Businesses can’t celebrate when a customer buys from them, as if that’s the end of the story and everyone lives happily ever after. The customer journey doesn’t end with a purchase; it’s only just beginning. Even the best companies, products and services run into problems throughout the customer cycle but every challenge is also an opportunity for you to show customers how well you can take care of them.
Quality customer service starts with communication and a systematic approach to organising and dealing with each issue. Help desk software is one of the most popular tools used by businesses to organise their customer support strategy and maximise case resolutions with consistent results.
In this article, we review the best help desk and support platforms for resolving customer issues quickly and effectively.
What are we looking at in this article?
The majority of this article is a collection of product reviews for the best help desk and support platforms. Before we start looking at specific products, though, we like to start these articles off with a quick definition section to clarify exactly what we’re looking at. So, we’ll kick things off by explaining what help desk software is and listing some of the key features we want to see from these tools.
Here’s a quick review of everything we’re looking at today:
- What is help desk & support software? We define help desk and customer support software with the key features you should look for.
- Help Scout review: Cover all the major support channels, even on its cheapest plan.
- Freshdesk review: A true all-in-one customer support system – without the hefty price tag.
- Intercom review: The conversational support platform that excels at live chat and bots.
- Groove review: The high-productivity support toolkit for smaller businesses.
- Zendesk review: Customer support systems for every business size.
- Zoho Desk review: Affordable multichannel support that punches above its asking price.
- Front review: Making multichannel support more conversational.
- Gorgias review: The all-in-one help desk for eCommerce brands.
- LiveChat review: Live chat support made easy for software and eCommerce brands.
- HelpCrunch review: Conversational support and lead generation from the same system.
- Comparison: We help you choose the best software by comparing pricing, features and usability.
In the product reviews, we discuss the key features they provide and raise anything significant that we think is missing from each platform. We also discuss pricing, plans and feature distribution across plans, including any additional fees you should know about. Then, we wrap up each review with the key pros and cons we think you should be aware of and offer up a quick verdict to discuss which type of company each product is most suitable for.
In the final section of this article, we compare all of the help desk and support platforms head-to-head, looking at pricing, features and usability. We hope this will help you prioritise your needs and choose the best system for your customer support strategy.
What is help desk & support software?
Help desk and support software refers to a variety of tools that help companies to manage their customer support processes.
This can range from all-in-one solutions designed for providing multichannel support (email, phone, social media, etc.) to specialist systems designed for specific channels, such as chat or phone support – and anything in between.
In these definition sections, we like to include a couple of explanations from the experts and who better to ask than the companies that develop help desk platforms for themselves?
So, let’s see how Help Scout defines help desk software:
“Help desk software is a tool used to organize, manage, and respond to service-related requests. Some help desks are used for external requests from customers, whereas others are used for internal service requests from team members.”
As the company explains, some companies use these systems for handling external requests from their customers while others use them to handle internal requests from team members – for example, software engineers optimising a product ahead of release.
In this article, we’re focusing on the needs of companies looking for help desk and support platforms for managing external requests from their customers – but they should be just as effective for internal use.
This definition of help desk software from Zendesk also raises some good points:
“Help desk software is a software product that customer service and IT teams use to serve employees and/or customers. Its core functions are to help service teams systematically manage support requests, provide self-service options, track and report performance, and ideally far more.”
Generally speaking, the core feature of help desk software is a ticketing management system that helps your team organise and deal with support requests. However, the latest generation of help desk and support systems tend to include a variety of other tools for providing self-service support, analysing the performance of your support team and a range of other potential features.
Given the variety of features you can find in these systems, it might help if we clarify the most important functionality you should look for.
What features should you look for in help desk & support software?
As we mentioned in the previous section, some help desk and support platforms aim to provide all-in-one solutions, giving you almost everything you need to manage your customer support process. Others specialise in specific support channels (eg: live chat) and, increasingly, platforms will offer a mixed variety of features.
If you’re looking to provide support across all of the established channels, you should look for the following features from your help desk setup:
- Ticketing system: Prioritise, categorise and assign tickets so you never lose track of them.
- Shared inbox: Bring your team’s email into a shared inbox to work together, boost productivity and build important relationships.
- Live chat: Connect users with human support reps at the opportune moment.
- Chatbots: Automate the first stage of customer support using on-site chatbots to provide instant responses.
- Social support: Manage support and conversations across your social media platforms.
- Phone support: Provide phone call support to customers who prefer to deal with humans.
- Self-service: Reduce your support volume and increase customer satisfaction with self-service resources (knowledge bases, help centres, community forums, etc.).
- Customer data: Provide a higher quality of service by storing customer data to make future interactions more relevant.
- Conversation history: See all previous communications with individual contact in a single view.
- Automation: Automate key actions, including ticket dispatch, email notifications and multiple actions with event triggers.
- Reporting: Track the performance of your support team performance and your self-service resources.
- Customer insights: Dedicated reports that show customer interactions at scale and calculate important KPIs, such as customer satisfaction, churn, etc.
That covers the core essentials for a multichannel customer support system and many of the platforms we’re looking at today offer all of the above – and, in some cases, plenty more.
This doesn’t mean every company has to provide support across every channel, though. Many businesses focus their efforts on select channels – such as email and chat – to simplify support management or make it less expensive.
Every company has different priorities and the help desk systems we’re looking at today should cover the majority of use cases.
Many of the products featured in this article also offer specialist features we haven’t added to the list above, such as in-app messaging and chat widgets for software products, email marketing workflows or lead generation tools. Some of these features may not be relevant to your needs while others could simply be nice extras to have – and some could be the key features that determine which platform is right for you.
We’ll do our best to highlight these features so you can make informed software decisions.
Now, let’s get started with our first review.
