As someone who has run his own business for over six years, I am sure that what I am about to write will ring true with any small business. That moment when a client emails you to ask why you haven’t made the change to their website they’ve requested, or followed up on an enquiry they’ve made, or delivered the piece of work they asked you for. Sound familiar? Well, I’ve discovered a piece of software called FreeScout, and I want to tell you about how I discovered it!
The truth is, email is great for general conversations, but when it comes to task-based requests, well, sometimes amid a busy inbox, things can get forgotten, or even deleted by accident when tidying up your inbox.
I had this happen to me a couple of years ago, and being proud of my organisation skills, I was miffed with myself that this had happened. The client didn’t mind, but I did, as I pride myself on great customer service and satisfaction.
Having come from an IT management background, I decided I needed a helpdesk system where existing clients could email me their requests, and these would be logged separately into a queue for me to action. It’s taken me several years to get to the point where I’ve finally found the system that works best for me, and it can help you too.
I’ve tried many systems, DeskPro, Freshdesk, OSTicket and Fluent Support. Each of these had their downsides, either being prohibitively expensive, lacking features (such as Workflows to auto close tickets or send out of office emails), or did not have a phone app to allow you to view and respond to tickets on the go.
I was about to jump ship to Help Scout after doing a lot of research and finding it had the features I wanted in a simple-to-use interface. I was steadying myself in preparedness to start paying the $25 per month fee. I took solace in the fact that at least I’d be able to do what I wanted to ensure I stayed on top of my work and keep my customers happy.
Before I did so, however, I did one last check in the Google Play store to see if by some miracle someone had written an app that would work with OSTicket (as OSTicket offers a self-hosted free version). Whilst there wasn’t an app for OSTicket, something called FreeScout caught my eye. I then suddenly realised that FreeScout was an opensource clone of Help Scout. Not written by the same company but having many of the features of Help Scout. What’s more, the core software is self-hosted and 100% free.
I did some research and installed it on one of my standard hosting packages. After setting it up, I was blown away. The interface is intuitive and does everything I need it to. Okay, some of the features I wanted were not found in the core product, such as Workflows. These can be activated by purchasing a license for the module from FreeScout for a fixed, one-time fee, so no monthly or yearly commitment. The cost of each module varies, but nothing that should break the bank. I purchased all the modules I needed for a one-time fee of just under £70.
Within a few days of setting FreeScout up and testing it, I was a convert. I immediately cancelled my upcoming subscription renewal of Fluent Support and forwarded my support email address to my FreeScout installation. So far, it’s been a dream, and using their app I can now keep an eye on incoming tickets and either reply to them using the app, or from the email the FreeScout sends me when a new ticket is created, or an existing ticket is updated.
If you’re a small business who needs to get organised with your incoming support requests but don’t have the budget to pay for other helpdesk systems, I thoroughly recommend giving FreeScout a go. In fact, even if you do have the budget for a paid-for system, you might want to check FreeScout out anyway as you could save yourself some serious money.
If you’re looking for hosting for FreeScout, my Linux Emerging hosting plan will suffice for most small sized businesses, as this is what my copy of the software is hosted on.
The upshot of all this is, I am so pleased I found FreeScout before I jumped over to Help Scout. It’s saved me £00s a year in software costs, and I now have a helpdesk system that’s easy to use for my customers and satisfies my obsession with being organised!