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osTicket is an open-source support ticket system that gives users the ability to track, modify and respond to client-generated tickets via online forms, email, and phone. It provides a powerful, centralized method of helpdesk request management that supports multiple simultaneous users.
Whatever your industry, and whatever your product or service, chances are you’re going to need to provide customer support at some point.
And since customers are the backbone of your business, effective customer support is an essential part of ensuring customer satisfaction, building loyalty, and getting great reviews and repeat business.
You might be able to get away with managing customer support manually for a time, but once your business starts growing it gets easier for customers to fall through the cracks. Just one slip up — an accidentally deleted email, a forgotten follow-up — and you could start getting bad reviews from dissatisfied customers. And once those negative reviews appear, you could start losing business.
That’s why it’s so important to carefully manage your customer support and ensure that no issues, large or small, fall through the cracks.
If you don’t have the budget for an expensive dedicated customer support and helpdesk application, there’s another option: osTicket is a free, open-source solution to managing customer support that has plenty of premium features. Its many flexible customization features make it ideal for small businesses and large enterprises alike.
How Does It Work?
osTicket is a free, full-featured help desk and customer support system. With osTicket, your clients and customers can generate help desk “tickets" (i.e., work orders) that are then routed to the correct party for resolution.
For example, if one of your customers is having difficulty installing your software, they can simply visit your website and send a request detailing their issue. Unlike other support solutions, your customer do not have to create a separate support account to generate a ticket. All they need is their email address.
If they prefer, your customers can also bypass the website altogether and send an email to your designated support email address, or even call in for help on the phone. During the course of the support call, your staff can generate a ticket using osTicket and fill in all the required details.
Once a ticket has been generated, every aspect, from assigned staff to due date, is customizable and backed up in an automatic archive that can be accessed by all support staff and modified according to their level of authorization.
Other osTicket Features
osTicket isn’t just limited to creating and completing tickets. Like other expensive premium support applications, osTicket has plenty of other features to enhance your customer support:
- Create custom automatic email notifications to customers and staff when a ticket is opened, updated, or closed.
- Assign tickets to a staff member, department, or team.
- Allow customers and staff to add pictures or video to tickets, such as screenshots or video screen captures.
- Lock tickets while they’re being updated, so there are no conflicting or duplicate responses.
- Keep your staff updated by writing private internal notes for each ticket that can’t be viewed by customers.
- Organize and filter how you view tickets by whatever criteria you like (department, priority, topic, etc.).
- Create an online website portal for customers to view the status of their tickets by entering their email address and ticket number, without having to register for an account.
- Get analytics and stats on all your tickets with Dashboard reports.
- Streamline the support process by creating a knowledge base and Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) database to give staff a constantly-growing, readily-annotated database of information on the most commonly-encountered issues.
osTicket also has a lively forum and up-to-date wiki on their official website where you can ask questions and learn more about how to use osTicket. There’s also professional support provided for a fee.
Choosing a Host With osTicket
Many hosting providers will include osTicket already installed for free with your hosting plan. Some hosting providers do offer plans built around premium support for the system, so you may see a higher costs with those.
If your host doesn’t provide osTicket already installed, you can still install it yourself as long as your server meets the software requirements.
osTicket is compatible with both Apache and IIS (i.e., Windows-driven) servers. It requires installation of MySQL 5.0+ and PHP 5.3+, so make sure your hosting plan includes support for these features as well.
osTicket Frequently Asked Questions
What alternatives are available?
There are a number of paid help desk services, such as zendesk, helpdeskpilot, HappyFox, and Service Desk, all of which provide a number of advanced features, customizations, and support. Pricing and features vary, so it’s important to research each candidate and determine which solution is best for your business. On the free side, the options are more limited, but there are still quite a few option available, such as Trouble Ticket and HESK Help Desk. Again, features and support will vary, so research is key.
What type of analytics and stats are available?
The dashboard reports provide a system overview and basic statistics on tickets count and status per department, staff and help topics. For more detailed information, you can download and export ticket detail using the advanced search option from the ticket queue.
How much can I customize my support forms?
osTicket is extremely customizable. You can not only create custom fields relevant to your business, but also set up custom rules regarding which fields are available for a specific type of support request. You can also create custom forms that ask the user for additional information based on the support topic. For instance, if your customer is reporting a software issue, you can ask them specific question regarding the screen they experience it on, what they were attempting to do, what the error message says, etc. You can even prompt them to include an optional screenshot.
Does the email system support images?
Yes. osTicket supports rich text or HTML email, so you can provide markup, graphics, and even screen shots when responding to users. You can also customize your email with your company brand, logo, etc. Videos are also supported.
Can I use variables in email templates?
Yes, there are a number of predefined variables that can be used for an email template, which will allow you to personalize automatic email responses. For a complete list of supported variables, see the osTicket website or support documentation.
How do I make sure tickets get to the correct support staff?
If you’ve ever set up rules or filters in your email program, you shouldn’t have a problem setting the routing filters for osTicket. It follows the same principal. You create unique filters for various request types and/or fields, then tell the system which department, team, or individual those types of request should be directed to. You can even set up filters to auto-reject certain types of requests or send a standardized response. So the next time someone writes in saying they can’t access their account, you can automatically send them a reset password link, rather than paying someone on your support team to walk them through it.
Can I transfer tickets to another person or department?
Yes. Even if a ticket is auto-assigned, your agents can re-assign tickets to another agent, team, or department. This way if a ticket is misrouted, or if multiple teams need to process the request, it’s easy to pass it along the right person. Agents can also include notes in the ticket thread for the next assignee to let them know what’s been completed and why they’re passing it along.
Can I set up reminders for overdue tickets?
Yes. You can set up unique service level agreement (SLA) plans for help topics, departments, or ticket filters. These can be used to track tickets and due dates, or to set up automated alerts for overdue tickets, missed due dates, and priority escalations.
Is there a way to make sure multiple people aren’t working on the same ticket without knowing it?
Yes. osTicket includes a ticket locking mechanism, which allows your staff members to lock tickets while they’re working on them or responding to them. This will prevent multiple responses and keep your team members from duplicating efforts. You can even set the amount of time a ticket remains locked, so there’s no risk of a ticket being forgotten if one agent doesn’t complete it.
What type of commercial support is available?
There are a number of commercial support packages available, based on your budget and needs. The osTicket support staff can assist your business with general questions, troubleshooting, providing best practice instructions, and customizing your implementation. They can also assist you with installation, on-boarding, and training.
How does osTicket (free version) compare to SupportSystem (the paid version of osTicket)?
SupportSystem, the paid version of osTicket, is a ready-to-use version of the software and provides a number of additional features and conveniences not available with the free version. While the free version must be installed on your own web and database servers, SupportSystem is cloud hosted, with no installation or setup required. Support for the free version is provided through a community-based support system, while SupportSystem subscribers receive email and phone support. With the free version, you have to set up email integration and SSL encryption; whereas these are included automatically with the paid version. The paid service also provides onboarding, training support, and managed upgrades and maintenance.
What plans are available for the paid version (SupportSystem)?
There are three levels of paid plans available, depending on the features your business requires. Differences between levels include forced HTTPS support, custom SSL certificates, DKIM email signing, and attachment size limits.
Can I start with the free version and then upgrade to SupportSystem?
In most cases, you should be able to import your existing osTicket helpdesk into SupportSystem, provided you are using osTicket version 1.7 or later, and support is available to assist you with the migration.