#1: Help Scout: Cover all the major support channels – even on its cheapest plan
Pricing from $20/month
Help Scout is a digital customer support system that combines three key communication channels: email, live chat and in-app messaging. So the first thing we have to clarify here is that Help Scout doesn’t include any kind of call centre system for providing phone support – but it does support several integrations for dedicated call systems including Talkdesk, JustCall, CloudTalk and more.
In addition to shared inboxes, live chat and in-app messaging, Help Scout also provides a dedicated toolkit for easily creating and managing a knowledge base on your website. You can use the same toolkit to build a help centre on your site and integrate with your live chat system so visitors can reach out to you if they’re unable to fix problems by themselves.
This makes Help Scout a solid option for software and SaaS companies providing support through digital channels.
- Shared inbox: Bring your team’s email into a shared inbox to work together, boost productivity and build important relationships.
- Live chat: Provide live chat support and make it easy for customers to find your help centre articles.
- In-app messages: Promote new initiatives, update customers on key happenings and proactively support those who need it by sending in-app messages.
- Knowledge base: Reduce your support volume by at least 30% with a knowledge base that’s designed for customer self-service.
- Customer management: Make every customer feel like a VIP by tapping into customer data, previous conversations and app activity alongside every support request to deliver results faster.
- Satisfaction ratings: Collect satisfaction ratings and comments from customers so you can improve your support.
- Reporting: Keep getting better with reports with built-in analysis and customisable reports.
- Automation: Help more people faster with automated workflows and an easy-to-use workflow builder.
- iOS & Android apps: The Help Scout mobile apps for iOS and Android allow team members to provide support on the go – ideal for mobile, remote and flexible working.
Help Scout’s in-app messaging system is another big feature for software companies, allowing you to target users throughout the customer journey. You can help users complete onboarding processes, point them to useful features and reach out to audience segments, such as users who aren’t clocking up enough time in your software or using your most important features.
Aside from improving the experience for users, you can also deliver messages to promote new features and products, encouraging users to upgrade or deliver important update notices.
Help Scout’s customer management tool stores all of your customers’ data, app activity and support history in one place. This isn’t enough to replace a customer relationship management (CRM) platform but this data will enhance the power of your CRM and Help Scout provides a number of native integrations for ActiveCampaign, HubSpot, Salesforce and several other systems.
A simple workflow builder makes it easy to automate repetitive tasks, such as updating conversation statuses, assigning tickets to relevant team members and all sorts of other actions.
Finally, Help Scout includes a solid set of reporting interfaces for conversations, email, chat and interactions with the documentation in your knowledge base and help centre. You also get a “Company” interface that reports on team performance and intelligent reports that calculate the happiness of your customers.
As mentioned earlier, Help Scout doesn’t support phone calls but it does include a reporting interface for tracking phone call performance, which collects data from supported call centre apps (should you choose to integrate one).
How much does Help Scout cost?
Help Scout plans start from $20/month per user and this covers you for two mailboxes, one docs site, live chat and most of the platform’s fundamental features, such as custom reports, automation, in-app messaging, etc.
You can also pay for extra mailboxes on this plan (+$10 each) and docs sites (+$20 each) without needing to upgrade but the price differences between plans mean you’ll probably get better value for your money by simply upgrading – unless you’re looking to add several mailboxes in the Standard plan.
Upgrading mainly enhances the collaboration, customisation options, reporting capabilities and adds some advanced features, such as light users, which allows you to add users with limited permissions at no extra cost.
Help Scout’s pricing model means you get all of the essential features on its cheapest plan – most importantly, all the core features for its primary support channels (email, live chat, in-app messaging, knowledge base, etc.).
This means you’re not forced to sign up for its pricier plans to access key features and the price increments between plans are reasonable, which makes the upgrade path easy on the wallet.
One thing you have to keep in mind is that Help Scout charges for its in-app messaging feature, based on how many unique viewers you target. You can send messages to up to 2,000 unique visitors per month for free via your website and app.
Once you pass this limit, you’ll have to pay $20/month for up to 4,000 unique visitors and prices increase by a further $20/month for every additional 2,000 viewers until you reach more than 10,000 unique viewers, where you start paying an additional $25/month for every 5,000 viewers – eg: $80/month for up to 10,000 viewers and $125/month for up to 15,000.
You’ll find all the information you need on Help Scout’s pricing page if you click on the “See Pricing” link under “In-app messaging” on the Standard plan’s feature list.
Help Scout also provides a special discount for qualifying startups during their first year and lifetime discounts for non-profits and B corporations that meet its “for good” criteria. For more information, take a look at the following pages:
Help Scout pros & cons
Help Scout pros
- Digital support: Excellent coverage for digital support channels, especially for software companies.
- Feature distribution: Help Scout makes all of its most important features available on its cheapest plan and focuses on enhanced capabilities on its pricier offerings.
- Price increments: Feature distribution combined with reasonable price increments create an upgrade path that always feels manageable.
Help Scout cons
- No phone support features: If you need to provide phone support to your customers, Help Scout doesn’t have this functionality but solid integration options and built-in phone reporting minimise this disadvantage.
- No online community: Help Scout doesn’t allow you to create an online community or forum for users to help each other out.
Help Scout verdict
Help Scout is a solid choice for companies prioritising digital support channels, particularly software companies that can make full use of its in-app messaging features. The lack of phone call support is a minor drawback but, honestly, you’re better off integrating with a dedicated call centre platform that’s specifically designed for the job – and Help Scout supports a decent range of integration options here.
For software companies, the lack of support for online communities and forums is probably a bigger drawback but we’re impressed with Help Scout’s overall offering at these price points. Solid feature coverage is bolstered by having all of the key features available on its cheapest plan. And, with reasonable prices across the board, Help Scout offers up an affordable option for companies at every stage of growth.
