How to Choose the Best Customer Service Software for Your Business

Freemius
14 min readAug 2, 2023

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Humans are versatile and we can multi-task on a level that’s unheard of in nature 🫅 But while we’re good at juggling tasks, we’re also an error-prone species. And in business, where fine margins make all the difference, human errors can make or break the customer experience (to the detriment of your bottom line). The obvious question is: How can you minimize human error in the customer support equation and deliver excellent, memorable service? The answer: customer service software.

Easy enough!

Not so fast. With various types of customer service software available on the market, choosing the one that best fits your needs is critical.

From features and deployment options to pricing models and top providers, I’ll cover the essentials to help you make an informed decision. So, let’s dive in and unearth the solutions that’ll leave your customers satisfied and that much closer to becoming brand ambassadors 😍

But first…

What is Customer Service Software?

In the past, businesses relied on manual methods like phone calls, emails, and physical records to handle customer inquiries and resolve issues. However, as customer expectations increased and the volume of customer interactions grew, these traditional methods became time-consuming and inefficient.

This led to the development of customer service software.

Customer service software automates, manages, and tracks customer interactions across multiple channels. It’s a central hub for all customer-related communications, enhancing customer satisfaction through quick, efficient responses to inquiries and reduced ‘time to resolution’.

The software’s primary function may be to make your customers’ lives easier, but to your support agent, this software is a port in the storm (🙌). It reduces their workload and provides valuable insights into customer behavior, preferences, and pain points from multiple channels.

In summary: it helps them be better at their jobs.

Now that I’ve outlined the advantages of customer service software, how do you go about finding a solution that’ll bring the best out of your agents?

Customer Service Applications: Find the Perfect Fit With These Essential Features

Imagine baking a chocolate cake. Everyone has their own recipe. Some add dark chocolate, some add fruits, and others nuts. And while they may look different, they’re all considered CHOCOLATE cakes.

Customer service applications are similar. Each has a different flavor with different strengths and weaknesses. These are the key features (read: non-negotiables) that have to be present in the customer service software you select:

Multichannel Support

In this day and age, where digital touchpoints exist at our fingertips, implementing a multichannel support strategy should not even be a question. Customers expect to reach out through various channels such as email, chat, phone, and social media, so you must choose customer service solutions that offer multichannel support.

This will help you provide prompt and consistent support in a unified manner, enhancing the overall customer experience while getting a ‘big picture’ overview of the general sentiment about your product and where it can be improved.

Ticket Management System

Once everything’s unified, you’ve got to prioritize!

And a ticket management system is your best bet.

It allows you to create, assign, prioritize, and track tickets to ensure that each inquiry is addressed promptly. Ticket management directly impacts customer experience (CX) as it can help nurture customer satisfaction and instill loyalty in your customer base.

Look for software that offers robust ticket management capabilities, such as customizable ticket workflows and automated routing and escalations.

Knowledge Base Management

When an agent helps someone with an issue, there will always be an inherent element of dependence that requires more time. A more sustainable, time-efficient approach is the DIY method, with knowledge bases being the lynchpins of this practice, empowering customers to self-solve their problems without having to seek support.

Knowledge bases have quickly become one of the most critical aspects of customer service in recent years, with 51% of customers preferring a knowledge base to more traditional avenues of support, such as email or phone.

Look for customer service software that offers a comprehensive knowledge base management system, enabling you to create, organize, and publish articles. A well-maintained knowledge base can empower your customers to solve their problems themselves, reducing the volume of support requests and freeing up your agents’ time.

Reporting and Analytics

52% of customers have cut ties with a business due to poor customer service. This emphasizes how crucial data-driven decision-making is to the customer service puzzle.

So what can you do to put the pieces together?

Select software with robust reporting and analytics features that allow you to track and measure key performance indicators (KPIs) such as response time, resolution time, and customer satisfaction. This will help you identify areas of improvement to make informed decisions and optimize your customer service processes.

