Ana Khlystova
Sep 04, 2021 | 8 min read

Whether you’ve just started searching for a customer support tool or have been using one for a while, chances are you know about both Zendesk and Intercom. The former is one of the oldest and most reliable solutions on the market while the latter sets the bar high in terms of innovative and out-of-the-box features.

So you see, it’s okay to feel dizzy when choosing Zendesk vs Intercom for customer support. Both of them are superb solutions. It’s just that they serve different purposes and use cases.

That’s why we decided to take it in our hands and compare Zendesk against Intercom based on four categories: functionality, pricing, overall impression, and customer support. So, what are the differences between Intercom and Zendesk? Let’s dive right in.

TL;DR

Basically, if you have a complicated customer support process, go with Zendesk for its help desk functionality. If you’re a sales-oriented corporation, go Intercom for its automation options. But both tools can be quite heavy on your budget, since they’re mainly targeting big enterprises and don’t offer their full toolset at an affordable price.

If you’re looking for something equally powerful yet more affordable, why don’t you try HelpCrunch? It combines live chat, knowledge base, in-app messenger and auto message functionality with help desk features like shared inbox, customer profiles, tags, etc. Sign up for a free trial and test it yourself.

Zendesk vs Intercom: intro

Founded in 2007, Zendesk started off as a ticketing tool for customer support teams. That was their main focus back then. It was later when they started adding all kinds of other tools. Like when they bought out the Zopim live chat and integrated it with their toolset.

Intercom is 4 years younger than Zendesk. They’ve been marketing themselves as a messaging platform right from the beginning.

ZENDESK INTERCOM
Free trial 14 days 14 days
Free plan Not available Not available
All-in-one subscription costs from $59/agent per month $499
Basic subscription costs from $25/agent per month $79 per month
Pricing based on seats seats, people reached
Customers mid-sized businesses
enterprises
mid-sized businesses
enterprises
Live chat available available
In-app messenger not available available
Email marketing tools not available available
Knowledge base available available
Call center tools available not available
Real-time analytics available not available
G2 rating 4.3 /5 ⭐⭐⭐⭐ 
(based on 3,017 reviews)
4.4 / 5 ⭐⭐⭐⭐ 
(based on 1,738 reviews)

Zendesk vs Intercom: functionality

The Intercom versus Zendesk conundrum is probably the greatest problem in the world of customer support tools. Both are equally feature-rich, powerful, and well-established. They both offer some state-of-the-art core functionality and numerous unusual features.

However, it’s obvious even at first glance that they’re crafted for different use cases. Intercom is more sales-oriented, while Zendesk has everything a customer support representative can dream about. So, should it be Zendesk or Intercom for your business? Let’s find out.

Zendesk features

Zendesk homepage

The Zendesk Suite comes in various variations (aka subscription plans) depending on your needs:

  • Support (Suite) — help desk tool for ticketing, prioritizing, and solving requests via email, live chat, social media, phone calls, and knowledge base
  • Support (Foundation) — ticketing system for managing customer requests via email and social media, but WITHOUT help center functionality
  • Sales — for managing your sales process via email and calls, includes a CRM system and pipelines.

I’d like to concentrate on the following three core features where Zendesk truly shines:

Helpdesk features

Zendesk is a ticketing system before anything else, and their ticketing functionality is overwhelming in the best possible way.

All interactions with customers, be it via phone, chat, email, social media, or any other channel, are landing in one dashboard, where your agents can solve them fast and efficiently. There’s a plethora of features to help bigger teams collaborate more effectively — like private notes or real-time view of who’s handling a given ticket at the moment, etc. 

Intercom doesn’t come even remotely close to Zendesk in terms of the help desk features.

Chat features

The Zendesk chat tool has most of the necessary features like shortcuts (saved responses), automated triggers and live chat analytics. You can enable some forms for collecting customer info on the go. Nothing fancy, just usual stuff.

So when it comes to chatting features, the choice is not really Intercom vs Zendesk. The latter  offers a chat widget that is simple, outdated and limited in customization options, while Intercom puts all of its resources into their messenger.

Knowledge base features

Zendesk also has the Answer Bot, which will take your knowledge base game to the next level instantly. It can automatically suggest relevant articles to customers reducing the workload for your support agents.

The help center tool from Zendesk is very rich in features. You can create new articles in a simple intuitive WYSIWYG text editor, divide them by categories and sections and customize it with your custom themes. And it’s multilingual, too.

Intercom features

Intercom homepage + live chat

Zendesk is a great and robust support too, but is Intercom a replacement for Zendesk in terms of functionality? Let’s find out.

Intercom was built as a business messenger in the first place. Their chat widget looks and works great and they invest a lot of effort to make it a modern convenient customer communication tool.

Also, their in-app messaging functionality is worth a separate mention as it’s one of their distinctive tools (especially since Zendesk doesn’t really have one). With Intercom, you can send targeted email, push, and in-app messages which can be based on relevant time or behavior triggers. 

Chat features

Intercom live chat is modern, smooth, and has so many advanced features that other chat tools don’t have. It’s highly customizable, too, so you can adjust it according to your website or product’s style.

What makes Intercom stand out from Zendesk are its chatbots and product tours. The platform is gradually transforming from a platform for communicating with customers to the tool that helps you automate every single aspect of your routine. 

Comparing the Zendesk chat vs Intercom messenger is a no-brainer — Intercom wins hands down.

Knowledge base features

The Help Center by Intercom is also a very efficient tool. You can publish your knowledge base articles, divide them by categories and also integrate them with your messenger to accelerate the whole chat experience.