#2: Freshdesk: A true all-in-one customer support system (without the hefty price tag)
Free plan available; pricing from $15/month
Freshdesk is an all-in-one customer support system that provides omnichannel coverage for email, phone, chat, social media and more. Right off the mark, this gives Freshdesk a key advantage over Help Scout if phone support is important to your business.
With Freshdesk, you can also create community forums which is the other big feature missing from Help Scout. That being said, Help Scout’s in-app messaging features are more advanced than the in-app notifications available in Freshdesk – so it all comes down to priorities.
Generally speaking, Freshdesk offers a greater depth of features than Help Scout and by quite a margin, too. However, Freshdesk is more strategic with its feature distribution across plans, which could force you to sign up for a pricier plan to access key features.
- Team inbox: Track and manage incoming support tickets from multiple channels with one inbox.
- Ticketing system: Prioritise, categorise and assign tickets so you never lose track of them.
- Collaboration: Work together as a team to quickly and efficiently solve customer problems.
- Cross-channel support: Provide support across email, phone, chat, social media, your website and more.
- Self-service: Create a self-service experience for customers with a knowledge base and forums.
- Team management: Manage your end-to-end field service operations from right within Freshdesk.
- Service tasks: Create service tasks for tickets that need a field team response and track their status to completion.
- Time tracking: Automatically track time spent working in the field with the mobile app and log your billable hours.
- Intelligent ticket assignment: Assign tickets to agents based on their current workload, skill or using the “round robin” method.
- Automation: Automate key actions, including ticket dispatch, email notifications and multiple actions with event triggers.
- Analytics: Identify problems, plan based on metrics and improve help desk performance.
Freshdesk wants to provide an all-in-one customer support system and, in terms of feature depth, it does an impressive job. One downside to having such an extensive system is that the sheer volume of features can make a platform overwhelming and challenging to work with.
To help solve this problem, Freshdesk divides its system into four key products:
- Omnichannel Suite: Delight your customers with effortless omnichannel service.
- Support Desk: A comprehensive help desk for exceptional customer service.
- Contact Center: A reliable and smart call centre solution for effortless customer experience.
- Customer Success: Protect revenue, increase customer lifetime value and strengthen customer relationships.
You can either sign up for Support Desk as a standalone solution (several plans are available) or sign up for one of three Omnichannel plans that include all four products with different feature and usage restrictions.
The Support Desk plans cover you for the following feature sets:
- Ticket management
- Agent productivity
- Customer management
- Workflow automation
- SLA management
- Knowledge base and community forums
- Help widgets
- Social support
- Ticket forms
- Customer feedback
- Reporting and analytics
The depth of features within each of these categories varies across the four plans available for Support Desk. Considering this is Freshdesk’s most basic offering, we’re already looking at an extensive set of features but you’re limited to providing support via email, social media and resources on your website (knowledge base, community forum, etc.).
To get full coverage, you’ll need to sign up for Freshdesk’s Omnichannel plans, which open up the following feature sets:
- Customer portals
- Bots and AI
- Omnichannel support management
So, if you want to integrate phone support, chatbots and direct messaging into your customer support system, Freshdesk’s Omnichannel plans are the way to go.
How much does Freshdesk cost?
Considering the depth of features Freshdesk provides across its plans, the pricing remains surprisingly reasonable. The Support Desk product is available in four offerings, starting with the free plan that covers you for up to 10 agents and supports ticket management across email, basic help widget features and a single knowledge base.
The $15/month Growth plan mainly expands customisation, reporting and automation features so you’re going to add any channels by upgrading. However, the $49/month Pro plan allows you to manage support for multiple products, create multiple knowledge bases and create online communities, as well as expanding customer insights significantly.
Then, you’ve got the Enterprise plan, which incorporates several bot features and a range of upgrades on features available on lower-tier plans.
If you’re looking at Freshdesk’s Omnichannel plans, pricing starts at $29/month per agent and this covers you for email, social media, messaging and phone support.
The Growth Omnichannel plan includes all of the features available on the Growth Support Desk plan and covers you for up to 2,000 bot messages and 2,000 incoming call minutes per month. The Pro Omnichannel and Enterprise Omnichannel plans are priced at $59/month per agent and $99/month per agent respectively and they both increase the monthly limits for bot messages and call minutes while introducing a fleet of feature upgrades, including all of the Support desk features available on the equivalent plan.
We can’t cover all of the features available across Freshdesk’s seven plans but you’ll find all the information you need on the company’s pricing page.
Freshdesk pros & cons
- Pricing: While the pricing is a little confusing at a first glance, Freshdesk is remarkably good value for money.
- Phone support: No need to sign up for a dedicated system for providing phone support if you’re signed up for an Omnichannel plan.
- Customer Success: Intelligent data helps you maximise customer value and prioritise the people who matter most to your business.
- Limited to customer support: Freshdesk is great for customer support but not much else (although parent company Freshworks offers plenty of other products).
- Chatbots get expensive: While Freshdesk offers great value overall, the pricing for bot sessions is way too expensive if you handle a high volume of sessions per month.
Freshdesk provides one of the most in-depth customer support systems for surprisingly reasonable prices. If you want to provide the full spectrum of support options to your customers without breaking the bank, Freshdesk provides just about everything you could hope for without quite venturing into enterprise pricing territory (even on its enterprise plans).
The big exception is that pricing models for chatbot messages can make the platform expensive if you’re handling thousands of sessions per month. If chatbots are a key part of your support strategy, you may get better value for money by integrating a dedicated chatbot system with Freshdesk or one of the other help desk platforms featured in this article.
#3: Intercom: The conversational support platform that excels at live chat & bots
Pricing from $74/month
If you’re looking to integrate a dedicated chatbot system into your customer support strategy, Intercom is a great place to start your search. The company calls its product an Engagement OS that creates “an open channel between your business and your customers”.
