Cool New Help Desk From Google - It's Free :)

by BIG Mike Banned
38 replies
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#cool #desk #free #google
  • Profile picture of the author cashcow
    Thanks for posting this in such detail!

    I'd actually been kicking around the idea of implementing some sort of support desk mostly because I get so many spam emails that are mixed in with real emails from customers that I am afraid I might miss something important!

    Plus I would like to be able to organize each "ticket" as you have outlined above.

    This sounds like a great solution - gonna give it a try!

    Lee
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    • Profile picture of the author GeorgR.
      Originally Posted by cashcow View Post


      I'd actually been kicking around the idea of implementing some sort of support desk mostly because I get so many spam emails that are mixed in with real emails from customers that I am afraid I might miss something important!
      this is really something i might consider. I am probably not working on such a big scale like Mike (notice the pun there ) - but that helpdesk is a great tip! G.
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  • Profile picture of the author rapidscc
    Cool new perspective on a way to use an existing service

    Most of all it comes without the need for an installation and additional learning curve.

    I use labels too, but mostly to organize my mails.

    best,
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    • Profile picture of the author Vlad Shelest
      What a detailed and interesting post! I'm not (yet ) at a stage where I need a help desk, but I think it's a brilliant and novel idea and something I will definitely try out.
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  • Profile picture of the author paj_mccarthy
    Sounds like quite a bit of hassle when you can just install one of many open source helpdesk applications such as osTicket:: Open Source Support Ticket System

    Here's a few others worth checking:

    Crafty Syntax Live Help
    Help Center Live
    PerlDesk
    PHP Support Tickets
    Support Logic Helpdesk
    Support Services Manager

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    • Profile picture of the author BIG Mike
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      • Profile picture of the author Sparhawke
        Originally Posted by BIG Mike View Post

        Huh? Using this system, there's nothing to install, nothing to learn, it's inuitive and you're up and running in seconds. How can you define that as a hassle?

        I wouldn't use an opensource product for this anyways - as I said, we have concerns about protecting confidential information and open source apps tend to have more exploits because of their open nature.
        Basically you just give everyone doing the support a universal email login and password and let them sort it from there?

        Do I get a cookie now?
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      • Profile picture of the author Jag82
        Originally Posted by BIG Mike View Post


        I wouldn't use an opensource product for this anyways - as I said, we have concerns about protecting confidential information and open source apps tend to have more exploits because of their open nature.
        Have you tried 3 Pillars helpdesk by Willie Crawford?

        It's a very simple and straightforward help desk to use.

        I'm curious - but why do you say that it's a barrier to
        effective communication?

        Jag
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      • Profile picture of the author paj_mccarthy
        Originally Posted by BIG Mike View Post

        Huh? Using this system, there's nothing to install, nothing to learn, it's inuitive and you're up and running in seconds. How can you define that as a hassle?

        I wouldn't use an opensource product for this anyways - as I said, we have concerns about protecting confidential information and open source apps tend to have more exploits because of their open nature.
        Well, I tend to get the same questions repeated so having a predefined response setup that I can load and tailor saves a lot of legwork.

        I actually use Kayako and it's useful for monitoring employee responses, average ticket response times which saves a lot of hassle on the MI front.

        Kayako (and some of the Open source ones) come with an AJAX FAQ that provides an answer if the question meets certain criteria in real time. It lowers the support requests quite a bit which is useful for operational.

        Filing all the tickets through a gmail account doesn't exude professionalism to the end client. I guess you can update your MX records to point to a gmail account so the end user would never know?

        In terms of security, fair point about open source apps being more vulnerable to hacking. Although, it's probably a security flaw on the same level as having one username and password distributed amongst all employees.

        Horses for courses...
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        • Profile picture of the author BIG Mike
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          • Profile picture of the author paj_mccarthy
            Originally Posted by BIG Mike View Post

            But, all that needs to be set up at some point,
            That's just not true - Google is widely respected in terms of Gmail at least and I've NEVER had a customer complain or express concern to me over using a Gmail address in the 5 or 6 years I've had the accounts.

            Don't assume things like this to be factual - test them for yourself.
            I AM a customer of yours A repeat buyer in fact...

            Like I said, horses for courses. In my line of business, having a little more oversight, regulation over tickets and a complete history is very useful. As is anything that reduces the growing number of tickets on a daily basis and an escalation process.
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  • Profile picture of the author JF911
    Your Gmail setup is cool, but Kayako is the industry support desk product for good reason, it really is an outstanding product.

