Daniil Kopilevych
Aug 22, 2022 | 17 min read

Are you a customer success superhero? Perhaps a sales or marketing executive? Maybe even a founder of your own business? Then you’ve probably tested, used, or at least heard about Intercom.

It’s an amazing customer support platform that enables thousands of online businesses to engage with their customers in many different ways.

But Intercom is not perfect. There are things that thousands of Intercom’s existing and potential users are having major problems with:

  • Extremely high prices
  • Unscalable & unpredictable billing (additional monthly charges for the number of reached people)
  • Inattentive and uncaring customer service that often ignores your requests or keeps moving them from one department to another
  • Buggy email automation tools
  • Some missing minor features and long-to-fix bugs.
Intercom review on G2

That is why many Intercom users are constantly looking for more suitable and cheaper Intercom alternatives. And that is exactly why you’ve ended up on this page, isn’t it?

I hear you, let’s talk about Intercom…

Before we start looking into Intercom competitors more attentively, let’s talk about what Intercom is. This will give us a clearer understanding of how to better judge Intercom alternatives.

Intercom features

Intercom homepage + live chat

It’s almost like Intercom is deliberately trying to make it complicated. They showcase different sets of features on different pages and also give them confusing random names, depending on whether you check it on their website or inside the tool’s dashboard.

So, here’s a more or less complete list of Intercom’s features:

  • Live chat
  • Shared inbox
  • Knowledge base
  • Email marketing
  • Chatbot
  • Product tours
  • Banners
  • Series (something like a combination of all outbound messages including chatbot campaigns, email campaigns, product tours, etc)

It should be noted that some of these features (most of them actually) are only included in the expensive subscription plans that cost thousands of dollars, while others only come as add-ons. Which brings us to the question of money.

Intercom subscription plans with their prices

And the short answer to it is that the company doesn’t disclose their pricing so easily. You can only see the actual prices after a demo from their sales team. Or you can try switching your browser to the Incognito mode and pasting the direct link to their pricing page into the address bar (but chances are different people will see different subscription plans there).

What you see here is our best estimation based on different sources and Intercom’s demo that we actually signed up for and went through.

  • The cheapest package with live chat, knowledge base and a basic conversation routing chatbot costs from $74/mo and includes two seats. 
  • Each additional seat will cost $19/mo
  • But that’s just the tip of it. The basic subscription only allows you to reach 1k people per month. If you exceed this limitation, you’ll have to pay $50/mo for each 1,000 additional people reached.

If you need something more elaborate, you will have to take a look at Intercom’s more expensive subscriptions, which will include live chat, team inbox, email marketing, banners, and advanced bots. These advanced packages start from around $499/mo and can reach a few thousands of dollars for bigger businesses. 

Product tours will add another $199/mo to this price since they’re available as add-ons.

So, the biggest difference between Intercom and the closest alternatives to Intercom is in these charges for contacts you reach with your campaigns. Most tools don’t do this. Usually, you only pay a fixed price for the number of support agents you need, and that’s it. With Intercom, you can’t tell how much you’ll end up paying. One month, it can be $74 and the next you’ll pay a thousand.

These are the main reasons why numerous businesses and startups end up searching for a better Intercom alternative. Some tools focus on customer support features, while others are trying to build powerful chatbots. 

So, is there an adequate, affordable, and equally powerful Intercom alternative?

7 affordable yet feature-packed Intercom alternatives

We’ve tested every solution listed above for at least 2 weeks, which gave us a good understanding of how each software may satisfy the needs of a typical Intercom user. After extensive research, we’ve chosen 7 best Intercom alternatives:

  • HelpCrunch – all-in-one alternative to Intercom with live chat, knowledge base, chatbots and email marketing tools
  • Zendesk – multi-channel Intercom alternative with high prices 
  • Drift – most similar to Intercom sales and marketing features
  • Tidio – great Intercom chatbots alternative
  • Help Scout – email-oriented Intercom alternative without chatbots
  • LiveAgent – Intercom free alternative for customer support ticketing
  • Olark – Intercom live chat alternative

HelpCrunch

HelpCrunch homepage

The story of HelpCrunch started back in 2014 as an affordable all-in-one tool for customer communication. 

The premise was simple: support, marketing, and sales departments aren’t some mysterious separate entities within a company. One way or another, they all have to do with customer communication, so it only makes sense to unify them in one place. Intercom was promoting a similar idea at the time, but it was expensive. That’s how HelpCrunch, a more intuitive and cheaper alternative to Intercom, emerged.

