SmarterTrack 8.x BETA Available Now

SmarterTrack 8.x is turning out to be the largest and most important release of SmarterTrack since we originally released SmarterTicket, its precursor, back in 2004. We’ve always been committed to building products that offer enterprise-level features without the enterprise-level cost, and SmarterTrack 8.x is no exception. We took into account the feedback we’ve received from our customers through forum posts, feature requests and even face-to-face discussions and are pleased to announce the next release of our popular helpdesk and customer service software.

Getting started with the BETA

If you’re interested in getting your hands on the BETA, please visit the SmarterTrack 8.x BETA forum, where you’ll see how to:

  • Sign up for the BETA
  • Get a special BETA license key
  • Download the latest BETA release (we update it regularly)
  • Communicate with other BETA testers and the SmarterTools development team
  • Stay up-to-date on the latest release note and BETA news

Sign up for the BETA

Fully integrated softphone

SmarterTrack 8.x will have one of the most integrated SIP-compliant VoIP softphones of any helpdesk on the market and even includes multiple brand support. The softphone is configurable from within SmarterTrack, allowing all settings, profiles and agent information to be pushed to any desktop or laptop an agent logs into. This full-featured softphone includes the ability to transfer calls, automatically create call logs, displays incoming and outgoing communication history for a caller; can record incoming and outgoing calls; offers complete call analytics and allows businesses to keep all customer communications (tickets, live chats and call logs) in one location.

More user information

SmarterTrack 8.x continues to expand the amount of information about each customer by associating all communication within the helpdesk to a user’s email address and phone number. In addition, complete user statistics help you understand the frequency and method in which a customer communicates with your helpdesk. Finally, user comments have been added and can be displayed across tickets, live chats and call logs to help agents better assist customers.

Custom Fields

Easy access to custom fields

Custom fields are an incredibly powerful part of SmarterTrack. Some companies set up their helpdesks to: require users to provide answers to questions prior to starting tickets and live chats and store that information in custom fields; integrate with their existing billing systems and provisioning systems which automatically populate custom fields; allow agents to set custom fields based on information in ticket, live chats and call logs. With SmarterTrack 8.x, custom fields can now be placed in the communication area of tickets, live chats and call logs allowing the most critical of custom fields to be easily viewable and accessible. And as always, all custom fields can be associated to the Event system and can be fully reported on.

Completely revised task system

We’ve dramatically enhanced the tasks system. Tasks can now be assigned statuses like approved, in progress, on hold or completed and you can use the task scheduler to automatically create recurring tasks. Plus, managers can easily view global tasks by status or agent to get a better idea of what’s being worked on and when.

Customize with CSS

Customize your help desk without making changes to configuration files or changing skins! SmarterTrack 8.x allows system administrators to override CSS styles and customize the portal or management interface any way they want. So go ahead, move modules, change fonts or add a splash of color. Heck, redesign the whole portal. With custom CSS, you have the power to make your own design.

Simplify common actions into one click with manual events

Built upon SmarterTrack’s extensive event system, events can now be defined as manual. This means that instead of the system automatically triggering an event, a manual event can be created with specific criteria and actions that can be executed by an agent on a ticket, live chat or call log. Manual events can significantly increase the productivity of agents by eliminating the need to perform common actions individually; instead, multiple actions are performed with a single click. Here’s an example of how you might use this feature: you may want to transfer a ticket to another department, send a canned reply to the customer, adjust the custom fields in preparation to track the ticket, and SMS the agent that will receive the transferred ticket. Instead of an agent having to perform all of these actions separately, manual events can make all this happen with just one click!

Live Chat Agent Avatars

Get personal with avatars

Now you can add a personal touch to your tickets and live chats using agent avatars. Customers feel more at ease when they can see whom they’re dealing with. By using pictures of your agents, or even adding company or agent-specific avatars that are displayed during live chats and in tickets, you can help ensure your customers and end users stay in the right frame of mind throughout the entire support pipeline.