    As an owner and user of Kayako for 3-4 years, the main advantages for me are the pre-defined replies and knowledgebase. It makes answering those repetitive emails a breeze and has cut down on a huge amount email.
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  • Profile picture of the author Joachim Larsen
    Good post Big Mike. Very informative, I will try this out, thanks.
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  • Profile picture of the author rayx
    Big Mike that's a great idea... there's so much you can do with Gmail - I like to integrate it with Google Calender and get reminders when important things come up
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    • Profile picture of the author Paul Myers
      I think a lot of people are missing the point. I HATE help desks for most things, because of the hoops you have to jump through to reply to an email. Plus the need to have passwords for every vendor I try to communicate with.

      Example: I got a JV request via email from someone a few weeks ago. I replied, and got back an instant note telling me he's not answering that email address any more due to spam problems. (Bullsh_t! If that's the real reason, get better spam filtering. If you're just trying to streamline things and segment the workload, tell me that. But don't ask me for a personal response if it's going to a group mailbox.) It included a link to his help desk.

      Filed the request and autoresponse in the "Stupid email tricks" folder.

      Mike's idea avoids those problems, and lets any member of the group recognize and properly route emails that are clearly intended for a specific individual. It gives each side of the transaction what they need to get things done smoothly.

      I'd have some privacy concerns about handling it through Gmail, but that's a personal preference.


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      • Profile picture of the author Dan C. Rinnert
        Originally Posted by Paul Myers View Post

        I'd have some privacy concerns about handling it through Gmail, but that's a personal preference.
        And for those that don't want to give Google the keys to their kingdoms, I don't see why a similar solution couldn't be put together using a decent web-based IMAP solution.
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      • Profile picture of the author TonyDavis
        Originally Posted by Paul Myers View Post

        I think a lot of people are missing the point. I HATE help desks for most things, because of the hoops you have to jump through to reply to an email. Plus the need to have passwords for every vendor I try to communicate with.

        ..... omitted.....

        Paul
        There are helpdesk sytems out there such as footprints by Numara, that allow you to reply to a notification email, sent by the helpdesk, and it automatically updates the ticket with your reply and email the user your reply. Everything is logged in the ticket, and you "hardly ever need" to login.

        This eliminates the need to remember passwords, login and navigate through a system to reply to a ticket.

        I'm sure there are other helpdesk systems out there that do the same thing.

        Tony
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  • Profile picture of the author BIG Mike
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    • Profile picture of the author StacyHolmes
      Thanks for this! I use Gmail, too, and have it set up like this kinda/sorta, but for a different purpose. It's really functional and it makes my job so much easier. It's even self-maintaining if you use the filters - no more cleaning the inbox! I've used some of the labs they have available and some of those are really, really nifty.

      I still use Earthlink, but man, when I go to check that email, it's like a dinosaur compared to Gmail. :p
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    • Profile picture of the author halfpoint
      I don't use it for support emails, but I love the "label" feature.

      As a secondary source of backing up my blog databases, I use a plugin that automatically emails them to me weekly.

      I have a separate label for each website so I can log into that email any time I like and see organised folders of all of my backed up databases.
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  • Profile picture of the author Dennis Gaskill
    Nice report, BIG Mike. The only possible problem I see with your system is that it's dependent on Google, who could potentially change the "rules" at any time. For example, they could implement aggressive spam filtering that could block some support requests from getting through. Of course, if it quit working for you, you could always switch to another system, but a few customers could fall through the cracks along the way.

    Overall though, very clever! I guess I'm just leery of using too many outside services for core business functions.
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  • Profile picture of the author Jesus Perez
    Mike,

    Very innovative use of Gmail.

    I've used lots of help desk software including Trellis Desk, 3 Pillars, Hesk, OSTicket and Kayako. I can say without a doubt that Kayako is absolutely amazing. The Rolls Royce of help ticket systems. OSTicket is my best in the "free" arena.

    My main concern with email support has always been customer satisfaction. Specifically, how many times must an email go back and forth before it's answered? Also, 1-Click answers are not possible via email unless I use a very long auto-responder.

    Let me elaborate...

    When creating a Department in Kayako, I can setup a custom submission form for each department with specific team members assigned.

    So if someone wants product support, you can setup fields that requires OS, Browser Version, Software Version, etc before they can submit the ticket. This prevents 2 extra emails from being sent back and forth requesting the information and increasing customer (and vendor) frustration. It also means faster resolution for both sides. Faster resolution equals happier customers and smaller tech support payrolls.

    On another note, if someone wants download help, I can capture Paypal Transaction ID, Paypal Email, etc before the ticket is even submitted. That means I can immediately respond and fix the issue in one shot.