Just as Zendesk, Intercom also offers its own Operator bot which will automatically suggest relevant articles to customers right in a chat widget.

Help desk features

If I had to describe Intercom’s helpdesk, I would say it’s rather a complementary tool to their chat tools. It’s nice, convenient, but not nearly as advanced as Zendesk.

Their help desk is a single inbox to handle customer requests, where your customer support agents can leave private notes for each other and automatically assign requests to the right people. But it’s designed so well that you really enjoy staying in their inbox and communicating with customers.

So yeah, all the features talk actually brings us to the most sacred question — the question of pricing. You’d probably want to know how much it costs to get Zendesk or Intercom for your business, so let’s talk money now.

Zendesk vs Intercom: pricing

First things first. If you’d want to test Intercom vs Zendesk before deciding on a tool for good, they both provide free trials for 14 days. But sooner or later you’ll have to decide on the subscription plan, and here’s what you’ll have to pay.

Zendesk pricing

Zendesk pricing plans comparison

As you can see above, Zendesk offers a great many tools. They’ve divided them into three tiers:

  • Zendesk Support Suite (from $59 to $199 per agent per month)
  • Zendesk Support Foundation (from $25 to $125 per agent per month)
  • Zendesk Sales (from $59 to $249 per agent per month)

To sum things up, one can get really confused trying to make sense of Zendesk pricing, let alone to calculate costs. But it seems so only at first glance.

Once you look closer, you’ll see that all Support Suit packages include all communication channels, and the differences between them are rather about smaller features. Like, for instance, operating hours will cost at least $125/mo/agent, while the widget unbranding is only available for the Enterprise subscribers for $199/mo/agent.

Intercom pricing

Intercom pricing (2021 update)

If you thought that Zendesk prices were confusing, let me introduce you to the Intercom pricing. It’s virtually impossible to predict what you’re going to pay for Intercom at the end of the day. They charge for agent seats and contacts, don’t reveal their prices and offer tons of add-ons at additional cost.

There are four different subscription packages you can choose from. But there’s no way to know how much you’re going to pay for them since the prices are only revealed after you go through a few sales demos with the Intercom team.

There’s the cheapest plan for small businesses that cost $79 per month and will include 1 seat and 1,000 people reached/mo. Each additional 1,000 contacts will cost you $50/mo. That’s already quite a bummer.

But if you really want to enjoy Intercom’s advanced functionality, prepare to pay at least $499/mo (that’s supposedly the starting price for their premium subscription plans).

Zendesk vs Intercom: overall impression

(Aka very subjective take on both tools’ UX/UI.)

What can be really inconvenient about Zendesk is how their tools integrate with each other when you need to use them simultaneously. While using Zendesk for longer than a couple of hours (especially if you do so right after Intercom), you can get a nauseating feeling that its design is a bit outdated and cluttered — especially when it comes to the chat widget and its customization. 

Say what you will, but Intercom’s design and overall user experience are leaving all its competitors far behind. You can see their attention to detail in everything — from tools to the website.

Zendesk vs Intercom: customer support

In a nutshell, none of the companies provide any decent customer support. 

Though the Intercom chat window says that their team typically replies in a few hours, don’t expect to receive any real answer in chat for at least a couple days. Lots of users complain that Intercom support is not available most of the time so you’re forced to repeat your question over and over again to a bot. And when they do answer, they’re usually not even helpful or will try to transfer you to the sales department right away.

Zendesk’s customer support seems faster, though you can chat with their team only if you’re a current user. If you’re only browsing their website, you can contact them only by shooting a message to their sales team and leaving your email address.

Conclusion

The two essential things that Zendesk lacks in comparison to Intercom are in-app messages and email marketing tools. Intercom on the other hand lacks many ticketing functionality that can be essential for big companies with a huge customer support load.

At the same time, they both provide great and easy user onboarding and customer support. Both are quite reliable and stable.

Zendesk pros:

  • robust ticketing functionality
  • richer analytics and reports
  • fixed pricing that doesn’t depend on how many contacts you contact per month
  • way more features for customer support (especially, for bigger teams)

Intercom pros:

  • advanced chatbots
  • modern and well-developed chat widget
  • email marketing tools
  • product tours
  • in-app messaging
  • better user experience

In terms of pricing, Intercom is considered one of the most expensive tools on the market. Zendesk can be more flexible and predictable in this area. But their prices are quite high as well.

To sum up this Intercom vs Zendesk battle, Zendesk is a great customer support oriented tool which will be a great choice for big teams with various departments. Intercom feels more wholesome and is more customer success oriented, but can be too costly for smaller companies.

If you’re looking for a middle ground, I’d also recommend you testing some other alternatives — like HelpCrunch. It has all the necessary features from the both worlds and it’s more affordable than both Zendesk and Intercom:

  • live chat – customizable, modern, convenient
  • knowledge base with a WYSIWYG editor, SEO settings, and access control
  • shared inbox for live chat and email communication
  • basic help desk features like status, tags, user profiles, custom inboxes, etc
  • email marketing tools for both manual and automated email campaigns
  • in-app messaging.

Test any of HelpCrunch pricing plans for free for 14 days and see our tools in action right away.

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3 comments

  1. If you’re receiving a huge amount of customer support requests per month and if you can’t find the better way to organize your support workflows, then Zendesk can be a great Intercom alternative for you. Also pay attention that, if you need all of the Zendesk’s products, you may finish with paying more than for Intercom.

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