Choosing a customer support tool is like looking for a new apartment: once you go with one option, you hope you don’t have to move any time soon. You want to stick to it for as long as possible.
The same principle applies to customer service tools. Choosing one is quite a commitment: once you have it all set up and ready to go, it’ll be hard to change anything. All your communication with customers, their data, and chat history with all the reports will be stored in a single place. Migrating this stuff from tool to tool isn’t just a long and painful process, it’s also quite risky, as you can lose a lot of valuable information along the way.
What I’m driving at is that businesses want to choose the most known and reliable solution right from the start. That’s where Zendesk comes into play. It’s been on the customer service market for over a decade now, and people like it very much for its wide range of features and numerous integrations. When someone thinks of a support tool, they immediately associate it with Zendesk.
However, the tool has some huge flaws, too. That is why this article focuses on the Zendesk competition and its benefits in comparison to the godfather of all help desk tools.
Are you about to switch from Zendesk to another customer support solution? If you choose HelpCrunch, you’ll get access to a shared inbox, live chat, chatbot, knowledge base, email automation, and popups in one package. Just sign up for a free 14-day trial (we’ll also migrate your data for free).
What is Zendesk?
Zendesk is indeed the most famous help desk tool out there. It was founded back in 2007 as an alternative to old-school semi-support tools that were overloaded and uncomfortable (just like everything else in 2007).
From the very beginning, the tool positioned itself as a high-end help desk system for gathering, prioritizing, and solving customers’ requests in one place. Or, in other words, a unified tool for everything customer relationship.
The help desk is great, but have you tried real-time communication? That’s what the company thought in 2014 and acquired Zopim, third-party live chat software. These days, Zendesk offers a wide variety of customer support tools on top of its help desk. The following products can be used both together and separately:
- Support — for ticketing, prioritizing, and solving customer requests via email and social media (Facebook, Twitter).
- Service — for email, live chat, social media, call, chatbot, and help center support.
- Sales — for sales tracking, email marketing, selling via SMS, call, and email; includes CRM and custom pipelines.
Zendesk also offers the ‘Answer bot’ for suggesting answers to common questions, identifying when to bring in a live agent, and sharing relevant knowledge base articles with visitors on the go. And even though the company doesn’t have its own custom chatbot like, Intercom or Drift do, they released the Chat Conversation API which allows integration with third-party chatbots.
Zendesk pricing starts at $25/agent/month for the Support subscription plan, or at least $59/agent/month for the Zendesk Suite.
But if you’re reading this article, you probably know all this already. So, why don’t we move to the Zendesk competition now?
Why look into competitors to Zendesk?
Like anything else in this world, Zendesk isn’t flawless and has its cons. Based on over 5k reviews, the tool scores 4.3 out of 5 stars on G2, with numerous users mentioning the following flaws:
- Too many features that are usually poorly integrated with each other
- High prices
- Outdated live chat widget
- Poor customer support
- The lack of customization features
- Export and import of the knowledge base articles are not possible
- No in-app messages for SaaS products
- No chatbot of their own.
With all its mightiness, Zendesk can be a little overwhelming, to say the least. It does offer an awful lot of tools and features, but in most cases, you wouldn’t need even half of them. At the same time, Zendesk competitors figured these things out a long time ago and can become a great substitute for the tool.
I’d even go as far as saying Zendesk may be a great choice for huge enterprises with many customer service departments, but smaller companies will feel much better choosing a Zendesk competitor.
So, why don’t we look into them more closely?
Who are Zendesk competitors?
To qualify for this list, a Zendesk competitor should cover live chat, help desk, and knowledge base features. Those are must-haves. Such add-ons as cloud call center and social media integration are nice bonuses.