Custom RSS feeds

Feeding frenzy

Have a few RSS feeds you’d like to get in front of your customers? Perhaps you have separate RSS feeds for your blog, company news and social media accounts and want to make them easily accessible from one place? With SmarterTrack 8.x, you can centralize all of your important information in one location. You can even include feeds of your favorite news or industry blogs, further turning your portal into a true communication hub for your end users.

Better knowledge base management

We’ve revamped the knowledge base to make it easier to identify where articles are in the creation process and who is responsible for them. Now you can assign articles to agents, view a list of articles with broken links and quickly moderate customer feedback or ratings. Plus, see the path customers take as they browse your knowledge base: if they viewed another article prior, it’ll be listed as a referrer.

Improved helpdesk security

In an effort to build upon the need to fully separate different brands and departments, as well as to assist with the overall security of your helpdesk, agents now only see and interact with only those items that are assigned to their specific departments. In addition, take the security of your help desk up a notch by enforcing minimum password requirements for employee logins and enabling a setting that protects your system from brute force attacks by temporarily locking a user account if there are too many failed login attempts.

Improved categorization and organization

SmarterTrack 8.x introduces master categories. Configured by the system administrator, master categories are available on time logs and tasks to help managers see where an agent’s time is spent or to organize tasks related to a specific project.

Is that it?

Of course not! SmarterTrack 8.x has more features and improvements. You’ll find them all in the release notes we’ll post in the SmarterTrack 8.x BETA forum, but here are a few more that might be of interest:

  • Ticket responses can now be saved as drafts, so agents can come back and work on them later.
  • System administrators can now exclude response times that elapsed outside of business hours to ensure more accurate reporting.
  • The last agent to sign out of live chats or go AFK can now receive a warning message to lower the odds that your helpdesk goes unmanned.
  • Brand management is much simpler, even for companies with only one brand!
  • We made many more changes to the interface to increase the speed and responsiveness on both desktops and mobile devices. We also made modifications to regain much needed real estate, which is especially noticeable on tablets (like the new iPad) and on Android devices.

Why SmarterTools Eats Its Own Dog Food

Google Management's Public Use of Google+

Click for full-size image.

Although overshadowed by Steve Jobs’ death, last week’s revelation that Google’s management doesn’t use Google+ is a pretty big deal. So much so that Mashable’s Ben Parr called the technology giant out and challenged its senior managers to eat their own dog food in his op-ed, “If Google’s Management Doesn’t Use Google+, Then Why Should You?

It’s an excellent question—one that the senior management at SmarterTools has asked since the company was founded in 2003. You see, everyone at SmarterTools, from our CEO Tim Uzzanti to our sales and support staff to our graphic designer, uses the products we develop on a daily basis. We send messages from SmarterMail, answer sales and support requests with SmarterTrack and evaluate our website statistics and SEO rankings with SmarterStats every single day. Call it what you want: “dogfooding,” “ice creaming” or “drinking your own champagne.” The bottom line is we do it. The next obvious question is: Why?

Well, our developers (and customers, for that matter) know that our management team has a lot of trust in our products when our day to day business operations rely on the quality and usability of our internal software. Since we use our software daily during all stages of development—from ALPHA to BETA to production—we’re able to test the products in real-life scenarios, which gives us the information we need to fix bugs faster, improve usability and identify potential features for future versions. As a result, we’re able to deliver a higher-quality production release to customers because we’ve identified as many bugs and improvements as possible in the pre-release versions of the products.

Perhaps more importantly, we’re delivering software solutions that actually fix some of the problems small businesses face. Believe it or not, SmarterMail, SmarterTrack and SmarterStats were created because our management team couldn’t find comparable software on the market that met our business needs. Odds were, they reasoned, other businesses felt the same way. And so, from the very beginning we not only developed software that we wanted to use, but that we do use.

And in the grand scheme of things, isn’t that the point? If you build something—doesn’t matter if it’s a house, a vehicle, or even a software solution—shouldn’t you use it yourself? Shouldn’t you be using it every day, kicking the tires, slamming the doors, and performing blank text field searches just so that you know, deep down, that what you’ve built is not only functional but that it actually does what you set out to do? Besides, wouldn’t you think twice if Alan Mulally, Ford Motor Company’s CEO, drove a Chevrolet? Would that give you any confidence in the company? At SmarterTools, we actually use what we build and we build what we want to use. Thankfully, a lot of other people think that’s a good way to set about building a company.

