer feedback. 

It’s important to note that not all helpdesks are created equal. Helpdesks are a broad category that can range from simple ticketing systems to all-in-one customer service platforms that offer help centers, self-service options, automation workflows, and robust reporting. Some helpdesks, like Gorgias, are built for specific industries — our helpdesk is for ecommerce merchants:

Types of helpdesks 

Helpdesk ticketing systems are crucial for simplifying service management. It becomes very chaotic to manage increasing support tickets as your business grows without a centralized helpdesk ticketing system in your ecommerce tech stack.

But a customer support team needs a very different type of helpdesk than an IT department. 

Here are the main categories of helpdesks:

Types of helpdesks: cloud-based, on-site, enterprise, open-source, internal IT helpdesks.

Digital or cloud-based helpdesks

Digital helpdesk providers host your helpdesk on their server and you pay them either a monthly or annual fee to use it. This option is ideal for small- and medium-sized businesses that don’t have an in-house IT team to build software from scratch. You avoid the hassle (and expense) of hosting and maintaining the helpdesk software yourself. 

If you’re looking for a way to provide better customer support, you’ll probably want this kind of helpdesk.

On-site helpdesks

This is the DIY option for helpdesks. Your company could purchase the software license for a helpdesk software tool and then host the software on your servers. The greatest benefit of this type of helpdesk is that you have complete control over data and security. That said, most cloud-based helpdesks are actually safer thanks to advanced security features.

As the world moves increasingly to the cloud, on-site helpdesks are fading into the past. Most organizations that keep on-site helpdesks are government offices or law firms that don’t trust external servers with sensitive data — and have IT infrastructure to protect the data themselves.

Enterprise or large organization helpdesks

Enterprise helpdesks can either be digital or on-site, but what distinguishes them from other types of helpdesks is that they are specifically built for large organizations. Usually, they are far more customized than an out-of-the-box solution and come with much more dedicated support (and higher pricing).

Unless you know you need enterprise software, this type of helpdesk is probably not for you.

Open-source helpdesks

An open-source helpdesk allows developers to freely access the source code without having to pay for proprietary software. This type of helpdesk is often free, but you’ll need an IT team to build and customize the software to suit your company’s needs. It’s also important to note that this type of helpdesk is more susceptible to customer data breaches and outages. Plus, open-source helpdesks don’t get the same level of dedicated support as an option you purchase.

Internal IT helpdesks

Some companies, usually larger enterprises like hospitals and universities, set up an internal IT helpdesk to help employees solve technical issues. Instead of conducting service management through email, an IT services team might set up a portal with self-service information (like troubleshooting guides) and an easy way to submit support requests to get extra help from an IT support member. 

Just like your customer support team, a helpdesk organizes support requests and saves time for the point of contact by collecting incoming requests and deflecting avoidable ones with self-service.

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Is a helpdesk the same as a CRM?

CRM vs. Helpdesk: sales and marketing tool vs. customer service tool.

No, a helpdesk isn’t the same as a CRM.

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

A CRM typically doesn’t have functionalities for ticket management because its primary focus is on data from sales and accounts. But ticket management is a fundamental component of a helpdesk — hence the difference between both software solutions. Platforms such as Salesforce are sometimes confused as helpdesk tools, but their focus is primarily CRM, not helpdesk management.

Strong helpdesk platforms like Gorgias do have some features of CRMs, like aggregating all interactions with a given customer in one location alongside loyalty data, marketing campaign responses, etc.

Is a helpdesk the same as a live chat?

No, but some helpdesks also include live chat software. 

Live chat tools are typically hosted on websites and allow website visitors to communicate with a brand in real time. Helpdesk software pulls customer requests from multiple places such as email, phone, and social media. Live chat is a component of more robust helpdesk software, but not vice versa.

Here’s an example: Gorgias is a helpdesk that includes live chat functionality, meaning all Gorgias users can install a live chat widget to their website in just a few clicks. Once installed, live chat becomes a channel within the helpdesk, so you can answer live chat messages, emails, social media DMs, and more without leaving the Gorgias helpdesk platform:

Live chat with Gorgias's helpdesk software.

Related: Our list of the best live chat apps on the market.

Is a helpdesk the same as a service desk?

Most organizations don’t need to distinguish between a service desk and a helpdesk. They’re often used interchangeably to describe a tool used to centralize service management and improve the end user’s support experience. And, very few companies have both. 