There are 10 main competitors to Zendesk on the market today:
- HelpCrunch – affordable tool for support, sales & marketing
- Help Scout – simple software for chatting compared to Zendesk
- Freshdesk – powerful tool for customer support
- LiveAgent – easy-to-use software for SMB
- Groove – simple tool for small teams
- HappyFox – adjustable software compared to Zendesk
- Kayako – full-suite tool to go with
- Intercom – messaging-oriented competitor
- Crisp – chat-focused software for support
- Zoho Desk – popular tool with AI creature called Zia
To save your time, I’ve organized a quick table to compare all the tools. Let’s dive right in.
|Support tool||Main features||Prices start at||Free trial||Rating G2|
|$15/mo per seat||14 days||4.7 / 5
|Help Scout||Live chat
|$25/mo per seat||15 days||4.4 / 5
Call center software
|€18/mo per seat||21 days||4.4 / 5
Call center software
|$15/mo per seat||14 days||4.5 / 5
|$15/mo per seat||30 days||4.7 / 5
|$39/mo per seat||N/A||4.5 / 5
|$625/mo per 5 seats||14 days||4.1 / 5
|$74/mo per 2 seats||14 days||4.4 / 5
|€25/mo per workspace (4 seats)||14 days||4.5 / 5
|Zoho Desk||Live chat
|€20/mo per seat||15 days||4.4 / 5
- Short description: affordable Zendesk competitor for support, sales & marketing
- Pricing starts at: $15/agent/month
- Free trial: 14 days on any plan
- Core features: live chat, chatbot, help desk, auto messages, popups, integrated knowledge base; email automation comes for an additional cost.
HelpCrunch is a one-stop tool with its robust toolset covering everything from live chat to email marketing to in-app messaging. People come to your website, see the HelpCrunch widget right away, and use it to communicate with you in real-time.
Even though the software is mostly famous for its live chat (which is totally awesome, you should try it), its admin panel is organized in a way to make your work with customers’ requests as seamless as possible.
The HelpCrunch interface looks like a shared inbox, where you can receive all email and chat requests and manage them accordingly. You can also send emails to your customers right from an agent chat – just switch between two tabs. Prioritizing inquiries is easy with tags and various statuses – like open, resolved, pending – that you can assign to each conversation.
Each chat window has a sidebar with all the customer data available for high-quality support. Your agents can easily access:
- Real-time customer data like country, time zone, language, subscription, and unlimited chat history.
- Custom data like types of subscriptions, registration data, account balance, purchases’ value, and whatnot. You can upload any custom data about your users into the HelpCrunch dashboard.
If someone wrote you a chat message and left the chat before you could answer them, there’s a special ‘Resend if unseen’ feature offered by HelpCrunch. Just specify the time after which unread messages should get resent via email, and that’s it.
The tool also provides a chatbot feature for customer support automation. The bot will be there around the clock to handle users’ requests, qualify leads, and assign chats for departments or particular specialists if it’s needed. Thanks to a visual no-code chatbot editor, you can easily create your own bot script afresh or select one of the pre-written templates.
As to self-service functionality, HelpCrunch offers a sleek and intuitive knowledge base platform. Create self-help articles, categorize, and share them with your visitors and customers along the way. Moreover, you can integrate your knowledge base into the chat widget in a few clicks. Customers will see it right away and will be able to resolve their issues without contacting the support team.
Zendesk vs HelpCrunch
While Zendesk has a wide set of useful features for enterprises, it offers an outdated UI and rather expensive plans. HelpCrunch, in turn, has all the essential functionality at an affordable cost. On top of that, you will definitely enjoy its smooth and easy-to-use dashboard. It takes minutes to install and start using the tool.
Based on 172 reviews on G2, HelpCrunch has 4.7 out of 5 stars. Here are the main advantages and disadvantages that users share.
Pros of HelpCrunch:
- Easy-to-use interface
- Fluid customer interaction via chat, chatbot, and email
- Great human customer support
- Sleek knowledge base
- Rich customization features
- Trouble-free app integration
- Affordable price
Cons of HelpCrunch:
- Reactive chatbot, which means it can’t send proactive messages and only replies when a user starts an interaction first.
2. Help Scout
- Short description: simple software compared to Zendesk
- Pricing starts at: $25/agent/month, starts with 5 users
- Free trial: 15 days
- Core features: help desk, knowledge base, live chat.
