When you're a young company, your main focus is on winning your first customers. You're probably not thinking about finding the perfect customer service solution for when you need to scale. That would be like organizing snacks for a party, when you don't even have a guest list.

If you've only got a few support requests coming in, it makes sense to manage them right out of your email account. When you have less customers, it's easy to personalize your responses too.

But what happens when your business evolves and you attract more customers?

Maybe you're adding more features, and your product is becoming more complex. You're receiving more support requests – and they're becoming more complex too.

It's too much for one person, so you start sharing the inbox with a few team members. It works at first, but you soon start seeing the pitfalls of using a shared inbox.

Since you're here reading this, we're willing to bet you've already had some incidents that ended with unhappy customers.

  • Maybe some requests slipped through the cracks.
  • Maybe your team sent out duplicate responses to the same inquiry.
  • Maybe issues are taking way too long to resolve.

Less than stellar customer service can damage your brand image and destroy customer loyalty. Did you know that just one bad experience can cost you that hard earned customer? 33% of customers consider switching companies after just one poor customer service incident.

33% of customers consider switching companies after just one poor customer service incident.

We're not suggesting you ditch email altogether. It's still a popular choice among the customers. According to a survey, 54% of customers used email for customer support in the prior year. Email is a cheap and effective solution for a one man show, but a single email inbox just wasn't made to be shared among a group of people.

11 Signs Your Team Needs A Help Desk

A help desk makes it easy to manage support requests. It's better to act now before your support quality drops.

Not sure if you just need to adjust some internal processes, or if it's time to look for a help desk solution? Check out this list of tell tale signs that let you know when to switch from email to a help desk.

1. Support Requests Being Lost Or Forgotten

  • Despite your team's best efforts to handle growing numbers of requests, some are slipping through the cracks.
  • Customers are sending follow up emails to try and get their issue resolved.
  • Trying to figure out which issues have been dealt with and which are still pending feels like an impossible puzzle.
  • You don't have any system for identifying and ordering pending requests. Even seasoned agents can make mistakes if they're relying on memory, or manually tagging requests.

A help desk provides a variety of effective ways to manage requests.

It can auto-sort them into a pending queue so agents can pick what to do next.

Or it can automatically route issues to specific team members in a round robin fashion.

Worried about requests going unsolved? Set an alert for pending requests that have not been resolved within a specific amount of time.

If you're wondering when to switch help desks, think about how much more efficient your operation would be if there were no more lost requests.

2. Team Members Sending Out Duplicate Responses

  • More is not always better. Getting messages from two different agents will leave your confused customer wondering who to answer. Even worse, they might receive different information from each, losing confidence in the agents' responses.
  • Maybe you've tried using color coding and tags to assign tasks in gmail. But now keeping track of who is working on each request is becoming a task in itself.
  • Sometimes, hurried team members end up replying to emails without tagging them first.
  • One agent doesn't realize that another agent has more information, so they both send responses at the same time, when it would have been better to collaborate first. A shared inbox doesn't have an agent collision feature, which means neither agent knows the other is typing until it's too late and both responses have gone.

A help desk makes it easy to detect agent collisions. Agents can see in real time if another team member is writing a reply. They can either let their colleague deal with it, or reach out if they have helpful information to share. You can set up the help desk to sort requests into separate queues for each agent. Now everyone knows which requests they're responsible for, and the fog of confusion is gone.

3. Customers Waiting A Long Time For Answers

  • You're struggling to keep track of the growing request pile. Maybe you're trying to get your team to keep track of all the info in a spreadsheet. This might even work to avoid embarrassing missed requests or duplicate answers at first.
  • But copy-pasting and double checking the sheet takes time. Your response time starts dropping – and your customers are not happy.
  • We've all been on the receiving end of a slow customer service experience at some point. Remember the annoyance you feel when another business keeps you waiting? You don't want your customers to go through that with YOUR company. With 75% of online customers expecting support to be more or less instant, you need to help those customers fast to avoid frustration.
  • Upholding your Service Level Agreements (SLAs) feels like a constant battle, and you know you need to take action right now to avoid falling short on your SLA promises.

