Help Scout review
As some of you may know, one of the first things that I do when researching a company is to head to their About Us page. Knowing the corporate culture and values of a company will invariably tell me more about their products than a list of features can do. The first things they say about themselves are these three core tenets:
- “Outstanding customer service is a company’s most effective marketing.
- The perfect help desk is one your customers don’t have to use.
- Supporting customers at scale doesn’t need to compromise the customer experience.”
I think I’m in love.
There is no self-promotion, no clever propaganda, no bureaucracy here. They believe that a great product speaks for itself. And it shows. They start with a good philosophy, and put it into action with a unique approach. The results have separated them far from the pack.
Having said that, Help Scout does not do everything that a Help Desk is commonly sought for. The startling lack of any kind of community interaction is a big one. You’ll find no forums, no upvoting of popular feature requests, no community-driven development at all. For some businesses, this is an automatic deal breaker. For others, they may find it to be a feature they can easily live without.
To see if Help Scout is right for your business, read the full review.
Table of Contents
Help Scout offers a 15-day free trial, with no credit card required. Billing occurs monthly, but you can opt for annual billing for a 10% discount. Once you’re ready to subscribe to Help Scout, the pricing is easy:
- $15 per user, per month: API enabled, unlimited mailboxes, email, and storage
- Add Docs for only $25/month
- Free plan: 3 users, 1 mailbox, no API, no Reports
- Outgoing emails contain a link to Help Scout.
To guarantee the most up-to-date pricing information, refer to their website.
Web-hosted or Licensed:
Hardware and Software Requirements:
The only requirements for cloud-based software are a high speed internet connection, and an updated web browser (preferably Firefox, Chrome, or Safari.)
Specific Size of Business (or Company Size):
Help Scout is ideal for small to medium sized businesses.
Ease of Use:
The free trial of the software walked me through bite-sized chunks of the setup process. It couldn’t have been easier.
I also easily found a video library which contained easy-to-follow demonstrations of every part of the setup process, daily operations, and the product’s foremost features.
There are 12 videos, and almost all of them are one minute in length. I strongly recommend watching all of the videos sequentially, and giving yourself an hour or two to go through them all several times. You also may want to pause, and go try the features that you just saw demonstrated. But if you do this, your training period will be a breeze.
Other than that, there’s not much else to say here. In the Ease of Use category, I can almost give Help Scout an A+. The ONLY detractors here are these: First, the videos have a pretty fast pacing, which means you’ll probably have to watch them several times. Second, the audio changes volume and quality, which is merely annoying.
If you’re familiar with email, WordPress, and iTunes Smart Playlists, you’re already a Help Scout pro (but watch those videos anyway!)
The best way to communicate their features comes directly from their description in the Google Apps Marketplace:
HELP DESK SCALE WITHOUT THE CLUTTER
Workflows enable you to filter emails, setup custom folders or automate actions quickly
60+ keyboard shortcuts modeled after Gmail make you feel right at home
Insert canned responses on-demand with Saved Replies
Use Help Scout from Gmail with our powerful email integration
COLLABORATE WITH YOUR TEAM
Insightful Help Scout reports keep your finger on the pulse of the business
Collaborate internally with private notes and assigning
Our unique Traffic Cop feature prevents two agents from replying to the same customer
Manage multiple mailboxes or products with ease
BUILD CUSTOMER RELATIONSHIPS
Customer profiles populate automatically with public information
Complete conversation history is only a click away at all times
Quickly log phone calls from Help Scout or track voicemails automatically
EXTEND AND INTEGRATE
Help Scout Apps bring integrations with your favorite products into the fold
Leverage Help Scout in powerful ways with the read/write API
Custom Apps enable you to pull in data from any third party source
To view their full feature list, see their website.
They also have compiled a library of resources for developing business and refining your professionalism. These ebooks, guides, and online classes are not necessarily Help Scout specific, and are provided as a free service.
Integrations and Add-Ons:
Considering the small footprint that Help Scout has online, there is a surprising number of apps and integrations that are supported.
