As new firms enter the Web-based help desk services arena, we are seeing a blurring of lines between the traditional service desk products and the breed of public online Q&A types of services. Particularly as these tools adopt connections to social media, it is getting harder to tell whether these are two separate categories anymore, as IT becomes consumerized and as self-service style apps become more popular and capable.
The latest company to offer a help desk product is the newcomer Nanorep. The Israeli-based company offers a reasonably priced solution that sits in between the two categories, starting at $200 per month for an account that can handle up to 1500 answers a month. This adds to the other news this week with changes to pricing plans from Zendesk and Assistly.
Keeping up with the trend to support social media, Nanorep covers both Facebook and Twitter channels into a single knowledge base, something that Rightnow CX for Facebook and Zendesk added to both of their platforms some time ago.
Other vendors in this space include UserVoice (you can read Marshall's paean here) and Zoho Support. (And a note to vendors that I didn't mention: before you start your email to me, why not add a brief comment here to state how your offering stacks up so all of our readers can benefit from the dialogue?)
I caught up today with Matt Koll, who was one of the first entrants into the online Q&A field many years ago. He now has an Internet incubator and has released two Twitter add-ons called replyz.com and shortmail.com. "The Q&A space has gotten so crowded lately, it is hard to get attention there anymore."
Like me, Koll see the general Q&A market and the help desk area as two parts to the whole "web universe content brain." Koll worked for a while at AOL more than a decade ago, and tried to get them to build a Q&A add-on to their AIM product so that "users could help each other and the company could save a fortune on call center queries. But this being 1999, AOL was afraid of the situation when users would provide bad information so we weren't successful." That fear still permeates many of these services.
Koll told me that brand managers could use his replyz.com service to find unanswered questions about particular brands as a very quick and dirty first measurement of user frustration. He offered this sample search on Adobe to see this first-hand, as you can see from the screenshot above. "If I was a brand manager, I would be all over this issue." There are certainly lots of other tools that can do this kind of research, and some that cost a lot of money too.
It has taken 12 years and now we finally have this integration with social media and instant-response tools. And perhaps another 12 will be needed before we can fully vet the quality of information posted on these sites.