In real terms, Intercom provides a conversational system for providing customer support and nurturing relationships throughout the customer journey – on your website, in your app and via email marketing.
Intercom offers three products under its ecosystem:
- Support: Provide high-quality, personalised help at scale with your existing team.
- Engage: Onboard more customers, increase product adoption and re-engage customers losing interest.
- Convert: Turn more website visitors into paying customers.
We’ll be focussing on the first product for the purposes of this review: its Support plan.
Intercom was an early innovator in the conversational support niche, one of the first to integrate live chat and chatbots into the web experience. Since then, the company has expanded its offering beyond conversational support to cover more channels.
As with Help Scout, you’re not getting any support for phone calls with Intercom although the platform offers dozens of native integrations for phone and video calling solutions.
- Team inbox: Manage customer cases as a team through an integrated inbox.
- Chatbots: Automate the first stage of customer support using on-site chatbots to provide instant responses.
- Live chat: Connect users with human support reps at the opportune moment.
- Instant FAQs: Use support bots to provide Q&A sessions and deliver specific articles to resolve up to 29% of customer questions.
- Connect with website visitors: Shorten the time between intent and purchase by connecting with your website visitors in real time.
- Business Messenger: Engage customers throughout their journey with tours, and messages on your website and in your product.
- Product Tours: Guide customers through their first steps, highlight what’s new, and give proactive guidance at scale.
- Announcements: Share product updates or promotions by email, and drive customers to your website or product to take action.
- Lead qualification: Intelligent bots and routing rules let your teams focus on what they do best – so your website visitors get the greatest possible experience.
Intercom’s classic feature is the live chat widget that you can add to your website and inside software products. You can also implement chatbots to handle customer queries when your team is unavailable, which can direct users to relevant content to help them solve issues for themselves.
Outside of the chat interface, Intercom also provides team inboxes for managing tickets, workflows for automating actions on tickets and a tool for creating help articles. The system also allows you to send targeting messages to different user audiences and provide product tours to maximise onboarding completions and product adoption.
For the most part, Intercom’s support system largely revolves around the conversational philosophy and this comes at the cost of some missing features. We’ve already touched on the lack of phone support but you also miss out on community forums, social support and the same level of reporting we’ve seen from other platforms so far.
That being said, Intercom’s Engage and Convert plans bring a range of features beyond customer support that could make the overall offering more compelling.
How much does Intercom cost?
Intercom doesn’t share much pricing information on its website so you’ll have to request a demo if you want to sign up for either of the three core products. The company does also offer a Statar plan for “very small businesses” that starts from $74/month.
This start plan covers you for basic chat and email support, a shared inbox, in-product messaging, help centre documentation and conversational bots – not a bad offering.
At a starting price of $74/month, you can guess that Intercom isn’t sitting at the more affordable end of the cost comparison. In fact, you can find more clues in the add-ons available for this plan, such as the $199/month Product Tours add-on (a feature included in the full Support product), the $49/month Surveys add-on and the WhatsApp add-on that costs a further $9/month per seat.
Intercom pros & cons
- Conversations: Intercom excels as a conversational platform for engaging with leads and users throughout the customer experience.
- Intuitive: While plenty of features are packed into the system, the focus on conversational technology helps create an intuitive architecture and navigation that makes the platform relatively easy to pick up and use.
- Segmentation: You can use as many filters as you want to segment users and target specific audiences with relevant interactions.
- Ticketing: Intercom’s email and ticketing system is more basic than some of the other CX tools in this article.
- Limited scope: the downside of Intercom’s focus on conversational interactions limits its scope as a CX and customer support tool.
- Pricing: Limited scope isn’t an issue in itself when Intercom excels at what it does but the overall cost of your CX toolkit starts to multiply when you add specialist tools like this.
Intercom is an excellent platform for integrating conversational experiences into your customer support and product experiences. It’s not a complete support system in the same vein as Freshdesk but it provides a powerful system for smaller teams that want to maximise efficiency through a mix of live chat, bots and automation.
The focus on conversational interactions may be too limited for many teams but in-product messaging and help centre features make this a promising solution for software companies that want to streamline support through email, messaging and self-service. And, if you need more, Intercom has a full fleet of integration options to fit in with the rest of your support system.
#4: Groove: The high-productivity support toolkit for smaller businesses
Pricing from $12/month
Groove is a customer support system designed for small businesses looking for a simple solution to keep customers happy. The platform prioritises email and chat support channels with no native system for providing support over the phone.
However, Groove does include a native integration for JustCall if you want to implement phone calls into your support strategy but that’s your only integration option for a call centre system and it’s not available on Groove’s cheapest plan.
Getting back to Groove’s core features, the platform gives your team shared inboxes for managing email cases, live chat, a knowledge base tool and a web widget that you can use to connect website users with live chat and your knowledge base documentation.
- Shared inbox: Organise all your support emails in one place, route them to the right people and get more work done as a team.
- Live chat: Interact with customers on any page of your site or app, answer their questions and solve their problems faster.
- Knowledge base: Reduce your support volume and increase customer satisfaction by helping them learn to use your product effectively and solve their own problems.
- Email templates: Keep answers to common questions at your fingertips to easily insert them into conversations.
- Statuses: Know where every conversation stands by marking it as Open, Snoozed or Closed.
- Customer history: See the full support history of every customer at a glance, without having to search.
- Collision detection: Easily see if a teammate is already replying to a conversation to avoid embarrassing double replies.
- Automation: Speed up your workflow by using rules to automatically route new conversations.
- Reporting: Track support team performance and knowledge base value with dedicated reports.
- iOS & Android apps: Manage customer support on the go with Groove mobile apps for iOS and Android devices.
