Whether you’ve just started searching for a customer support tool or have been using one for a while, chances are you know about 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 comparing Zendesk vs Intercom platforms. 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 into our own hands and compare Zendesk against Intercom based on four categories: functionality, pricing, customer support, and overall impression. So, what are the differences between Intercom and Zendesk? Let’s dive right in.
Basically, if you have a complicated support process, go with Zendesk, an excellent Intercom alternative, for its help desk functionality. If you’re a sales-oriented corporation, use Intercom for its automation options. Both tools can be quite heavy on your budget since they mainly target big enterprises and don’t offer their full toolset at an affordable price.
Why don’t you try something equally powerful yet more affordable, like HelpCrunch? It combines live chat, a chatbot to assist you and collect qualified leads, a knowledge base, in-app messenger, and auto message functionality with help desk features like shared inbox, customer accounts, tags, etc. Sign up for a free trial and test it yourself.
Intercom vs Zendesk: intro
Founded in 2007, Zendesk started as a ticketing tool for customer success teams. That was their main focus back then. It was later that they started adding all kinds of other features, like live chat for customer conversations. They bought out the Zopim live chat solution and integrated it with their toolset.
Intercom is four years younger than Zendesk. They’ve been marketing themselves as a messaging platform right from the beginning.
We’ve prepared this quick comparison table to help you have a helicopter view. So, are these two solutions like two peas in a pod? 🧐
|Features||Free trial||Pricing from||G2 rating|
Virtual call-center solution
|14 days||$25/agent per month
|4.3 / 5
(based on 5,728 reviews)
Email marketing tools
|14 days||$89/agent per month
|4.5 / 5
(based on 2,843 reviews)
Zendesk vs Intercom: functionality
The Intercom versus Zendesk conundrum is probably the greatest problem in the customer service software world. Both are equally feature-rich, powerful, and well-established. They both offer some state-of-the-art core functionality and numerous unusual features.
However, they’re crafted for different use cases. Intercom is more for improving sales cycle and customer relationships, while Zendesk has everything a customer support representative can dream about, but it does lack wide email functionality. On the other hand, it provides call center functionalities, unlike Intercom. So, which platform is best for your business? Let’s find out.
Zendesk comes in different variations (aka subscription plans) depending on your needs:
- Support (Suite) — help desk tool for ticket creation and workflow management, prioritizing, and solving requests via email, live chat, social media, phone calls, and knowledge base;
- Support (Basic) — ticketing system for managing customer requests via email and social media, but WITHOUT knowledge bases and live chat functionality;
- Sell (Sales) — for managing your sales process via email and calls, includes a CRM system and pipelines (not every Zendesk alternative has that).
I’d like to concentrate on the following three core features where this vendor truly shines:
Help desk features
Zendesk is a ticketing system before anything else, and its ticketing functionality is overwhelming in the best possible way.
All customer questions, be it via phone, chat, email, social media, or any other channel, are landing in one dashboard, where your agents can solve them quickly and efficiently. It guarantees continuous omnichannel support that meets customer expectations.
There are many features to help bigger customer service teams collaborate more effectively — like private notes or a real-time view of who’s handling a given ticket at the moment, etc. At the same time, the vendor offers powerful reporting capabilities to help you grow and improve your business.
Intercom doesn’t come even remotely close to Zendesk in terms of the help desk features. So maybe choosing HelpCrunch as a Zendesk alternative would be a wiser move? Keep reading. We will open the gist later!
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 user info on the go. Nothing fancy, it covers just basic customer communication needs.
However, the Zendesk support itself leaves much to be desired. If you create a new chat with the team, land on a page with no widget, and go back to the browser for some reason, your chat will go puff. Not a very nice user experience.
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 the former puts all of its resources into its messenger.
Knowledge base features
Their help center tool is very rich in features. You can create dozens of articles in a simple, intuitive WYSIWYG text editor, divide them by categories and sections, and customize with your custom themes. And it’s multilingual, too.
Zendesk also has an Answer Bot, which instantly takes your knowledge base game to the next level. It can automatically suggest relevant articles for agents during business hours to share with clients, reducing your support agents’ workload.
Zendesk is a great and robust support tool, but is Intercom a replacement for it in terms of functionality?
Intercom was built as a business messenger in the first place. Now, their use cases comprise support, engagement, and conversion. 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 emails, push, and in-app messages for mobile apps and desktop versions based on relevant time or behavior triggers.
Intercom live chat is modern, smooth, and has many advanced features that other chat tools don’t. 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 newly presented chatbot Fin is powered by ChatGPT technologies and apparently can solve up to 50% of all queries, offering personalized customer support. It provides conversational messaging with users, but… You will have to pay for each issue resolved by the bot. More on this in a sec 😉
Well, I must admit, the tool is gradually transforming from a platform for communicating with users to a tool that helps you automate every aspect of your routine.
If this compelling reason isn’t enough, you might want to check the difference between Drift and Intercom, too. You’ll be surprised.
Comparing the Zendesk chat vs Intercom messenger is a no-brainer — Intercom wins hands down.
Knowledge base features
The Help Center software by Intercom is also a very efficient tool. You can publish your self-service resources, divide them by categories, and integrate them with your messenger to accelerate the whole chat experience.
Just like Zendesk, Intercom also offers its Operator bot, which will automatically suggest relevant articles to clients 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 and convenient but not nearly as advanced as Zendesk.
Their help desk software is a single inbox to handle customer inquiries, where your customer service agents can leave private notes for each other and enjoy automatic ticket assignments to the right specialists. But it’s designed so well that you really enjoy staying in their inbox and communicating with clients.
