Signs you need a help desk solution, rather than email
Email is the back-bone of business communication. It's simple, quick and universal.
Email allows staff and customers to quickly reach out for help and contact for all business matters - sales, support, feedback, and general business. However, email is often used for customer sales and support long after the company has grown to the point where dedicated help desk tool is warranted.
Holding-on to tools and techniques that worked when the company was smaller, or less complex can actually impede progress and hold you back from reaching your potential and compromise your customer service operations.
Here's some common tell-tale signs that you need a dedicated help desk tool:
- Are you currently using your "support inbox" as the company "help-desk"?
- Are you spending too much time searching for responses to clients, rather than responding to them?
- Are customer support requests "Falling through the cracks", or being forgotten?
- Have you devised an elaborate system of colour-coding, tagging, and sorting email depending on:
- Who should deal with it?
- Who the customer/client is?
- The nature of the email request?
- Are clients starting to complain about your service?
- Do you want to report on how many support issues you responded to last month?
- Is too much email starting to affect your business?
- Are multi-channel inboxes starting to confuse both your customers and staff member?
Common approaches to dealing with customer email
Here are 3 of the most common methods of dealing with customer email with a traditional email system such as Microsoft Outlook. Each of these methods achieve a limited measure of effectiveness, but ultimately don't scales, and will hold your team back from reaching their support potential.
The email folder approach
Create folders, sub-folders, public folders, and shared folders
Microsoft Outlook, and other email programs allow you to quickly create folders and sub-folders that can be used to store and move email into. A common practice with businesses that receive a lot of email is to sort, classify and move email into a series of dedicated folder according to the mail type or other rule. Common scenarios include: Moving email from particular clients, sites and businesses into a corresponding folder for other staff members or support agents to respond to Responding to email, then moving the email into a "Responded" folder to indicate that something that been done, thus enabling other staff to view the reply Creating public, or shared folders that everyone in the business can see. Staff take turns in responding to email that gets moved to these locations.
Tagging and Colour Coding
Colour coding, tagging, and other classifications
Using Outlook's colour coding and tagging features, email can be tagged as a certain type, or colour. This gives staff a visual indicator of the status, the assignment, read/reply status etc. This quick and easy method of classifying email can be effective for small teams, and/or small volumes of email, however it quickly presents issues that do not scale well, or provide multiple levels of classification. Support staff respond to email based on this classification system, and manually have to remember to update the status of each email after it has been "processed". .
Generating more email approach
Forwarding email, CC email, Reply-to-all email
Perhaps the oldest and simplest mechanism out there. Just reply to an email, and CC everyone that may want to, or need to know about it. This method quickly becomes chaotic and messy. Email is going in a lot of directions and it becomes very hard to see what has been said, who said it, and what the most recent update is. This is the best method for things "falling through the cracks", as staff can easily "miss" email, or become confused or uncertain as to whether the email has been correctly responded to. The "diffusion of responsibility" effect is multiplied when email is forwarded, or CC'ed around the office. Reply-to-all also has that "spammy" feel about it, which can quickly frustrate recipients and other staff members. When email is always responded to via a "reply all" method, it can de-sensitize the readers/recipients to the point where they may not even bother to read email. What started as a mechanism to keep everyone in the loop can actually have the opposite effect.
The problem(s) with using email as a help desk
Each of the methods above have significant drawbacks and will compromise your service delivery in one way or another. These issues include:
- Email folders have limited searching, filtering and classification capabilities
- Colour coding, tagging and custom folders quickly become unwieldy, and difficult to change
- Meaningful data to create reports, statistics, dashboards is hard to extract from email
- Automation possibilities are limited
- Queue management, staff assignment, prioritization and other classification is difficult, or simply not possible
- Staff can quickly acquire "email fatigue", when email is circulated, and "reply to all" is overused
In short, email was never designed to be used as a helpdesk system.
Transform the way you do business
If your company has out-grown your current email solution, a dedicated issue tracking system like HelpMaster will transform the way you process and work with email, and give you statistical insight like never before. Contat PRD Software today for a demonstration.