Technically, a service desk is a bit broader than a helpdesk. While a helpdesk’s core feature is to help you quickly collect and respond to quick-fix customer support issues, a service desk could also include more account management features and feature requests. However, with today’s helpdesks, you can also achieve many of those same goals. 

If you’re looking for a tool to help organize and streamline your customer service efforts, we recommend sticking with the word helpdesk. Or you can call it a customer service platform, which better represents the breadth of features you can expect from modern-day tools.  

Benefits of using helpdesk software

Above all else, helpdesk software helps you improve customer satisfaction and leads to more happy customers for your brand. Below, we’ll explore five of the most significant benefits of incorporating helpdesk software within your organization.

Better customer support helps your bottom line

Customer experience solutions have been proven to produce a 633% ROI increase over three years. Although helpdesks weren’t singled out in this Forrester study, the fact that they play a role in improving customer satisfaction means they also yield a positive ROI as part of the customer support function. 

As a reference point, the average merchant using Gorgias’s helpdesk sees about 5% higher revenue than before they used the tool.

If you want to learn more about the impact of helpdesks on your revenue, check out our guide to customer service ROI. Alternatively, see how Gorgias’ helpdesk resulted in over $9 million in revenue for BrüMate’s exclusively from the support team:

Customer Story: Brümate's CX Team Generating Millions Taking Care of Their Brücrew

Quick response times

66% of customers expect an immediate response whenever they reach out to a business. Helpdesk solutions organize customer queries in a way that makes it easier to prioritize these tickets, use automation to deflect repetitive and low-impact tickets, use templates to give customer service representatives a head start, and so much more to reduce customer wait time.  

See how our customer, Emuaid, used Gorgias’ automation functions to drastically reduce their first response time to 48 seconds (an 8% decrease). Since using Gorgias, their tickets are now centralized in one place, their customer support process is streamlined and supported by automation, and their agents are more productive than ever. Best of all? Customers spend far less time waiting for responses.

No missed or lost tickets

Things get messy when a company doesn‘t use helpdesk software — there‘s an unclear chain of support ticket handling. This frustrates customers because they have to repeat themselves to each new support agent they speak to. A helpdesk support tool organizes all your customer conversations from multiple channels into one dashboard and includes clear notifications about the number of open tickets, ensuring you never miss or lose any.

With Gorgias’s live statistics dashboard, you can even see which agents have open tickets in their queue, how many tickets they’ve closed this shift, and more:

Agent performance dashboard in Gorgias shows open vs. closed tickets and other information.

For example, Milligram was able to use Gorgias to integrate into their full tech stack to condense their customer service tickets into a single platform. The result was a 33% reduction in response time and an uptick in ticket volume

Comprehensive customer information in one ticket view

While not all helpdesks offer this functionality, seeing information about customers within the helpdesk is a game-changer for companies trying to offer fast, personalized support

For example, Gorgias shows all historical order information and every conversation and transaction a customer has had with your brand — including on social media. This context allows you to understand the customer’s past interactions with your brand (whether positive or negative), leading to a quicker, more productive conversation. You can also avoid asking customers to repeat information they’ve already told your brand. 

Gorgias's customer service platform shows customer information like past orders and conversations with your customer support team.

You can even bring in customer information from other ecommerce apps like Klaviyo and Yotpo in the ticket’s sidebar view.

Combined power from integrating your favorite apps

Your apps are stronger together. With the right helpdesk, you can install integrations that keep agents from having to switch between apps and copy/paste customer information. All the customer information they need is accessible from the helpdesk.

Gorgias integrates with other top ecommerce apps like Shopify, Yotpo, and more.

Check out Gorgias’ app store to learn about our integrations, which include many top ecommerce apps you probably already use.

Enhanced agent productivity and collaboration

HubSpot research finds that 86% of teams using a helpdesk report greater productivity. This isn’t surprising since helpdesk software:

  • Improves communication within a customer support team, because agents can privately comment on tickets
  • Allows your team to prioritize requests so that the most urgent and time-sensitive queries can be addressed first through a triage strategy
  • Enables your customer service team members to create an escalation plan so that urgent queries are given to the right teams

For instance, Death Wish Coffee Co. used Gorgias’ helpdesk tool to win back lost time for their support team. They had an ambitious goal of hitting a 200% growth target and saving 10 to 15 minutes helped them achieve the focus necessary to make that happen.

