FrontRunners quadrants highlight the top software products for North American small businesses. All products in the quadrant are top performers. Small businesses can use FrontRunners to make more informed decisions about what software is right for them.
To create this quadrant, we evaluated over 465 Help Desk products. Those with the top scores for their capability and value made the quadrant.
Scores are based largely on reviews from real software users, along with other product performance details (e.g., what features they offer, how many customers they have).
Every product in this quadrant offers a balance of capability (how much the products can do) and value (whether they’re worth their price/cost) that makes them stand out in the race for small business software success.
FrontRunners has four sub-quadrants:
Depending on the specific needs of a software buyer, a product in any of these sub-quadrants could be a good fit.
Why? To even be considered for this FrontRunners, a product had to meet a minimum user rating score of 3.0 for capability and 3.0 for value. This means that all products that qualify as FrontRunners are top-performing products in their market. They appear in the quadrant in relation to how their peers performed.
For some buyers, a specific FrontRunners sub-quadrant might be best. For example, buyers needing only basic help desk functionality—ticketing, for example—could begin their search with products listed in the Masters or Contenders quadrants.
On the other hand, buyers needing more comprehensive feature sets, and those needing a specialized or relatively advanced feature—like app stores and service catalogs—could begin their search with products listed in the Leaders or Pacesetters quadrants.
You can download the full FrontRunners for Help Desk report here. It contains individual scorecards for each product on the Frontrunners quadrant.
You can find the full FrontRunners methodology here, but the gist is that products are scored in two areas, Capability and Value.
To be considered at all, products must have at least 10 reviews and meet minimum user rating scores. They also have to offer a core set of functionality—for example, all help desk platforms need to be designed to manage IT services and devices, and offer some form of ticketing functionality.
From there, user reviews and other product performance details, such as the product's customer base and the features it offers, dictate the Capability and Value scores. Capability is plotted on the x-axis, and Value is plotted on the y-axis.
For more information about FrontRunners, check out the following:
Have questions about how to choose the right product for you? You’re in luck! Every day, our team of advisors provides (free) customized shortlists of products to hundreds of small businesses.
Check out the FrontRunners External Usage Guidelines when referencing FrontRunners content. Except in digital media with character limitations, the following disclaimer MUST appear with any/all FrontRunners reference(s) and graphic use:
FrontRunners scores and graphics are derived from individual end-user reviews based on their own experiences, vendor-supplied information and publicly available product information; they do not represent the views of Gartner or its affiliates.
Providers listed as Runners Up were considered for inclusion in the quadrant, but were ultimately not included for one or more reasons: they did not have enough reviews; they did not meet the reviews score minimum; they did not meet the ultimate Value and Capability minimum scores; or they did not meet our functionality requirements for the market.
Note: We discovered and corrected a data error that impacted one vendor on the FrontRunners for Help Desk, TeamSupport. As a result, on October 21 an updated quadrant was published. There were no other material changes to the other products on the FrontRunners for Help Desk quadrant.
Help desk software solutions vary in functionality, pricing and underlying technology. We’ve created this buyer’s guide to assist potential purchasers in determining which help desk software best fits their needs. Here’s what we’ll cover:
What Is Help Desk Software
Common Features of Help Desk Software
Why Do I Need Help Desk Software?
Benefits of Help Desk Software
Market Trends to Understand
The Vendor Landscape
Recent Events You Should Know About
Traditionally, the term “help desk” has generated some confusion since it can refer to two different types of support organizations: teams that serve external customers (consumers or businesses that have purchased goods or services from your company), and teams that serve internal customers (employees).
We describe these two use cases in greater detail later in the “Help Desk Software Landscape” section of this guide. But in either instance, help desk management software stores customer information in a searchable database, tracks interactions and automates the issue resolution process using an issue tracking system. This core functionality increases efficiency and organization.
When someone contacts the service desk by phone, Web form, email or other means, the system creates an electronic trouble ticket. Technicians or customer service representatives (CSRs) record details about the incident or problem, or review what the customer has entered if submitted using a self-service tool. The responder marks it as resolved once the issue is handled, or escalates the issue to a specialist or executive if needed.
Tickets are associated with customer profiles, which include the customer’s contact information and potentially purchase history or assets. This allows agents to see a customer’s entire interaction history.
Example of a dashboard from Freshdesk
With some systems, the handling process can be standardized with workflow rules and canned responses. As an agent completes one task, they might choose a follow-up step from a dropdown menu and set a due date. This way nothing falls through the cracks and agents stay efficient and on track.
Some systems allow users to link incidents by issue type, so responders can refer back to a resolved issue when they encounter a similar problem.
Example of incident linking from Zendesk
In addition to this core functionality, the best help desk support software vendors might offer some or all of the following differentiating capabilities.
