Helpdesk ticketing systems are often big, complex pieces of software. This makes picking the best one for you need a somewhat daunting task. And if you consider that most of these systems are actually just components of even larger helpdesk management systems, you’re in for a challenge. In this post, we’ll try to explain these systems and their various components and review some of the best helpdesk ticketing systems we could find.
We’ll start off by discussing helpdesk ticketing as it is, after all, the main topic of this post. We’ll also have a rather detailed look at other major components of helpdesk software such as asset management and knowledge base and a less detailed look as some less important features. We will then briefly explore the different deployment options that are local installation and cloud-based before we finally get to review the five best helpdesk ticketing systems.
About Helpdesk Ticketing
Ticketing is one of the most basic functions of an IT helpdesk and the primary element of most IT helpdesk software. When a user contacts the helpdesk to report an issue, a ticket is open. This is seemingly universal. The ticket will typically contain relevant information about the user, his equipment, the issue he or she is experiencing and the specific conditions where and when the issue arises. The ticket is also where each resolution step will be documented. It typically shows what’s been done, when and by who.
In addition to providing a storage facility for all relevant information about an issue, a helpdesk ticketing system will often also include some form of workflow management. For instance, tickets can be assigned to different team members depending on various factors such as availability or skills. A help desk team, for example, may have someone who specializes in printing problems and all tickets related to printing would be assigned to that person.
A helpdesk ticketing system typically also has Service Level Agreement (SLA) functionalities and priority management. Some types of business-critical issues might require resolution within the hour while other, less-important ones, might tolerate being resolved the next day. A good ticketing system will track this. Escalation is also a common functionality of a helpdesk ticketing system. After a certain amount of time has elapsed, unresolved tickets can be automatically escalated to the next level. This can dramatically improve the resolution time and reduce the number of SLA breaches.
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Other Components Of Typical Helpdesk Software
There was a time when helpdesk software packages were not much more than ticket management systems. It is not so much the case today, and they typically include several functionalities that were then available as separate packages. Having as much functionality as possible included in one package has some obvious advantages.
First and foremost, the learning curve is much smoother. Although different components serve different purposes and, therefore, operate differently, integrated software will have a common user interface that operates the same way throughout all modules.
Another major advantage of integrating several tools into one is cost saving. An integrated helpdesk package will often cost more than just a ticket management system but it will still cost less—sometimes much less—than acquiring each component from a different vendor. And while we’re on the subject of the components of helpdesk software, let’s have a look at what the main components are in addition to ticketing.
Asset management is a feature that is more common than ever in a helpdesk software. There’s a simple reason for that. Since a trouble ticket should normally include, among other things, detailed information about the equipment where the issue is happening. Wouldn’t it then be easier if that information could automatically be added to any newly opened ticket?
Asset management systems are inventory databases that contain detailed information about each piece of equipment an organization owns. They typically also contain information about users and the equipment assigned to them and will easily list all equipment assigned to a given user. By integrating asset management and ticket management, tickets can be automatically be populated with equipment details based on the caller’s identity. This can either be fully automatic or it can allow the help desk first level attendants to pick from a list of equipment associated with the caller.
To be truly useful, asset management requires that all equipment inventory be entered into the inventory database. This can be a huge task in some organizations. To alleviate this, some systems will allow adding equipment details on the fly. For example, when a user calls for the first time, the helpdesk attendant could document his equipment and add it to the asset management system.
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Another important component of helpdesk systems is a knowledge base. As you may have experienced, issues are sometimes redundant. For instance, many similar issues related to user training could be experienced by different users. A knowledge base will provide a quick and easy solution to recurrent problems by allowing the helpdesk personnel to look up historical data about past issues.
Some of these systems are automated and will search past resolved tickets for similar parameters such as symptoms and equipment and suggest a solution. Others are independent systems that must be populated from ticket data. The usefulness of these systems varies greatly depending on the system itself but also on the type of issues your helpdesk is handling.
