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Handling support emails from Trello

Helpdesk software is an annoying need of the internet business. An outsider could imagine that no helpdesk software would ever be needed, all you need is a Gmail inbox. However, since handling support requests from a normal email client is totally impossible as soon as a product passes the mark of 3 (three) users or 2 (two) people in the support team, helpdesk software of all kinds soon emerge in the horizon of every software business. I find that the need for that kind of software always come together with a lot of headache, if not for anything, for variety of choices.

It doesn’t have to be the way it is, for example, as with happens with the top helpdesk software providers, in which you have a cluttered interface with thousands of options and features that mean nothing for the small business with small teams. These services charge a lot, what is probably fair, since they offer a lot of functionality to help big companies with lots of large personnel deal with the “tickets”: tagging, labeling, fulltext searching, filtering, assigning and deassigning to people and tracking the status of each ticket, among others.

The fact, however, is that most of these features, at least when being used by small teams, translate to just simple CRUD operations that have already been implemented in thousand of other products – only with other names. In Trello, for example, the basic entity, instead of “ticket”, is called “card”; there’s an equivalent of the tagging operation, which is moving cards between “lists”; there is also an equivalent of “labelling” which is called – surprise – labelling. Answering to a card has the common name of “commenting”. Fulltext search and filtering are implemented for the contents of each card and its respective comments.

Considering the presence of these features, Trello appears as totally usable – I would dare to say “feature-complete” – helpdesk software. The only thing that is missing is the ability to interact with the external world, i.e., receive users support requests and turn the answers given internally to something the users can see externally. Most helpdesk software out there – especially the newer ones, which have been focusing on being “simple” – support email as the only channel through which users reach and can be reached by the support team.

BoardThreads is a small service that does one thing and tries to do it well: adds to Trello what it needs to be a full-featured customer support system. For now, that means getting email in and out of a Trello board, with attachments, markdown support on both sides and decent email threading, but also totally lean functionality and zero interface. If you have a small team that is using Trello – or even if you don’t, Trello is free, has super intuitive functionality and is quite easy to register – you should try using it as your helpdesk software.

One of the advantages of using BoardThreads is that, if your team already uses Trello for discussion and development, BoardThreads can be added to the same board where people are already looking at, since it only takes one List, and so incoming help requests can be seen and answered by everyone, or turned right away into bug fixes or feature proposals.

Of course, Trello is not the only software out there which implements the CRUD operations aforementioned, a lot of others also do: GitHub, for example, or Facebook, or Evernote, not to mention all “project management” apps like Basecamp. In fact, probably all the web apps of the internet implement, at least partially, these things. Trello is just a nice choice for helpdesk because of its intentional flexibility.