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The Journey To Find the Best Customer Support System

written by Arin Anderson on Monday February 16, 2015

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Over the past few months here at Six Feet Up we have been evaluating our processes and systems. This is part of our annual strategic planning and has become critical to the success of not only our internal workflow, but our customer relationships. As new communication methods arise and new systems are consistently developed, we decided to take a good look at our customer support system and workflow. Read on to see just what we discovered.

The Questions

As we started to evaluate our current systems, we had to ask ourselves several questions. What do we like about our current system? What do we not like? What do we need that is not currently in our workflow? How will this decision affect our team internally? And, how will it affect our customer relationships? These questions helped spark debate within our team and we quickly found the everyone had different needs and requirements for a support and ticketing system.

The Requirements

As the conversation moved forward, our team developed 15 key requirements. These requirements were evaluated based on the individual needs of our team members and the overall goal to increase efficiency and effectiveness of our support tools.

The Tools

Based on initial review of our requirements, we selected six support systems to review and compare. Each team member took a few key requirements and we went to work reviewing the following systems:

  • Zendesk: Not currently used. Top choice for our team to review.
  • SugarCRM: Currently used for CRM and sales management. We decided to review for support and tickets as well.
  • Time Task Email Hopper: Currently used as our internal project management tool. Decided to review as an option to escalate emails as customer support tickets.
  • Groove: Not currently used. Reviewed as alternative to Zendesk.
  • Support Bee: Not currently used. Reviewed as alternative to Zendesk.
  • Help Scout: Not currently used. Reviewed as alternative to Zendesk.

The Discovery

We put together the following side by side comparison of all of the tools based on our 15 key requirements , which you will find below.

1. Automated reply

  • Zendesk: Feature available. Includes common Triggers to automate ticket workflow. Also comes with customizable Automations tools that initiate a workflow based on time-based conditions.

  • SugarCRM: Feature available. Supports automated replies as well as creates automated cases from inbound emails. Also supports several automated templates, and has the ability to exclude certain domains from receiving auto-replies.

  • Time Task Email Hopper: Featured not offered based on our research.

  • Groove: Feature available. Offers "rules" to automate workflow for incoming tickets. Also offers auto-replies to customer emails to let them know that you’ve received their request. Bonus: It offers "common replies" feature that allows you to keep answers to common questions and insert them into any ticket.

  • Support Bee: Feature available. Promotes easy automation. Has a feature called "snippets" where ready-made replies are available to mix and match and create quick replies. Also, offers automation filters where parameters can be set for message routing.

  • Help Scout: Feature available. Offers auto-replies, auto-actions for workflow, saved replies for common questions, auto bcc, and custom automated outgoing settings.

2. Ticket management & documentation

  • Zendesk: Feature available. Supports external targets for ticket automation (i.e. create Trac ticket and sync comments from ZenDesk as they happen). Offers the ability to set hours and SLA targets.

  • SugarCRM: Feature available. Case management is tied to customer profile in the CRM and emails are sent to a group mailbox that is monitored by Sugar. It supports merging, following and sharing cases.

  • Time Task Email Hopper: Feature available. Email hopper can direct emails to a task, project or milestone. It can monitor a mailbox every 10 min and can be customized to file the note to a project, etc... CC emails to the hopper to archive the comments.

  • Groove: Feature available. Encourages interactions over email and can bring tickets in from social channels and merge to email cases. Rules can trigger actions for incoming emails.

  • Support Bee: Feature available, but limited. Pretty simplistic system that offers labels for organization. Limited info about ticket workflow on the site.

  • Help Scout: Feature available. Create and respond to tickets over email and set flags, etc... with @ commands.

3. Emergency notifications

  • Zendesk: Feature available. Notification methods include email, pager duty and custom notifications, no direct SMS.

  • SugarCRM: Feature available. Uses Email only. API could be used to query new ticket status.

  • Time Task Email Hopper: Feature available. Uses Email, if setup for a request queue. API could be used to query request queue status.

  • Groove: No adequate documentation.

  • Support Bee: Feature available. Uses Email and phone app. SMS integrations are more for customer interactions.

  • Help Scout: Feature available. Uses Email and webhooks.

4. Internal mailing lists

  • Zendesk: Feature available. Triggers can decide if groups receive email groups configured in ZenDesk.

  • SugarCRM: Feature available. Emails are sent from the web UI and can be associated to cases if the header macros match on archival.

  • Time Task Email Hopper: Feature available. However, email notifications are noisy and hard to decipher what changed. When a task or milestone is emailed, it’s followers, owners and assignees will receive an email notification.

  • Groove: Feature available. Offers notification preferences to choose which events you want emails about.

  • Support Bee: Feature available. Email notification preferences for group assignments can be set to match individual preferences.

  • Help Scout: Feature available. Offers granular control over when you would like Help Scout to notify you of account activity.

5. Search

  • Zendesk: Feature available. Offers all fields or keyword search using tags. You can limit results using permissions on different projects. Also has detailed filters and shows icons for result type, like Plone. The public facing knowledge base has separate search.