Help Scout is somewhat similar to HelpCrunch in terms of help desk functionality. It allows all the same things as a shared inbox for all incoming requests, private notes, tags, and canned responses. The tool also shows you a real-time view of who’s handling a particular request at a moment.
Basically, Help Scout offers three main features to its users:
- Help desk. A shared inbox with the necessary tools to organize incoming chats and emails and manage them effectively.
- Knowledge base. The tool with a simple editor, categories, and built-in SEO features.
- Beacon. It’s like a live chat window but mostly functions as a knowledge base assistant. It suggests relevant articles based on pages customers are viewing. Also, the ‘Beacon’ tool can include live chat.
What’s especially cool about Help Scout though are its Workflows. They function as advanced filters and allow customer service automation. In general, you can set a condition (what you’re looking for), an action (what you want to happen based on this condition), and the system will do the job.
Zendesk vs HelpScout
Help Scout’s main selling point is that they are simple. And indeed they are. Their interface and features are much easier to understand and get used to. There’s nothing confusing about their dashboard. But if you’re looking for something as advanced as Zendesk, Help Scout may be a bad choice.
Based on 360 reviews on G2, Help Scout has 4.4 out of 5 stars. Let’s have a closer look at what users like and dislike about the software.
Pros of Help Scout:
- Easy to set up and use
- Helpful workflows
- Great customer support
- Competitive prices
Cons of Help Scout:
- Poor set of features
- Missing the integration with social media
- Some of the functionality, when it comes to escalating a ticket, is very limited.
- Short description: a powerful tool for customer support
- Pricing starts at: €18/agent/month; free plan
- Free trial: 21 days
- Core features: help desk, knowledge base, social support, live chat, call center software.
Freshdesk is probably the closest competitor to Zendesk in terms of full-scale help desk functionality. It offers the following features:
- Ticketing feature
Basically, with the ticketing tool by Freshdesk, you get a shared inbox (or rather multiple shared inboxes starting from the basic paid plan). The system will convert all your incoming support emails into tickets and allow you to merge, split, monitor them, and get automatic notifications about any event you need.
- Self-service feature
Freshdesk offers a multilingual knowledge base tool, where you can create self-service articles and divide them into categories. For additional money, you can enhance it with their native Answer Bot that will automatically suggest relevant articles to your customers.
- Social support feature
Starting from the ‘Growth’ Support Desk subscription plan, you can curate your Twitter and Facebook requests via Freshdesk. Just note that the free subscription includes only basic social media support.
If you decide to go with the ‘Omnichannel’ plan, you will get an all-in-one set of features including email, social, chat, and phone support. Pricing starts at €35/agent/month.
Zendesk vs Freshdesk
Comparing Freshdesk and Zendesk is the easiest part of this article. Freshdesk offers almost as many help desk features as Zendesk does, which makes the two tools equal. Hence, there are basically just two factors that make Freshdesk a better choice for me personally:
a) Its overall design and functionality feels more intuitive and clear;
b) Freshdesk free plan includes email and social ticketing along with the knowledge base feature (unlike Zendesk Support plan).
So, if you’re looking for something as powerful as Zendesk, but not so expensive and overwhelming, Freshdesk is perfect for you.
Based on 2,675 reviews left on G2, the tool has 4.4 out of 5 stars. What do users appreciate the most and what they don’t?
Pros of Freshdesk:
- The overall ease of use
- It’s convenient to grow with the tool unlocking more features
- Great integration opportunities
- Useful automations.
Cons of Freshdesk:
- Slow customer support
- Not receptive to client feedback.
- Short description: easy-to-use software for SMB
- Pricing starts at: $15/agent/month; free plan
- Free trial: 14 days
- Core features: ticketing, knowledge base, forum, live chat, cloud call center, video calls, social support.
As a ticketing tool, LiveAgent looks neat and clear. All your communications with customers land into the LiveAgent dashboard, where they are converted into tickets and can be managed accordingly.
