Daniil Kopilevych
Aug 26, 2021 | 16 min read

Are you a customer success superhero? Perhaps a sales or marketing executive or even founder? Do you have anything to do with an e-commerce or SaaS niche? 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:

  • High prices
  • Unscalable & unpredictable billing (charges for people reached)
  • Inattentive and uncaring customer service
  • Buggy email automation tools
  • Some missing minor features and long-to-fix bugs.
Intercom review on G2

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

But first, 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 its alternatives.

Intercom features

Intercom homepage + live chat

It’s almost like Intercom is deliberately trying to make it too 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 their software.

That’s why we decided to break Intercom features down and list them here. So, here’s a more or less complete list inventory of Intercom functionalities:

  • Live chat
  • Shared inbox
  • Knowledge base
  • Email marketing
  • Chatbot
  • Product tours
  • Banners
  • Series (combination of all outbound messages)

It should be noted that not all these features are offered in all subscription plans. Some are only included in expensive plans that cost thousands of dollars, while others only come as add-ons. Which brings us to the question of pricing.

Intercom pricing

Intercom subscription plans with their prices

And the short answer to it is that the company doesn’t disclose their pricing that easily. You can only see 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 basic chatbot costs from $79/mo for one seat. 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, and 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 its closest alternatives is in these charges for reached people. Most Intercom alternatives 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 for Intercom. One month, it can be a couple of bucks, the next one, you’ll pay a thousand.

These are the main reasons why numerous businesses and startups started building Intercom alternatives for various purposes. Some focus on customer support features, while others are trying to compete in the chatbot department. 

Intercom alternatives

After extensive research, we’ve chosen the 5 best Intercom alternatives that have a chance of replacing it for your business. We’ve tested every solution listed above for at least 2 weeks, which gave us a pretty good understanding of how each software may satisfy the needs of a typical Intercom user:

  • HelpCrunch — affordable all-in-one Intercom alternative
  • Zendesk — support-oriented Intercom alternative
  • Drift — sales-oriented Intercom alternative
  • LiveAgent — simple Intercom alternative
  • Olark — chat-only Intercom alternative

HelpCrunch

HelpCrunch homepage + live chat widget

The story of HelpCrunch began back in 2014 as a try to create an all-encompassing multi-featured tool for customer communication. There were already quite a few tools with the same ambitions available on the market, but none of them allowed companies to manage their support, marketing and sales in one unified and elegant place. 

There was Intercom, of course, but it cost a fortune. 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. On top of the HelpCrunch widget on your website, you also get access to other HelpCrunch features:

  • Live chat
  • Shared inbox
  • Knowledge base (that can be integrated into the chat widget)
  • Email marketing
  • Popups
  • Basic CRM

The possibilities for using HelpCrunch are endless. For instance, if you run a SaaS business, you can easily send targeted in-app and email messages to your users based on custom data that you can transfer directly from your product to HelpCrunch.

In HelpCrunch, you can also automatically send email follow-ups if your chat messages remain unseen for any amount of time. This helps support agents better engage with customers and increase retention.

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.

HelpCrunch pricing

You can sign up for a free 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.

HelpCrunch 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.

The platform offers 2 core pricing packages: Live chat and Live chat & Emails. Both of them include live chat, knowledge base, popups and shared inbox functionality. The only difference is that the latter also offer emailing features. 

There are 4 regular plans you can choose from:

  • Standard ‘Live chat’ – $15/mo/team member
  • Premium ‘Live chat’ – $25/mo/team member
  • Standard ‘Live chat + Emails’ – $29/mo/team member
  • Premium ‘Live chat + Emails’ – $49/mo/team member.

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

HelpCrunch vs Intercom

HelpCrunch and Intercom are pretty similar, especially when it comes to the messaging functionality. But there are some things that make HelpCrunch pretty special – like far richer live chat widget customization options or really affordable prices. 

But the most striking difference between the two is that you get an unlimited number of contacts on any paid HelpCrunch plan — be it $15/mo or $500/mo. You also get a personal onboarding assistant once you sign up for HelpCrunch — to the point that if you’re migrating from Intercom or any other tool, they’ll migrate your data for free

Regardless of the feature naming, both platforms allow you to:

  • Talk to your website visitors and users via live chat in real-time
  • Send proactive auto messages on your website to initiate new conversations and convert visitors into leads
  • Send targeted in-app auto messages to nurture and support your existing user base
  • Send manual email campaigns to inform your customers about important company news, product announcements or special deals.
  • Manage all contacts from a single dashboard
  • Create help centers for customers’ self-service.

But in HelpCrunch, you can do all that for the price which will be 3-5 times lower.

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

  • ‘Re-send chat message via email’, which allows you to automatically follow up via email if a visitor/user doesn’t see your chat message.
  • Integrate a fully-featured knowledge base into the chat widget and make it a self-service hub
  • Quickly switch between sending a new chat message and email for a better multi-channel messaging experience.
  • Customer’s message sneak peek, which shows you what customers are typing before they even send a message.
  • Knowledge base SEO settings where you can specify articles’ meta titles and meta descriptions as well as target keywords for search engines.

To sum up the comparison between Intercom and HelpCrunch, both products are especially great for SaaS and e-commerce companies that want to send targeted messages to their customers based on various attributes.

Intercom is an amazing solution for large organizations with big budgets that need a robust package of customer support tools.

In contrast, HelpCrunch is a better choice if you’re looking for more affordable yet very similar alternatives to Intercom systems – 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 look closer 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 calls, SMS, social media, and messengers)
  • Knowledge base
  • Ticketing system

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 god is it complicated. I mean once you sign up, Zendesk’s doing its best to onboard and show you around. But the tool is so complicated that it’s really difficult to just dive in and understand how things work right away.

