Last week’s review of Ticksy is still fresh in my mind, so I thought a review of Zendesk would be a timely follow-up. Zendesk has a number of features in common with Ticksy and it’s aimed at a similar audience, but in some ways, they’re like chalk and cheese.
Getting Started with Zendesk
Zendesk takes tickets from apps, Twitter, web, chat and email. By default, only email is enabled, but it’s easy to add additional accounts. All these channels simply bring in tickets to Zendesk, so we’re staying with the simple option of email for this review.
The Zendesk server receives the new ticket and displays it in the Views column under a default view, My Unsolved Tickets. Additional default views include All Unsolved Tickets and Unsolved Tickets In Your Groups, making it easy to see what your team is working on. You can easily change these defaults in the Manage tab if they don’t work for you. I’m starting with My Unsolved Tickets.
Working with Tickets
Dealing with tickets is straightforward but has some additional customisation options. This is where the contrast with Ticksy becomes obvious. Where Ticksy is designed for simple, speedy ticket management, Zendesk provides a few more ways to expand and customise. For example, you can assign a Status, a Type, a Priority, a Group and an Assignee by default (the last two options don’t show in my Zendesk as there’s only one person assigned to the support desk). You can also tag tickets to make them easier to sort and find. Again, your own team can modify any of the defaults if they’re not suitable for the queries you’re receiving.
When replying to a ticket, the support assistant can choose whether to make a reply Public or Private, and they can also attach files to help the user resolve their query. I particularly liked the drop-down list and keyboard shortcut under the reply field; both really did speed up the process of sending a response.
A Private reply is more of a ticket note: it’s saved in the ticket history, but only your staff will see it. Re-assigning a ticket to a different group places it in that group’s queue, and you can optionally choose a specific person in that group if you need to. In contrast, a Public reply goes to the customer and is saved in the web interface and also sent via email, providing you’ve set a Trigger to do this. (See below for more on Triggers.)
In addition, the customer service representative can switch to a different view to show everything that’s happened on a ticket. As well as comments, Zendesk shows who was emailed and when, and gives the employee the option of viewing sent mails – even if they didn’t send them.
Triggers and Macros
Zendesk uses Triggers and Macros to describe rules which determine what happens when action is taken. Let’s look at them in turn.
Triggers govern when the status of a ticket will be changed, when emails might be sent, and what emails are sent. Placeholders can be used to insert names and other information, and you can change the way Triggers work based on various criteria. To be honest, you don’t really need to mess with the defaults until you have a good idea of something Zendesk isn’t doing that you need it to do.
Macros are a little bit different to Triggers. They allow a set of actions to be manually triggered by the customer service representative (compare this to Triggers which are executed automatically – it’s a big difference). Macros can change ticket fields (such as Status and Assignee) and can also sent out a pre-set reply. Again, Placeholders can inset customised information.
Customers often find it infuriating to get a scripted response from customer support, and inaccurate replies can make an irate user even more demanding. I do agree that Macros are very useful for common questions, although a knowledge base would probably be a better idea for questions that really do crop up a lot.
Going back to the Unsolved Tickets screen, you can customise the layout with Widgets. When I go to the Widgets page, I can choose pre-set Zendesk widgets and incorporate third party services into my Zendesk dashboard.
Power without the learning curve
Zendesk does a really good job of bridging that difficult gap between customer support software and technical support software. It’s flexible enough to suit a whole range of settings. I like the level that it’s pitched at: it’s got a range of very practical defaults to avoid forcing the user to get bogged down in detail, but there’s also a lot of scope to extend and build once you outgrow the basics.
OK, I’m not particularly keen on Macros, even though I’ve worked on support desks where they would have been useful. I’m just not sure it gives the best level of support, but that’s personal preference.
Perhaps my favourite feature is the ability to integrate other services. This is what I really like about cloud computing generally, but I’ve never seen customer support software that does this, and it makes so much sense. Joining up a CRM, a screensharing service or a knowledge base is a brilliant idea, and it makes sense not to duplicate these features in Zendesk when you can connect to systems you’re already using in a couple of clicks.
I’d highly recommend Zendesk as an option for any organisation. The price tag for the Starter plan is just $20/year for up to three agents, and that’s a really sensible and affordable plan for any small business.
About the AuthorClaire Broadley is a technical author and SEO copywriter. She reviews cloud applications and SaaS products for Rated Cloud.
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