Integrations with Other Tools

This one’s a MUST-have 🧑‍🍳

Think of a professional kitchen where chefs prepare high-end dining experiences. Imagine a scenario where each person has their own set of tools and ingredients that need to be integrated or shared with the rest of the cheffing team.

Chaos would ensue! The lack of integration would lead to inefficiency, miscommunication, and a disjointed workflow.

Now, let’s contrast that with a well-designed kitchen that has integrated systems. The chefs have access to shared storage, where ingredients are organized and readily available. They use a centralized toolset that includes efficient appliances, synchronized timers, and integrated scales. With this integrated setup, the chefs can seamlessly collaborate, quickly locate what they need, and work in sync to create culinary masterpieces. The integration of tools and resources improves productivity, reduces errors, and enhances the overall dining experience.

The same principle applies to customer service software. Always look for software that offers a wide range of integrations to ensure smooth collaboration across your organization.

Automation and Workflows

Help desk automation and workflows can supercharge your help desk operations by giving your support staff the freedom to tackle complex and high-priority issues. This means faster response times, happier customers, and a help desk that runs like a well-oiled machine.

Here are some examples of how automation and workflows can be used to improve your help desk:

  • Automatic ticket routing: Tickets can be automatically assigned to the appropriate support staff based on predefined rules, such as the type of issue or the customer’s location. This can help ensure that tickets are handled by the staff members who are best equipped to resolve them.
  • Canned responses: Predefined responses can be created and used to respond to common questions or issues quickly. This can help reduce the time it takes to respond to tickets, freeing up your support staff to focus on other tasks.
  • Escalation rules: Tickets can be automatically escalated to higher-level support staff if they remain unresolved after a certain amount of time. This can help ensure that no tickets fall through the cracks and that customers receive the assistance they need promptly.
  • Integration with other tools: As mentioned earlier, integrating your help desk software with tools like CRM or project management software can help streamline workflows, automate tasks, and take less critical tasks from your support staff’s plate.

Ease of Use

It’s a no-brainer — when it comes to using help desk software, you want something user-friendly and easy to understand. It should be simple and intuitive enough for support staff and customers to use and navigate without feeling confused or overwhelmed.

For example, the user interface should be clean and organized, with buttons and menus that are easy to find and understand. Your support staff should be able to open tickets quickly and access customer information and monitor performance metrics from their dashboard seamlessly. You should also have mobile accessibility so that you or other team members can handle customer queries on the go.

Another feature that adds to ‘ease of use’ is a self-service portal for your customers. For example, an application that allows your customers to submit and track their support tickets. This means they don’t have to rely on calling or emailing support and can find solutions to their problems at any time.

Exploring Your Customer Service Software Deployment Options

With the essential features out of the way, the next step is to decide how you’re going to deploy your customer service software. Here are some common options to consider:

Cloud-Based (SaaS)

As the name suggests, cloud-based/SaaS customer service software is hosted in the cloud and can be accessed via a web browser at any time, from anywhere, as long as you have an internet connection.

Cloud-based software also eliminates the need for on-premise infrastructure and reduces IT maintenance efforts. It’s typically scalable and allows you to pay for the software on a subscription basis. As pricing is usually determined by the number of users or agents, it’s cost-effective for small to medium-sized businesses.

Example of cloud-based help desk software

ThriveDesk is a cloud-based customer service application that enables businesses to manage their customer support operations from anywhere with an internet connection. It offers a range of features such as a ticketing system, knowledge base, automation, and reporting and analytics to help companies provide exceptional customer support across multiple channels. Being a cloud-based software, ThriveDesk provides real-time information access, ensuring that customer support teams can resolve issues quickly and efficiently.

Next up on the deployment menu is:

On-Premise Customer Service Software

On-premise customer service software is installed and hosted on your own servers or data center, offering you complete control over data and software because it’s hosted internally.

This option suits larger businesses with more complex IT infrastructures and security requirements and typically requires more IT resources for installation, configuration, and maintenance. It may also have higher upfront costs.

