This is not our typical kind of blog post. This is me, the founder and CEO of the company turning to the interwebs to ask for help.
Things are going very well here at BlogMutt. We are selling thousands of blog posts every month, and our writers are on fire creating great posts for small business. With that, we’re experiencing a few small growing pains.
This is way “inside baseball,” but I’m just going to explain a lot of what we do and how we do it, and how we need a solution that just doesn’t seem to exist, and maybe someone will have a solution.
We run a lot of the heart of the company out of two inboxes (Sales@ and Support@), and our crackerjack team in the office handles those two boxes.
We really could use a system so that if a message comes in to one of those boxes we can respond, follow up, etc, in a more trackable way. That part is easy. There’s a zillion companies that do that. (I list some of them below.)
We don’t need anything fancy there. Right now we use a combination of Gmail, Rapportive (showing us whom we are interacting with), Boomerang (to make sure we follow up) and “Canned Replies” from the Gmail labs. After looking at all the support desk companies, they all seem to basically do just those three essential things, with a nicer user interface and some reporting.
(That reporting, by the way, sounds nice but seems like the epitome of “noise” compared to “signal.” I could spend a lot of time figuring out that we get 13 percent more support inquiries on, for instance, Thursdays than we do on Fridays. Wow! Therefore… no reports for me. Once we get to a dozen or so agents, maybe that will be a thing, but it’s not now.)
We also have a bunch of daily tasks that need to be done, sometimes triggered by an event (we get a new subscriber, for example) and sometimes they are just things we need to do every day, like do the social media for our #WOOF.
There are plenty of to-do list applications out there, too. The simplest one of them will change the order of your to-do list based on the priority, but if a new SUPER-HIGH-PRIORITY item comes in to your support desk software, it will be item No. 24 in your inbox if there are 23 items there before that one comes in.
Basically, all the support-desk services treat “tickets” like an inbox email, and the task-based services don’t treat emails as tasks.
So our choice is to duct-tape some to-do functionality into a support desk system, or vice versa, creating an ugly kludge. Or use two systems, which doesn’t really help our in-office team to prioritize them. In the office, we have a lot to do each day, and it would be nice to integrate all the tasks — support, sales, writers, misc. — into one list that evolves based on triggers and that we can check off as we go along.
Not one of the services I’ve looked at — and I’ve looked at a lot — seem to think of the email inbox as a to-do list, which is what it really is. It’s just not one that can be manipulated the way a task-list can be.
The to-do list software is too light; the project management software is too heavy.
We just need one nice, easy system that ties all of them together. I can’t be the only startup person who’d love to see this happen, right?
So I’m asking the internet… Is there a solution that might work for us? Please let me know, either in the comments or by sending a note to scott@.
Just so it’s handy, here’s my quick take on the support desk services that are out there:
ZenDesk. Seems like a great solution, but as the company has grown it seems to really be focussed on big enterprise solutions. I need something that’s as light weight as a plugin. I do not want the solution to my problems to become its own problem.
FreshDesk. This one may come closest as it seems pretty lightweight and full of integrations as needed, but the fact that I have to advertise for them at all but the very top level of service is off-putting. I do like the idea of the game mechanics built in to the software, but I think that’s more important for a large, distributed team. We are small and tightly knit.
UserVoice. This seems like the easiest way to merge support into a user forum, but my users don’t really want/need a forum. My customers have one thing in common: They are super busy, which is why they don’t have time to write blog content and is why we exist. The last thing they want is another forum to be a part of. I suppose we could use it for the writers, but we already have hands-down the best forum for writers anywhere on the web.
Kayako. Seems solid, but not the integrated solution we’d love to see.
Basecamp. I had hopes that this might be the answer because one company developed Basecamp and Highrise, but now I see that the company is essentially orphaning Highrise, which means that it will not be the company delivering my one-inbox/to-do list solution.
Desk. Sorry, but once you get purchased by Salesforce.com, I’m not going to wait around to watch you turn into the Borg.
HelpScout. This seems like the best solution that doesn’t insist on putting its own name into every single interaction, even at the lower-service levels. And the price is great. But alas, it’s really just a fancy in-box, and doesn’t appear to know how to treat tasks, or prioritize emails based on priority rules.
There are bunches of others, but those are the main ones I looked at. I also looked at lots of to-do apps, and lots of project software. We use Pivotal Tracker for our development list, and that works great, but we crank out dozens of tasks/emails each day, so we don’t want to be bogged down in that kind of software.
So, what will be our solution? I’ll be sure to follow up here on the blog.