HelpCrunch features

Among all other Intercom alternatives, HelpCrunch is probably the closest you can get to Intercom in terms of functionality:

  • Live chat widget for websites and apps
  • Knowledge base that can be integrated into your chat widget
  • Rule-based chatbot
  • Multi-channel shared inbox that contains customer requests from live chat, email, Facebook, Instagram, Telegram, and Viber
  • Email marketing for both manual and automated email campaigns
  • Popups with data request fields
  • Basic CRM with a user base and their detailed personal data

Thanks to one of the rich choices of customization options, you can make the HelpCrunch widget fit your brand style as precisely as needed. From localizing it for different markets to customizing size, colors, and wallpapers to changing button style – it’s easy to make it truly yours.

If you run a SaaS business, you can easily integrate a chat widget into your product and send targeted in-app messages to your active users or re-engage them with smart email blasts. This helps your team engage with customers and increase retention.

The HelpCrunch chatbot is a great way to automate repetitive questions, lead qualification, and customer self-service. It is rule-based, meaning it works on any scenarios you create for it.

HelpCrunch pricing

You can sign up for a HelpCrunch trial and try the platform for free for 14 days. Unlike Intercom, you don’t have to leave your credit card details for this. Its pricing depends on the number of agents you need. You get unlimited chats and contacts on all paid plans and can also install the same live chat widget on any number of domains you want.

If you need an email automation feature, then consider making an additional purchase of a specific number of emails. Feel free to do that within any subscription plan.

New-simple-pricing-HelpCrunch

HelpCrunch rating & reviews

HelpCrunch scores 4.8 / 5 stars on Capterra based on 174 reviews. On G2, it also got the highest rating among all other Intercom alternatives – 4.7 / 5, based on 157 reviews.

Review:

We integrated HelpCrunch into our customer success workflow to replace two separate products, Zendesk and Intercom. So far it has successfully covered both functions at a more affordable price and provided some extra features as well.

We like the easy-to-use interface, the features that allow us to efficiently handle all customer interaction (chat & email) as well as proactive chats and emails for our onboarding process.

A great plus is that their support is great, having extensive documentation and a very responsive and knowledgeable team. There were some small issues that were promptly fixed and we know we can rely on HelpCrunch to deliver a good product that helps us manage our customer communication more efficiently.

– Adina M on G2

Is HelpCrunch a good Intercom alternative?

Yes, it sure is one of the best out there!

HelpCrunch and Intercom are pretty similar, especially when it comes to the messaging functionality. But the most striking difference between the two is that you get an unlimited number of contacts on any paid HelpCrunch plan. 

Also, HelpCrunch provides some neat multi-channel conversations functionality that Intercom doesn’t, such as:

  • ‘Re-send chat message via email’ if a chat message stays unseen after a certain period of time
  • Integrate a fully-featured knowledge base into the chat widget and make it a self-service hub
  • Quickly switch between chat and email messages for a better multi-channel experience.
  • Customer’s message sneak peek, which shows you what customers are typing before they even send a message.

To sum up the comparison, Intercom is an amazing solution for large organizations with big budgets. In contrast, HelpCrunch is a great choice if you’re looking for more affordable yet very similar alternatives to Intercom – without overspending and compromising on quality. 

Zendesk

Zendesk homepage + live chat widget

Zendesk is a mature customer support platform that offers a wide range of features — sometimes even more than Intercom. However, their ticketing functionality is at the heart of the whole toolset while live chat is dragging behind. Let’s take a closer look at what makes Zendesk a worthwhile Intercom alternative.

Zendesk features

Zendesk offers a wide range of features for every use case and pocket:

  • Live chat
  • Shared inbox (including phone calls, SMS, social media, and messengers)
  • Knowledge base
  • Ticketing system

The tool is great if your primary goal is to have a ticketing system for your support team. It sure does have all the features for receiving, compartmentalizing, and prioritizing every customer request.

On the other hand, their live chat widget has very limited customization options and looks quite outdated, while ticketing functionality is the essence of the Zendesk software and works like a charm. Zendesk ticketing has some advanced options under the hood that large teams will appreciate.

It sure is one of the most reliable tools out there. But with great functionality comes great complexity. Even though Zendesk’s doing its best to onboard and show you around from the start, the tool is just too complicated and has a steep learning curve.

All in all, every functionality that we’ve tested works fast and smoothly. It feels like you get a very reliable piece of software that won’t let you down even if the UX/UI is not best-in-class.

Zendesk pricing

The cheapest solution you can get is Zendesk’s Foundational Support tool which is only suitable for basic ticketing. It can cost you something from $25/agent/mo to $125/agent/mo. So if your goal is to find cheaper alternatives to Intercom, Zendesk may not be the best option for you.