More consistency in your customer experience

Most helpdesk software allows you to turn your best messaging into templates for your whole team to use. This speeds up your helpdesk process, leading to a more reliable first response time, bringing consistency to your organization's CX, and helping your whole team (even the newer members) make a bigger impact by having the right words every time.

With Gorgias, templates are called Macros and include variables that personalize the message for every customer. Variables are like blanks that automatically pull customer information from your ecommerce platform. Personalized information without any copy/pasting:

Use templates and automations to provide personalized and efficient customer support with Gorgias.

Improved business operations

Helpdesk software helps you create more efficient business processes. All of your customer support metrics are brought into one system for better reporting, there’s a central dashboard that makes it easy to track customer issues, and all of this data can be used to better inform business decisions and optimize your support process. 

You’re also better able to meet your service level agreements (SLAs)t thanks to the accountability of clear reporting dashboards.

Check out how Gorgias’ revenue statistics board helps brands quickly understand and communicate their impact on the company’s revenue:

Track revenue generated by your customer service team with Gorgias.

Reclaimed agent time 

Automate repetitive requests, use templated responses to respond faster, and keep your agents from burning out so they can spend more time on the tickets that actually move your business forward. 

Princess Polly was able to do just that. Since using Gorgias, Princess Polly increased their customer service efficiency by 40%, lowered resolution time by 80% and first response time by 95%, and improved one-touch tickets by 15%. 

Trying to level up your customer service? Read our guide to essential ecommerce customer service best practices.

Essential helpdesk features: What makes for a good helpdesk?

A good helpdesk app must have six key features to make technical support easy for both your customers and your helpdesk team. Let’s look more closely at why these features are important.

1. Multichannel communication

Gorgias's omnichannel features help you centralize conversations with customers on all support channels, like email, social media, SMS, voice, and more.

Google, in partnership with Forrester research, conducted research on what businesses need to know about communicating with customers. They discovered that customers prefer asynchronous communication such as text, social media, third-party messaging, and chat through a mobile app when trying to communicate with a brand. The businesses that do well are those that provide multichannel communication (whether asynchronous or in real time). In fact, these businesses do so well that they are 3.4 times more likely to experience revenue growth, according to the study.

A good helpdesk app pulls all customer queries and interactions from multiple sources into one platform, including social media interactions. There‘s no need to make futile attempts at keeping tabs on communication across all these channels. So, your customers can communicate with you on the channels they‘re most comfortable with rather than being forced to submit support tickets.

Features to note:

Related reading: 8 customer service trends for the coming year

2. Ticket management

Manage tickets with your team of customer service representatives with Gorgias.

It‘s important to note that your helpdesk 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 helpdesk tickets 
  • Automated ticket routing, categories, and tags 
  • Public and private actions on tickets 
  • Canned responses, rule-based automated messages 
  • Comprehensive ticket views that show historical customer interactions

3. Self-service features

It might surprise you just how badly customers want self-service options: 88% of respondents to a recent Microsoft survey report that they expect businesses to have online self-service support portals like helpdesks. But with this being the case, it’s pretty bleak that only 42% of teams are using self-service helpdesks to resolve customer issues. 

For example, an FAQ page (or better yet, a fully built-out knowledge base) can give customers an easy way to find detailed answers to their questions — no need to reach out to customer support and wait for agents.

Here’s an example of a Help Center built with Gorgias, which is free with all plans:

Branch's knowledge base, built with Gorgias's Help Centers, lets customers manage their orders and read important policies.
Source: Branch

You can take self-service a step further by integrating self-service order management and quick, automated responses to your live chat widget to give customers instant answers and lessen the load on your agents:

Steve Madden's live chat features many customer self-service features.
Source: Steve Madden

Features to note:

  • Knowledge base articles
  • Community forums
  • Self-service options in the live chat widget
  • Customization options 

4. Automation capabilities

Helpdesks allow you to automate much of ticket communication. For instance, if a lot of customers need immediate help with issues already covered in your knowledge base, an automated response can direct them to the relevant resource — reducing the time spent on tickets. Even better, it can give them a personalized answer and take action based on the request — like updating their shipping address.

Use automation to trigger actions in Shopify.

These automation capabilities will also help you resolve simple customer issues faster and free your agents to work on higher-impact tickets. Here’s an example. Loop earplugs used Gorgias’ automation add-on and integrations to decrease response and resolution times, and reduce “where is my order?” queries from 17% to 5%.