To help your team solve customer issues faster, Groove includes plenty of features to boost the productivity of your support system. The platform’s simple automation builder helps you automate repetitive tasks with rules and triggers.
You can set automatic email replies to provide instant responses to customer tickets and recommend relevant documentation for them to use while they’re waiting for your team to respond. Email templates will also help you create email campaigns faster and you can track email opens to ensure customers are receiving your messages.
On the reporting front, Groove stores all of your interactions with customers so you can refer to previous conversations. The system uses machine learning to provide valuable insights, including retention, happiness reports, conversation reports, productivity insights and plenty more.
How much does Groove cost?
Groove offers four plans and the majority of its core features are available across all of its plans. The Starter plan is designed for small teams and costs $12/month per user, including one shared mailbox, live chat, the knowledge base tool, web widget and basic case management features.
The Plus plan costs 420/month per user and covers you for up to five shared inboxes while opening up Groove’s intelligent reporting features, rules for automation, API access and 25+ integrations for enhancing your customer support system.
The $25/month per user Pro plan covers you for up to 25 shared inboxes, unlimited teams, priority support and additional integrations for Salesforce, HubSpot and Jira. If you need support for more than 25 inboxes, you’ll have to speak to Groove’s sales team about the Enterprise plan, which allows you to manage unlimited mailboxes, provides enterprise-level security and also gets you a dedicated success manager.
Finally, Groove runs a discount offer for early-stage startups that could see you get 93% off the price of its Pro plan. If that sounds like your company and you would like to apply for the discount, you can fill out the form on this application page.
Groove pros & cons
- Small business: Groove is designed specifically for small and growing businesses.
- Feature distribution: The majority of Groove’s core features are available on its free plan.
- Scalable: With a low entry price, moderate increases between plans and generous feature accessibility, Groove remains scalable and affordable for growing businesses.
- No phone support: Groove doesn’t include any call centre system but an integration with JustCall provides one option for implementing phone support.
- Customer data: A lack of built-in CRM makes you more reliant on integrations with HubSpot, Salesforce and Jira – which are only available on the Pro plan.
- Larger businesses: Larger businesses will need to look elsewhere and high-growth companies may outgrow Groove.
Groove is an excellent solution for smaller businesses that need a simple but effective customer support system. While it lacks many of the more advanced features of other tools in this article, the focus on email and chat support can benefit smaller teams that may find complex software gets in the way.
With most of its core features available on the cheapest plan, Groove offers an affordable entry point into customer support software for smaller teams. Moderate price increases between plans keep the system affordable as you upgrade, too. The major downside here is the lack of built-in CRM and all of the CRM integration options (HubSpot, Salesforce and Jira) only being available on the Pro plan.
#5: Zendesk: Customer support systems for every business size
Pricing from $19/month
Zendesk is an all-in-one customer support system that provides cross-channel support for businesses of all sizes. The company aims to deliver the only platform you’ll need to manage your customer support strategy, providing a complete system for email, social media, live chat, messaging, phone calls and chatbots.
Zendesk also includes extensive self-service features for creating knowledge bases, help desks and community forums so your customers can solve issues for themselves. Creating self-service resources is easy with the platform’s WYSIWYG editor and publishing tools, including a dedicated toolkit for SEO and reporting to measure the performance of your self-service content.
Unlike Groove, Zendesk’s system has its own built-in CRM for storing customer data so you can nurture relationships at a deeper level – for example, you can prioritise high-value customers and reach out to them with targeted offers. The CRM isn’t quite as good as systems like HubSpot but it’s more than capable as a built-in tool and Zendesk has hundreds of integrations for third-party CRMs, including HubSpot.
- Ticketing system: Manage tickets easily, respond to customers faster and keep them happier for longer.
- Agent workspace: Track, prioritise and respond to customers with one unified workspace.
- Email management: With an all-in-one inbox, conversations across various channels, intake options, and departments can be unified in one location.
- Customer tracking & reporting: Measure and analyse customer history, customer behaviour and customer service metrics.
- Cross-channel support: Provide support anywhere across messaging, live chat, social, email or voice.
- AI chatbots: Use automation and AI-powered bots to get the context to ensure customers never have to repeat themselves.
- Customer insights: Use data and analytics to measure and improve the entire customer experience.
- CRM: See the full context of where your prospects and customers are in their buying journey.
As an all-in-one customer support system, Zendesk covers all of the essential channels but the company offers a real depth of features, too. The email ticketing system and social support implementation are the most basic toolkits on the platform but their simplicity is welcome – many providers overcomplicate these core basic tools.
The feature sets for the other support channels are anything but basic. With live chat and messaging, you get customisable web widgets, online forms, re-engagement messaging, pre-chat forms, rich message types and a wealth of other features to create meaningful conversations and reduce the workload of your team.
Many customer service systems shy away from providing phone call support and, honestly, this is something you should normally get from dedicated call centre software. However, much like its CRM, Zendesk’s “voice” features provide a capable system with an impressive depth of capabilities. You can make and receive calls in the browser, forward calls to external numbers, manage voicemails, send text messages, view caller IDs and manage calls with full control (mute, block, request callbacks, record calls, etc.).
If you’re looking for a true all-in-one customer support system, Zendesk makes an excellent case for itself.
How much does Zendesk cost?
Zendesk offers a range of plans aimed at different business sizes, separated across different product offerings. For the sake of this article, we’re interested in two products with three plans available for each.
First, we’ve got Zendesk’s Foundational Support plans that cover you for email with unlimited addresses, social media and web widgets. The Support Team plan costs $19/month per agent and provides basic automation and workforce management features.
Upgrading to the $49/month Support Professional plan opens up additional workflow features, such as automated ticket sharing and service level agreements, and enhanced workspace capabilities with dynamic content, customer satisfaction ratings and more.