All in all, every functionality that we tested worked 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

Zendesk has divided their pricing into three tiers: Zendesk for Service, Zendesk for Sales, and Foundational Support.

The pricing for the Zendesk Suite for Service starts at $59/mo and can reach $215/mo per agent for the Enterprise plans. It includes live chat, ticketing, knowledge base, and call center tools. 

However, none of the plans under $125/mo offer operating hours, customization options, roles and permissions, and other things that come with more expensive plans. The ability to remove the Zendesk branding from your widget will cost you as much as $199/mo.

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.

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.

Zendesk has a lot of features, and customizable templates, it’s not that easy to use as other CRM, so it may require training, however this is because of the highly customizable settings, and options the product offers. It’s really easy to answer 100 tickets at the same time, using templates that will show the client’s name and information.

Overall a really good product, a bit expensive, but it offers a lot of features which makes the product a good product and good benefit.

It can be very complex/difficult at a certain point due all the features that they offer.

Zendesk vs Intercom

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

  • You can still see that Zendesk Chat is not 100% integrated into the whole Zendesk toolset which may cause some minor issues and inconveniences here and there. When it comes to widget customization, Intercom definitely offers many more options which also just look more modern.
  • To add to that, Zendesk doesn’t offer email marketing functionality which could otherwise enable you to send email campaigns to your customer base.
  • Overall, Zendesk doesn’t feel as modern as it could be both for the customer and agent side, while Intercom manages to constantly keep the innovation bar high for the UX/UI of their product suite.

At the end of the day, we found that if I wanted to work most productively I’d need to have all 4 main Zendesk products opened in different browser tabs as there is no option of having all of them within a single dashboard. 

Intercom is definitely more suitable for fast technology companies that need an all-in-one (marketing, sales, support) solution and have a budget big enough to be okay with Intercom’s high and ever-changing prices.

Drift

Drift homepage with live chat widget

Drift takes a bit of a different approach to customer communication focusing on sales and everything that comes with them. Their homepage talks about revenue acceleration as the main selling point while the list of features include things like Drift Prospector, Drift Intel and Virtual Selling Assistant among other things.

All in all, if you’re looking for an Intercom alternative crafted for sales and marketing teams, Drift is your best shot. Let’s delve into the details now.

Drift features

Not so long 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 offers 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, sales video recording tools, etc. All in all, the platform puts a great deal of value to 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’. You can use chatbots and communicate with leads in real time via chat. It illuminates all redundant lead forms and stuff and concentrates on essentials.

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 offer an extensive free subscription plan with rich functionality. It 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 has less than $15M in funding and employs fewer than 50 people.

Until last year, there were three paid subscription plans available at the Drift’s pricing page, and their costs varied from $50/mo to $1400/mo. 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).

Drift’s old 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, but this rating is 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

Intercom vs Drift

Both Drift and Intercom are among the best and most expensive tools in their respective categories. Drift is a more sales-driven alternative to Intercom, which isn’t really crafted for customer support. They don’t even have anything like ticketing or help desk in their software. 

However, it offers a surprisingly feature-rich free plan, which makes it a great solution for small companies that only need one seat and don’t manage many contacts.

But if you really want to enjoy all those famous sales goodies from Drift including their bots and landing pages, you should be ready to pay hundreds if not thousands of dollars. Service agencies, as well as other B2B organizations targeting enterprise and mid-size businesses are the ones who’ll be really satisfied with Drift’s platform. 

SaaS and e-commerce businesses with smaller average checks and higher priority for customer support would be better off looking at Intercom’s solution.

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:

  • Ticket plan for $15/agent/mo
  • Ticket + Chat plan for $29/agent/mo
  • All-Inclusive plan for $39/agent/mo
  • Free plan (includes 1 chat button, 1 phone number, 1 email address and 7-day cha ticketing history)
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

LiveAgent vs Intercom

The first problems come right after installing the LiveAgent’s live chat widget. It doesn’t look nearly as good as other Intercom alternatives and the customization options are rather limited. 

Chatbot, auto and manual messages via chat/emails are not available in LiveAgent, and the UX/UI of the whole platform is just plain old (morally and technically) both for the customer and admin side. These are the biggest downsides of LiveAgent compared to other Intercom alternatives and Intercom itself.

On the other hand, LiveAgent also 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 other tools. You can chat with your website visitors, call them, respond to and solve tickets, create articles in the knowledge base, start a forum, and check your performance reports – all in the same window.

And I can’t even compare the prices of the two solutions, they are just from different worlds. If you’re running a small business with modest support needs, LiveAgent “Free” subscription plan can even be a great free Intercom alternative.

Olark

Olark homepage with live chat widget

Olark is a live chat solution for websites. 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. But then again, other Intercom alternatives have them, too.

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

You can also send targeted and automated messages via chat in Olark.

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

Olark vs Intercom

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

So, we can only compare their live chat tools. Intercom’s messenger has an edge over Olark’s live chat in:

  • Offering more customization options (like adding company logo, wallpapers etc.)
  • Allowing for integration of your product with the platform, and therefore, giving you the ability to set up business-specific triggers and send automated messages to your users based on those.

On the other hand, Olark can boast of offering some unique PowerUps that are hard to find in any other Intercom 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 during everyday’s usage.

Final Thoughts

There are tons of great live chat software solutions available on the market.

But when it comes to picking an 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.

Read also

5 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.

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