Since Help Scout integrates with your email, there is not a lot of UI to be customized. They have their User Experience geared to emulate the clean look and feel of Gmail.
Customer Service and Technical Support:
For a company providing one of the best Customer Service tools out there, I had very high expectations for their own customer service. I say this to their credit. So, take my slight disappointment with a grain of salt.
I sent a fairly simple question to them through their Contact Form (listed below.) I received a reply reasonably quickly (in just over an hour,) and the email was full of links to resources that could answer my question. While this is indeed useful, I would have appreciated the actual answer, instead of “here are some places to look. Good luck.”
The modes of communication that I found are listed below.
I find it ironic that a company renowned for its email-centric support system does not provide an email address to get in contact with them. The best you can do is submit a web-ticket on their website, and move the conversation to your email inbox when they respond.
Negative Reviews and Complaints:
I was hard-pressed to find any user reviews that were less than a perfect rating. The least rating that I could find anywhere was a 4/5 star rating, or its equivalent. These are my own thoughts on what Help Scout doesn’t do well:
- The nature of email-based customer service is that it precludes any kind of community interaction, such as user forums.
- It can be difficult to get a cross-section of what matters to your customers, as far as feature requests and bugs. The Tagging feature within Help Scout can aid in this, but for larger businesses, I can foresee this becoming disorganized very quickly.
- Their own Customer Service could be improved by providing better customer interaction. A list of resources is helpful, but an informed answer is ideal.
Positive Reviews and Testimonials:
The feedback available from Help Scout users is nothing less than gleaming. Virtually every aspect of this software has received praise by the community. Rather than give examples of them all, these were the most common responses:
- Thanks for a truly awesome piece of software. The more we use HelpScout, the more we love it (and so do our customers!!) Thanks for a truly awesome piece of software that really is making a HUGE difference to our business.
- I’m so impressed with HelpScout—not only as a great app, but the customer service has been outstanding.
- Tools like Help Scout enable us to execute the kind of one-on-one service we’re looking for. It’s the kind of product that is taking our business to a different level.
I absolutely love it when a company is transparent with their security measures (insofar as that transparency doesn’t undermine itself.)
Here is an excerpt from their Security disclosure:
“With the exception of off-site backup and redundancy infrastructure, Help Scout is hosted on Amazon Web Services (AWS), a highly scalable cloud computing platform with end-to-end security and privacy features built in. Our team takes additional pro-active measures to maintain a secure infrastructure and application environment.
For additional, more specific details regarding AWS security, please refer to https://aws.amazon.com/security/. We don’t publicize exactly what features, services and data center regions/zones are used at Help Scout for security reasons, but we are able to provide a brief overview of our approach to securing your company’s data.”
To read the full report, here is their webpage on security.
Help Scout’s unique approach to customer support caused me to pause and reflect on a worthwhile question, one that I should have asked before I reviewed any Help Desk software before this one:
When I am a customer seeking assistance, what would my ideal interaction be?
Off the top of my head, I came up with this list: it would not waste my time with being put on hold. It would automatically connect me with the person most qualified to answer my question. It would not make me register yet another name/password online. It would be quick, and if I absolutely had to wait in line, my reply could come by email, enabling me to continue with my day. It would provide resources for answering my own questions.
As a customer, Help Scout is my ideal Help Desk.
As a business owner, I found myself equally impressed. During my experience with the software, I kept finding myself saying “well that’s cool…” with pleasant surprise. As an admin, I might miss the metrics that community interaction could provide me, but those metrics could be gathered in other ways.
In short, Help Scout is nothing short of refreshing. Dealing with Customer Service is all too often a hateful chore, and CSRs are all too often disgruntled. Help Scout takes the thorn out of everyone’s paw, from Customer to Agent. The only points deducted from their score were due to their lackluster reply, when I emailed them as a customer.
Overall, Help Scout is a top favorite of mine in the Help Desk Category. Well done, HS team!