This post was written by Tiffany D., a marketing and technical communications specialist for SmarterTools. If you liked this post, please consider subscribing to the SmarterTools Blog so you don’t miss an update.

The Lessons of ‘The Ten’: Why Google and Microsoft Want Your Email

It’s no secret that those so-called “free” email accounts from Google, Microsoft or Yahoo! aren’t really free. After all, you can’t get something for nothing. What you may not realize is how much revenue your single “free” email account can bring to the companies that offer them.

In his presentation “The Lessons of ‘The Ten’: Why Google and Microsoft Want Your Email,” SmarterTools Vice-President Jeff Hardy reiterates that the cost of providing email is inexpensive—less than $0.04 per mailbox for enterprise-level email and less than $0.39 per mailbox for Exchange-replacement level email—but the potential profits off email are exponential.

That’s because one hosting account doesn’t represent a single person; it represents an average of 10 people who can become loyal customers that pay for additional products and services. If hosting or email providers market to those 10 people, they’ll be successful.

Want to know more? Download “The Lessons of ‘The Ten’: Why Google and Microsoft Want Your Email” slideshow from HostingCon 2011.

This post was written by Tiffany D., a marketing and technical communications specialist for SmarterTools. If you liked this post, please consider subscribing to the SmarterTools Blog so you don’t miss an update.

Social Media Killed The Email Star

Since 2007, tech pundits have been declaring the death of email, citing a declining use among teens. Its purported killer? Social media.

Four years is an awfully long time to sound the death bells for a medium that’s used daily by billions of people across the globe, especially since you can’t even register for social media service like Google+, Facebook or Twitter without a valid email address—proof that social media didn’t kill the email star; it just rode its coattails to fame.

While there’s no doubt social media has changed the way we communicate, email remains one of “the most popular activities on the Web,” according to comScore. It’s also among the most lucrative, as companies like Google and Microsoft can attest.

Do you know why? We do, and we’re sharing that knowledge at 11 a.m. on Monday, August 8 at HostingCon 2011 during a presentation titled “The Lessons of ‘The Ten’: Why Google and Microsoft Want Your Email.” Join us!

This post was written by Tiffany D., a marketing and technical communications specialist for SmarterTools. If you liked this post, please consider subscribing to the SmarterTools Blog so you don’t miss an update.

Want to learn the “Lessons of The Ten?” Join us at HostingCon 2011!

HostingCon 2011 is Aug. 8-10 in San Diego

We are proud to announce that Jeff Hardy, vice-president of business operations for SmarterTools, will present on the opening day of HostingCon 2011 in San Diego, Calif. His session, “The Lesson of ‘The Ten’: Why Google and Microsoft Want Your Email” will describe how to gain new customers, increase profits and differentiate yourself in the crowded hosting market.

“We are excited to return to HostingCon as both attendees and a selected speaker,” Hardy said. “During my presentation, I’ll explain how the industry giants—Google, Microsoft, Facebook, etc.—are convincing hosting providers to give up the most important and valuable aspects of their business and why refusing to do so creates a solid opportunity to increase profits and differentiate yourself in the crowded hosting market.”

Hardy’s presentation is 11 a.m. on Monday, August 8.

HostingCon 2011 is the largest gathering of hosted services professionals in the world. This year’s conference, held August 8-10, is expected to attract more than 1,800 industry professionals to the San Diego Convention Center. Anyone wanting to arrange a meeting with Hardy or another member of the SmarterTools team during the conference should email partners@smartertools.com—or just look for the best-dressed attendees in between sessions. (You know, the ones in the navy SmarterTools shirts.)

This post was written by Tiffany D., a marketing and technical communications specialist for SmarterTools. If you liked this post, please consider subscribing to the SmarterTools Blog so you don’t miss an update.

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