The $99/month support Enterprise plan mainly enhances security but you also get some additional features in customisation, permissions, audit logs and more advanced automation features.
If you want to use Zendesk’s full cross-channel support system (email, phone, chat, etc.), then you’ll need to sign up for a Zendesk Suite plan.
Zendesk Suite plans cover you for email, live chat, messaging, social support, phone calls, chatbots and a range of self-service support options. Prices start from $49/month per agent for the Suite Team plan, which covers all of the service channels (with varying restrictions), except for community forums.
Even still, you get most of the live chat and messaging features and the core essentials for phone call support on the cheapest plan.
The $79/month per user Suite Growth enhances self-service with improved help centre and knowledge base features – but you also get a more advanced set of automation and workspace features to improve the productivity of your team.
Upgrading to the $99/month Suite Professional significantly improves reporting, intelligence and data storage while also opening up most of Zendesk’s calling features. This plan also opens up the full set of community forum features to complete your cross-channel support strategy.
Finally, the Suite Enterprise plan opens up all of Zendesk Suite’s capabilities but you’ll have to contact the company’s sales team to discuss pricing.
Zendesk pros & cons
- Cross-channel support: Zendesk provides excellent coverage for all of the customer support channels modern businesses need.
- Growth-oriented: Zendesk’s platform is designed to meet the current needs of your business and grow with you as your needs mature.
- Startup programme: Startups can apply for free access to all Zendesk products for six months.
- Customisability: Even on the more expensive plans, you never get much freedom to customise the system.
- Customer support: Ironically, Zendesk’s own customer support can be inconsistent, both in terms of speed and product knowledge on the more advanced plans.
If you’re looking for an all-in-one customer support system that doesn’t require integration with any other software, Zendesk is hard to beat. The platform covers all of the key support channels and provides an excellent depth of features, which is most noticeable with its CRM and phone call support.
The company offers a range of plans at different price points for businesses of every size but it’s the more expensive Zendesk Suite plans where the platform really shines as a complete customer support system.
#6: Zoho Desk: Affordable, multichannel support that punches above its asking price
Free plan available; pricing from $14/month
Zoho Desk is another all-in-one customer support system, offering a more affordable alternative to Zendesk. Zoho’s platform doesn’t offer the same depth of features as Zendesk but it gives you cross-channel coverage for email, ticket management, social support, phone calls, live chat and self-service at a lower price point.
Zoho even provides a free plan that provides basic coverage for email, ticket management, help centres and web forms – a great option for new and small businesses that aren’t ready to pay for a complete system yet.
Within Zoho Desk’s self-service features, you get tools for creating a help centre, knowledge bases and support content. You can also create online communities for your customers to help each other out with issues, which can relieve some of the workload of your support team and bolster customer loyalty.
- Ticket management: Track customer requests across channels, brands, products, departments and more.
- Multiple departments: Organise your help desk to reflect your company’s structure.
- Live chat: Provide instant support to customers with pressing issues.
- Phone support: Provide phone call support to customers who prefer to deal with humans.
- Social support: Monitor social conversations and provide support across your customers’ favourite networks.
- Self-service: Help customers solve their own problems with knowledge bases, help centres and online communities.
- Team productivity: Solve issues faster and reduce strain on your team with work modes, ticketing efficiency and a range of other productivity tools.
- Workflows: Automate tasks with custom workflows using triggers, events and actions.
- Intelligent automation: Implement smart chatbots, provide intelligent responses and gain automated insights with Zoho’s AI technology, Zia.
- Sentiment analysis: Automated sentiment analysis gauges the feelings of customers throughout support threads.
- Custom reporting: Create your own reports to prioritise the metrics and KPIs you care about most.
Earlier, we credited Zendesk for having a CRM as part of its complete software offering (provided you buy into its sales software) and Zendesk also has its own dedicated CRM solution – a more advanced system than Zendesk’s, too.
Again, you’ll need to sign up for Zoho’s CRM platform to integrate this but Zoho Desk comes with its own set of built-in customer management features. This isn’t a replacement for a CRM but it provides the key essentials in terms of storing customer and account data and support history so you can provide the best possible support to everyone.
This is a big deal because it means new and smaller companies don’t need to buy into a CRM right away and Zoho Desk even provides the very basic data storing features on the free version of its software.
Zoho Desk also includes a dedicated toolkit for providing support to product users, which includes a product-based ticket allocation and tracking system. You can also assign products to contacts and accounts and assign team members to specific products, accounts or customers.
How much does Zoho Desk cost?
As mentioned earlier, Zoho Desk offers a free plan with basic coverage for email, ticket management, help centres, web form and a feedback widget. That’s pretty good coverage for a free system and the biggest limitation is that you can only have up to three agents on the free plan.
Even still, this is a valuable option for small companies launching their customer support strategy for the first time and you’ve got an affordable upgrade path with Zoho Desk.
Paid plans start from $14/month per agent for Zoho Desk Standard, which opens up most of the platform’s ticket management, agent productivity, self-service and customer management features. The Standard plan also introduces Zoho’s product support features and most of the platform’s analytics capabilities.
The two big missing features on the Standard plan are phone calls and live chat but you can access the first of these on the $23/month per agent Professional plan. For live chat, though, you’ll have to upgrade to Zoho Desk’s enterprise plan, which is a little disappointing considering that many platforms now offer this as a standard feature.
The Professional plan gets you all of Zoho’s ticket management features, the best of its collaboration tools and automation capabilities. All that’s missing by this point is live chat support, some of Zoho’s most advanced reporting features and the platform’s artificial intelligence technology.
You can get all this by signing up for the enterprise plan that’s priced at $40/month per agent, which isn’t the kind of price tag you would normally see on an enterprise plan.
