After reviewing Freshdesk last year, we ranked it among the best helpdesk solutions on the market by awarding it our Editors’ Choice award for this space. The software offers a free pricing plan and it’s particularly useful for smaller organizations focused on servicing customers directly rather than a business IT department looking to support a big user pool. Since our original review, however, Freshdesk has given itself a significant facelift and a new nickname: “Freshdesk Mint.” But, before you run out to test Freshdesk yourself, keep in mind that there are two distinct categories of helpdesk software that serve two different use cases. First, there are helpdesk tools that follow the guidelines of the Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) and those that don’t. The software that does follow ITIL caters to larger businesses working in service management, companies overseeing data centers, or large corporations in which service level agreements (SLAs) must be followed under their strictest interpretations.
Conversely, tools such as Freshdesk are designed for processing service tickets from external customers while providing agents with information and resources in a speedy and easy-to-find manner. In this class, you’ll find tools such as our other Editors’ Choice winner HappyFox as well as Cayzu and Zendesk Support.
Pricing and Plans
Along with its free plan, Freshdesk comes in five paid plans: Sprout, Blossom, Garden, Estate, and Forest. Sprout is the free plan for unlimited agents who are able to access helpdesk email, phone, social media, a knowledge base, and more than 200 supported external apps. Blossom, a $19-per-agent per-month plan, adds additional social functionality, a team collaboration channel, surveys, custom domain mapping, and time tracking. Garden, a $35-per-agent per-month plan, adds multilingual support, live chat functionality, ticket templates, an external community forum, and scheduled reports. Estate, a $49-per-agent per-month plan, lets you add multiple product and company portals, custom roles, and even deeper reporting. And Forest, a $89-per-agent per-month plan, lets you whitelist your IP address and work off of your own email server, among other advanced features.
Freshdesk is a bit cheaper than HappyFox, which offers feature-rich plans starting at $29 per agent per month and topping out at $89 per agent per month. Unfortunately, HappyFox doesn’t offer a free plan, so you’ll need to make your purchase decision based off of HappyFox’s unspecified free trial period. Cayzu offers the most variety of affordable plans in the category, starting at $4 per agent per month and topping out at $39 per agent per month. However, Zoho Desk takes the cake in terms of affordability: Zoho Desk offers a free plan for up to 10 agents, a $14-per-agent per-month plan, a $25-per-agent per-month plan, and a $50-per-agent per-month plan that comes with an out-of-the-box customer relationship management (CRM) integration.
Interface and Unique Features
When you first log into Freshdesk, you’ll notice a long, left-hand rail menu in an inviting blue-gray color. Here you’ll find access to your dashboard, tickets, contacts, knowledge base, user forums, reports, and any other modules your administrator sets up later, such as gamification. The main window is your reporting dashboard, which is filterable by products and working groups, such as product management or sales. Within the dashboard, you’ll be able to see the number of unresolved tickets, overdue tickets, tickets due today, total open tickets, tickets on hold, and unassigned tickets, among other metrics. You’ll also receive a quick view of today’s trends in a graph that is clickable, which lets you drill down into today’s specific metrics, such as average response. The dashboard user interface (UI) is a dramatic upgrade over Freshdesk’s previous iteration, which was already attractive and easy to follow.
From any page in the software, you can create new emails, contacts, and companies simply by clicking the tab at the top-right of the screen. Like you’d find on Facebook or Twitter, there’s a Notification icon with which you can see if anything has happened pertaining to your specific helpdesk ecosystem (i.e., a ticket has been assigned to you or a ticket is now overdue). You can customize your notifications so that you don’t get bombarded by pings; however, there are only seven different notification types so you won’t be able to get too creative with when you’re pinged.
Support reps will enjoy being able to toggle live chat on and off while they’re in the system. This means users can accept chats from customers on the company’s website while also managing data entry or resolving more complex ticketing issues with colleagues. Nearly everyone will appreciate the tool’s gamification capability, which sets Freshdesk apart from every other helpdesk competitor in the roundup. Within Freshdesk’s Gamification tab, you’ll find leaderboards for ticket resolution and badges for top performers and agents who accomplish unique tasks. For the stoic admins among us, gamification can be toggled on or off.
