At Swiftype, we take pride in the quality of our support. We want our customers to be confident that when they choose Swiftype, we will back them up. We are a small company, and everyone does support, including the engineers. We think this is important because it exposes developers to the problems customers are facing and uncovers bugs. Support requests are how software gets better.
When I started at Swiftype as the first employee, the founders were doing support with a shared Gmail inbox. Even with just a few people, this was clearly unworkable, so I started evaluating support software. My goal was to find software that would let us all share email support duties.
I initially looked at Desk.com and Zendesk. While I was trialing those two, I heard about SupportBee from Hacker News and decided to try it as well. (Disclaimer: SupportBee uses Swiftype but we were not aware of that when we started using their product.)
Note: these observations are based on when I evaluated the services, Fall 2012.
It’s Just Email. But it really works.
I was disappointed with Zendesk and Desk.com’s HTML email support. Zendesk strips HTML entirely. It is a long-standing issue (Note: apparently there is now a way to view the original email in Zendesk). Desk.com allows you to log into the web UI and see the HTML email but doesn’t send it to you.
SupportBee’s HTML email support is superb. The emails are delivered pretty much exactly as the original email looked with a small header added. Even inline images work. You can also view HTML emails online (though the styling of the web application can cause them to look slightly off).
Example of a SupportBee support request as it is displayed in Gmail.
SupportBee allows you to use an email-based workflow. You can reply to the support request as a normal email and it will be stored on SupportBee and then sent to the customer. Replying to support requests includes any HTML formatting, attachments, and inline images. It really works.
One feature I wish SupportBee had was some way of stopping duplicate replies (I believe HelpScout has something like this, but I haven’t tried it). We are dealing with this by following a support schedule.
If you need integrated Twitter, Facebook, or phone support, SupportBee probably isn’t for you. But if you work primarily with email support and want to have an inbox-centered workflow, I recommend checking it out.
Of the three support software products I trialed, Zendesk had by far the snappiest web user interface. It was very smooth and fluid. Desk.com on the other hand felt slow and clunky. SupportBee falls between the two. It’s not quite as zippy as Zendesk but smoother than Desk.com. I usually use SupportBee from my inbox, but you need to log in to assign tickets or leave a comment.
The SupportBee web UI for a support request.
SupportBee has a developer API. We are currently using it to post a comment on the support ticket with customer information from our database when we receive a support request. This gives us quick access to that customer’s details in our administrative dashboard.
SupportBee’s pricing really works well for companies that want to do full-company support because you pay per ticket instead of per agent. Prices start at $19/month for 300 tickets a month (a ticket is like a thread in Gmail, replies are not counted as new tickets).