75% of online customers expect support to provide help within 5 minutes.

A help desk simplifies your workflows and helps you manage ever more complex internal processes. Automating workflows frees up time for agents to focus on delivering excellent customer service. If you're wondering when to switch help desks, slower response times is definitely a sign. When your team is not losing precious time in administrative work, you are able to help your customers faster.

4. Email Collaboration Feels Like An Ordeal

  • Your team members are forwarding emails every time they need to ask a colleague a question or run something by a senior team member. The inbox is starting to look like a messy to do list with notes scribbled all over it.
  • Now, in addition to the customer emails, your team is trying to keep track of all those forwarded emails too.
  • Sometimes, an agent may need to collaborate with their colleague when helping a customer. So, agent Katie adds her colleague John to the CC list of the email. Some customers may not understand whether to respond to Katie or John. Others may not realize that they need to click “Reply All”, and John could get left out of the conversation. Before long, things are getting lost in a tangled web of CC's and forwards. That's a sure sign of when to switch from email to help desk.

A help desk is built for collaboration. You can internally route to another team or a specific colleague, without confusing the customer. Your team can add internal notes so the next agent can see all the related information right there. No more trying to recall what happened with one of the twenty requests they handled that day, so they can bring the next agent up to speed. And no more messy email chains. Your team can finally work together, like a team, without having to jump through hoops.

5. Customers Are Telling You They're Not Satisfied

  • You're getting emails from unhappy customers. Some are leaving scathing reviews and comments on Facebook or Yelp. Maybe you check your stats and notice a higher than usual churn rate. All of these signs should ring big alarm bells.
  • And that's just the customers who are talking to you! Other customers are telling their friends about their horrible experience instead.
  • Sure, your most loyal customers will send a follow up message to try and get their problem solved, but some will quietly leave you for the competition. 52% of Americans will not complete a business transaction or make a purchase because of poor customer service. You won't know what happened - they'll ghost you.

52% of Americans will not complete a business transaction or make a purchase because of poor customer service.

A help desk makes it easy to gather customer feedback. Built-in customer satisfaction surveys (CSAT) allow customers to provide feedback right from their email. These kinds of surveys capture more responses because you already have the customer's attention. The customer feedback you get gives you the chance to act fast and turn the situation around by offering a freebie, discount, or other sweet deals. You can see and fix problems before they leave a permanent stain on your brand name.

6. Team Productivity and Morale Is Low

  • You have invested in proper training and hired the right people, but team productivity is still less than you expected. The pressure to perform is high, but your team is crippled without the right tools to handle customer queries at scale.
  • It's frustrating when your team receives a bunch of similar queries and has to repeat the same response over and over. Meanwhile, customers with more urgent issues are waiting with no help in sight. By the time your team gets out of the weeds with the repeated queries, they end up dealing with annoyed customers, who have waited too long for their time-sensitive issues. Result? Your team's morale takes a hit, and they no longer look forward to interacting with customers.
  • Your team is basically the welcome wagon for your company. If you're asking when to switch to a help desk, remember burned out and unhappy employees can't bring the positive energy that delights your customers.
  • Overworked and overstressed employees are more likely to leave. Employees who feel burned out are 2.6 times more likely to be actively seeking another job. That means you have to bear the expense and put in the time to train new team members. This problem is especially common in the technical service and support industry, with an average agent turnover of nearly 40% per year. Anything you can do to reduce burnout and increase morale will help you retain agents.

Employees who feel burned out are 2.6 times more likely to be actively seeking another job.

A help desk makes it easier for your team to manage customer requests more efficiently. Now they can put their energy into the more exciting, human parts of interacting.