You can automate many common ticketing tasks with the help of LiveAgent’s rules. The tool offers action-triggered and time rules which can be assigned to certain types of tickets automatically and perform corresponding actions with them. All you need to do is to set a specific ‘condition’ that will evoke a certain ‘action’.
In terms of self-service features, LiveAgent offers a knowledge base and forum tools. While the latter is for public discussions, the knowledge base can be either public or internal (for your team’s use only).
Zendesk vs LiveAgent
If you go with the ‘Ticket + Chat’ pricing plan by LiveAgent, for 5 reps, you will have to pay $145/month. For this price, you’ll get live chat, ticketing, and knowledge base tools. All of them are fully functional – no limitations and stripped-down features.
If you’d need all the same tools by Zendesk, you would have to go with the Team Suite, then for 5 agents, you have to give at least $295/month if billed monthly.
Based on 1,407 reviews on G2, the tool has 4.5 out of 5 stars. Not bad at all, but let’s have a closer look at what people enjoy and what they don’t about the software.
Pros of LiveAgent:
- Ease of use
- Great ticketing functionality
- Rich customization options for live chat
- Affordable price.
Cons of LiveAgent:
- The mobile app and web application design look old-school
- Customer support is not always helpful.
- Short description: a simple tool for small teams
- Pricing starts at: $15/agent/month
- Free trial: 30 days
- Core features: help desk, live chat, reports; knowledge base comes for an additional cost.
What immediately drew my attention after I signed up for Groove’s free trial is their clean and simple dashboard. And I mean it in the best possible way. It’s not overloaded with redundant tools and features – everything is within a few clicks.
On the ‘Starter’ subscription plan, which costs $15/agent/month, you get access to one shared inbox, web widget, knowledge base, and live chat.
Shared inbox is basically what Groove calls their help desk tool and the package is rather standard here: you can assign tickets, tag your colleagues, and leave private notes for them. And if you go with the ‘Pro’ subscription for $40/month, you’ll get Jira integrations and 25 channels/mailboxes.
Zendesk vs Groove
Obviously, Groove is simpler than Zendesk as it doesn’t offer as many features and has an easier admin panel.
At the same time, if you are looking for a help desk with a live chat and knowledge base solution, then going with Groove would cost you at least $15/agent/month. While with Zendesk you’d have to give $59/agent/month. The difference may not seem significant, but no one wants to overpay.
Based on 49 reviews users left on G2, the tool has 4.1 out of 5 stars.
Pros of Groove
- Helpful customer support team
- Easy ticket management
- Useful email template feature.
Cons of Groove
- Slow speed at which software solutions are developed
- Frequent glitches
- Limited functionality.
- Short description: adjustable software compared to Zendesk
- Pricing starts at: $39/agent/month (*All plans require a minimum of 5 help desk agents)
- Free trial: not available
- Core features: help desk, chatbot, knowledge base; live chat comes for an additional cost.
The most peculiar thing about HappyFox is that you can’t really just sign up for their trial or create yourself an account. Instead of the ‘Sign up’ button, you will see ‘Get a demo’ and that’s it.
From what I understood, HappyFox help desk offers two tiers of pricing: per agent for SMBs and per yearly number of tickets for large teams. All subscription plans offer unlimited tickets, automation rules, and a knowledge base tool. That’s a good thing.
On the downside, you won’t really be able to pay just a monthly fee per agent because HappyFox requires you to purchase at least 5 agent seats to get started.
HappyFox offers a separate package for chat. The price for the ‘Starter’ plan starts at $29/month and includes an unlimited number of agents yet just 250 chats monthly.
Zendesk vs HappyFox
I’ll tell you this: HappyFox is not my favorite tool on this list. I wasn’t even able to test their tool as per the standard free trial. Additionally, HappyFox’s pricing policy is not tailored for startups and SMBs – you can’t subscribe to their software unless you have 5 agents.
On the plus side, HappyFox’s customers report that the tool is extremely flexible and easy to adjust in accordance with your customer support needs. Zendesk, being a huge feature-packed software, may lack this flexibility in many cases.