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 each of the platforms for your business, so let’s talk money now.
Intercom vs Zendesk: 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.
As you can see above, Zendesk offers a great many tools. They’ve divided them into three tiers:
- Support Basic plan (from $25 to $149 per agent per month)
- Support Suite (from $69 to $19/ month per user)
- Sales (from $25 to $149 per agent per month)
To sum things up, one can get really confused trying to make sense of the Zendesk suite pricing, let alone 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 their differences are rather about smaller features. 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.
If you thought Zendesk prices were confusing, let me introduce you to the Intercom charges. It’s virtually impossible to predict what you’ll pay for Intercom at the end of the day. They charge for customer service representative seats and people reached, don’t reveal their prices, and offer tons of custom add-ons at additional cost.
The world isn’t changing as fast as Intercom reconsiders its pricing tiers. 🤔 There are already three different subscription packages you can choose from: Starter, Pro, and Premium.
Previously, they offered four packages with another naming. And there’s still no way to know how much you’ll pay for them since the prices are only revealed after you go through a few sale demos with the Intercom team.
Besides, the prices differ depending on the company’s size and specific needs. We conducted a little study of our own and found that all Intercom users share different amounts of money they pay for the plans, which can reach over $1000/mo. The price levels can even be much higher if we’re talking of a larger company.
The cheapest plan for small businesses – Starter – costs $89 monthly, including 2 seats and 1,000 people reached/mo. Each additional 1,000 contacts on a Starter plan will cost you $25/mo. Pro plan is rather a team plan that costs $395/mo and includes 5 seats. For each additional seat, you would have to pay another $79/mo.
But that’s not it, if you want to resolve customer common questions with the help of the vendor’s new tool – Fin bot, you will have to pay $0.99 per resolution per month. That’s already quite a bummer.
Intercom vs Zendesk: 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 feel nauseous that its design is a bit outdated and cluttered — especially regarding the chat widget and its customization.
Say what you will, but Intercom’s design and overall user experience leave all its competitors far behind. You can see their attention to detail — from tools to the website.
Zendesk vs Intercom: customer support
In a nutshell, none of the customer support software companies provide decent assistance for users.
Though the Intercom chat window says that their customer success team typically replies in a few hours, don’t expect to receive any real answer in chat for at least a couple of days.
Many users complain that Intercom support is not always available, so you’re forced to repeat your question to a bot. And when they do answer, they’re usually not even helpful or will try to route tickets to the sales department right away. (That’s what they did to me when I just asked for a quick insight into their approximate Pro plan pricing customization options.)
Zendesk’s support seems faster, though you can chat with their team only if you’re a current user. If you’re browsing their website, you can contact them only by sending a message to their sales team and leaving your email address.
Zendesk vs. Intercom: FAQ
In this paragraph, let’s explain some common issues that users usually ask about when choosing between Zendesk and Intercom platforms.
What are the differences between Intercom and Zendesk?
Zendesk, unlike Intercom, is a more affordable and predictable customer service platform. Also, it’s the pioneer in the support and communication tools market. You can always count on it if you need a reliable customer support platform to process tickets, support users, and get advanced reporting.
On the contrary, Intercom is far less predictable when it comes to pricing and can cost hundreds/thousands of dollars per month. But this solution is great because it’s an all-in-one tool with a modern live chat widget, allowing you to easily improve your customer experiences.
With Intercom, you get a more sophisticated user interface and a wide range of features like in-app messenger, an email marketing tool, a chatbot powered by ChatGPT technologies, and numerous popular integrations. At the same time, Zendesk looks slightly outdated and can’t offer some features.
Is Intercom a replacement for Zendesk?
Yes, Intercom can be a perfect replacement for the software. But keep in mind that Zendesk is viewed more as a support and ticketing solution, while Intercom is CRM functionality-oriented. Which means it’s rather a customer relationship management platform than anything else.
Does Zendesk have Intercom integration?
Yes, you can integrate the Intercom solution into your Zendesk account. Here is more information on the topic. It will allow you to leverage some Intercom capabilities while keeping your account at the time-tested platform.
It’s a way to increase productivity and collaboration. For example, you can automatically create tasks in Zendesk based on new emails received in Intercom or track the progress of a project in Intercom and view it in real time on the other platform.
The two essential things that Zendesk lacks in comparison to Intercom are in-app messages and email marketing tools. On the other hand, Intercom lacks many ticketing functionality that can be essential for big companies with a huge client support load.
At the same time, they both provide great and easy user onboarding. Both are pretty reliable and stable.
- robust ticketing functionality
- richer analytics and reports
- fixed pricing that doesn’t depend on how many contacts you reach per month
- way more features for support (especially for bigger teams)
- advanced chatbots
- modern and well-developed chat widget
- email marketing tools
- product tours
- in-app messaging option
- better user experience
In terms of pricing, Intercom is considered one of the most expensive tools on the market. Its competitor 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, the latter is a great support-oriented tool that will be a good choice for big teams with various departments. Intercom feels more wholesome and is more client-success-oriented, but it can be too costly for smaller companies.
If you’re looking for a middle ground, I’d also recommend you test some other alternatives — like HelpCrunch. It has all the necessary features from both worlds, and it’s more affordable than both Zendesk and Intercom:
- live chat – customizable, modern, convenient
- no-code chatbot that can enhance your level of automation
- knowledge base with a WYSIWYG editor, SEO settings, and access control
- shared inbox for live chat, email, and messenger 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.