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Email Isn't Working. How to Use Computers to Support Customers


Email has been around since Ray Tomlinson chose the @ symbol in 1972. Almost half a century on and email has never really been fit for purpose as a tool to service customers efficiently or effectively. For that, there are better solutions. 

Whether you’re a freelancer, a one-person company or a small business with a number of employees, you should be handling customer enquiries more efficiently. 

In this tutorial, I’ll show you how you can save time and money and improve customer satisfaction by implementing a help desk ticketing system to help customers promptly and to never miss another enquiry.

The Challenge

Consider for a moment the number of email messages that you receive each day
Consider, for a moment, the number of email messages that you receive each day

Consider, for a moment, the number of email messages that you receive each day. You probably have a personal email address and a separate work email. That’s quite a lot of email already.

Many people have built up a number of personal email accounts over the years. Some may have more than one work email or may be responsible for managing a team email account.

That’s a lot of email to be dealing with. It’s a distraction that eats away at the time available.

It’s not just the number of email received that’s the problem. 

Email sent to an individual’s work account may comprise marketing from PR firms, invoices for approval, newsletter subscriptions, company-wide information updates, meeting arrangements, important email from the boss. Plus all that needless reply-all email that clogs up one’s inbox.

Email sent to a team shared email account could be dealt with, work duplicated, put-off until later or just become lost and never get dealt with.

Email, it can be seen, is not the most appropriate tool for providing excellent customer service.

The Solution

Help desk ticketing software helps you to service customer enquiries efficiently
Help desk ticketing software helps you to service customer enquiries efficiently

Suggesting that you don’t use email to help customers, when many of your customers use email, may seem counter-intuitive.

Specifically, it’s the email client—the Mail, Gmail or Outlook inbox—that I’m suggesting is inefficient. The communication still exists via email; it’s all about how the email is managed.

You may already have some familiarity with ticketing systems. Perhaps you once worked in a big organisation with an IT Helpdesk that gave you a reference number for each computer or printer problem that you reported. 

Ticketing systems are not the preserve of IT departments, though. They are employed by anyone who wishes to deal with enquiries in a methodical, systematic and efficient way.

They work by having a dedicated email address that feeds into software that allocates a unique reference and auto-replies to update the customer. 

For example, sending an email to sales@smallmediumenterprise.co receives an automated email response with a unique ticket number. It may contain other useful information as well. The ticket number pops up in a queue of new tickets and is allocated, managed and responded to by a customer service agent within the software. Correspondence between the company and the customer can be managed easily.

1. Desk (Salesforce)

Desk collates customer communication from email, website, telephone and social media into one elegant interface from where it can be managed.

Productivity tools and automations, such as canned-responses to frequently asked questions, help customer service agents to solve more customer enquiries in a shorter time whilst still delivering a personal touch that is one of the hallmarks of excellent customer service.

Desk offers mobile applications that enable you to help anyone from anywhere at any time. Desk includes a self-service knowledgeable that helps customers to solve there own queries before they even contact you.

2. Freshdesk

Since 2010, Freshdesk has offered a cloud-based, multi-channel customer support product that brings every customer interaction to an centralised interface to help staff resolve customer queries.

The interaction can be via email, web chat, social media or over the phone. Freshdesk ensures that the right team member can respond to the customer.

As with other solutions, Freshdesk has a self-service portal and knowledgeable for customers to find answers quickly.

3. Kayako

This was the second solution I used in my business, the first being PerlDesk, some 15 years ago.

When I deployed Kayako, it was a number of php scripts that I installed on a server. These days it’s a fully cloud-based customer support platform to deal with customers via email, live chat, social media and phone calls.

4. Zendesk

I became a Zendesk customer back in 2007 when they were a small but innovative start-up in the Danish capital, Copenhagen. Ten years on and they’re 1,700 employees with in excess of 100,000 customers across 150 countries.

Zendesk Support is a system for tracking, prioritising and solving customer support tickets. It puts all customer information in one place so that all enquiries are managed from a single location.

Zoho Desk

Another cloud-based software as a service (SaaS) product, Zoho Desk manages customer support tickets, from email, phone, chat, social media, self-service portal and forms, through an online interface. 

Ticket assignment, notification, escalation and time-based actions are automated with workflow rules. Reports and customer happiness ratings are presented in a graphical dashboard.

Solutions Compared

Desk Freshdesk Kayako Zendesk Zoho
Cloud-based SaaS

Email ticketing

Web contact

Social media ticketing


Instant chat messaging

Knowledge base

Agent monthly price (from) $20 $0 $0 $5 $0


Search for alternatives to popular software solutions
Search for alternatives to popular software solutions

These are not the only solutions. If you prefer to install and maintain your own software, or if you prefer an alternative cloud solution, a good place to start looking is alternativeto.net.


In this tutorial I’ve introduced you to just five big players in the help desk ticketing software marketplace. Over the last decade the choice available to any small business owner has grown where before the solutions were limited.

In this age of immediacy of expectation, customers are demanding and a help desk system will ensure you provide first-class customer support across multiple contact channels.

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