Several other component or functionalities can be found in a helpdesk software. One of the most interesting ones is telephony integration. Computer-telephony integration is a complicated field but recent phone systems make it easier than ever. An integrated help desk system could, for instance, automatically pull user information from the telephone system when a user calls. That information could include information about that user’s past tickets and resolutions. Combined with asset management capabilities, It could even give the helpdesk agent detailed information about a user and his equipment before he answers the phone.
Remote control is another popular option available in several helpdesk software packages. Remote control systems let helpdesk attendants take control of a user’s computer. They can work on the computer as if they were sitting in front of it. This often makes for much faster resolution as a technician does not have to visit the user to fix the issue. It is particularly useful in larger organizations with multiple locations and a centralized help desk and in organizations that rely heavily on remote workers.
Locally Installed vs Cloud-Based Tools
Cloud computing is more popular than ever. It is no surprise, then, that there are several cloud-based helpdesk ticketing systems available. There are, of course, advantages and disadvantages to both locally installed and cloud-based systems. For instance, cloud-based solutions typically require less maintenance as it is usually handled by the supplier. Likewise, backups are often handled by the vendor.
On the other hand, a locally installed solution will often integrate better with your other systems. You might, for instance, already have an asset management system and want your helpdesk ticketing system to interact with it. While that could be done with some cloud-based solutions, it’s usually easier with local software.
The Best Helpdesk Ticketing Systems
Here’s a sample of the best helpdesk ticketing systems we could find. They all include additional capabilities that actually make them more helpdesk management systems than ticketing systems. It is, however, their ticketing capabilities that we examined most closely while preparing this post.
1. SolarWinds Web Help Desk (FREE TRIAL)
SolarWinds is a common name in the field of network and system administration tools. The company’s flagship product, the Network Performance Monitor is considered by many as one of the best SNMP network monitoring tools. The company also has some task-specific tools in most areas of system and network administration and troubleshooting, including several free tools.
For your IT helpdesk, the company offers the SolarWinds Web Help Desk. Despite its somewhat misleading name. this is not a cloud-based system. It is web-based—hence the name—but it is locally installed on your network. Being web-based means that you don’t need any client software and your help desk attendants only need a browser to gain full access to the system. This can greatly facilitate the deployment of the tool.
In addition to automated ticket management and a centralized knowledge base, the tool has excellent change management features. Change requests with automated approval workflows can be created with the SolarWinds Web Help Desk. SLA management, another important feature, is just as good and has timed notifications. The SolarWinds Web Help Desk integrates with Active Directory and LDAP as well as many third-party asset management systems. Another feature that is quite useful is the automated conversion of emails to tickets which allows you to set up a help desk mailbox where any received email is automatically converted into a ticket.
Reporting and follow-ups are additional features of the product. For instance, its built-in reports and dashboards let you track ticket status, technician performance, and customer support needs. There are also automated feedback surveys that you can have users complete upon ticket resolution. They allow you to remain on top of customer satisfaction and helpdesk performance.
The SolarWinds Web Help Desk is priced based on the number of help desk technicians you have. Prices start at $700 per technician, regardless of the number of end-users. A free 14-day trial can be downloaded from SolarWinds. For more information, a guided tour and a live demo are also available from SolarWinds’ website.
2. ManageEngine Service Desk Plus
Like SolarWinds, ManageEngine is a well-known name in the field of system and network management software. Its Service Desk Plus package is one of the few that is available either as a cloud-based service or as an on-premise software with both options offering a similar feature set.
Talking about features, the ManageEngine Service Desk Plus in one of the most ITIL-centric help desk software we’ve seen. If you’re familiar with the intricacies of the IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL), you’ll feel right at home with this product. Many of its features are ITIL-based and its various modules correspond to ITIL processes. For instance, the tool has incident management, problem management, and change management modules. It also features a service catalogue and a Configuration Management Database (CMDB). Assets management and project management complete this already well-endowed helpdesk suite.