  • Complete control over software and data
  • Suitable for larger businesses with complex IT infrastructure and
    security requirements
  • Higher upfront costs
  • Higher IT resource requirements
  • Less flexibility in terms of accessibility

Example of on-premise help desk software

WPHelpDesk is a comprehensive customer relationship management (CRM) software that offers a range of features to help businesses manage their customer relationships and support operations.

Some of its features include:

  • Ticket management: WPHelpDesk allows you to create, track, and manage support tickets
  • Knowledge base: You can create a knowledge base to help customers find answers to their questions
  • Live chat: You can offer live chat support to customers
  • Email integration: You can integrate WPHelpDesk with your email server to receive and send tickets
  • Reporting: WPHelpDesk provides reports on ticket activity, customer satisfaction, and agent performance

With WPHelpDesk, you can completely control your data and customize the software to meet your specific needs.

Hybrid

Hybrid deployment combines cloud-based and on-premise solutions. It allows you to host some parts of the customer service software on the cloud and keep some parts on-premise.

This option offers more flexibility and customization, as you can choose which parts of the software to host where, based on your business requirements.

Example of hybrid help desk software

Salesforce Service Cloud is a comprehensive customer service platform offering various features to help businesses manage their customer support operations across multiple channels, including email, phone, chat, and social media. Some of its features include:

  • Case management
  • Knowledge base
  • Automation
  • Analytics
  • Reporting

The hybrid nature of Salesforce Service Cloud means businesses can choose to deploy the software in the cloud or on-premise, depending on their specific needs. They can also integrate the software with other Salesforce products and third-party apps to further enhance customer support operations.

Overall, Salesforce Service Cloud is a flexible, scalable hybrid customer service software that can help businesses manage their support operations efficiently, irrespective of the deployment method.

Unlocking the Best Value: Navigating Pricing Models for Customer Service Software

How can you make sure you’re getting your money’s worth? Easy:

Consider your budget, team size, growth plans, and feature requirements when evaluating pricing models for customer service software. Choose a model that aligns with what you’re willing to spend and balances features and costs for your business needs.

Here’s a table outlining some standard pricing models for customer service applications:

From definitions and must-have features to deployment and pricing, I’ve covered all of the important bases for customer service software. Now let’s take a look at who dominates the playing field, and which solutions you can trust to deliver the goods.

The Most Popular SaaS Players for WordPress Businesses

The market is awash with various types of customer service software, each with strengths, weaknesses, use cases, etc. To help you in your quest to find your ‘best fit’ solution, I’ve rounded up some of the most popular choices used by WordPress product businesses.

At a glance:

ThriveDesk

“Customer support for SaaS and eCommerce that makes customer service better, faster and remarkably effective. Manage all your customer conversations in one place that feels like Gmail on steroids.”

ThriveDesk is a help desk software that enables businesses to manage and streamline their support operations. It offers a range of features, including ticket management, live chat, and a knowledge base. The platform is simple to use and affordable, making it a good option for smaller businesses.

Notable features include:

Features

  • Share inbox for centralized customer support view and management
  • Real-time (live) customer chat
  • Self-service knowledge articles and FAQs
  • Reporting, such as ticket volume, response time, and customer satisfaction data
  • Integrations ensure it connects with other software, like Freemius
  • Customization features for tailoring software to your needs and brand
  • Custom communications WPPortal
  • AI-powered assistive editing options

Pros

  • Simple to use, clean, and intuitive interface
  • Affordable
  • Cloud-based
  • Wide range of integrations (Autonami, Slack, WordPress, Surecart, Freemius, etc.)
  • Wide variety of customizations (including live chat)

Cons

  • Some features are only available in the paid plan
  • No mobile app

Pricing

Zendesk

“Build stronger customer relationships through powerful customer experiences.”

Zendesk offers a suite of features to help businesses manage customer interactions across multiple channels, including email, chat, phone, and social media. The platform also provides companies with tools to track customer satisfaction, analyze customer data, and create self-service resources.

