« How To Provide Customer Support - Help Desk Excellence | Main | Internet Portal Businesses »

Free Customer Service Support Help Desk Software

 

Hopefully by now I have dispelled any notions that you either don’t need to provide customer support or that you don’t need a support desk to properly and expeditiously handle your customer support.

 

However, the type of support desk and available features you may or may not need should directly affect your reasons for choosing one support desk system over another. Keep in mind there are hundreds of support desk systems and Customer Relations Systems (That incorporate a support desk), available online. The purpose of this section is to provide you with a list of the minimum number of features you may need as a small or home based business, both Free and Paid.

 

Let’s take a look at a couple of types of support desk systems some of your competitors are using.  The following examples are just that; examples. They are not recommendations. Most of the FREE support desk systems lack certain features you business may need or have far more features than your business will require.

 

Free Support Desk Software Example 1: ActivDesk by FocalMedia at www.FocalMedia.net is a nice piece of software that is fairly feature rich and can meet the needs of most Internet marketers selling digital download products.

 

So if you’re ready, let’s go to www.FocalMedia.net/activdesk.html where you can take a look at the features and demo sites.  Then we’ll meet back here and discuss some of the pros and cons of this robust little support system.

 

Okay then . . . so what did you think?  It’s actually a pretty nice little system.  It has all the features a small business or one person operation could need with a couple of exceptions. So let’s look at the pros and cons:

Active Desk Cons

You may have noticed in the “Support Staff / Administrator Features” list, this feature and description:

  • Customizable Autoresponders - Categories may have configurable autoresponders that is sent to customers requesting support. (You may have different autoresponder emails sent depending on the category where the ticket has been opened.)

 

Now to the novice this feature description may be construed as meaning the system has a “Pre-defined Reply Database” feature which it does not.  In fact, though this “Customizable Autoresponders” feature can be somewhat useful, for it to serve the same purpose as a pre-defined reply database, you would need to set up enough categories to cover every possible inquiry about a specific product. With most digital download products that would be next to impossible.

 

Furthermore part of the purpose of a pre-defined email database is to allow the CSR (Customer Service Representative), to hand pick a pre-defined email that is pertinent to the subject of the inquiry that also contains an appropriate recommendation, (When possible), of an offer that compliments the product the inquiry is in regard to.

 

So, though this software is EXTREMELY easy to set up and use, this one missing feature may dissuade some from choosing ActivDesk.

 

However, I know support managers that set up their own pre-defined email databases for systems that actually do have such a pre-defined reply database feature because they don’t like something about the way their systems allows a CSR to use the pre-defined email database.  I have in fact faced that issue myself and found it’s not all that hard to build your own database using something like the FREE desktop software: “Clipboard Magic” you can pick up at www.cybermatrix.com.

 

One more shortcoming of ActiveDesk is that there is no WYSWYG Editor. While it’s not necessarily something you want to have available to your customers, (Some have a tendency to put text in all bold or large letters to get a point across), it is on the other hand something that is nice for a CSR to have to make something in a support ticket stand out lessoning the chance the customer will miss something. But ActivDesk does offer the use of BB Code (Bulletin board code) similar to the code used in forums.  While that is fine for predefined replies, coding sections of text in regular replies can be kind of a pain and of course time consuming.

ActivDesk Pros

Besides those two short comings, ActivDesk is an extremely user friendly system that is easy to understand, configure and customize to match your web site.

 

Also unlike many support desk systems that requires a user to login to access the Knowledge Base, ActivDesk does NOT. 

 

Therefore your Knowledge Base home page becomes a page that can be promoted as though it was a list of keyword heavy articles with excerpts.  Promoting this page through search engines and other methods can bring you targeted prospective customers to your Knowledge Base answers that are laced with links to your sales or affiliate pages.

 

The great thing about being able to promote your Knowledge Base is, prospects that end up on your Knowledge Base home page believe they are accessing customer support information and are far less likely to click away immediately thinking it’s just another sales pitch.

 

All in all ActivDesk is a robust and fairly feature rich support desk software that is very easy to install.  Most Cpanels with Fantastico or SimpleScript make it a 3 click install.  Even if you install it your self, it is very easy to do even for the uninitiated to script installations.  Their documentation is well written and easy to understand.  Their own software support desk is of course top notch with timely and succinct responses.

More Is Not Necessarily Better

Something you should bear in mind here is that the more user friendly and the less learning curve there is to setting up and using a support desk system the better - especially for the novice.

 

When you are you’re entire business, or it’s up to you or one other person in your business to set up and manage your system, as long as a system has all the basic features, there is less of a learning curve and therefore it requires less time to start using your system effectively.

 

Having a multitude of additional features you may not need initially may only lead to an inordinate amount of time setting up and then handling your customer inquiries. The more features, the more complicated, the steeper the learning curve, the higher likelihood for frustration in handling your customer inquiries. Frustration leads to attitude problems which can lead to poor customer service.