Reporting is another strength of this product. The ManageEngine Service Desk Plus comes with over 150 predefined reports. You can get information on completed tickets based on various parameters or keep tabs on technician performance. Reports can be exported in a variety of formats such as HTML, PDF, XLS, or CSV. You can also build our own custom reports in minutes without writing a single line of code.
The ManageEngine Service Desk Plus is available in three licensing tiers with increasing feature sets. The Standard version only includes the helpdesk ticketing system, the Professional version adds the asset management features and the Enterprise version adds project management and all the ITIL features. Prices start at $1 195 annually.
3. Jira Service Desk
Jira Service Desk from Atlassian is a helpdesk ticketing system with an interesting twist. While the tool will suit any kind of IT helpdesk, it was specifically designed for the support of in-house software. It fully integrates with Jira Software, a project and issue tracking package for software development, also from Atlassian.
Jira Service Desk is one of the few packages that offer a self-service help desk where users can open tickets by themselves. It also has automation as well as SLAs and CSAT reporting. One of the best assets of this product is how it is simple and quick to set up. Contrary to some competitors, you could be running within just a few days. Another rather unique feature of this product is the Jira marketplace where you’ll find over 800 apps that can interact Jira Service Desk and other Jira products. It is reminiscent of the Google Play Store and other app stores.
Jira Service Desk does not have knowledge management built-in. The software can, however, interact with Jira Confluence a type of knowledge base/artificial intelligence system that can be coupled with the self-service help desk to assist end-users in solving issues with no human intervention.
Considering its capabilities, Jira Service Desk is relatively inexpensive. A flat fee of $10/month will be sufficient for up to three help desk agents. Between 4 and 15 agents, you’ll have to shell out $20/agent each month and volume discounts are available if you have more than 15 agents. A free trial is available but it only lasts 7 days. It’s a good thing that the software installs quickly.
4. ZenDesk Support
ZenDesk Support is a complete helpdesk management solution, not just a ticketing system. It has several unique ticket management features that make it a very interesting option. For instance, ticket forms can be created for different types of request and only include fields relevant to that specific kind of request. They ensure that your helpdesk agents ask all the right questions and that no time is wasted collecting unnecessary information. The forms also support conditional and custom fields, allowing your agent s to gather organization-specific details.
ZenDesk Support is a helpdesk-centric package. It uses skill-based routing to assign tickets to the proper agent. The system can also initiate customizable ticket workflows based on certain changes or time-based conditions. This tool also supports macros to respond quickly to standards requests with predefined actions. Macros can be used to change a ticket’s status as well.
Collaboration extensions are available, allowing agents to communicate with other teams and get them involved in ticket resolution as needed from within ZenDesk Support. The tool also has several customer insight features such as CSAT ratings and Net Promoter Score surveys. Plus it has performance dashboards to give visibility into ticket volume, agent performance, and other key support metrics and custom reports to better understand your customers, measure operational efficiency, and improve your team’s workflow.
Prices for Zendesk Support range in five licensing tiers from $5/agent/month to $199/agent/month, depending on the selected feature set. All plans support an unlimited number of end-users and a 30-day trial is available.
Freshdesk from Freshworks is a cloud-based full-featured helpdesk package that claims to offer an intuitive, feature-rich, and affordable customer support solution. It has way too many features to discuss them all but let’s see what a few of the most interesting are. First off, the product has several interesting automatic assignment features. For example, tickets can be automatically assigned to agents or groups based on keyword, requester or properties. Furthermore, intelligent assignment can assign tickets to agents base on their current workload or skill set.
Freshdesk also features some excellent self-service features such as the automatic suggestion of solutions. Managers will most likely love the product’s dashboard and reports which are as good as they get. It’s got both predefined reports—including customer satisfaction—and customizable reports for the best flexibility.
Price-wise, Freshdesk is available in several versions with increasing feature sets. Sprout, the lowest tier is free but has a very limited feature set. Prices for the other tiers vary from $19/agent/month to $99/agent/month, depending on the feature set. A free 21-day trial is available on all licensing tiers.
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