Customer service matters. It’s estimated that 90 percent of consumers use customer service as a factor in deciding whether or not to do business with a company.
Despite the tremendous importance of immediately and accurately responding to customer service questions, many businesses have not taken any steps to improve the quality of their customer service.
Why not? Often it’s because they’re not aware of the existence of powerful yet easy-to-implement help desk software solutions like Help Scout.
If you’re among them — or if you want to compare Help Scout with other similar help desk software solutions, such as Zendesk or Freshdesk — then this in-depth review is just what you need to make an informed decision.
What Is Help Scout?
Help Scout is a help desk software solution designed to manage all your customer conversations in one powerful platform that feels just like your inbox.
It launched in April of 2011, and it has since been used by over 12,000 customer-facing teams in more than 140 countries, including everyone from small businesses to high-growth startups and non-profits.
As a company, Help Scout embraces a remote-first company culture to hire the best talent the world has to offer. Its employees are based in 80+ different cities worldwide, and they enjoy flexibility and work-life harmony.
The diverse nature of the Help Scout team has allowed the company to build a help desk software solution capable of meeting the needs of businesses from around the world, giving them a better way to talk with their own customers.
Help Scout Platform Overview
Most businesses with an online presence that have yet to implement a dedicated help desk software solution provide customer service primarily via email.
Typically, they set up a dedicated customer support email address and give all customer support employees access to the associated inbox so they can respond to questions directly from their email client of choice.
The email-based approach to customer service works reasonably well when the number of questions sent by customers is very small, but it can quickly turn into a disorganized nightmare. When that happens, customer service satisfaction metrics take a nosedive, and some customers may decide to leave for competitors.
Help Scout provides an elegant solution in the form of its email-based customer service platform. As a user, you can configure all support messages to be automatically forwarded to the Help Scout platform, which provides a single point of communication with a wealth of customer service features that no regular email client offers.
Let’s take a closer look at some of these features to illustrate how Help Scout can elevate your customer service to the next level.
At the heart of Help Scout is its shared inbox, whose main purpose is to make it possible for multiple customer service employees to collaborate with ease.
Received messages can be assigned to individual team members based on their experience and areas of expertise, and they can be sorted by priority to ensure that the most urgent messages are dealt with first.
The users of the Help Scout platform can communicate internally directly within the platform itself using private notes. Such notes are not visible to customers, but they are displayed right next to messages in a convenient chronological view.
Individual notes can be assigned to specific team members, and you can even change their status to separate relevant notes from those that can be safely ignored.
Just like most modern email clients, Help Scout has a flexible internal tagging system that can be used to organize customer support tickets by separating them into different categories, such as pre-sales, bugs, and returns.
All tickets that have been assigned a certain tag can be filtered out using the powerful search feature, which can also filter tickets based on their status, type, subject, time of creation, and more.
Anyone who has extensive experience with customer support knows that some questions are asked over and over again. Instead of always writing a reply to each such question from scratch, Help Scout lets you use smart templates to reply with a few clicks.
What’s great about saved replies in Help Scout is that they can include variables, such as the recipient’s name, that are automatically filled in with the relevant information when used.
Helps Scout has powerful workflow automation capabilities that can be used to automate all sorts of repetitive tasks, from internal tracking and organization to sending automatic replies or notifications.
Automatic workflows in Help Scout can have AND and OR conditions, and it’s possible to combine them together. When you create a workflow, you can retroactively apply it to existing tickets to keep your entire inbox equally well organized.
One way to greatly reduce the number of customer support messages you have to deal with is to create a knowledge base, and Help Scout makes this easy.
It takes just a few simple steps to create an elegant knowledge base that works on any device and has an auto-generated sitemap and configurable SEO options to please search engines like Google and Bing.
Multiple knowledge base templates are available, and each of them is fully customizable using CSS. Help Scout knowledge bases can also be used for internal purposes, as private knowledge repositories accessible only to select users.
Thanks to Help Scout’s extensive reporting, you can evaluate how many tickets you get by channel, busiest hours, and trending topics. You can also see which knowledge base content gets the most views or who on your team is talking with customers the most.
All gathered data can be exported to CSV/XLS or extracted directly using the provided API endpoints for additional analysis using third-party software tools.
Customers love it when they feel a personal touch when receiving customer support, and the customer management module of the Help Scout platform has you covered in this regard.
With its help, you can see customer data, previous conversations, and app activity right next to every support request. Empowered with a wealth of useful information about each customer, you can send better replies in less time.
Beacons in Help Scout are small pop-up windows that put help content front and center to keep your customers on track. A Beacon can provide an easy way to send an email message or start a live chat, but it can also display help content in a self-service fashion.
Besides providing help when it’s needed the most, Beacons can be used to promote newly launched products, special discounts, or seasonal sales, among other things.
Help Scout Integrations
A help desk solution like Help Scout isn’t the only software businesses need to thrive in the increasingly competitive and sophisticated world of business.
Fortunately, Help Scout supports many third-party integrations, making it easy to integrate it into your existing workflow. Here are some popular tools Help Scout easily integrates with:
- Slack: A team communication and collaboration app.
- Freshbooks: Accounting software for small and medium-sized businesses.
- Mailchimp: A marketing automation platform and email marketing service.
- Shopify: An e-commerce platform for online stores and retail point-of-sale systems.
- CircleLoop: A cloud-based business phone system.
- Olark: Live chat software for sales and customer support.