Free Support Desk Software Example 2:

Now let’s take a look at another FREE support desk: OsTicket’s is free support desk software you can find at: http://osticket.com

This support ticket software is at the other end of the free ware spectrum at this point in time.  Why? Well I don’t want to be too hard on these guys as they located in the gulf coast area that was devastated by hurricane Katrina in 2005.

 

With that said, when you visit their site you will not find a features list for their software.  They claim the rebirth of OsTicket in December of 2007 but the version available through Fantastico is the pre-katrina version. The 1.31 version in Fantastico as of this writing is at best a weak feature poor system that becomes a spam sponge. 

 

One of the primary issues with the older version is it is void of spam protection.  There is a new version available directly from their site but before I ventured into installing their software, I would do some serious reading in their forum to see what kind of issues their users are having with their software.

 

My point in bringing up this support ticket software is this; just because a software program is free, and it is available as an easy install from your Cpanel’s Fantastico, that does NOT mean it is something you should install thinking it will be trouble free.

 

However, if you are just now considering starting your business, when you get to the point you can justify the need for a support desk, considering OsTicket’s promise to bring their product up to par, it may warrant at least taking a look at when you are ready.

 

Free or paid, you should not make a decision to install a support desk software without doing some serious research.  You want to not only determine if the software meets the needs of your business currently, but will be able to expand with you as your business grows.  Obviously to do serious research you will want to go through their support forum (If they have one), and look for online reviews of their product.

Free Support Desk Software Example 3 – Hosted

There is a support desk system that is available that is full featured and allows up to 5 users including the administrator.  If you were to use all the features it has available it is a full blown CRM.

 

Now as for what I wrote earlier regarding, “The more Features, the steeper the learning curve”, that still holds true.  However this company has open phone training with excellent system trainers every Monday @ 9:am Pacific.  As well their documentation is excellent as are their tutorials.

 

If your business needs currently require more than one CSR or staff user to handle your support needs or even if you see that as a real possibility in the short term, Extra View at www.ExtraView.com is well worth checking out.

Not All Free “Support Desk” Systems Really Free

You need to take care when searching for “FREE” support or help desk software.  For example, some Trouble Ticket Software is billed as “Free” but as you read down through the available features, you see there are a number of features that you have to purchase as an add on module to use that feature. 

 

For example, with “Trouble Ticket Express” is billed as Free Trouble Ticket Software” but when you read the features list (Found at:

www.troubleticketexpress.com, you will see things like this:

 

Optional MySQL database. (requires purchase of add-on module). Allows using MySQL database to store trouble tickets.

Whereas with software like ActivDesk, The MySQL database feature is functional without an additional purchase.  In fact when you install ActivDesk, it’s not an add in module, it is already MySQL functional.

 

You will also find plenty of supposedly free support desk software online that is only free to download a “Trial”, or will only support one CSR for free.  Of course that’s not bad if you only have one CSR.  But you want your support software to accommodate your company’s additional needs as you grow your business. If you have or foresee having more than one CSR, you will have to pay for an additional user license for each additional CSR you put on your support desk.

 

So as for free support desk software out there, buyer beware, look before you leap, research and compare.

 

I have by no means listed all the support desk software available.  I used the three above because I have used each of them and they are representative of a wide range of what you can find on your own just doing a GOOGLE search for “Online Support Desk”.


Leon Edward is the owner and webmaster of Internet Home Business where you'll find legitimate online business ideas , home business management and marketing information where you can even get step by step  affiliate marketing training to start your own affiliate marketing business
He started making money online using the Plugin Profit Site. You can get your own Plugin Profit Site set up and ready to make money for you within 24 hours.
Visit http://www.cashmonthlylifetime.com

More Energy than money?

Learn How to Turn 5 hours a week into
$500 per month, just visit http://www.StartAHomeBusinessFree.com 

Every year, the government--local, state, and federal--gives away millions of dollars to people just like you for business ideas. Leon Edward shares information on government funding, Federal, State ,Local Grants , Home Business Management, Setting up a home business ideas, affiliate marketing software and business plan,  Grant Money To Start A Business , where to find start up business grants, sources, how best to fill out applications, grant management step by step tips, setting up a business steps at his website

http://www.business-idea-grants.com/

Browse Informative Articles, Ideas and Opportunites at his Home Internet Business infocenter website, Start A Home Based Affiliate Business , Find ideas and information to start an internet business, setting up, managing, marketing home business, grants for start up, more...

Get A Free Internet Business Library and Legitimate Home Based Business Report with Home Business Ideas, free work at home ideas, Travel Business Opportunity,  Free Training Newsletter at Leons Earn Money At Home Ideas and Informational  Website http://www.homebusinessit.com . Learn about business structure and increasing profits, grow a leglmate internet home business and Earn $100 or more per Hour! at http://www.startahomebusinessfree.com   Visit his other informational websites as  Internet Business Ideas Store for Online Business Ideas , Your First Year In Network MarketingHome Business Reviews to Earn Money At Home . Visit  his informative websites How To Improve Brain Power Infinite Mind and the power of the subconscious mind for articles, tips, reviews resources and free newsletters. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Hosting by Yahoo!