Features

  • Customer support software
  • Email, chat, phone, and social media support customer satisfaction tracking
  • Customer data analysis
  • Self-service resources

Pros

  • Easy to use
  • Flexible and scalable
  • Wide range of features
  • Affordable
  • Good customer support

Cons

  • Not as customizable as some other platforms
  • Certain features are not available in the free plan

Pricing

Freshdesk

“Delight your customers with effortless customer service. Engage in more meaningful conversations every day, across every channel, with every customer.”

Freshdesk is a cloud-based customer support software that offers a suite of features for businesses to manage customer interactions across multiple channels, including email, chat, phone, and social media. Freshdesk also provides businesses with tools to track customer satisfaction, analyze customer data, and create self-service resources.

Features

  • Ticketing
  • Knowledge base
  • Live chat
  • Self-service portal
  • Reporting
  • Integrations
  • Customization
  • Security

Pros

  • Easy to use
  • Affordable
  • Flexible and scalable
  • Integrations with other popular software
  • Free plan available

Cons

  • Some features are not available in the free plan
  • Not as well-known as some other platforms

Pricing

Help Scout

“A better way to talk with your customers.”

Help Scout allows businesses to manage customer interactions across multiple channels, including email, chat, and phone. The platform also provides companies with tools to track customer satisfaction, analyze customer data, and create self-service resources.

Features

  • Shared inbox
  • Knowledge base
  • Live chat
  • Messaging
  • Customer management
  • Reporting
  • Integrations
  • Customization
  • Mobile apps
  • API

Pros

  • Easy to use
  • Robust email management
  • Customizable workflows
  • Collaboration tools
  • Reporting and analytics tools
  • Integrations
  • Mobile apps (iOS and Android)

Cons

  • Limited features on Mobile app

Pricing

After going through these solutions, you’ve probably got a reasonable idea of what will work for your product business. But ‘reasonable’ isn’t good enough when you’re selecting something as important as customer service software, so allow us to conclude with:

A Final Word on Choosing the Right Customer Service Software For Your Business

Because customers are the bread and butter of any business, keeping them satisfied, ‘seen’, and left with the feeling you genuinely care is critical to success. For these reasons, the right customer service software can very much change the game. Here’s how I’d ‘pair up’ the mentioned solutions with the scale of business:

For small businesses:

  • ThriveDesk or Help Scout: Both solutions offer user-friendly help desk software with ticket management, live chat, and knowledge base features. They offer customization options and are accessible from anywhere with an internet connection. While Help Scout is a more mature product, it’s double the price and you most likely won’t need its advanced features. The benefit of going with ThriveDesk — in addition to the price — is that their founder is actively involved in the WordPress ecosystem so they understand “WordPress businesses” (our founder Vova met Parvez in WordCamp Asia). As a small startup that is relatively new in the space, they are more agile and are catching up on features very quickly while developing newer ones that other platforms are missing. Its robust integration features mean it’s able to connect with other software (such as Freemius), making it a good idea for products/businesses that make use of external software platforms.

For medium-sized businesses:

  • Zendesk: Flexible customer service software with email, chat, phone, and social media support. It offers a wide range of features and pricing plans as well as providing customer satisfaction tracking and self-service resources. One drawback is that it is not very customizable.

For enterprise-level businesses:

  • Freshdesk: Cloud-based customer support software with advanced features such as ticketing, knowledge base, live chat, and reporting. It’s flexible, scalable, and mobile-friendly, making it ideal for large teams and remote work environments. Freshdesk integrates well with popular software and offers a free plan for businesses to explore.

Businesses can’t all be painted with the same brush, so it’s up to you to evaluate your needs, your budget, and your list of customer service providers before making a decision. It’ll be time well spent, trust us 😉 With the right customer service software, you can give your customers the experience they deserve and elevate your business above competitors. Even better, there’s a good chance your support could be the nudge your customers need to become brand ambassadors.

Originally published at Freemius blog on August 2, 2023.

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Freemius

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