One of my role models in blogging is Bob Warfield, founder of the SmoothSpan blog. As well as being the most thorough and analytical blogger that I know of, Bob is also VP of Products at Helpstream, a SaaS company I wanted to review here.
Helpstream is a web delivered knowledge management solution that cleverly delivers users (be they customers at the front end of support personnel at the back end) content from multiple sources. Bob told me that Hepstream defines three distinct levels of users for their product offerings;
- Help Desk: Primarily case management or trouble ticketing. Mostly covered by the Helpstream free offerings. Bob told me that their perception is that Help Desk has become a commodity in the marketplace
- Customer Service: Post Help Desk the market moves up to Customer Service. The chief addition to convert a Help Desk application to Customer Service is a self-service Knowledge Base. The idea is to try to deflect people from taking agent time and get them to help themselves.
- Modern Web-Based Customer Service with Community: Helpstream feels they're blazing a new trail by combining community functionality directly with Customer Service.
One of the things I tend to advise the companies I help is not to see themselves purely (if at all) as content creators, but rather as content aggregators. In an area such as help desk enablement, clearly there are multiple streams of data (say that which can be found in a knowledge base and that which can be found in user forums or even on a Google search). All of these data types are valid and both have their place in any given search result. Helpstream usefully aggregates all results from any given search string and presents them on a readily navigated tabbed window so users can move at will between results type and find a workflow that suits their particular preference.
Rather than see commercial search results as a threat as some other support organisations might – Helpstream dishes up these results as merely another in a bunch of valid results classes.
Helpstream also helps with the issues around collaboration and community building by allowing for versioning support and user profiles that can be custom defined for different levels of access and privilege. It also helps making a workforce efficient by providing a clear display of cases in progress, tasks requiring action and solves tickets.
Helpstream has succeeded in gaining some good customers such as Brocade, LeapFrog, Bigtent, and Human Rights Watch. Their customers range in size from the very large to the small and are both businesses and organizations giving Helpstream a wide breadth of experience.
Helpstream does a great job of covering the full spectrum of customer service functionality – this should give them some more ammunition when it comes to selling their product into growing organisations.
Update: good coverage by Paul Greenberg.