- Capsule: A customer relationship management SaaS web application and mobile app.
- Pipedrive: A sales customer relationship management tool.
- WooCommerce: An open-source e-commerce plugin for WordPress.
For example, you can configure Help Scout to automatically send a notification to your Slack channel when a new customer support message arrives, or you can pull customer information from WooCommerce and use it to write more informed responses.
But what if there’s no official third-party integration for a tool you strongly depend on? In that case, you can take advantage of Help Scout’s API and build anything you want.
Help Scout Pricing
Despite being so powerful, Help Scout is reasonably priced, and you can choose from three different pricing plans depending on your needs and size:
|$20 per user per month when paid annually||$40 per user per month when paid annually||$65 per user per month when paid annually|
The Standard plan includes 2 mailboxes, 1 Docs site, up to 25 users, live chat, in-app messaging, the Beacon help widget, custom reports, automated workflows, customer properties, and third-party integrations.
The Plus plan includes everything the Standard plan does plus 3 additional mailboxes, 1 extra Docs site, no maximum user limit, 25 light users, custom fields, teams, advanced permissions, unlimited reporting history, advanced API access, Salesforce, Jira, HubSpot apps, HIPAA compliance, and enterprise security.
Finally, the Pro plan includes everything the Plus plan does plus tiered discounts, API rate limit increase, concierge onboarding service, and a dedicated account manager. Those who go with the Pro plan can create up to 25 mailboxes, 10 Docs sites, and 50 light users.
Non-profits and startups can apply for special discounted plans to save money. For example, non-profits that advocate for human rights, environmental sustainability, and underrepresentation in tech can get a discount of up to 100 percent.
With its emphasis on usability and a rich collection of powerful features, Help Scout gives businesses of all sizes everything they need to provide their customers with the customer service experience they demand and deserve.
Yes, there are even more advanced alternatives available, such as Zendesk, but the extra capabilities they offer, including Service Level Agreement (SLA) management, are not something many businesses are willing to spend a lot of extra money on.
If Help Scout seems like the right solution for you, then you should try the free version to see how it works in practice. You can also request Help Scout to give you a live 1:1 demo and answer any questions you might have about the help desktop software platform.
• Useful third-party integrations.
• Affordably priced.
• Free version available.
SwapStream Review: Real-Time Face Swap For Streamers
SwapStream is an online tool that makes it easy for streamers to create and live stream their own deepfakes.
The world of streaming is getting more and more competitive, forcing streamers to keep finding new ways to grab the attention of their viewers. If there’s one type of video content that has gotten a lot of attention in recent years, it has to be the so-called deepfakes, fake videos created using a form of artificial intelligence called deep learning. SwapStream is a new online tool that makes it easy for streamers to create and live stream their own deepfakes by swapping their real faces for any face they want.
A tool like this has the potential to help small streamers go viral with minimum effort required, but the results have to be convincing, and the tool itself has to be enjoyable to use.
SwapStream recognizes that streaming happens on many different platforms these days, so you can expect it to work with YouTube, Twitch, Facebook, and just about everywhere else, and you can even stream on multiple platforms at the same time.
Because SwapStream is a web-based app, you can use it regardless of if your computer runs Windows, Mac, Linux, or ChromeOS. It also means that you don’t have to download anything to your computer or install software updates from time to time.
When it comes to usability, SwapStream has a simple but functional user interface that takes very little time getting used to. It also helps that not that many options are available in the current version of the tool, so you definitely won’t feel overwhelmed when you use it for the first time.
To get started using SwapStream, you first need to sign up or log in with your Facebook account or Google email address. Once you’re in, you have two options to choose from: Start with Webcam and Set up for encoder. Use the first option if you want to swap webcam footage directly, and use the second option to connect SwapStream with streaming software like OBS (Open Broadcast Software).
I went with the first option, and SwapStream instantly detected my FaceTime HD camera and Bluetooth headphones, so all I had to do was click Enter to proceed.
The face swapping process itself is very simple, and it boils down to just three steps:
- First, you need to upload a picture of your face to give SwapStream source material to analyze.
- Next, you need to provide a picture of the face you want to transform your own face into.
- Finally, you click Start Faceswap and wait a short while for SwapStream to work its magic.
You can then see the result in real-time. To share it with the whole world, simply click the Go Live button and connect the tool if the platform of your choice.
So, how does the footage produced by SwapStream look like? Surprisingly convicting but the quality of the results greatly depends on the quality of the provided sample pictures, as well as the quality of the source webcam footage.
When I swapped my face for the face of Tom Cruise, I could instantly recognize the famous actor, and that says a lot because I look absolutely nothing like Tom Cruise.
Unfortunately, the footage produced by SwapStream seemed to lag a second behind the source footage, which resulted in strange audio synchronization issues that would immediately annoy real viewers and potentially make them close the stream.
Is It Worth The Price?
SwapStream uses a credit-based payment system. It costs 1 credit a minute to stream on 1 or 2 channels, and the number of credits required increases the more channels you stream on simultaneously.
All premium subscribers get 100 credits per month, and the premium subscription plan costs $19 a month or $179 a year, which means that a minute of streaming costs from $0.15, and that’s quite a lot of money when you think about it.
Of course, most streamers probably wouldn’t want to use SwapStream for the entire duration of their stream. For the occasional gag, SwapStream may really be worth the price — it all depends on how it’s used. The results it delivers can certainly look great, so the inherent wow factor of deepfake technology is there.