Zendesk for service subscription plan with prices

Zendesk rating & reviews

On Capterra, Zendesk scores 4.4 / 5 stars based on ‎2,654 reviews. At the same time, G2 has put the tool at 4.3 / 5 stars based on ‎2,937 reviews.

The ticketing format and overall cohesiveness of the platform are bar none of the best out there. Our team went from working out of a single sales email address to this glorious multifaceted workspace that can be customized to each agent’s needs and preferences (for the most part) and the integration it has with our storefront provider, Shopify, is phenomenal.

Gennavee R. on G2

Is Zendesk a good Intercom alternative?

Yes, if you’re a huge enterprise looking for a complex ticketing solution.

While testing the tools, we found Zendesk to be more customer service oriented as opposed to Intercom which is great for marketing and sales. There are several core differences between Zendesk and Intercom:

  • Zendesk doesn’t offer email marketing functionality which could otherwise enable you to send email campaigns to your customer base.
  • However, the tool is extremely powerful and reliable. It has way more features for customer support than Intercom does and provides detailed reports for any aspect you can think of.

Drift

Drift homepage

Drift is the best alternative to Intercom when it comes to sales features in general and AI chatbots in particular. The list of their features includes things with names like Drift Prospector, Drift Intel, or Drift Deal Room among other things.

So, what does it mean for a regular business with basic needs?

Drift features

Some time ago, Drift changed their positioning completely, so now there’s no way to tell for sure what tools and at what price they offer unless you request a demo. Judging from their website, the platform does offer the following set of features:

  • Live chat
  • Chatbot
  • Knowledge base
  • Email marketing
  • Account-based marketing

Additionally, Drift has many other fancy features like an integrated calendar for booking meetings or sales video recording tools. All in all, the platform puts a great deal of value on their sales features. Their bots are so advanced and well-developed that they can automatically identify website visitors and engage with them on a more personalized level.

That’s actually one of Drift’s most distinguishing inventions which they call ‘conversational marketing’.

Drift live chat dashboard

Drift pricing

You can’t really test Drift’s paid subscription since it doesn’t offer a standard trial of any kind. But it does have an extensive free subscription which includes live chat with 1 agent seat, 150 sales email sequences, 100 contacts, and calendar integration. It’s one of the most generous free alternatives to Intercom.

Additionally, you can apply for their Early Stage Startup subscription plan if your business is younger than 5 years, has less than $15M in funding and employs fewer than 50 people.

As of now, Drift doesn’t really disclose their prices unless you book a demo with their sales department (a sure sign they’re targeting huge enterprises primarily). According to SoftwarePundit, the prices for the tool start at $600 per month and can reach a few thousands of dollars. Which technically means that Drift is not among Intercom cheaper alternatives but it’s definitely an equally powerful one.

Drift’s old pricing
Drift subsription plans with hidden prices
Drift’s new pricing

Drift rating & reviews

Drift is rated 4.5 / 5 based on 155 reviews on Capterra. On G2, it scores similar 4.4 / 5 stars based on 522 reviews.

I think the tool is very easy to use and learn. Their interface is intuitive. I think their customer success team has been wonderful to work with as well to help optimize our use of the platform and bounce ideas around. I also like that they have templates for playbooks so youre not always starting from scratch.

Our biggest downfall is not having the right time/resources to properly invest into optimizing the tool in order to see the ROI. Like any marketing strategy, it requires time and experimentation to see what works. I think there’s a lot of room for us to grow our strategy.

Administrator in Computer & Network Security on G2

Is Drift a good Intercom alternative?

If you:

  • have thousands of dollars to spend every month
  • want to focus on your sales rather than customer support
  • need a feature-rich AI chatbot

… then yes, Drift is even more powerful than Intercom in many aspects.

Tidio

Tidio homepage's hero section

The Tidio company was founded in 2013. At first, they kicked off as an advertising agency but quickly switched to building online marketing tools. This year, they’ve raised $22M in a Series B specifically for the purpose of automating customer service (read: building their AI chatbot tool). So, how’s it going so far?

Tidio features

For a long time, Tidio has been a mono tool offering only live chat features. Together with various third-party integrations like Facebook, Instagram and emails it is a perfect way to provide fast customer service. And the Tidio shared inbox is a potent dashboard for managing all of the requests in a convenient way.

Tidio live chat dashboard

They also do offer knowledge base functionality, even though they don’t market it as actively as the rest of the features.

If you have time (and frankly, stamina), the real-time visitor monitoring feature will allow you to see all website visitors in real time and reach out to them depending on their last visited pages and personal info.

