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Zoho Desk

Zoho Desk serves as one of the most comprehensive IT support and helpdesk solutions available to small to midsize businesses (SMBs) today. The platform offers a free plan for up to three users and also serves as a gateway to Zoho’s wide array of other products. Like those other services, Zoho continues to add features to Zoho Desk in order to improve it. Because it keeps building on an already-rich feature set, it’s a clear winner of our Editors’ Choice pick for helpdesk software.

Zoho Desk even offers advanced functionality such as providing gateways for users to interact with agents by using Voice-over-IP (VoIP) and social media as well as data analysis capabilities for managers monitoring customer interactions and service-level agreements (SLAs). All that and competitive pricing options make it an Editors’ Choice winner along with Freshdesk, HappyFox, and Vivantio Pro.

Zoho Desk comes in three versions: a free version, a $12-per-user per-month Pro version, and the aforementioned $25-per-user per-month Enterprise version, which adds features intended for larger organizations. This version checked all of the boxes of our features table that can be checked, except for asset management. Unlike ServiceDesk Plus 9.3, which is also owned by Zoho (but released under ManageEngine, its subsidiary brand), Zoho Desk is not available as a standalone on-site app but only as a managed cloud service.

Another way Zoho sets Zoho Desk apart is by price. Other products that sport really complete feature sets, such as Vivantio Pro, reach prices as high as $90 per user per month, while Zoho Desk’s Enterprise edition maxes out at $25 per user per month. That’s quite a bargain considering all of its features. Those who don’t need all of that capability can drop their costs even more by opting for the Pro version.

Setup and Getting Started

Zoho does a good job keeping setup simple, starting with the free version, which lets an IT department test the basic system without even having to provide a credit card number. After you enter the basic company information, you can set up users and define their roles in the support team, which has some impact on features made available to that user.

You can then begin setting up customers, creating reports, defining SLAs, linking to social media, texting messages, configuring chats and VoIP sessions, creating a knowledge base, and entering tickets. The user interface (UI) is clean and easy to navigate, with views for agents and managers following the same forms.

Ticket Management

Tickets can be entered through the customer service portal or through Facebook or Twitter as they can with HappyFox. Zoho Desk’s ticket management UI provides simple ticket aggregation through any social media channel or directly through your company’s portal. Managers can easily drill down to incident details or look at tickets by agent, issue, keyword, or customer. While there is no dedicated asset management system or feature set in Zoho Desk, it’s certainly possible to create an asset tag entry on the customizable ticket form as well as user names that could enable an agent to perform asset management-style searches. Such searches include seeing if either the user or his or her PC has had problems in the past. Managers can also monitor SLAs by user, department, or company.

A recently added feature called “Headquarters” provides administrators with an overview of what’s happening within the support team. You’ll see items such as incoming tickets and outgoing responses. You’re also now able to view live traffic as well as which agents are active and which aren’t. One of the neatest features you’ll find in Zoho Desk is a customer satisfaction dashboard, which shows whether a select grouping of tickets have been resolved or are still open. Zoho recently added three new dashboards to Zoho Desk: First Response Time, Average Response Time by Team, and Resolution Time by Team. All of these dashboards give you a better understanding of how individuals and teams are handling incoming volume.

Zoho Desk now lets you sort open tickets based on when they were created, which are overdue, and which are due within two or three hours, etc. You can categorize tickets by priority if time isn’t a factor. This is especially helpful for organizations that have tied Zoho Desk to Zoho CRM, where white whale accounts might require immediate customer service even though the ticket may be sitting at the bottom of a timed queue. The integration will automatically pull in customer relationship management (CRM) contact information to let you know if you’re dealing with a major client.

When you click on a ticket, you’ll see all of the conversations and comments that have been placed on the ticket by previous agents. This includes sales data pulled from the CRM tool as well. If there’s an open ticket, when it’s closed in Zoho Desk it automatically moves to the closed column and all of the service information is updated in real time in Zoho CRM. Similarly, Ticket Peak gives you quick access to see what’s happening in a ticket without going into the ticket itself. While you’re on the Menu page, you can bump out a page that gives you an overview of what’s happening within a ticket. You can scroll through all of the tickets in this view by clicking up or down.

Zoho recently introduced “auto-snippets,” which let agents quickly respond to customer emails with templated responses. So, if customers are continually stuck at checkout, rather than having to retype the steps to help them check out, an agent using Zoho Desk can click an auto-snippet and populate the reply message instantly.

Zoho now also features “Agent Collision,” which notifies two agents who are simultaneously viewing a ticket. If this situation occurs, then both agents will be asked whether they’d like to collaborate on the ticket or if one should leave the ticket. Within this view, you can see what comments other agents are adding or you can click on the Private Chat icon to discuss a resolution with the other agent outside of the ticket environment.

Self-Service, Reporting, and Integration

It is often most effective to let customers attempt to find the information they need before tying up an agent. The self-service portal includes access to a custom knowledge base. Agents can easily add to the knowledge base while solving a new problem as well as adding to an existing entry as things change. The knowledge base system is both flexible and easy to use, with separate categories for FAQs, how-to articles, and known issues. It’s a simple matter to set up multiple portals for different customers, whether internal or external, with customized forms by using different logos or other branding.

Reporting is available for several defined categories as well as for custom reports to suit individual requirements. In addition to monitoring open tickets, time-to-close tickets, open versus closed tickets, and similar metrics, SLAs can be defined. Any issues that don’t meet an SLA can be flagged or escalated to higher tiers of support.

Users can be prompted to evaluate the agent that gave them support, and the results are collected and made available to management for analysis. Below you can see the input form for evaluating an agent along with the drill-down capability for a manager.

Integration with other Zoho apps as well as with Twilio for voice calls, Twitter for chats, and Facebook public or private groups for social media support are all simple to set up and automate the creation of tickets through hashtags or other identifiers. With a wide array of methods to initiate tickets for internal or external customers, Zoho Desk is ideal for either service providers or for internal use by companies of any size.

Feature Sets by Version

Zoho Desk’s three available versions offer a great set of features. Even the free version is usable, especially for test purposes or for smaller businesses that may not be sure they need such a product.

  • Free: This version offers Work Modes, Customizable Help Center, Knowledge Base, Community Forums, Re-Branding, Domain Mapping, Priority SLAs, Basic Reports, Agent Dashboards, Manager Dashboards, Ticket Overview Dashboard, and the Team Feed.
  • Professional: This version offers everything in the Free version plus Multichannel Support, Helpdesk Automations, Multi-Department Management, Advanced SLAs with Business Hours, Integration with Zoho CRM with Two-Way Sync, Customer Happiness Ratings, Cloud Telephony Using Twilio, and Advanced Reports & Dashboards.
  • Enterprise: This version offers everything in the Professional version plus Multi-Brand Help Center, Scheduled Reports, Cross-Department Reports, Contract Management, Custom Ticket Templates, Role-Based Access Control, Zoho BugTracker Integration, Cloud Telephony with IVR, and Live Chat Support.

Overall, the Enterprise version of Zoho Desk is a very capable, easy-to-use, and nicely priced helpdesk system. The free trial makes creating a test bed simple, and provides a well-designed and capable UI for the Enterprise version. Unless you’re specifically looking for a helpdesk system with integrated asset management, such as Freshservice or Zendesk Support, Zoho Desk should definitely be on your short list.

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