Freshservice can rightly be considered the big brother to Freshdesk. Both Freshworks products feature intuitive, modern interfaces and solid self-service and ticket-management tools, but the two are in different classes entirely. Freshdesk is positioned nicely to handle tickets for small, customer-facing helpdesk teams, both in terms of pricing and feature set. Organizations looking to support internal customers, particularly those with Information Technology Information Library (ITIL) practices such as change, problem, and release management, are better served by Freshservice, though these features come at a premium. Freshservice is also well-suited to managed service providers looking to maintain SLA compliance.
For a quick overview of the two types of tools in our helpdesk category, entries such as Freshdesk and HappyFox are designed for processing service tickets from external customers while providing agents with information and resources in a speedy, easy-to-find manner. Conversely, Freshservice, ManageEngine ServiceDesk Plus, and Vivantio Pro are built to help your company’s IT teams manage internal projects—from troubleshooting technology problems to storing and managing tech assets to building out new products. This second category usually carries a higher cost, but if it fits your business requirements Freshservice is absolutely worth your consideration.
Pricing and Plans
Where Freshdesk provides a free entry-level tier, Freshservice opens with the Blossom plan ($19 per agent per month), which includes basics like email ticketing, canned responses, customer surveys, and self-service tools. The Garden tier adds agent time tracking, collision detection tools, support for multiple SLAs, and a priority matrix for an additional $30 per agent per month.
Estate and Forest plans bring the ITIL tools (problem management, change management, release management, and project management), as well as analytics, custom agent roles, and portal branding tools at respective costs of $79 and $99 per agent per month. Major differences between Estate and Forest are IP whitelisting, SLA-backed support, and access to audit logs.
Customers looking to take advantage of Freshservice’s asset management features may be on the hook for additional service costs. Up to 100 assets may be managed at no additional cost, but more than that (up to 250) adds $40 a month. These costs continue to increase the more assets you have, though bulk discounts bring the per-asset cost down at various levels.
All in all, Freshservice Forest users receive project management, contract management, gamification, a service catalog, IP whitelisting, a dedicated success manager, and all of the standard tools you’ll find in IT service management-focused packages including custom reporting, helpdesk emails, self-service, and asset management. In essence, Freshservice lacks nothing feature-wise, but it isn’t cheap.
Features and User Interface
The system’s core tools involve managing tickets, problems, changes, and releases. Each of these are ITIL or Information Technology Service Management (ITSM) concepts which are worth understanding at a basic level. Tickets are used for simple communication between a customer and the helpdesk, usually involving something straightforward to solve—things like password resets, software installation, or requests for additional rights.
When a ticket leads to the discovery of something that’s broken or misconfigured at a deeper level, it can often result in the creation of a problem. Problems identify symptoms, impact, and ideally causes. From a practical management standpoint, problems are often where supervisors begin to take increased interest and engineers or developers may start to get involved. In cases where a problem’s root cause turns out to be something that is going to require a change, which could be implementing new network hardware or simply a configuration change, this would be tracked and handled using change management.
Many organizations have a formalized change management process, which involves review and approval steps prior to the change taking place. This process is further bolstered by release management, which could involve pushing an update to an internally developed software solution or upgrading a critical piece of enterprise software. Freshservice integrates each of these processes by default, and supports customization through automation and a robust workflow system.
Most helpdesk users will likely spend most of their time in two areas of Freshservice. The dashboard offers key metrics pertaining to the organization’s ticket workload, and supports customization in order to further refine those metrics. The ticket view, which is accessible either through the left menu or by clicking an item on the dashboard, can be filtered using preset categories from a menu at top left or manually using the filter panel on the right side.
Like Freshdesk’s, the ticket view features actionable buttons on individual tickets, giving easy access to change assigned agent, status, or priority. Bulk changes are also available when multiple tickets are selected, allowing an agent to quickly assume ownership, close, merge, or add details such as department, category, or tags.
Freshworks has taken a team view approach, which you can find in some other players such as Zendesk Support, and added another twist: gamification. This amounts to a novel, game-centered approach to ticket solving by rewarding the most successful agents with points and trophies. Combine this with the right combination of competitive employees, and Freshservice can add some fun relief to an oftentimes boring job. You’ll also find these gamification features in Freshdesk.
All the basic ticket management features such as status, priority, merging, private notes, and replying are available within individual tickets, but that’s just the start. Freshservice supports adding like tickets to a single parent, making them easier to manage and providing a clear scope of the reported problem. Another key aspect of Freshservice, which is especially handy for geographically distributed support teams, is the ability to initiate a chat conversation with team members within the scope of a ticket. This is an efficient way to seamlessly involve the corporate brain trust in ticket resolution and has the added benefit of retaining the chat conversation within the ticket history.
Asset management tools are made accessible by enabling agents to view assets associated with the reporting user and associate one or more with the ticket. Agents can also drill into asset details and view information such as hardware and software as well as existing tickets, contracts, and expenses. A timeline view of activities performed on the ticket shows a chronological history of actions performed by various team members including priority, assignment, and status changes. For more complex tickets, you can add tasks to the due date, listing the assigned group or agent and status.
For end users, the Service Catalog lets staff fill out a templated ticket for a common service request (e.g., travel or a new laptop from IT). These templates are tied to workflows so that they can flow through multiple levels directly from the Service Catalog. Users simply come to the self-service portal and pick through a catalog of services. They add the templated text and voila! The ticket has been created.