You can easily power up your live chat with a simple chatbot. The company’s prepared 35+ templates for different use cases and scenarios, so you only need to adapt it a little bit for your business and launch. Their visual flow editor is a real treat for quickly setting up various actions and leading customers in the right direction.

On top of that, Tidio also offers an AI bot that analyzes customers’ requests and gradually learns from them. But for some reason, you can only get a use of them only if you’re an online store on a custom plan.

Tidio pricing

Tidio offers a generous free subscription plan covering 3 operators but with strict limitations regarding the number of contacts – the sign of a true Intercom alternative 🙂 You can only engage 100 users with your chatbot and have unlimited conversations with only 50 unique contacts.

There are two paid subscriptions while a business can also request a custom plan. 

Tidio's subscription plans

Tidio rating & review

With 1,201 reviews on G2, Tidio is rated 4.7 / 5. On Capterra its result is 4.8 / 5 star based on 241 reviews.

The best feature of Tidio is the way to build chatbots along with all special features it offers. Targeting customers with the right information, in the right time on the right page has never been easier.

For a very small business the chatbot is quite costly. Fairly I have to say that most competitors are equal.

Florian S. on G2

Is Tidio a good Intercom alternative?

Yes, and a very good one.

If you’re overwhelmed by Intercom’s extensive features and costly add-ons, Tidio can feel like a breath of fresh air. An elegant live chat widget with potent chatbot automation and a simple knowledge base can be a great substitute for the same Intercom’s features. 

As of recently, the tool also develops AI chatbots, which Intercom takes a great pride in. I don’t believe Tidio is already on the same level technology-wise, but it seems like they’re moving in the right direction.

Help Scout

Help Scout homepage

Founded in 2011, the Help Scout platform is one of the older Intercom alternatives on the market. And it’s also more focused on customer service rather than sales and marketing. So, what features does the tool offer in this regard?

Help Scout features

A few years ago, Help Scout was more focused on email support, which is evident from their website and onboarding strategy. Right from the start, they suggest you set up email forwarding to manage incoming email from their inbox dashboard. The rest of the features come second.

  • Shared inbox is really great for managing emails and chats. However, social media and messenger integrations can only be added via Zapier, so they won’t run as smoothly as one expects.
  • Knowledge base is simple, elegant and helps you create a self-service hub in minutes. It’s also easily integrated into the chat widget.
  • Live chat is divided into two sections – a chatting area and a knowledge base for self-service.
Help-Scout-dashboard

Help Scout pricing

The two subscription plans from Help Scout are almost identical in terms of core features. The difference between the two is that the $25/mo/user plan has fewer mailboxes and only one knowledge base site whereas advanced settings will cost you $50/mo/user.

Moreover, Help Scout offers two additional programs: Help Scout for Good (where only nonprofits and NGOs can apply for a discount) and Help Scout for Startups.

Help Scout subscription plans with prices

Help Scout rating & review

On G2, Help Scout scored 4.4 / 5 stars based on ‎358 reviews. At the same time, 181 reviewers rated the tool 4.7 / 5 stars on Capterra.

Help Scout is packed with helpful features, but what makes it so good is really more than the sum of its parts. The product is clearly used by those who build it. Bugs are rare; reliability is regular. The add on features like Docs flow seamlessly together with the core experience.

Docs are fantastic—I can write a support article in one place and then surface that as a pop-up message on a web page, link to it on the product page, or insert it easily into an outgoing message.

Ben W., on G2

Is Help Scout a good Intercom alternative?

Yes, if you want to switch from live chat to email-oriented support.

Help Scout doesn’t have ALL the features that Intercom does, but it is a powerful and wholesome tool for very specific tasks. If your business wants to create a customer service oriented atmosphere and deliver top-notch assistance, the tool is great. It also offers a convenient integration between a knowledge base and a live chat, which is something Intercom lacks.

However, Help Scout doesn’t have any chatbot functionality whatsoever. Even though some smaller businesses can do without it, at some point you’re going to want to automate boring repetitive tasks, and Help Scout just doesn’t have the feature.

LiveAgent

LiveAgent homepage with chat widget

LiveAgent was also founded as a ticketing system aiming to develop an all-in-one help desk software. Now, they truly are extensive and rich in functionality with the main focus on customer support rather than marketing and sales.

LiveAgent features

LiveAgent is definitely one of the cheap alternatives to Intercom with a refreshingly straightforward approach towards naming their features. The tool offers a standard set of features for customer support:

  • Live chat
  • Ticketing
  • Social media
  • Call center
  • Knowledge base

All in all, the tool doesn’t really offer anything extra or out-of-the-box. But it’s a good old ticketing system with live chat and knowledge base functionality.

