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Customer Community vs. Helpdesk: Distinct Tools that Work Well Together

Learn how customer community and helpdesk work together to deflect tickets, collect customer insights, and improve self-service resources.
Written by
Duncan Elder
Last updated
October 23, 2023

You already know how a helpdesk can streamline your customer support. And you probably know that a customer community brings significant benefits too.But did you know that the two pieces of software are more powerful when they work together? They complement each other and improve your ability to offer great support.You’ll be able to:

  • Deflect tickets from your helpdesk.
  • Use insights gained on each platform to improve overall support.
  • Expand your self-service resources.

This article will show you how.

Customer community platform vs. helpdesk: When to use each tool?

First, let's define each piece of customer service software and show how you and your customers use them.This is important because these tools have a lot in common and that’s why they work together so well. However, they are unique pieces of software with distinct use cases.

A helpdesk helps customers speak with agents

Helpdesk software allows agents to deal with customer issues one-to-one engagement. This software turns customer queries and issues into tickets and then routes them to relevant support agents.Modern service desk solutions are omnichannel. These ticketing systems handle requests from support lines such as email, messaging services, chatbots, social media. And they organize it all within the same inbox.This feature-set helps in many situations:

  • Customers get support on the channel that is easiest for them at a time when they need it.
  • Customers access expert help from a well-trained support team. This is essential for solving complex queries.
  • Customers access instant help in real-time (assuming you offer live support channels). This is great for times when they need an instant answer to a problem.

Examples of help desk tools

  • Zendesk
  • Freshdesk
  • Intercom
  • Help Scout
  • Salesforce Service Cloud

Read more about the best customer support software here.

Customer communities facilitate discussions and self-service support

Customer communities are different. They are online spaces where customers discuss your product. This communication happens with each other and your team. Customers can access support by searching for solutions in existing posts. Or they can connect directly to a support agent or another customer for help.But members also use communities for much more.

They discuss best practices, build relationships with other members, and provide your team with crucial insight. Customer communities are also a valuable self-service support resource.Every question answered in your group adds to a self-service portal that other members can use to find answers independently.

Customers use communities to:

  • Get answers to their questions without talking to an agent. This helps both small and large businesses.
  • Discuss product use cases with other customers. This provides a point of view they might not get from your staff.
  • Connect with support agents and community management where applicable.

Helpdesk and communities go hand-in-hand

Help desk software and communities work brilliantly together. Each one supports the other in multiple ways.The following two sections will explore how communities help your help desk and vice versa.

How communities support your helpdesk

Communities support your help desk by deflecting support tickets and providing your team with insights into the customer experience.

Deflect support tickets

Busy customer support teams benefit immensely from customer communities. They can deflect potential support tickets to the community to help customers find issues independently.

This works in two ways.One is that customers can search through answered questions to find examples of how other members solved their issues. If there’s a solution, they will be able to solve their problem without speaking to your team. For this to work, your community must have powerful search functionality.

It must also not limit the number of messages your community can store.The image below shows an example of how search works in Bettermode's community. It highlights relevant community posts in real-time as the user types.

support ticket deflection

This benefits both the customer and your support team: customer satisfaction improves because they get instant answers, while your team has one fewer ticket to deal with.The customer can also post to the group asking for help. In active communities, other members will often jump in to help with their own experiences.

Below is a recent example of this in action on the Bettermode's customer community. One of our members needed help changing the domain name of their community. A user with experience in this area replied with a complete solution.

customer-to-customer support

Everyone benefits from this. The customer gets a solution to their problem (in some cases, faster than the support agent) and meanwhile, your team deals with one less question.

Provide agents with essential customer insight

Data helps customer support teams work better. The more they understand the issues end-users face, the better prepared they are to meet these needs.It’s possible to get these insights from helpdesk software. Teams can discover common issues by tracking the types of tickets they deal with.But communities offer an even deeper level of insight.

You get full visibility into the problems facing customers via community discussions. You’ll see how customers view your product, the types of questions they have, and how they interact with each other.This is super helpful information for customer service teams. You can start to tailor your support to these problems.You could:

  • Create help resources like videos, FAQ pages, or blog posts around common issues.
  • Train agents in how to deal with specific situations more effectively.
  • Build service templates and workflows to deal with challenging issues.
  • Provide development teams with information on how to improve the product.

You can also use the community to gather customer feedback. Consider running surveys, asking for beta testers, or even just asking questions about your product.These activities will provide insight while building customer relationships.

Ideation space in community

How your helpdesk supports your community

Help desks support community forums by answering questions they can’t answer. They also provide insight that you can use to improve community resources.

Escalate community issues to your helpdesk

Communities effectively solve many customer issues. But, not all problems can be fixed by community members or existing resources. Primarily because sometimes customer issues require back and forth communication to learn more about the issue for delivering an effective solution.

Because of this, your helpdesk software should be on hand to help with more complex issues.By integrating your community and your helpdesk, it’s easy to turn a community query into a ticket. Then a customer support expert can provide the support the customer needs. Agents can reply directly to the community post.

This ensures that the answer will be available for everyone to see, potentially helping multiple people.But some escalations need to happen in private. If sensitive customer information is required to fix the problem, you can do so via email or another personal form of communication.

A Bettermode community member recently asked a question that the community couldn’t solve. But a colleague from our customer support team was able to reach out to the customer via chat to solve the issue.

Escalating community conversation to helpdesk solution

Agents don’t have to monitor your support community continually. Instead, set up relevant alerts in the tools they already use that tell them when people need help. For example, you can send notifications to agents within business communication tools like Slack.

Use common help desk questions to improve the community knowledge base

You can also use your helpdesk software to improve your community’s self-service support resources.If you notice that many people contact you about a particular issue, it suggests that the available resources don’t exist or aren’t sufficient. Armed with this knowledge, your team can either update resources or create new ones.You often won’t even have to write the article from scratch. Consider using the templates your agents already use as the base for new knowledge base articles.

Customer community and help desks are a powerful team

On their own, helpdesk software and customer communities are useful ways to offer customer support. But by combining the two resources, you can create a far more robust system that streamlines support. You get insight into customer issues, improve your self-service resources, and deflect help desk tickets.

Duncan Elder
Content writer

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