A mix of automation and self-service can deflect up to a third of your incoming tickets, according to Gorgias data, freeing your agents up for the tickets that matter to your business.

Features to note:

  • Automatically tag and assign tickets based on the ticket’s contents or channel
  • Automatically respond to certain tickets with pre-written Macros
  • Trigger actions automatically, like canceling an order or updating a credit card number
  • Provide automated answers in your live chat widget

5. Reporting functionalities

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

Gorgias has dashboards for individual agent performance, impact on revenue, customer satisfaction, and other important metrics like first-response time and resolution time.

Measure your customer support team's performance with Gorgias.

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 
  • Reporting on most commonly used tags and intents to understand what types of tickets are making up the bulk of your ticket volume
  • View of most common product issues being brought to the customer support team so you can make improvements

6. Third-party integrations

Is your chosen helpdesk easy to connect with other tools or pre-built integrations? How many integrations are available? How many integrations do you actually need? Do you have to pay for those integrations? These are the questions you should keep in mind when looking for a helpdesk tool. 

For example, if you want an ecommerce helpdesk, you should choose the software that integrates well with the ecommerce platforms and apps you use, like Klaviyo, Recharge, and Yotpo — making Gorgias a top contender.

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

Features to note:

  • Seamless integration of different apps with your helpdesk, bringing all of the customer data into one view
  • Deep integration with the functionality of those apps for multi-app workflows (e.g. building segments in Klaviyo from Gorgias attributes, like a win-back campaign)

Key helpdesk statistics 

If you’re still not quite sold on the value of helpdesk services, let’s take a look at some numbers. Here are some eye-opening statistics that show just how crucial helpdesks are in helping your business provide the best possible customer service experience.

The helpdesk market size is projected to reach $11 billion by 2023

This statistic comes from research published by Transparency Market Research. In 2020, the online helpdesk market size was $8.9 million and is projected to increase to nearly $20 million by 2028. Therefore, not only will helpdesks continue to increase in popularity, but online helpdesks will take a bigger piece of the pie as time progresses.

90% of consumers regard resolution as their most important customer service issue

A helpdesk is useless if customers still aren’t getting their issues resolved, as this statistic by KPMG supports. A helpdesk can’t be used as a bandaid to hide other customer service issues that may exist within your company. Make speedy issue resolution a priority and if that isn’t happening, dig a bit deeper to discover underlying issues.

84% of shoppers are willing to spend more on products/services to get better customer service

This statistic comes from research by Gladly. As mentioned earlier, good customer service improves your bottom line. People will spend more money and become repeat customers if you offer the right support.

Experiences that don’t meet expectations cost businesses up to $4.7 trillion annually

Qualtrics finds that many customers are dissatisfied with the service they receive from brands, and that dissatisfaction costs a pretty penny.

One of the things you can do to make customers happier is providing an omnichannel experience where they can voice their concerns via their choice of online platform (social media, live chat on your website, etc.). The trick is to respond to them as quickly as possible and work swiftly to resolve their issue to provide an excellent customer service experience — poor experiences will cause your company to lose money.

How to choose the best helpdesk software for your business

Each company’s needs are slightly different, so we encourage signing up for a few demos and trials while shopping for a helpdesk. Here are a few considerations to keep in mind while reviewing your options:

  • Pricing: Does the tool fit into your budget and does it offer multiple pricing plans?
  • Ticket organization: Does the platform have an intuitive, visual way of sharing which tickets need attention, and from which agent?
  • Automation: Does the platform feature time-saving automation features for your team and customers?
  • Omnichannel support: Does the platform work with all the channels you use, from texting to social media?
  • Integrations: Does the platform connect to tools you already (or plan to) use?

Shopping for a helpdesk? Check out these articles to guide your shopping:

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Final thoughts: Helpdesks are CX must-haves that keep you ahead of the competition

The research is there: Helpdesks are an easy way to boost your bottom line, reduce your response time, offer self-service resources, automate repetitive tasks, and free up time for your agents to handle more complex tickets. Getting into the heart of the customer journey and creating a solid customer experience can help you retain existing customers, and draw in new ones. 

Not satisfied with your current helpdesk solution or don’t know where to start? Gorgias has a cloud-based helpdesk system that integrates with leading ecommerce store providers such as Shopify, Magneto, and BigCommerce.

Book a demo to learn more about the results Gorgias can help you achieve.

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