Q&A: What is the best free & open-source customer ticketing software? (“Zendesk clone”)

Disclosure, I’m founder of HelpSpot a help desk app!

I’ve had a bit of a hobby keeping up with open source help desk software apps since I started HelpSpot in 2005. I keep a list of them at Open Source Help Desk List (started that in 2006!).

Now, you’re not going to find any open source help desk systems that are anywhere close to Zendesk in terms of capability. That said, there are a few that are OK. Some of the better ones have become quasi commercial focusing on support and services around their open source apps. Very few of the “pure” open source options with no commercial support are going to be sufficient for all but the most basic of needs.

In no particular order here’s some that aren’t horrible 🙂

  • RT as you mentioned in your description has been around a very long time
  • OTRS – You almost can’t even find their free version on the site but it is there.
  • Helpy – This is a much newer one that’s Rails and has a more modern UI.
  • OS Ticket – Another quasi-commercial old time solution but it is actively maintained which is all you can really ask for in the wasteland of modern open source help desk software.

Honorable Mentions

These aren’t open source but they are free which unfortunately people often use interchangeably.

  • Spiceworks – Ad supported and does a bunch of other stuff besides help desk.
  • Bug trackers: Mantis, Bugzilla – A bug tracker has about 80% of the things a help desk needs (hence why many commercial bug trackers position themselves as help desks also). Many organizations can get buy using a bug tracker as a help desk if they must.

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Q&A: What type of software engineers are high in demand?

Cameron Moll recently had an article suggesting that tech hiring is down about 40%. We run a job board for primarily Laravel PHP Developers and we haven’t seen that same drop off, however, we’re in a more niche group that’s growing fast.

Still, regardless of the specifics I think that software engineering is still a great field with strong growth. I wouldn’t be worried so much about any specific area, it’s really more a choice of what’s right for you.

If you’re into getting a high level of education before starting (or re-starting) your career then Data Science or Machine Learning are probably great areas. As would be Logistics specializations or anything with a focus on serious math + programming really.

If you need a job now or are more interested in entrepreneurial endeavors a Full Stack focus (frontend + backend + some devops) is something we’ve seen a big surge for on LaraJobs. If you have some demonstrated ability in this area you won’t have any trouble finding work. Practically every business in the world now needs at least a few of these, plus you have startups, consultancies, and established software companies all heavily hiring these folks.

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Q&A: What are some tips for a new Tech Support Representative?

Much of what you have to know in a tech support job is dependent on what you’re supporting. There will be seemingly infinite details to learn about the products and/or systems you support.

That said, there’s a few elements that tend to cut across nearly everyone working in tech support. We actually built a help desk training course around them, but I’m happy to share the core elements here.

1) Focus on creating an easy experience for the customers you support. Especially when you’re just getting started, it’ll be hard to learn every system and know every detail. Focusing on doing tasks that help make the customers life easier is a great way to start. Something you can focus on which is often not tied to specific knowledge but rather in putting in extra effort, keeping in constant communication with the customer, and so on.

2) Really get to know your product. It’s kinda obvious, but you need to put in the time to get to understand it at a deep level. Here’s a few tips on that.

  1. Read the documentation (really!)
  2. Check out old support requests – There’s a treasure trove in there. Read through them as you can.
  3. Read “canned” responses – Other staff have taken the time to craft these replies. Reading through them lets you learn about the product as well as be aware of what replies exist for your own use.
  4. Browse your company’s blog – Especially if it’s an active blog. Even if it’s “just” marketing you can learn a lot there.

3) Brush up on email etiquette. – We go deeper on this in the course but a few things to watch out for:

  1. Pay attention to tone. It’s easy to end up sounding robotic in support emails.
  2. Apologize! Flat out saying your sorry about a messup is often highly disarming to customers (in a good way). Just when they’re ready to lay into you, your coming out and saying yeah we screwed up we’re really sorry humanizes you. It cuts through in a way trying to sidestep never does.
  3. Ask for clarification instead of assuming. Yes, this may cause you a few more back and forth emails, but if you’re unsure about anything on the customers end (a system configuration, what version of a product they’re using, etc) get clarification
  4. Read your email out loud. You’ll be surprised at how well this roots out unnaturally sounding phrases.

4) Keep your cool when things go wrong. Everything is going to go wrong! It happens. A lot.

  1. Don’t take a customer’s bad behavior personally.
  2. The customer is not your enemy. The enemy is the problem.
  3. Your job is to solve the problem.
  4. Make time to “move on”. After a rough case, take a walk. Grab a coffee. Chill out for a few before jumping back in if at all possible.

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Q&A: How does one go about raising seed investment for a tech startup?

If you have enough capital to launch you have all the capital you need for now. Get out in the marketplace and see if people actually want to buy what you’re selling. Is your marketing angle right? What features is the product missing? What are customers telling you sucks?

Get that stuff figured out.

Once that’s done, you can take a breath and see if raising capital is even important anymore. Are you break even or profitable? Great! Then you just got the best seed round ever from your customers.

Not profitable or are but see a HUGE OMG opportunity that truly requires large sums of cash today to beat competitors to the space. I’m going to say this is actually extremely unlikely. But, if you’re the special flower where it is the case then go ahead and start talking to angels or VCs at that point.

If you’ve got sales and a vision that’s OMG HUGE raising money won’t be a problem.

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Q&A: Entrepreneurs and Salespeople: What is missing from your current CRM? What would you change about it?

CRMs are a bit of a relic from a bygone era. In the “old days” you had a few channels for leads. The CRM simply had to be a place to track those leads.

Today, on the internet alone you have dozens, hundreds, maybe thousands of inbound lead sources. You also have all the traditional locations as well potentially (cold calls, etc).

Worse, you’d like to be able to track people through the complete funnel. Tracking is hard in B2B because the person who finds you may not be the ultimate buyer.

Worse still, the CRM isn’t the only software involved as it was back then. Now you’ll want that data into mailing list managers, help desk tools, report systems, the bug tracker, everywhere.

It’s a total freaking mess.

Huge CRM tools simply try to do everything and you get a complex nightmare. Lightweight tools don’t do nearly enough.

Personally, I think there probably needs to be a paradigm shift in the overall thinking on what needs to be tracked and how. Not a better mouse trap, but a new way to get mice to where you want them to be.


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Q&A: What was the mistake that killed your last B2B sales deal?

Some mistakes I’ve made in which have lost us B2B sales over the years:

  1. Lack of follow up. Make sure you have a process in place to follow up on every deal. It’s really easy in a small company to lose track of these deals, but it’s even easier for big enterprise buyers to lose track of you! Especially early in the process.
  2. Not understanding that you’re selling a solution. You think you’re selling software, but they’re not buying software at the enterprise level. They’re buying a solution. This is REALLY hard if you’re a small co. who won’t be sending consultants on-site to help them implement, etc. But some things you can do which helpful:
    1. Offer product training via webinar on a regular basis
    2. Offer bespoke customer on-boarding (for an extra fee)
    3. Try and convey the ongoing relationship you’ll have with the customer, product roadmap, touch points with support, etc.
  3. Not building trust. It’s often said that enterprise customers are not paying with their own money. That’s true and it’s great, but that doesn’t mean nothing is being spent.

    In fact, what the internal buyer is doing is often more stressful for them than a founder buying a software product. The founder buys and if it doesn’t work they move on. The internal buyer buys and if it’s a disaster they lose their job.

Original reply: https://www.quora.com/What-was-the-mistake-that-killed-your-last-B2B-sales-deal/answer/Ian-Landsman?srid=XJ0