The second tab from the top in the left-hand rail menu shows your tickets. You can create a ticket view based on how you’d like to see tickets bucketed (e.g., private support, issue types, or security issues). You can click tickets as they arrive in the system or you can filter to find specific tickets on the right-hand side of the dashboard. You can hover over tickets to read deeper to see what the specific issue is. You can also change a ticket’s priority, open it or close it, or assign it to a different group—all without having to open the ticket. If you select more than one ticket, then you can bulk-assign them, close them, or bulk-update them. You can also merge them, link them, or run a scenario (a set of steps to resolve an issue) in bulk. You can also switch to a Table view so that you can better organize tickets for a one-by-one resolution process.
Within each ticket, you have a four-plane layout: high-level ticket information, the actual detailed ticket, the ticket’s priorities, and the customer’s contact details. Within the Contact widget, you can minimize the contact information to see linked tickets and time logs and create a to-do list for this specific issue. You can collapse any of those widgets so that you can focus on either plane. You can reply from here at the bottom of the ticket, which includes a nice selection of canned responses that limit how much typing you’ll need to do to resolve issues. On a particular ticket, you can scroll to the next or previous ticket. You can also click between the arrows to see all of the open tickets in order to help you jump to an overdue or priority ticket. These are all very simple UI hacks that let you quickly get where you need to go, without having to tabb back and forth or click through a dozen times to find the right item.
Freshdesk offers a social stream that lets you monitor for particular keywords and handles. Agents can create a ticket from a tweet or a Facebook post and, more importantly, they can respond directly on social media without leaving the system. Another nice feature is the ability to retweet, reply, or send a direct message (DM).
The Productivity setting in Freshdesk lets you auto-manage the ways in which tickets are handled as they come into the system. This is a logic-based automated response system that is complex but is “set-and-forget,” which is nice for helpdesk admins and agents alike. Automations include things such as Dispatcher, which lets you push a ticket to Slack if you want your agents fielding tickets from a chat room. Observer is another automated system that alerts people when events occur using If/Then logic. For example, if a ticket goes overdue, then a supervisor is alerted automatically on desktop and mobile. These hacks are modern and refreshing elements that are helping to bring the traditionally outdated helpdesk category into modernity.
To ensure your team doesn’t fall behind, the tool’s Supervisor feature runs an hourly check to see if any tickets haven’t been updated in 30 days. You can set automated responses to view, escalate, and resolve these tickets. You can also program the feature to automatically perform any other ticket-related action that exists in the tool. On a similar note, you can set up response templates to solve outgoing tickets for standard ticket requests. There are more than 100 out-of-the-box, ticket-resolution automations.
Skills-based assignments let you auto-assign tickets to specific agents. For example, if you have a handful of agents who speak Spanish, then all Spanish-language tickets will be assigned to these agents. If there are no Spanish-language tickets available, then the agent will go back into the well of agents for the next available general ticket. You can also limit the number of tickets an agent receives so that the skills-based agent isn’t overloaded.
Reporting and Overview
Freshdesk’s new reporting feature lets you ask single questions (“What was Juan’s Average Response Time Last Month?”) to receive graphical responses. The tool’s intelligent querying will help you build reports by expanding upon your questions. Start your quesiton with “How many” and the system surfaces additional terms such as “tickets were resolved,” “tickets were received,” or “tickets were opened.” You click one of the terms and additional terms appear, letting you go as granular as you’d like without having to know ahead of time what data you’re trying to surface. This is a genius way for admins to find basic information without having to run massive queries. Outside of this, there is a basic reporting feature that gives you an overview of how tickets are handled en masse.
Of course, Freshdesk’s reporting won’t be as customizable or as keyed into external business processes as Jira ServiceDesk Plus, which is designed for large enterprises and IT asset management. But Freshdesk does an excellent job of helping you turn every basic ticket interaction into actionable data. Additionally, because Freshdesk’s application programming interface (API) is Representational State Transfer (REST)-based, you can tie the tool back to apps that are designed for other lines of business. This means you can cross-reference data within Freshdesk with your CRM and project management (PM) tools to determine how your customer support is impacting the organization as a whole.
As was the case last year, Freshdesk still lacks change management functionality. Freshservice, the company’s sister product, handles the full ITIL cycle for executing changes and releases. If you are a managed services organization, then Freshdesk may not be for you. If you’re not concerned about this higher level of helpdesk software, then you’ll be hard-pressed to find a tool that’s as capable and easy to use as Freshdesk. Although it hasn’t knocked HappyFox out of the top spot for small business helpdesk management, it’s put itself directly beside it.