All in all, based on 125 reviews on G2, HappyFox has 4.5 out of 5 stars. Pretty good, ha? Let’s look into it.
Pros of HappyFox help desk:
- Easy to set up and get started
- Helpful customer support
- Attractive UI
- Flexibility – it’s easy to change the tool configuration.
Cons of HappyFox:
- The app is not as customizable as the webpage
- Basic features.
- Short description: a full-suite tool to go with
- Pricing starts at: $625/5 agents/month
- Free trial: 14 days
- Core features: help desk, live chat, help center, social support.
Kayako is an omnichannel help desk tool which means that all email, chat and social media requests will land into its unified dashboard. It also gives you a full overview of your customer’s journey. Visits, purchases, shipping history – every interaction they had with your website or product is displayed in a single window.
What’s really nice about Kayako is that they offer just one subscription plan, which includes all features. The price changes depending on the number of support agents (minimum five). It makes the whole process more straightforward and the customer support experience more all-encompassing.
Zendesk vs Kayako
It’s not your most robust help desk tool out there. It’s rather limited in features in comparison to other Zendesk competitors. Also, many users report that Kayako’s customer support has always been a huge downside for them.
Based on 212 reviews that users have shared on G2, the tool has 4.1 out of 5 stars. It doesn’t look good considering the number of feedback left. But let’s have a closer look.
Pros of Kayako:
- User-friendly dashboard
- Helpful reporting feature
- Easy task management.
Cons of Kayako:
- Too expensive
- Lacks many features compared to competitors like file upload during a live chat with the customer
- Poor customer support
- Missing rich customization.
- Short description: messaging-oriented competitor
- Pricing starts at: $74/2 agents/month + additional payment for contacts
- Free trial: 14 days
- Core features: live chat, in-app messenger, email automation, ticketing; knowledge base, and bots come for an additional cost.
Intercom is also rather an all-in-one tool that offers live chat, in-app messenger, email marketing tools, and a knowledge base. In terms of help desk tools, the package is standard: a shared inbox for chats and emails, customer data and activities, tags, notes, and mentions.
Intercom also has a very decent knowledge base tool and the ‘Operator’ technology that powers the bots – Resolution Bot, Custom Bot, and Task Bot. The software offers its own native chatbots, which is a very popular and high-demand feature these days.
On the other hand, everything in Intercom costs a lot. Like, if you want to get yourself product tours (aka, interactive onboarding guides for customers), be ready to pay at least $199/month additionally. Moreover, Intercom pricing is extremely complicated and includes charges for active contacts.
Its main downside is its pricing, which is not fixed and is hard to predict. You would have to pay not only for agents, but also for contacts in your database.
Zendesk vs Intercom
If we compare Zendesk and Intercom side by side, Intercom seems to be way more universal in terms of customer service tasks. It has great features for everything from support to marketing and sales, which can also be a downside for some users. If you’re looking for a help desk and don’t need all the fancy bots and apps, Intercom may easily overwhelm you.
But then again, customer service is changing and evolving, so I don’t see a single reason why companies would stick to old-school tickets and outdated systems. And in my opinion, Intercom beats Zendesk in the usability department, both on the agents’ and customers’ sides.
But it’s just one person’s opinion, let’s see what users have to say. Based on 2,393 reviews on G2, Intercom has 4.4 out of 5 stars, which is not bad at all.
Pros of Intercom:
- Great number of integrations available
- Useful in-app messaging feature
- Intuitive user interface
- Easy-to-manage chatbots.
Cons of Intercom:
- Not fully featured Article module
- Confusing pricing plans with most options available as add-ons and charged separately
- Hard to get to customer support.
- Short description: chat-focused software for support
- Pricing starts at: €25/workspace/month/ for 4 seats; free plan with limited functionality
- Free trial: 14 days
- Core features: live chat, team inbox, mobile apps, knowledge base, chatbot.
Crisp is a multichannel modern customer support tool that is rather a good choice for small and medium businesses. It definitely offers fewer features than Intercom but at the same time, the pricing model is much more transparent and affordable.
