Help Scout Desk – An Alternative to Email Support

HelpScout is one of the most useful ways of running your help desk online. While being invisible to your customers, it can be very helpful to your support or customer care teams. Sprout Apps have brought this great service into WordPress with the HelpScout Desk plugin. What it does is add the ability for your customers to create new support tickets and reply to existing ones directly from your site, without having to use email.

Help Scout is one of the best ways of running your help desk online through an organised system. While being invisible to your customers, it can be very helpful to your support or customer care teams.

It’s used by thousands of businesses all over the world, including our own. Being the Head of Support for the WP RSS Aggregator plugin, I use HelpScout day in, day out to provide support for the WP RSS Aggregator plugin.

Providing great customer service is vital to maintaining a good image for your product or service as well as a good relationship with your customers, and HelpScout helps you do just that in an organised and efficient manner.

Sprout Apps have gone the extra step to bring this great service into your WordPress site with the Help Scout Desk plugin. What it does is add the ability for your customers to create new support tickets and reply to existing ones directly from your site, without having to use an email client.

It integrates seamlessly with HelpScout to bring all the functionality of email and the HelpScout service right onto your WordPress site.

help-scout-desk-logo

Help Scout Desk Features

Help Scout Desk has various very useful features for anyone using the Help Scout service. First of all, it won’t interfere with any current email workflows, so you can use them all in tandem.

You customers will be able to open and reply to support tickets right from your WordPress site, without the need for any emails. Besides that, your customers are given a WYSIWYG editor to compose their message and if they want to close their thread they can do that too.

help-scout-desk-features

Should you have more than one HelpScout mailbox you can even assign them to different pages on your site using a simple shortcode, and if you use Easy Digital Downloads you’ll be happy to know that they’ve integrated it with HelpScout too to show customer information within the HelpScout conversation.

You can have a look at more of this plugin’s features on the Sprout Apps website.

Using the Help Scout Desk Plugin

Installation & Setup

The installation of the Help Scout Desk plugin is just like any other. Just upload the zip file you downloaded through the Plugins section of your WordPress dashboard and activate it.

help-scout-desk-activation

You’ll be shown a new section entitled Sprout Apps in your sidebar. This is where you’ll set up Help Scout Desk. For the setup you’re asked to provide an API Key and a Mailbox ID. There are clear instruction for how to obtain these from your HelpScout account.

Below is a screenshot showing where I got my Help Scout API Key from within my Help Scout account profile. Once you’ve entered this and the Mailbox ID, which is obtained by accessing the mailbox’s settings, you’re all set to go.

help-scout-desk-1

Shortcodes

In order to display the support tickets and contact form on your site you’ll need to use the provided shortcodes from the documentation. Just paste the shortcode [hds_form] into the page you want to show the form on as shown in the screenshot below, and that’s it.

help-scout-desk-2

You’ve now got your contact form showing on your website and ready to be used by your awaiting customers. Below is a screenshot from Sprout Apps’ own demo video showing this Help Scout Desk plugin in use.

helpscout-desk-front-end

You can see that the user will be able to see the status of their ticket (active/pending/closed), the number of messages exchanged for that particular ticket, the subject, a preview, as well as the date the most recent message was sent.

Default Styling

The plugin has a default front-end styling that, frankly, works. However, if you want to make it look a bit more personal, even giving it the same colour scheme as your product/service, you can do so by simply copying a few files and folders and modifying them to your requirements. All the required information can be found online, or you can get in touch with the team through their support.

Customisations Using Hooks

The documentation also provides a few hooks for you to add some customisations to the plugin. There are hooks for Easy Digital Downloads integration, others for conversations and a couple for threads and replies, amongst others.

Support & Documentation

Help Scout Desk is quite straight forward to use. In fact its documentation is nothing more than a single page.

You’ve got all the basic instructions you need on how to integrate your mailboxes with the WordPress plugin, all the shortcodes you can use and even some customisation tools and hooks for some more personal styling.

Support is also great, offering quick and concise answers to any questions you may have.

What does it cost?

There are two license options for the Help Scout Desk plugin from Sprout Apps.

The first is a Single Site license costing $69, while the second is a Multi-Site License for unlimited sites and it costs $109.

Final Thoughts

Being a daily user of Help Scout and someone who can’t imagine my life without it right now, such a plugin could be a great tool to simplify the process for our customers to contact support.

Rather than be restricted to just using email, a customer can simply log onto the product’s site and contact support directly from there, even following up on replies and closing tickets as needed from within one page. No need to open any email clients and track your support requests – it’s all right there.

The setup is quite easy and it looks fine on the front-end right out of the box. If you want to modify the looks of it you can do that too. At the moment it’s only a front-end tool for the customer’s support history, however there are plans to help the administration side of Help Scout too, which I’m looking forward to seeing.

So if you’re a Help Scout user and you want to give your customers an easier way to handle and reply to their tickets, Help Scout Desk should be your first port of call.

Have you had any experience using this plugin? What do you think of its functionality and usefulness from both a support member and customer’s point of view? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below.

Mark Zahra
Mark Zahra
CEO at RebelCode, the team behind WP Mayor, Spotlight, WP RSS Aggregator, and the Mastermind.fm podcast. Follow me on Twitter @markzahra.

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