Top 5 Ways to Recharge Your Helpdesk Now

It's tough to run a successful customer-facing business without an efficient, friendly team of helpdesk agents monitoring the chat, phone, email, and social channels to help resolve user issues and ensure a smooth experience with your products. Though we're starting to see more conversational chatbot experiences emerging in social apps such as Facebook Messenger, this article is about how you can motivate and empower your flesh-and-blood human agents and the customers they serve to improve the helpdesk process.

To do this quickly, there are a few simple tips to follow. Below, I'll lay out some targeted recommendations to help your business zero in on the most important facets of its helpdesk strategy, invest its resources wisely, and leverage innovations around data analysis and gamification to transform your existing platforms and customer service tools for a new generation of customers.

1. Use Predictive Analytics and Sentiment Analysis

We're in the midst of a data revolution. The rise of real-time Big Data processing capabilities and self-service business intelligence (BI) tools is transforming the way businesses analyze, derive insights from, and take action on information. In the helpdesk space, we're already seeing predictive analytics changing how agents approach and resolve customer tickets.

Most helpdesk platforms include built-in reporting features, but tools such as Freshdesk and Zendesk Support are building machine learning (ML) and predictive analytics capabilities into their platforms. The idea is to analyze factors such as ticket response time, response latency, and specific ticket wording—cross-referenced with customer satisfaction ratings—to calculate the probability that an agent/user interaction will be successful, and to identify problem factors to improve future interactions.

The customer satisfaction element of that equation is also important because it involves the kind of advanced sentiment analysis (that is, categorizing a user's opinion or emotion toward content or experiences) used often in social listening tools. Sentiment analysis and predictive analytics are a powerful combination that allows you to dynamically adjust your helpdesk experience based on situational factors and the user's emotional response. If your current helpdesk platform doesn't offer these capabilities, then ask your vendor if they're working on it. If they're not, then there are a number of tools already available that employ ML and data analytics to change the way businesses interact with customers.

2. Invest in Better Social Media Outreach

In this internet age, social media management is the first line of defense for a company's customer service. If your helpdesk strategy doesn't include a defined process for responding to user issues via Facebook, Twitter, and other social media networks, then you're already behind the times. Ideally, you want a dedicated social media team that captures the voice of your brand, ready to quickly comment or tweet back to users who are directly engaging with your social presences. If those users are frustrated with a product or service, then the worst thing you can do is give canned, unhelpful social media responses that will only lead to the customer bashing your company far and wide on every social network they regularly use.

Social helpdesk representatives should be honest and straightforward, and they should respond within an hour or two to any direct social interaction. Even more critically, there should be an established workflow for what types of issues can be resolved via social interaction and a plan for how the social team and helpdesk agents should work cohesively on more complicated customer issues (unless your agent is already wearing both hats). From a tech standpoint, there's no excuse for your helpdesk platform not to include a feature that processes social media queries directly into open tickets. Most leading helpdesk solutions offer that capability by default these days, including our Editors' Choice tools HappyFox, Vivantio Pro, and Zoho Desk. In 2017, a disconnect between your social presences and helpdesk operations may be a deal breaker for customers.

3. Overhaul Your Knowledge Base

A great way to take pressure off your agents and put both employee and customer knowledge to work is to take a hard look at your current knowledge base (KB) or customer information portal. Can both users and agents easily add new KB entries on common support issues? Is there a link directly from the helpdesk ticket or an automatic customer email prompt that links them to related support articles to see if the issue can be resolved with simple troubleshooting? If not, it's well worth looking at the user interface (UI), search, and content creation capabilities of your KB for simple upgrades to the user experience (UX)and to gauge whether or not a more in-depth overhaul is needed.

Once again, Zendesk is a good recent example to highlight. The company recently announced a revamped KB called "Zendesk Guide" (previously called "Help Center"). Zendesk Guide gives agents a new content creation app called "Knowledge Capture" to offer a crowdsourced way to naturally expand the company's KB by feeding information from a resolved ticket directly into a KB template. There's also an artificial intelligence (AI) assistant called "Answer Bot" that pops up relevant KB articles as a customer is writing a ticket. If any of the surfaced articles helps the customer answer his or her question, then he or she can close the request before that ticket ever crosses an agent's dashboard.

4. Survey, Survey, Survey

Predictive analytics and sentiment analysis are great but online surveys are your most direct tool to finding out exactly what your customers (and your agents) think about your helpdesk experience and improving it. Regularly surveying your customers can help your business identify the features, products, and services customers most enjoyed; these are the ones you should continue to emphasize and improve upon. Regularly surveying also helps you identify the aspects of your customer support experience that need work. At the same time, surveying your agents is the best way to find out what they need to do their jobs better and resolve tickets faster and more efficiently.

Many helpdesk platforms include built-in survey functionality, and a number also integrate with leading online survey tools such as SurveyMonkey. Many of the helpdesk tools we've reviewed, including Cayzu and Editors' Choice HappyFox, offer built-in SurveyMonkey integrations to provide a frictionless, intuitive feedback experience for all parties involved.

5. Motivate Your Agents with Gamification

Keeping your helpdesk professionals energized and motivated is far from a new priority for most businesses, but the proliferation of gamification techniques can make it more engaging and interactive than ever. This starts with immersive online training courses to get employees quickly up to speed. Companies should build on that momentum with gamified elements to give agents some goals and prizes toward which to work.

Gamification can mean anything from implementing a points scoring system and leaderboard for successfully resolved support tickets (with extra points for speed to resolution and positive customer feedback) or even more advanced integrated game mechanics. Freshdesk is a particularly innovative helpdesk platform in this regard, offering a full-blown Freshdesk Arcade module to turn every support ticket into a chance for badges, achievements, and points. There's even a custom feature called Quests which companies can use to set specific tasks, with point values toward a particular business goal. Resolve 100 tickets in a month? Here's 300 points, for example.

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