You can create a shared pool of canned responses, so your agents don't have to keep reinventing the wheel by writing out the same answer repeatedly. You can catalog and prioritize requests so the urgent ones go to the head of the queue. Automation rules and bots make it easy to keep processes on track, and help your team balance their workload. Happier employees are the first step towards happier customers!

7. You Can't See The Complete Customer History

  • You get a customer request via tweet – and then they send an email with additional info. Your agents are left struggling to connect the dots. That makes it difficult to provide a seamless experience for your customers.
  • Say a customer emails and claims “hey, I was promised a coupon to make up for a delayed shipment.” Now your agents are stuck scrolling email, Twitter and Facebook trying to locate the past conversation. Between all the different channels they could've used, it's like looking for a needle in a haystack. 46% of customers say that being able to interact using their method of choice is the most important part of a customized customer service experience. Excellent customer service means making sure they can do that – and change channels as they go.
  • Now you're trying to solve the mystery by asking other agents if they remember talking to this customer. Maybe you can't find who it was, or perhaps they're away or have even left the company. So now you need to ask the customer to give their details again. Customers hate repeating information – 31% say it's the most frustrating part of a poor customer service experience.
  • Not having access to the full history makes it harder to personalize responses, too. You can't answer simple questions like has this customer made a previous purchase? Have they given you good or bad feedback in the past?

31% of customers say having to repeat information is the most frustrating part of a poor customer service experience

A help desk keeps customer interaction history in one place. Even better, it works across all your customer support channels.

If a customer hits you up via chat, and then later sends an email, both interactions are logged under one profile. If they tweet you an update? That goes on the profile too. Now anyone on your team can quickly get up to speed. Agents can also add special customer notes, such as whether they are a VIP, give useful feedback on new features, or prefer a certain product line. This information makes it easy to add a personal touch to your communications, taking their experience from okay, to excellent.

8. Customers Get Stranded Due To Lack of Self Help Options

  • Your customers go to your website looking to help themselves, but are left disappointed. There's no knowledge base. There's no FAQ. They're now forced to reach out, even if they don't want to.
  • Reaching out to a human and waiting for a response can be annoying. Some people prefer to solve issues on their own. In fact, 91% of customers said they would use a knowledge base if it was tailored to their needs.
  • Maybe you've put up an FAQ with basic questions, but as your product gets more complex and the list of questions grows, it's harder to browse. It's not fair to ask customers to scroll and scroll looking for the answer. You need a fully-fledged knowledge base where customers can type a few keywords to quickly search for the answers they need.

91% of customers would use a knowledge base if it was tailored to their needs

Help desks usually come with a knowledge base. You can even customize it to meet your branding. Most knowledge bases are user-friendly enough that your customer support team can add common answers, without waiting for the website techs to handle it.

You can also link your knowledge base to the contact form customers use to reach out. The form will show relevant articles as suggestions while the customer is filling out the form. This offers customers an instant solution. You can also set it to ask customers “did this answer your question?” so you can improve the articles that aren't solving their problems. Many knowledge base reports will also show you which searches are coming up empty, so you can add the missing answers. Your customers are happy to get help 24/7 and it reduces your teams' workload – it's a win-win.

9. You Struggle To Identify The Root Cause Of Recurring Problems

  • You need details about common issues so you can avoid them in future. You might ask yourself what caused the sudden spike in requests last week? Was it the new feature you released, or was it the aftermath of the service outage earlier in the week? But you don't have enough data to give you answers.
  • You try to gather info from shared emails or tweets into a spreadsheet so you can slice and dice it. It's a cumbersome, error prone, and time consuming process. Plus, you may not realize a certain metric is important until the first time you feel the need to measure it. For example, if you suddenly get a lot of outage reports, you want to measure those. But they weren't important till now so you don't have any historical data.
  • When your support operations are spread across multiple channels, finding the root cause can feel like a very frustrating treasure hunt.
  • A lack of metrics makes it hard to know which issues are most common, and whether problems are caused by processes, human error, or something else.
  • The lack of information can be paralyzing when you need to make important decisions about the future of your company.