Zoho Desk pros & cons
Zoho Desk pros
- Cross-channel support: Zoho Desk covers all of the key customer support channels with a solid depth of features.
- Affordability: Given the depth of features on offer, Zoho Desk’s pricing and the availability of a free plan, the platform offers impressive value for money.
- All-in-one solution: Many businesses will get everything to provide customers support from one, affordable system.
Zoho Desk cons
- Lags: Zoho Desk’s system can suffer from lags when completing key actions, such as opening tickets.
- Live Chat: You have to sign up for Zoho Desk’s enterprise plan to access live chat.
- Feature depth: Zoho Desk doesn’t offer the same depth of features as Zendesk or more expensive alternatives.
Zoho Desk verdict
Zoho Desk is an excellent customer support system for new and smaller businesses, pushing the limits of feature depth at this price point. Medium-size businesses will struggle to find better value for money from a system that covers all of the key support channels, even if you’re not getting the same depth as Zendesk.
Larger companies will feel the limitations of Zoho Desk more than most but this isn’t a solution designed for enterprise businesses. Zoho provides an all-in-one support platform for the masses at affordable entry prices and reasonable increases across the upgrade path. If budget is a priority, it’s hard to find a system that provides better value for money than Zoho Desk.
#7: Front: Making multichannel support more conversational
Pricing from $19/month*
Front calls itself a customer communication hub that aims to make collaboration easier and customer information more accessible for your team – so you can build stronger relationships, “one conversion at a time”.
The platform’s multichannel communication system covers email, SMS, live chat and social media support. Front doesn’t include a built-in call centre system but it integrates with eight solutions including Aircall, CloudTalk, JustCall and several more.
Front also lacks many of the self-service features we’ve seen from many other platforms in this article. Again, it has integration options for third-party tools such as HelpDocs, but we would rather see built-in tools for this, especially when we’ve reviewed several cheaper options that provide this.
In Front’s defence, the platform isn’t designed specifically for providing customer support. Its focus centres more on productivity and enabling your team to provide better customer experiences. We still think self-service is a key part of this but Front’s strengths lie elsewhere.
- Multichannel messaging: Respond to and manage all communication channels – including email, SMS, or social media – from one place.
- Live chat: Add a customised chat experience on your website so you can talk with customers through Front in real-time.
- Email sequences: Send mail campaigns with multiple stages to a list of recipients.
- Collaboration: Comment directly on customer messages, write email drafts together or delegate work – all without leaving Front.
- Conversation history: See all communications with a contact in one view.
- Custom rules: Build your own rule from scratch using Front’s powerful rule engine.
- Custom views: Create tailored views that filter by inboxes, teammates, status, tags and more.
- User & team management: Manage all admin tasks easily, from SSO and SCIM provisioning to managing permissions, load balancing and more.
- Reporting: Customise reports to identify trends that drive revenue or improve team productivity.
Front’s built-in calendar helps you and your team manage workflows while productivity features include message templates, one-click meeting scheduling and scheduled messages. Automation helps you boost productivity further with workflows, custom rules, webhooks and sequences to automate repetitive actions.
Meanwhile, intelligent analytics calculates customer sentiment and tracks the performance of your team. You can create customised reports to prioritise the insights most important to your business while protecting your customers’ data with industry-standard security, including GDPR compliance across all plans.
How much does Front cost?
Front offers three plans with pricing from $19/month per user on the Starter plan but you have to take a little look at the small print here. The company has a minimum user threshold on each plan, which requires a minimum of two users on the Starter plan, which means prices really start from $38/month with another $19/month for each additional user.
Likewise, the Growth plan is listed at $49/month but it requires a minimum of five users so you’re looking at a starting price of $245/month, plus a further $49/month per additional user. Then, you’ve got the Scale plan listed at $99/month for a minimum of 10 users, putting your starter price at $999/month with an extra $99/month per additional user.
We’re not fans of this pricing model or the way Front presents this information so, hopefully, the company will test alternative methods and find a more transparent option that works.
Front pros & cons
- Multichannel messaging: Front provides good coverage for message-based support including email, social media, live chat, etc.
- Productivity: Team collaboration features and some solid automation capabilities help your team solve cases more efficiently.
- Reporting: Conversation reports, customer satisfaction reports and team performance reports and plenty more.
- No phone support: Front doesn’t include a system for phone call support but it does have several integrations.
- Self-service: A lack of knowledge base, help centre and other self-service features is a big miss at this price point.
- Pricing model: The minimum user requirements on plans can make upgrades unreasonably expensive for small teams with fewer than 10 agents).
Front aspires to be more than a customer support system, promising to help you build stronger relationships that keep customers happy (and buying from you) for longer. While it lacks some important features (namely, phone call support and self-service features), it pushes harder with team collaboration, automation and reporting features to help you solve more issues and minimise churn.
The pricing model could be a problem for smaller teams, due to the minimum user restrictions on each plan, and companies looking for a fully-featured customer support system will need to integrate with several other tools or look elsewhere.
#8: Gorgias: the all-in-one help desk for eCommerce brands
Pricing from $60/month
Gorgias (pronounced gorgeous, apparently) is a specialist help desk system designed specifically for eCommerce brands. You can manage customer support across email, social media, live chat, phone calls and SMS through the platform and Gorgias also includes a specialist toolkit for implementing self-service for eCommerce stores.
While software companies may be used to creating knowledge bases and help centres for their customers, Gorgias provides an automated system for eCommerce customers to track their orders, report issues, return items and cancel orders via your chat portal – provided they’re eligible.
You can customise automated experiences for customers by pairing macros with rules to deliver personalised messages while retaining full control. Gorgias estimates that you can automate 30% of interactions with your customers using its system so your support team can focus their efforts on the cases that require their attention the most.
