The debate is always framed the same way — when should customer service teams graduate from email to dedicated software?
We know help desk and issue tracking software make providing customer service easier. But teams often delay buying it due to the cost, learning curve, and time it takes to implement. Some decide to invest in software when their number of issues get out of control. Others buy when they start losing track of issues or making customers mad.
But what if there were something in between email and dedicated software, something cheaper, easier to implement, and easier to learn, that you could invest in before you start losing track of issues or making customers angry?
Can a simple Gmail extension replace help desk, customer service, ticketing, or issue tracking software? No, it can’t. But it can provide a great first step toward automating your customer service, and provide a vast improvement over using Gmail alone for customer service.
Hiver turns your Gmail inbox into an extremely basic help desk tool. Here’s how:
With 8,725 users, Hiver has an average rating of 4.5/5 stars in the Google Chrome App Store.
The fundamental problem with using an email inbox to manage collaborative work is that email is siloed by default.
My inbox is my inbox and your inbox is your inbox. Teams generally use collaboration tools such as Slack to work together virtually.
But customer service requires you to work with people outside your team and with people inside your team simultaneously. Customer service teams fed up with Gmail’s limitations look to help desk software or issue tracking software to collaborate with team members while making sure nothing slips through the cracks.
But the switch from Gmail to dedicated software requires learning that new software, and usually some cost, though there are a few free help desk software options.
Hiver solves the silo problem by turning Gmail into a collaboration tool.
Hiver allows customer service teams to:
- Share folders with colleagues and managers
- Turn emails into tasks
- Assign tasks to teammates
- Track tasks
- See who’s responding to what, when, and how at a glance
- Share Gmail contacts with colleagues in the Shared Contact Group
- Add notes to Gmail threads
- Alerts you if a team member is currently replying to an email
The interface is clean and slick. Here’s the dashboard:
Creating new labels in Hiver
Creating new labels and sharing them with other users works remarkably like creating new folders and sharing them with other users in Google Drive. If you’ve used Google Drive collaboratively, learning to create and share labels in Hiver will be extremely easy. If you haven’t used Google Drive, it’ll still be pretty straightforward.
Turning emails into tasks
Hiver says you can use it to turn emails into tasks and assign those tasks to teammates.
That’s kind of true. Let’s say your direct report’s name is Alan. You can create a label you call “Tasks for Alan” or “Tasks: Alan.” Then, when an email you think Alex should address comes into the help desk inbox, you can assign that label to it. Alex will then see a notification in his inbox. If he clicks on his notifications he’ll see a new email is in the “Tasks for Alan” label.
Here’s what it looks like:
To me, canned responses are in the “why isn’t this available in default Gmail?” category. When I worked in sales (a brief, terrible time) I used Right Inbox for the canned responses functionality, and I used it literally every day.
Here’s what it looks like to insert a canned response into an email with Hiver:
Notes on emails
If you want to get feedback on an interaction with a customer, you can write a note to your colleague right next to the thread. The customer can’t see the notes, but your coworker can. You can set privacy so only one team member can see your conversation. Notes works like a chat box, helping you train new agents and converse on what happened and what you can do better going forward.
What users are saying about Hiver
“I use it with a few of my employees,” Felix Morin VP, School Success, wrote in his review of Hiver for Capterra. “It is so easy to track who’s done what and to access important information instantly.”
Gary W at Transit Capital called Hiver’s support staff “very helpful.” And James Stewart at
Nashville Rescue Mission called the customer service at Hiver “great.” Stephanie Rose, Director of Marketing, Barnes Piano, LLC called the customer service “awesome,” and the agents “quick and considerate.”
Tips for getting the most out of Hiver
Right now, besides suggesting you name your tasks folders “Tasks: Name of person,” Hiver doesn’t really provide guidance on how to best name and structure shared labels. That would be a helpful addition, from what I read from users. It would be especially helpful to provide training on how to best set up Hiver for sales, customer service, and any other purpose it might be good for.
In the meantime, I’d highly recommend one person, probably your team’s manager or team lead, set up Hiver on the main or default Gmail account you use for customer service first before anyone else installs it. That way one person can sets the structure and conventions for shared labels.
Another pro-tip: Instead of making someone choose which emails go to which tasks labels as they come in, as much as possible decide ahead of time which agent gets which emails. For example, questions on X products should go to Alex, while questions on Y products should go to Cathy. That way, you can use Gmail’s filters to automatically route emails from certain customers into the appropriate shared folders.
Hiver vs dedicated software
Besides being slightly cheaper, one advantage Hiver has over help desk or issue tracking software is that some companies prefer to have their support emails look like normal emails.
However, Hiver is definitely missing a lot of functionality that comes standard in every help desk software package. For example, help desk software can automatically route issues to agents based on ticket volume and other more complicated rules. Similarly, while collision detection is handy, a box that says “Someone else is already replying this email” is a poor substitute for proper ticket routing.
In addition, Hiver’s tasks label functionality is a poor substitute for the workflow management capabilities you’ll get in the most basic help desk or issue tracking software. For instance, there’s no way to set or track due dates in Hiver. Because there are no tickets, there’s also no reporting, so you can’t quickly ascertain average ticket resolution times.
If your customer service department is larger than one person, and you’re not using help desk or issue tracking software, you should be using Hiver. There’s no downside. It’s inexpensive, and it takes seconds to set up. The canned responses functionality is reason enough to install it.
As digitalconqurer.com put it, “If you work in support or sales, and most of your day are spent reading and replying emails, you don’t need any of those fancy dedicated apps. What you really need is – Hiver!”
I wouldn’t go that far. I think even small teams can benefit from dedicated help desk software. However, Hiver is great training wheels while deciding which software package you need.
What are your thoughts? Have you used Hiver? Are you considering it? Let me know in the comments.
Looking for Customer Service software? Check out Capterra's list of the best Customer Service software solutions.