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A great Customer Service Helpdesk is going to combine all communication channels with your customer into one place. This may remind you of a CRM, but it is not designed for campaign or marketing communication so much as for responding, solving customer issues, and in the case of pre-sales chat, answering objections that help lead to sales.
Most helpdesks are now also tackling live chat, with some form of a conversational bot that engages customers on the site, and then creates tickets and conversational flows with the customer or prospective customer with the goal of helping to overcome objections and convert them to a paying customer. Only a few of the tools actually track and report on this revenue for you, as "sales" is still only an emerging department coming from within your customer service team. Two great videos on this are: Derric Haynie on How Live Chat Increases Revenue by 13% and Jon Tucker on Live Chat Strategies for Boosting Sales.
Helpdesks are now increasingly tied directly to social media and social media comment moderation and responding. It's crucial that your support team be on social media, be answering questions, and for most brands, I would even recommend giving out discount codes and linking customers directly in comments and Direct Messages (DMs) in order to help convert them. Quick response times here are key to closing the sale.
Some emerging channels in social media comment moderation that you should be aware of:
Helpdesks are used specifically to streamline and mitigate your existing customer service ticket demand. This type of tool isn't needed for new brands or low volume merchants with 50 or even 100 tickets or requests coming in a month. Helpdesks really start to be valuable as you scale out to 1,000 orders a month, 5,000 orders a month, etc., and as you hire your first customer service agent or customer service manager. Don't invest in a helpdesk too early! That being said, if you're a high growth brand, such as a few brands we've worked with that did a $500k+ kickstarter campaign, then you may want to get a helpdesk before sending out that first major order to all your customers, because undoubtedly you will need it for the long haul, and being ready slightly ahead of demand will save a lot of time costs in just a few weeks, when the inquiries come flooding in.
Right as you hire your first support agent is when you should start researching and vetting helpdesks. You have to choose one that aligns with the goals of the business and the growth of the business. If you're a smaller merchant and going to stay small, you don't need all the bells and whistles of advanced rules and macros, advanced live chat, and maybe you don't need phone call support.
On the flip side, if you're a high growth merchant, than solving (or even streamlining to the point that it saves your support agent a minute of time) one commonly recurring inquiry, such as "Does this come in black?" or "Where's my order?" will drastically improve the effectiveness of your customer service team over time. In these cases, which I hope is the case you are in, you really want to invest early in scalable tech, and a scalable team - team members that know how to use rules and macros, how to write a new macro, adjust a macro, and really solve not just "this" inquiry, but every inquiry about "this" problem over time.
For the merchants who already have a helpdesk and are here looking to switch. The common problem that you've encountered is that you bought a helpdesk that doesn't understand the needs of Ecommerce that well. Many of the world's leading helpdesks were not built specifically for Ecommerce and don't have best-in-class integrations with tools like Shopify, Recharge, your loyalty apps, etc. For that reason, you are likely to benefit greatly from switching to an Ecommerce-centric helpdesk. Look for tools that integrate with all the key components of your stack:
One final thing worth noting is that live chat and helpdesks do not have to be under one roof, but they do need to be closely integrated with each other. I see a lot of helpdesks are not always that strong on the live chat, but really solve the overall helpdesk solution greatly. For that reason I may recommend checking out our article on helpdesks and scrolling down to the live chat section, to see which solutions may be right for you.
Customer service largely falls under operations, but we are seeing a trend of this department, sometimes called customer experience, to sit underneath marketing, which is where I think the team should largely fall, in the org chart. And here's why: While the core acts of customer service are very operational - finding orders, replacing orders, tracking orders, etc. the goal of the department is to increase customer satisfaction and loyalty and, when done right, customer service should be directly impacting sales. In order to do it right, you need to have that marketing eye, the copywriters voice, the brand voice, and you need to be highly in sync with the marketing team, new campaigns and discounts going on, etc.
The main person in charge of bringing in a helpdesk will be your director of operations, director of Ecommerce, or quite possibly you as the founder, co-founder, or CEO of the company. However, the executives should not be the ones in the helpdesk daily. They help source the solution, and then the customer service agents, or team, are the ones who will ultimately be using the tool and filling the responsibility of answering all the incoming tickets.
There is also a new team emerging from your customer service team, called the sales team. If you're in beauty, these could be beauticians who actually sit at home, wait for inquiries, and talk with prospective customers about say their skin pigment, eye shadow colors, or other features. They could even do video consultations in order to help nurture that prospect into a customer. This is exactly the same as the sales person on the floor at Sephora, or Bloomingdales, except in a virtual environment. All studies are indicating that this emerging strategy - engaging with on-site customers in a 1-1 sales approach - is working really well to convert and retain, which is why I recommend it to any brand doing over $1mm in revenue.
The number one question you should have is:
Does this integrate with all the channels and tools that I need it to?
A helpdesk is a hub for all the customer-centric questions that come in to your brand. If even one channel isn't in that hub, you will suffer on having to build a process around responding and engaging, and tracking results, on that outside channel. As mentioned above, for example, Instagram Direct Messages (DMs) are not API accessible, which means Facebook/Instagram is purposefully not allowing helpdesks to manage support for this channel anywhere but within Instagram themselves. For that reason, if you are big on Instagram, you will have to man this channel separately than manning the helpdesk, which will be annoying, but in this case, there is nothing else you can do.
The next important functionality is going to be the rules and macros. Can this helpdesk create advanced rules that cater to the needs of your business?
For example, can they automatically pull your Recharge subscription data, cancel Recharge subscription, or skip a month on that subscription, from within their platform? This would obviously be crucial for any brands using Recharge. Think of the tools you are using and test out very specific rules and macros before committing to purchase.
I think the next most important question to ask is, and this only applies to some brands:
Do they have a knowledge base functionality?
Knowledge bases, or FAQs, aren't needed for all brands, but when you need one, you know it, and you need it to work really well. Keeping all of your common inquiries and answers in one place allows for better automation. A customer can come in from live chat, ask a a question, and be directed to the knowledge base answer, without requiring a customer service agent, thus mitigating a ticket and saving you the $.50 -$2 it costs to resolve a ticket.
And while there are many more questions you will have about your helpdesk, I find the next major one, and the last one we will cover here, is:
Do you have user access control or a way for me to monitor and learn from my agents?
Not every brand wants to give full access to every agent, which is why you often need to assign them to departments or tags or channels. For example, non-fluent English speakers probably shouldn't be answering questions on your public social media feed. Alternatively, some people understand operations and refunds really well and can work closely with the operations team or 3rd Party Logistics provider (3PL) to ensure prompt replace shipments and returns. Assigning roles to team members based on their natural talents and the demand facing your brand is only natural and a helpdesk should have the necessary controls to help you do that.