    Not just that, while they're typing their problem, Kayako will identify keywords you've pre-selected and show FAQ's...which could prevent the email altogether and provide immediate resolution.

    A final note to others...this particular solution works well for Mike because he provides the same form of product and support to all customers. Lost serial keys...installation issues...It's a transparent business to his support staff. It's not really a complicated business model. So Gmail is a perfect fit.

    What happens when you need to receive different, more private support emails? Or topics you don't want viewed by specific team members? Do you open another email account? So keep this in mind when choosing a solution.

    In my humble opinion, email support can only scale so far...even with Gmail's killer labeling system. I'm happy with OSTicket for now...but I've got my eye on Kayako.
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  • Profile picture of the author Ron Douglas
    Way to think out the box Mike. The only problem I see is the amount of Spam you'll eventually get to that Gmail account. Especially since you made a live link to it in this thread.
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  • Profile picture of the author GarrieWilson
    Seems like a drawn out way to do something that a proper support desk will do faster, easier and more efficient.
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    • Profile picture of the author BIG Mike
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      • Profile picture of the author GarrieWilson
        Originally Posted by BIG Mike View Post

        I really don't see how - a regular Help Desk has to be installed, configured, the Knowledge Base and FAQ's populated, staff need to be trained on it's use and so forth.

        We were up and running with the Gmail solution about 5 mintues after deciding to do it.
        Installed/configured takes 20 minutes, FAQ etc built as you go. Plus you can have it do things to save you and the client time. Training is easy if people can read the screen.

        Example: I emailed you needing a license number. A help desk could have pointed me to the lookup as I typed instead of waiting to get the link from you.

        You also have no way of really tracking employees. Who answers more? Who takes longer? Are they rude? etc.

        But if it works for you, thats all that matters.
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    • Profile picture of the author Intrepreneur
      Originally Posted by GarrieWilson View Post

      Seems like a drawn out way to do something that a proper support desk will do faster, easier and more efficient.
      Care to name some for internal operations?
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      • Profile picture of the author TonyDavis
        Originally Posted by Intrepreneur View Post

        Care to name some for internal operations?
        Footprints....
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        • Profile picture of the author josher
          Mike has a team working for him and that's the best solution for someone who wants to be CLOSER and more PERSONAL with the customer.

          The Help Desk is better for a one man shop in my opinion. I fall into the latter (1 man shop) but use email for support and sometimes don't respond as quickly as I would like.

          Slightly OT:My problem is: since most of support questions are download link related, I'm looking for way to auto-respond to my clients with the download information once they've paid with Paypal. My paypal email is Yahoo, but I use gmail for support, etc.

          Any suggestions?
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  • Profile picture of the author Ron Douglas
    The other problem I see is that customers may not receive the replies due to the deliverability issues of sending email. At least with the help desk, they can refer back to a ticket online if they don't get your email.
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    • Profile picture of the author BIG Mike
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      • Profile picture of the author Jesus Perez
        Let me know if you need help with this Hotmail issue, Mike. I've got a pretty good handle on email delivery issues.

        Originally Posted by BIG Mike View Post

        We have just the opposite problem - automated emails from both servers are not getting delivered to Hotmail, MSN and Live addresses (plus the odd domain where the owner pretty much rejects everything.)
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        • Profile picture of the author BIG Mike
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          • Profile picture of the author Jesus Perez
            Originally Posted by BIG Mike View Post

            If you know anyone we can contact to expedite the resolution, let me know. What a pain in the ass they've been....
            PM me your SPF record and IP address/email address you're using to deliver the email. I'll look it over to make sure it's setup ok. If it's not...it gets deleted instantly instantly by Hotmail.
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  • Profile picture of the author Ron Douglas
    Sounds like you've found a winning solution Mike. I'm not 100% convinced to switch over, but I'm sure your post has helped a lot of people.
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  • Profile picture of the author Dario James
    Great Post Big Mike Thanks !
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  • Profile picture of the author Kev Stevenson
    Can I come and work with you please Mike!

    Althought the helpdesk packages mentioned by some of the other guys look like pro solutions, I'd bet your way of doing things results in increased customer satisfaction from being prioritised instead of just 'ticketed' and from being dealt with by a real person and not an autoresponder (as well as a healthy 'team ethic' which you've alluded to...)

    I don't know if it's possible to maintain that level of personal service as an operation moves up the food chain... That would be a cool company!

    I'm nowhere near the point of needing any of this and not even sure I'd want to move in that direction but, this was an interesting insight into how some kinds of IM projects scale up to the point of needing teams and department level tracking etc.

