So there’s a lot of information out there when it comes to help desks and ticketing systems. I’ve used everything from homebrew systems, to Kayako, to Manage Engine ServiceDesk Plus, to osTicket, to the systems that come bundled in with customer management platforms such as WHMCS. I’ve been using a wonderful system for a while now called SupportPal (formerly Arctic Desk). A little back history – Arctic Desk first came on the scene around late 2012 as a contender to the vast array of possible web hosting help desks out there (at the time, the most popular but expensive Kayako) and it’s still not as widely known today despite bringing a lot to the table for the very affordable price tag. Today, SupportPal (renamed at the version 2.0 release in early 2016) is an excellent competitor to many ticketing systems out there. Let’s look at SupportPal more in depth. If you want the TL;DR, just go to the bottom of this post!)
A UI that is functional & elegant
So when I look at software, I look at functionality as the primary goal. I’m not one to care directly about what it looks like, per se, but does the UI just make sense? There’s a lot of ugly software out there, but it’s functional. With SupportPal, you get functional and it’s pretty to look at! I call that a double win!
It’s easy to see how beautiful it is, yet how functional it is compared to many other software of the similar type. If we look at a sample ticket, we can also see how elegant and pleasant it is to work in, but at the same time it’s extremely functional.
As you can easily see, it pulls relevant information from WHMCS about the customer such as products and invoices currently open so your staff can easily get the picture of the customer without having to change systems, if there is billable work involved, we can quickly open an invoice, and we also get a snapshot about the user – recent tickets, when they signed up, and where they are in the world – handy if you have to call someone or need to reach out to them.
The frontend that your customers use can also be customized to fit your look or you can even keep the default if you’d like. We’re still working on site iteration so we’re just using the stock for right now.
Features that’ll make you happy
Some of the amazing features are the ability to merge and link tickets, split replies into their own tickets, close and lock tickets (preventing those “thank you” responses from re-opening tickets or to kill off reply-alls that tickets may get included in), custom ticket numbering schemes (you might have noticed, my company uses “AR-YYYYMMDD##” format in the Billing department and the Catchall department uses “YYYYMMDD0####” format), and the big seller for me which many other platforms either don’t have, is poorly implemented, or costs a buttload extra to add on to your license is multichannel support so we can help our customers on Facebook and Twitter much easier. Anything posted on our Facebook page and any message sent to us on Facebook becomes a ticket in the backend so if a customer has a concern about a billing question, for example, we can route it to our Billing team and they’ll be able to interact with the customer on Facebook. The same goes for Twitter – any at replies or DMs open up tickets which allow our staff to easily communicate with and manage what is normally a mess and a challenge. Since we’re a small company, I really only staff the Twitter account a few times a day. If a customer or lead reaches out to us, I don’t want to miss it and that’s where having SupportPal handle the communications is great. A new feature implemented in the 2.1 release is the ability to have multiple brands. I haven’t taken advantage of this yet as it’s an extra license cost, but from what I’ve tested is that it works great. I’d love to see them maybe throw in an additional brand for free or just open up the feature entirely in the future. SmarterTrack, written on ASP.NET, offers unlimited additional brands at no extra charge.
Another bonus of SupportPal is that it is not SaaS (however, if you do wish to have it cloud hosted and managed by my hosting company, NodeSpace, we’ll be more than happy to assist you!) so it runs on your server. All you need is PHP (5.7 or 7), MySQL, and the latest IonCube Loader for PHP. It’s a breeze to get up and running. So it will run on Linux servers primarily, but you could also install it in a Windows environment easily.
Something that is a major selling point for the affordable price tag is that you can have unlimited help desk agents. A lot of software limits the number of agents you can have active though licensing – Kayako was one before they switch their model but I believe it’s still true, SmarterTrack, ServiceDesk Plus, BMC Track It, and basically all the other commercial packages limit the number of agents. So if you’ve got a large team, you’ll have to pay anywhere from several hundred to several thousand. Even on some of those platforms, simply 5 agents can cost several thousand. So this is another major advantage SupportPal has.
The full SupportPal feature list is available here.
I’m also quite happy that SupportPal has excellent customer support. I have a strange issue between WHMCS and SupportPal causing upwards of 50+ API calls per minute. SupportPal kindly stepped in and while they were not able to solve the issue (it’s so strange they’re even having issues with it), they’re definitely helping to resolve it. Support is quick and friendly and that alone is a winner. I’ve gotten worse support from products I’ve paid top dollar for.
Final Thoughts (or TL;DR)
Overall, I’m really happy with SupportPal. Licensing is affordable for budgets of all size (monthly license is $19.95/mo with additional brands at $9.95/mo/brand; owned license is $399.95 with six months of updates and support and each additional brand is $199.95 one time, per brand). Since my ticket volume is relatively small, I’m not sure how SupportPal handles a high volume of tickets, but my guess is that it can do it fairly well. The interface is functional and pretty, and it is feature loaded. Overall, it’s a great value and I think it’ll fit in perfectly in any kind of company that needs a powerful and useful ticketing system.
The IT Cave Rating: 4/5
There’s still some work to be done and some shortcomings, but it’s an excellent product and I’m not leaving it anytime soon.