If you go with the ‘Basic’ forever free plan, you will access the following features – live chat, shared inbox, mobile app, and notifications. The ticketing system is pretty simple to master. It allows you to follow ticket status, make automatic assignments, monitor performance, and so on.
In case your company is looking for a more comprehensive solution, then you go with the ‘Unlimited’ package for €95/workspace/month with 20 seats. Apart from basic functionality, it offers rich customization and integration capabilities (Twitter, Slack, Facebook, and so forth).
Zendesk vs Crisp
While Crisp is not as universal as Zendesk (they call Zendesk an industry-leading ticketing system, not for nothing), the former has two important advantages. First of all, it’s price.
Let me elaborate here.
Imagine you have one website, and 5 customer support agents, and now your organization needs a live chat, shared inbox, and a knowledge base feature. With Zendesk, you will have to give at least $295/month. On the other hand, if you go with the Crisp software, it’ll cost you €95/month.
The second reason to choose Crisp is its modern and fluid interface. For me personally, it’s torture to deal with an old, creaky dashboard that Zendesk offers. But then again, if you are a big enterprise company, then you might feel better with Zendesk. For SMBs, I suggest having a closer look at Crisp.
Based on 89 reviews on G2, the tool has 4.5 out of 5 stars. So what’s good and bad about the software?
Pros of Crisp:
- Simplicity of the product
- Useful automatic chatbot
- Extremely helpful customer support
- Essential features at an affordable price.
Cons of Crisp:
- Limited reporting functionality
- Delay in mobile app notifications
- Integrations might not work as expected.
10. Zoho Desk
- Short description: a popular tool with AI creature called Zia
- Pricing starts at: €20/agent/month; free plan with limited functionality
- Free trial: 15 days
- Core features: live chat, ticketing system, knowledge base.
I decided to close the list with the Zoho Desk tool. The company focuses on pulling in all your customer interactions from across multiple channels into a single interface thanks to an advanced ticketing system.
The set of features implies live chat, email, and phone support, as well as multi-department functionality. The latter allows you to create separate departments within one help desk – for product types, subscription levels, and so on. Then each department can be individually customized. This way you can increase the efficiency of each department.
What makes Zoho Desk, so special is the AI system called Zia. It’s created to make customer support easier for you. How? So-called Zia can speak to your users and automatically suggest relevant help articles from the knowledge base.
Zendesk vs Zoho Desk
This actually might be a tough choice since both tools are quite universal. Above all, let’s start with the fact that Zoho Desk offers a free plan, which is always nice to begin with. However, if you are a big company, you might need some more advanced functionality right away.
One of the most extensive Zendesk Professional Suite costs €125/agent/month, while for the Zoho Enterprise package you will pay just €50/agent/month. Zendesk is more than twice as expensive, considering that the set of features is about the same.
If the price doesn’t mean much to you here, then let’s have a look at customers’ reviews. Based on 4,051 user feedback, Zoho Desk has 4.4 out of 5 stars.
Pros of Zoho Desk:
- Multiple support channels
- User-friendly UI
- Easy to scale and customize
- Affordable price
- Perfect for startups.
Cons of Zoho Desk
- Confusing number of features
- Missing visualization in reports
- Limited functionality within the ‘Standard’ plan, like no live chat, for instance.
Though Zendesk is indeed a great help desk tool, it has many excellent yet more affordable alternatives worth your attention.
If your goal is to have more help desk features, you’d probably be satisfied with Freshdesk and Kayako.
Help Scout, Crisp, and HappyFox made an impression of rather simple and not overly complicated tools. The choice is yours.
If you’re a small business and looking for a more condensed set of features, you definitely should look into software like Groove or LiveAgent.
At the same time, HelpCrunch is more universal in terms of customer service tasks. It arms you with a help desk, live chat, chatbot, and knowledge base in one package. The email marketing feature is also at your fingertips. Start the 14-day free trial now and enjoy its benefits at an affordable price.
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