  • SugarCRM: Feature available. Super robust search that includes lots of drill-down, filters, wildcards, keywords, etc. and add-on "modules," such as "Realted Records" within current search. Also has an Advanced Search screen, and can be administered and designed to display results how you want. Also offers "Saved Search" options.

  • Time Task Email Hopper: Feature available. Offers standard search options with filters and queries. Also offers search for attached document contents.

  • Groove: No adequate documentation.

  • Support Bee: No adequate documentation.

  • Help Scout: Indicates that you can search and then perform bulk actions. Knowledge base also has a search.

6. Internal commenting

  • Zendesk: Feature available.

  • SugarCRM: No adequate documentation.

  • Time Task Email Hopper: Featured not offered based on our research.

  • Groove: Feature available.

  • Support Bee: Feature available.

  • Help Scout: Feature available.

7. Bulk updates

  • Zendesk: Feature available.

  • SugarCRM: Feature available.

  • Time Task Email Hopper: Feature available, but limited.

  • Groove: Feature available.

  • Support Bee: Feature available.

  • Help Scout: Feature available.

8. Data retention & audit trail

  • Zendesk: Feature available.

  • SugarCRM: Featured not offered based on our research.

  • Time Task Email Hopper: Featured not offered based on our research.

  • Groove: Feature available, but limited.

  • Support Bee: No adequate documentation.

  • Help Scout: No adequate documentation.

9. Anonymous mail-in

  • Zendesk: Feature available. You can set as many email addresses as you'd like to forward to Zendesk. It then lets you process the emails to different teams based on what email address the customer sent it to.

  • SugarCRM: Feature available. You can automatically create tickets from inbound emails at a variety of email addresses and assign those cases to groups. Also has an auto-reply to confirm the email was received.

  • Time Task Email Hopper: Feature available, but limited. Sender's email address must be a contact, a user, or on a whitelist in Timetask. People in Timetask can be created via an API and can email to general work request queues or to a specific project by adding the project number to the Timetask request email address.

  • Groove: Feature available. Supports multiple mailboxes and offers the ability to view them separately or combined.

  • Support Bee: Feature available. Supports multiple mailboxes based on plan level.

  • Help Scout: Feature available. Offers unlimited mailboxes.

10. Price

  • Zendesk: $1-$125 per month per agent.

  • SugarCRM: $35 per user per month or $60 per user per month if a customer self-service portal is desired.

  • Time Task Email Hopper: $175 per month

  • Groove: $15 per user per month with unlimited access.

  • Support Bee:

    • $30 per month for one mailbox and one group with unlimited users.
    • $70 per month for three mailboxes and three groups with unlimited users.
    • $150 per month for ten mailboxes and ten groups with unlimited users.
  • Help Scout: $15 per user per month, 10% discount for annual sign up. Free for three users and one mailbox.

11. Client update view

  • Zendesk: Feature available. Offers a themeable customer service portal. Customers can see the status of their current and past requests.

  • SugarCRM: Feature available, but only at $60 level and is limited.

  • Time Task Email Hopper: Featured not offered based on our research.

  • Groove: Featured not offered based on our research. However, there is a knowledge base feature and the ability to integrate chat.

  • Support Bee: Featured not offered based on our research.

  • Help Scout: Featured not offered based on our research. However, there is a knowledge base feature.

13. Modern UI/Mobile app

  • Zendesk: Clean, modern, user-friendly, and has dedicated mobile app and responsive web for visitors. Offers Single Page App style.

  • SugarCRM: New UI is getting ready to release, but will need customization to turn adjust features based on use.

  • Time Task Email Hopper: Has many color schemes that can distract and bother you when reading. Mobile responsive works well.

  • Groove: Supports iPhone/iPad App. UI looks like an inbox and has "smart folder" to organize into folders.

  • Support Bee: No adequate documentation.

  • Help Scout: Clean UI with Twitter bootstrap.

14. API

  • Zendesk: JSON REST API limited to 200 requests per minute

  • SugarCRM: JSON REST, Legacy and straight DB calls

  • Time Task Email Hopper: JSON REST API

  • Groove: Create tickets from your forms by calling JS on their service

  • Support Bee: JSON REST and Webhooks

  • Help Scout: JSON REST and Webhooks

15. SugarCRM integration

  • Zendesk: Feature available.

  • SugarCRM: Same system.

  • Time Task Email Hopper: Featured not offered based on our research.

  • Groove: Feature available.

  • Support Bee: Featured not offered based on our research.

  • Help Scout: Featured not offered based on our research.

And the winner is...

For our team, Zendesk was the winner. We have been successfully using this system since December and it has significantly enhanced our workflow, efficiency, and customer support communication. What customer support and ticketing systems have you tried? Are you happy with your current workflow? We'd love to hear from you in the comment section below.

 
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Arin Anderson
Master Scheduler & Content Strategy
Arin's Recent Posts:
PyTennessee 2015 Recap (03/09/2015)
The Journey To Find the Best Customer Support System (02/16/2015)

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