Employees can see their ticket history—whether they are being processed, who has seen the ticket, where it has been forwarded, and more. The self-service portal also features document storage, sales and marketing collateral, legal documents, and IT-related self-service documents, as well as global search so users can pull up all articles and tickets in one place. There’s even an announcement portal so you can make company announcements within the service desk tool.
Problems are like tickets but indicate that there’s an actual issue to solve. A good example would be that a server is down. Sometimes the answer may be as simple as doing a reboot. At that point, you could perform the analysis in the provided section and add a solution record. Sometimes, however, that isn’t enough. You might need to add memory to the machine or swap a hard drive to fix the problem. This sort of upgrade would constitute a change to the IT environment and trigger a formal change process. That change would then need approval from an appropriate member of the organization. It would also possibly need a purchasing period, and might even be rolled into a release of several changes if it’s more convenient or safer to do it that way.
This formal change management process (sometimes referred to as configuration management) simply represents a way for an IT organization to record and understand changes made by its staff. This can be critical in ongoing maintenance in order to identify trends and common issues. You need to know exactly what’s in a machine or any other infrastructure device on your network if you want to keep complex software and business processes running smoothly. This is where change management comes in. While other tools can incorporate change management features, your helpdesk system is a good place to have them as many changes happen there, for obvious reasons.
If your change management process doesn’t actually live in your helpdesk system, then it’s a good idea for the system to at least have the ability to export change data to wherever your main change management system does reside. If you’d like to change a plan, then you can enter your reasoning, what needs to change, and what your backout plan is—all of which will then need to be approved by supervisors before it is enacted. You can link this change to other similar issues so that, once it has been approved, it is tied to such issues automatically.
While Freshservice does a good job of reporting change management data, it doesn’t stop there. Its reports offer a deeper, interactive look at helpdesk data. While the graphic-intensive reports are not customizable, each report is filterable and has some drilldown capability. The tool’s chart editor lets you choose the visualization, the conditions for when the report is pulled, and when the information is reloaded. You can use the preview function to see exactly which data is going into the report and, if you like, quickly click into a ticket and resolve an incident before a report is run.
The Administration tab is pleasing to the eye and has meaningful icons for every operation. Even without formal training (although we’d say some experience as an agent is necessary), it’s fairly simple to navigate and we were able to find our way around easily enough. That’s in stark contrast to other tools aimed at larger organizations, such as Jira Service Desk, which often have complex UIs that will require training for helpdesk newbies and veterans alike. If you do end up someplace you didn’t expect, the Help section on the right-hand side of the page explains why you might want to go there in the future.
As stated earlier, Freshservice focuses on the ITIL stack. It does this not just via the previously described change management features but also via a bundled asset management module. Several helpdesk competitors, including Agiloft Service Desk and Vivantio Pro, have change management capabilities, but combining asset management with helpdesk offers some great opportunities. Not only can you track the number of incidents per asset, but you can potentially make determinations about continuing to fix an asset versus replacing it.
Freshservice assets do not need to be manually populated; there’s an automated discovery tool you can download from the Freshservice Admin page. The system acts in a server-agent model. The discovery agent can be installed on Windows, Apple OS X, and Linux systems and refreshes frequently. Assets can also be imported in bulk using CSV files. For other kinds of hardware infrastructure, the company also has Android and iOS apps that let admins track physical assets via bar codes.
Another thing that sets Freshservice apart is its understanding of projects. Despite our downed server example earlier, not all change to an IT environment is driven by a problem. Sometimes upgrades just happen, perhaps as part of a new software installation or scheduled maintenance. Changes that fall into this category can be grouped under a project in which related tasks and items can be associated, assigned, and executed. Being proactive is part of any good helpdesk implementation and Freshservice has shown a significant level of forethought by putting it here.
Integration and Custom Apps
Freshservice provides plug-ins for more than 30 major players in the Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) industry, including services such as MuleSoft, Zapier, and Microsoft Flow that connect to hundreds of additional apps. Google Calendar, Slack, various pieces of the Salesforce portfolio, and Microsoft Office 365 are just the tip of the iceberg.
This is important because, while a helpdesk system can live and operate in a silo, it’s usually a mistake to treat it this way. The interactions that support agents have with customers or employees and the information collected from those interactions is gold to many parts of the business. This is especially true in sales, marketing, and even finance. As such, being able to feed data between your helpdesk system and your customer relationship management (CRM) system or business intelligence (BI) engine is a big plus. It’s also a key method for achieving return on investment (ROI) on your helpdesk investment.
If using Freshworks’ own plug-ins doesn’t suit you, the company has provided Freshservice with a robust Representational State Transfer (REST) application programming interface (API). This lets developers write their own integration code to extend or integrate Freshservice data and functionality into other third-party apps or even custom apps. Since REST is widely embraced across an ocean of integrated apps, developers should have little trouble with such projects.
As you can see, Freshservice has everything your company will need to handle internal service issues. However, because of its price tag and how robust the tool is, it might be more than most businesses need for simple ticketing issues (e.g., “I forgot my password”). However, if you’re concerned that your organization needs a robust solution for managing tickets, handling assets, and managing projects, then Freshservice is unquestionably worth your while.
Where Freshdesk is aimed at small business customer operations, its sibling Freshservice targets the IT support needs of larger organizations. With support for advanced features and an intuitive interface, this is a great enterprise IT solution that’s well worth a look.