|Knowledge management system||This describes a repository of descriptions to common or previously resolved problems. These resources might be available publicly via a customer self-service website, or reserved for internal use by CSRs and technicians. Most knowledge bases incorporate advanced search technologies to help users find the the right answer. Some may autosuggest queries or articles as the user types.|
|Self-service||Customers use these online portals to search for solutions to their problems. Self-service resources can include product documentation, downloadable patches, searchable FAQs, how-to pages or forums and other types of user communities. If the customer can’t find a solution, self-service tools often let them submit issues online.|
|IT asset management systems/network management||Asset management tools inventory and track changes to hardware and software configurations, while network monitoring tools oversee the health of servers and other network components. These functions are sometimes offered through integrations with IT service management (ITSM) tools.|
|Reporting||Management uses reporting tools to monitor overall service desk performance and agent productivity. Performance metrics frequently include total open issues; issue resolutions by date, shift or agent; average time to resolution; customer satisfaction and more.|
|Mobile support||Many vendors offer a mobile Web or mobile application version of their solution. Agents use these tools to manage tickets, record customer data, access the knowledge base, view reports and perform other issue resolution activities from their smartphone or tablet.|
|Service Level Agreement (SLA) management||SLAs guarantee to customers that issues of a certain type will be addressed or resolved within a certain time frame, among other service guarantees. These features allow users to set prioritization triggers, automatic escalations and other custom rules to ensure applicable issues are handled in compliance with an SLA.|
|Remote control||This module allows technicians to access and control a customer’s computer from a remote location, facilitating remote diagnosis and resolution with minimal customer involvement.|
Imagine an employee clicks on a Malware-infected link in an email. The virus attacks their computer and systematically copies and erases all their files. But it gets worse.
That email was sent to everyone in the company. While IT scrambles to take calls, employees continue to open infected emails, sensitive company data is exposed and work time is lost while employees wait for help. Without the right software—or an army of IT staffers—this problem could take a millennium to untangle.
Instead, the IT responder could create a digital trouble ticket when the first call came in. As he or she figured out the solution or escalated it to the appropriate team, they could record that information in the knowledge base. Then for every subsequent call, the service desk would have the answer ready and waiting to respond with a template email.
At the same time, the help desk could post that information in a self-service forum or employee-accessible knowledge base to cut down on calls and service requests. Once the problem was solved, management could use analytics to evaluate the response time and process to make improvements in the event of another Malware incident.
As this example demonstrates, help desk software allows companies to quickly address IT crises. At the same time, organizations gain efficiency in ongoing IT management duties. This includes savings through automation, workflow tools and self service. Many systems will integrate best practices from the ITIL (IT Infrastructure Library), which is a globally recognized set of guidelines for the IT Service Management industry.
Properly implemented, help desk systems can improve operations in five primary ways:
Minimize employee work lags from unsolved tech issues;
Automate issue triaging, escalation and prioritization;
Reduce manpower costs through self-service;
Identify and address recurring issues and,
Provide transparency into every service request from creation to resolution.
Better problem tracking and organization. Help desk systems increase organization by providing a single repository for agents to enter, track and resolve cases. This prevents issues from falling through the cracks. Users also increase efficiency with workflow rules that standardize business processes.
Reduced service costs. These systems automate processes so agents can handle issues faster and process more per day. This increased productivity can reduce the number of agents needed. Reporting also enables managers to identify and address drops in productivity, so they don’t continue to impact performance.
Increased customer satisfaction. Whether internal or external, customers who have their issues resolved quickly are naturally more satisfied. For incidents that require more time to resolve, customers are still more satisfied having their issue acknowledged immediately and escalated efficiently.
Improved knowledge sharing. This technology documents successful resolutions and makes them searchable, so agents can quickly recall and reuse past solutions to a recurring issue. In some cases, solutions can be automatically entered into a knowledge base to facilitate customer self-service.
It’s important to keep the following industry trends in mind when conducting your help desk software comparison.
Social media integration is becoming a help desk software mainstay. A recent NMincite report found that as many as 47 percent of all social media users (59 percent for those 18-24 years old) have sent customer service requests through Facebook, Twitter and other social channels. As a result, companies need tools for processing these issues just as they would tickets from any other channel. Vendors such as Desk.com and Zendesk now integrate with social to automatically prioritize and route such requests.
Gamification is increasingly used as a motivational tool. IT and customer service jobs are among the most difficult positions to keep filled. Some companies have turned to gamification as a method for maintaining service desk employee engagement. Companies such as Badgeville integrate with trouble ticket technology to reward agent productivity with redeemable points and other rewards. Workers gain a sense of accomplishment as they see scores improve and move higher on leaderboards.
A sketch of what a help desk leaderboard might include
This technology can vary depending on whether they serve internal or external customers. Some products serve both.
Internal. This kind of IT support software typically serves employees, or “internal customers.” Most internal help desks serve the information technology (IT) needs of employees, but other examples exist, such as an internal human resources service desk for questions about employee benefits. Buyers of internal software for technical support often require integrations with ITSM tools such as Panorama9, Samanage IT Asset Management or Innotas if IT asset and network management features aren’t included in their help desk software package.
External. This kind of service desk software serves consumers or businesses that have purchased products or services from the company providing the support. These desks could address IT problems or more general customer service issues. Because of the diversity of companies, customers and industries that have external service desks, buyers of this technology might require the ability to integrate with call center software, marketing automation and sales force automation systems.
LiveWorld launches chatbots for Facebook Messenger. LiveWorld’s newly launched tool helps brands manage chats with customers on Facebook, and can seamlessly and intelligently transfer chatbot-initiated chats to live agents.
Freshdesk Acquires Pipemonk, expands options for integration. Customer service, engagement and help desk provider Freshdesk acquired Pipemonk in January 2017. Through this acquisition, Freshdesk will offer Pipemonk’s software as a service (SaaS) integration applications, paving the way for easier third-party integrations into the Freshdesk service platform.
Zoho releases context-aware help desk solution Zoho Desk. In November 2016, Zoho launched a new support solution Zoho Desk that intelligently collects and presents data from previous customer interactions, giving frontline support staff important contextual and historical insight.
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