Two most interesting things about LiveAgent are these real-time notifications about someone’s clicking a chat button and real-time map of all website visitors.

For instance, when your visitor simply clicks the LiveAgent’s chat widget on your website (without sending a message or even typing anything), the system automatically notifies your support agents about a potential chat and connects them to a chat conversation with a visitor. But it also can be quite irritating and time-consuming if you ask me.

LiveAgent pricing

LiveAgent’s pricing is very easy to grasp. There are 4 plans to choose from:

LiveAgent subscription plans with prices

LiveAgent rating & reviews

On Capterra, LiveAgent is rated 4.7 / 5 based on 1016 reviews. On G2, it has an overwhelming number of 1,337 reviews with a rating of 4.5 / 5 stars.

Our customers require help 24/7 all year round, but we could not meet this request as we work standard business hours. Having an integrated knowledge base has solved a lot of our problems. If our customers require service at any point in time, they can search for it in the customer portal. Another great feature is the offline contact form.

Set up wasn’t as easy as we thought, and we had to contact customer support multiple times. Lucky for us, they were super helpful, which is always a positive.

Cory B on G2

Is LiveAgent a good Intercom alternative?

It’s not as modern and feature-packed as Intercom but it does the job.

Chatbot, auto and manual messages via chat/emails are not available in LiveAgent, and the UX/UI of the whole platform feels outdated (morally and technically). These are the biggest downsides of LiveAgent compared to other Intercom alternatives and Intercom itself.

On the other hand, LiveAgent offers a cloud call center and self-service forums which Intercom doesn’t have. It’s also one of the cheapest live chat solutions with a balanced integration between its features.

Olark

Olark homepage with live chat widget

Not everyone needs fancy add-ons to be content, some businesses are looking strictly for Intercom chat alternatives. And Olark with its live chat and chatbot features can be a great solution for them. Strictly speaking, it is not your most feature-rich tool on the market, but it’s a worthwhile cheap Intercom alternative with live chat functionality.

Olark features

When I say that live chat is the only Olark’s feature, I really mean it. It’s a nice reliable live chat tool, though. It has all the standard live chat things like pre-chat and offline forms, shortcuts, chat rating.

It’s worth noting that Olark has recently released their first chatbot (or rather its beta version). The feature is only available for Olark Pro users. 

Setting Olark up is very straightforward. There are also a bunch of chat widget customization options. Unfortunately, you’re not able to upload your company’s logo, change widget wallpaper, and anything else to make it look and feel truly yours.

Olark live chat

Olark pricing

Olark offers a 14-day trial on its paid plan and a very limited free version with 1 agent seat and only 20 chats/month. Note that you won’t be able to start your trial without credit card details.

Since they have only one real feature, Olark also offers only one paid subscription plan. For $29 per month you get the full toolset. There’s also the additional Pro options for bigger companies, but its pricing is only disclosed by request.

Olark subscription plan with pricing

You can also purchase Olark add-ons (aka PowerUps):

  • Non-branded chatbox for $59/mo
  • Chat translation for $29/mo
  • Visitor co-browsing for $99/mo
  • Visitor insights: $59-99/month

Olark rating & reviews

215 reviewers gave Olark only 4.3 / 5 stars on G2, while 459 Capterra users rated it 4.5 / 5.

Olark offers several useful features, including the ability to attach screenshots to live chat, as well as chat forwarding, message marking, and automated messages.

One of the notable dislikes of Olark includes limited features when setting up chatbots and more dedicated automated responses. Also, managing large pools of support requests can get overwhelming.

Sushil K. on Capterra

Is Olark a good Intercom alternative?

Only if you need a basic live chat tool.

Let’s make it clear right away. If we compare Olark against Intercom, there is no way the former can be a full replacement for the latter for the simple fact of missing some vital customer support features:

  • No email marketing functionality
  • No ticketing
  • No knowledge base

On the other hand, Olark can boast of offering some unique PowerUps that are hard to find in any other Intercom live chat alternatives like Chat translation and Visitor co-browsing. Both platforms perform really well and it’s unlikely that you will face many bugs if any.

Final Thoughts

There are tons of great live chat software solutions available on the market. But when it comes to picking the best Intercom alternative that does more than just live chat, you need to dig deeper.

Just sign up for the one you liked the most and test it. Didn’t like it? Move to the next one. I’m sure there’s one Intercom alternative for you somewhere and you will find it very soon.

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7 comments

  1. Hi, I would add HubSpot to this list. As of at least December 2019, they offer Live Chat functionality as part of the free plan.

  2. Thanks for sharing this detailed post. Very Informative. Will be waiting for your next blog^ ^ .

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