    Cheers!
    Oh!... Yeah Mike... about that job...
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  • Profile picture of the author AverageGuy
    so, it is based on gmail? does gmail allow multiple logins (using the same id/pw) from different locations? i think it does not. then, it means while you are checking the emails, you maybe logined out because another guy login. also, the correct procedure depends on the label is correctly labelled. what if someone lablled it wrong? there is no way to track.

    I think it will work if the team is small and only has reliabled workers. but for a more formal environment, investing in a helpdesk software seems will be a better idea. just my 0.5 cent,


    david
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  • Profile picture of the author Janet Sawyer
    Actually, Big Mike is right - Kudos Mike, I wouldn't have shared this info.

    Our team uses Gmail for sharing tickets, but we also have set our ticket desk to send the mails to our gmail account in order for this to work.

    It's a little complicated to explain in a way that others would understand, but it sure as darn well works.
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  • Profile picture of the author peter.h
    I've run a cs system myself, here are 2 suggestions for improving your system...

    both FREE options

    1) use hostedsupport (dot) com,
    pretty good setup for cataloguing and filtering tickets to different departments, first rep account is free additional ones cost, but you can have all CSRs login into the same account, mainly good for ebay sellers, cause it handles both ebay messages and email, it has a decent 'template response' system, so you won't have write responses from scratch

    2) use Google Apps instead of Gmail
    many people don't know that the standard version is free and very powerful, no need to upgrade,
    firstly you can setup any (or all of) your domains with google apps, which makes them run on the Gmail platform so it's service @ yourdomain.com - much more professional
    secondly you have user accounts now, so tom, jack and jill get their own email address (ex. jack @ yourdomain.com) which makes assigning access to google docs more convenient, plus you can have shared calendars for assigning tasks, etc

    not sure if it was mentioned, but with gmail you have 'canned responses' addon which lets you save and retrieve 'template responses' and there's a firefox plugin called 'Clippings' which organises template responses via a handy right click menu (the only downside to that one is that it's not shared (AFAIK), so every one would have to setup the templates once)

    if you're happy with gmail's simplicity (and don't do ebay) I'd probably go with the google apps option, works very well
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  • Profile picture of the author NetLady2007
    Thank you Mike for your very detailed explanation of what is working for you. While I have been using Kayako for a few years for one of my clients, a new client has decided to use Gmail for their support.

    It's only been a month and the support issues are not that many, but I did have some concerns about the effectiveness of using just Gmail, instead of a help desk software like Kayako.

    Your well-thought out explanation gives me great hope that I can implement what you've done so that I can make Gmail work better for me in providing support for this new client.

    BTW, really like your avatar, are you a former Marine? If so, thank you for your service, and Semper Fi (on behalf of my son).
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  • Profile picture of the author DeonKrey
    I agree with how Help Desks increases customer support and easy filtering of ongoing, solved or unsolved tickets/emails and it's good to know Gmail has already been utilized for that kind of support. Although for such a long time now, I've been using Hesk to automate my ticket support system needs and so far, everything works perfect as well.

    Here's Hesk's review for everyone to know:

    HESK review
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  • Profile picture of the author George Wright
    This is a GREAT Idea Mike, Thanks.

    When I do it I'm going to add one more thing. I will add another gmail account that only I can check. I will create a filter on the "common" account that forwards a copy of all incoming mail to the second account. That way I have a back up of all problems just in case someone deleted something I should have been aware of.

    Thanks for the tip.

    George Wright
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  • Profile picture of the author DebbieB
    Let me give you some feedback from the point of view of someone who has very recently (i.e. this month) used Incansoft's support system via Gmail.

    In short - I loved it. It seemed very straightforward to me, very familiar, and I didn't need to jump backwards and forwards to find a ticket number, navigate to a website to see the latest answer etc.

    I also liked that I could easily read the whole communication between Incansoft and me in one place. I think we ended up with 19 emails between us. As it happened, it was Big Mike who was dealing with my issues and somehow corresponding via email made the whole process seem more personal. A Help Desk often makes me feel like just a number in a big, impersonal system where no-one knows my name or even cares.

    Anyway, I wasn't bothered at all that the whole thing was done via gmail - although I didn't need to give out any confidential details.

    If I had needed to provide passwords or similarly sensitive information, I would have appreciated knowing that you delete completed support queries. Is that something you routinely tell customers, Mike?

    Do you also tell people that you are closing the support query when you believe it to be answered? That would be a good move, too.

    In my case, for instance, since I may (or may not) need a refund (due to computer gremlins at my end more than likely) but I'm still trying to work things out - I'm not actually sure whether you would have deleted my support thread or not.

    Generally, though, from a customer perspective, using gmail was a very positive experience.

    Debbie
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