A help desk comes with graphs and charts for different metrics right out of the box. Reports offer insights into request volumes, detect trends, and highlight common issues. You can also get reports for customer satisfaction, response times, knowledge base use, and team performance. These key performance indicators let you see any issues before they grow out of control. If you notice support requests rising, you can automate more tasks, or hire more staff. If you spot a bunch of customers asking for a specific feature, you can add it to your product road map.

Teams that track support metrics reduce resolution times by 16%.

Being able to measure and analyze helps you understand which processes work, and which don't. Now you can make smarter decisions for the future of your company, while keeping your competitive edge. Knowing metrics also gives you goals and targets to speed up your support, keeping customers happier. Teams that track support metrics reduce resolution times by 16%.

10. Your Team Is Constantly Logging Into Multiple Accounts

  • Many businesses use a cluster of services to run their operation. If you're a SaaS provider, you might use bug tracking, like Jira, and a feature management tool like Trello. If you're an e-commerce company, you probably use something like Shopify for order management, and a service like MailChimp for your mailing lists.
  • When your team gets a lot of queries, juggling all those tools is hard. One customer wants to know about the status of a bug they reported. The next asks when their order will be delivered. Your agents are logging in and out of different systems to get answers, and it's exhausting. The back and forth causes mental overload, and your agents are way more likely to make mistakes. They try to solve one problem, and cause a bunch more.
  • The average response time to handle a customer service request is 12 hours and 10 minutes. But 88% of customers expect a response from your business within 60 minutes. So, you really need to cut your response times without cutting quality, whenever you can. A help desk speeds things up because agents don't have to log in and out of so many different accounts.

88% of customers expect a response from your business within 60 minutes.

Many help desks integrate with popular tools from CRM and e-commerce, to shipment tracking, payment providers, project management, and much more. Here's the deal: Using multiple tools is the right thing to do. Each tool is designed to perform a specific task well. But tools work even better when they work together.

You can't effectively integrate a shared inbox with other tools because a simple inbox is just not designed to play well with others. A help desk comes with a stack of integration options. Connect it once with the tools of your choice and it will automatically pull information for all the incoming requests. No more bouncing between multiple accounts. This also makes onboarding easier, as new staff only have to learn one system.

11. You're Planning To Grow Your Operations

  • Congratulations! Your efforts have paid off and your company is growing. You're looking to hire more agents, or thinking about splitting your team into multiple tiers. Maybe you're launching a new product, or adding another software to your process so departments can work together more effectively.
  • Maybe you're thinking about adding AI and bots to make your team more efficient.
  • You've realized the importance of good customer service in a competitive market. Did you know that 78% of customers will forgive a mistake, if they receive excellent customer service? Excellent service can be the difference between retaining customers or losing them.
  • You want to empower your team to serve customers using a consistent brand voice. You're on the hunt for a cost effective way to handle growing support requests without compromising on quality.

78% of customers will forgive a mistake, if they receive excellent customer service.

Take Away

If your team has been struggling with any of these problems, then it's time to switch from email to help desk. To get started, we recommend checking out our detailed guide on how to choose the right help desks.

A help desk does so many things that a shared inbox simply can't do at scale:

  • Bring structure to daily operations.
  • Provide a customer service hub for the whole team.
  • Connect many systems together.
  • Harness the power of automation to manage your workflow.
  • Add accountability to team members.
  • Make your processes transparent.

All of these benefits add up to building loyalty and forming meaningful relationships with your customers. Your team has the time and tools they need to focus on creating delightful interactions. You can also gather customer feedback and use it to help improve your processes.

With so many powerful benefits, it's easy to see why a help desk is the obvious choice for any company who wants to keep their customers happy.