- Multichannel support: Connect all your communication channels to quickly answer shoppers’ requests without losing time switching between tools.
- Shared inbox: Answer every email from shoppers in a shared workspace, so your agents always know who to support next and have the context they need to provide exceptional support.
- Phone support: Give shoppers the option to call your customer service team while allowing your agents to work from a single platform.
- Live chat: Add a fast-loading chat widget to your storefront to talk to customers straight from your site and solve their questions before they become email tickets.
- Social support: Manage support and conversations across social – like comments, send shipping statuses, answer private messages and everyone else from one system.
- Automation: Speed up repetitive support tasks by automating responses to questions like “Where is my order” with highly personalised messages.
- Customisation: Increase support agent efficiency with a customised help desk deeply connected to your eCommerce solution.
- Reporting: Provide high-quality support, turn shoppers into happy customers, and watch it impact your revenue.
- eCommerce integration: Native integrations with Shopify, BigCommerce and Magento.
Gorgias comes with a built-in order management system that helps your team intervene at any stage of the customer journey. Team members can track orders, cancel orders, issue refunds, check items are in stock, create new orders and view order histories at a glance. Your team can also recommend products to potential buyers and existing customers to encourage further purchases.
A customer sidebar allows you to customise your help desk to show the most relevant information from customer profiles and data from 65+ of the leading eCommerce apps. The system also supports multiple stores so you can provide support for customers across multiple eCommerce stores from the same system.
Finally, Gorgias offers up an extensive range of reporting and intelligent insights features – including intent and sentiment detection, support performance reports, revenue statistics, live customer stats and a built-in tool for running customer satisfaction surveys.
How much does Gorgias cost?
Gorgias runs four plans that all cover you for unlimited users with pricing based on the volume of tickets you manage every month. The Basic plan starts at $60/month for up to 300 tickets per month and you’ll have to pay an additional $40/month for every 100 tickets over this limit.
The basic plan includes email and ticket management, Facebook and Instagram integrations (no Twitter on this plan), live chat and you can provide phone call support from one number. This plan also includes native integrations for Shopify and BigCommerce but not Magento.
Upgrading to the $360/month Pro plan will cover you for 2,000 tickets/month plus an additional $36/month for every extra 100 tickets. You still don’t get Twitter integration with this plan but you do get native Magento integrations and revenue statistics with the ability to provide phone support from up to three numbers.
The $900/month Advanced plan includes 5,000 tickets per month and, once again, you’ll be looking at an additional $36/month for every 100 tickets over this limit. You finally get Twitter integration on this plan along with a dedicated success manager and full onboarding service to make sure you get the best out of the platform.
If you’re dealing with higher ticket volumes, you can also speak to Gorgias’ sales team for a custom price on the company’s Enterprise plan.
On each plan, you can also include the Automation Add-on to provide instant answers to customers as an automated self-service solution. This will cost you an extra $30/month on the Basic plan, +$180/month on the Pro plan and +$450/month on the Advanced plan, based on the volume of tickets included on each plan (it works out at around $10 per 100 tickets).
Gorgias pros & cons
- eCommerce support: Gorgias is designed specifically for eCommerce brands that want to provide fast, effective support.
- Cross-channel support: You can provide support across all of the key channels (email, phone, chat, bots, etc.).
- Pricing model: Rather than charging per user/seat, you pay for the volume of tickets you manage every month.
- Feature depth: At a glance, Gorgias provides everything you would expect from an all-in-one help desk but the depth of features within each category is shallow.
- Email management: Frustratingly, email management is particularly shallow with basic features like archiving, saving and muting not provided.
- Cost: As good as the pricing model is, Gorgias is a pricey system when you weigh everything up – especially for smaller teams.
Gorgias is a specialist customer support system designed specifically for eCommerce that can struggle to find an all-in-one solution for their needs. You can provide support across all of the key channels but the feature sets are quite basic across the board, particularly when it comes to email management and phone support.
Even some of the platform’s more advanced features can disappoint, such as intent and sentiment detection that fails to deliver actionable insights.
If we judge Gorgias on features alone, the platform feels overpriced for small teams but the company’s pricing model can quickly turn this into great value for money, especially for larger teams or high-volume eCommerce brands.
#9: LiveChat: Live chat support made easy for software & eCommerce
Pricing from $16/month
As the name suggests, LiveChat is a chat-based support system that you can implement into your website and software apps. The platform integrates with your email and social accounts for seamless ticket management and you can also send and receive text messages.
This means you’ll have to look elsewhere if you want to provide phone support or add self-service content to your website.
In practical terms, LiveChat probably appeals most to software companies and eCommerce brands that only want to provide chat-based support – or companies looking for a dedicated chat system to integrate with their existing support stack.
- Live chat: Add the chat widget to as many websites and apps as you want with a single licence.
- Multichannel support: Provide support via live chat, email and support contact forms.
- Ticketing system: Manage tickets from every channel in a single, shared system.
- Virtual chat shopping experiences: Escalate chats to voice, video, or screen-sharing to showcase your products and offer virtual shopping experiences.
- Canned responses: Quickly save responses to common questions. Reuse them in conversations with just a few keystrokes.
- Team management: Divide your agents into groups to separate different kinds of customer service activities like sales and support.
- Facebook integration: Send and reply to Facebook messages from within LiveChat.
- Customer engagement: Share announcements, introduce new products and get more interactions with the customers who mean the most to your business.
- Reporting: LiveChat automatically keeps track of all your ticket-related activities and presents the data in extensive reports.
As a dedicated chat-based system, LiveChat is able to deliver some advanced features you’ll struggle to find in the chat tools of all-in-one support systems that try to provide a little bit of everything.
Canned responses help you provide faster by creating tags for common answers, team members can transfer chats to colleagues without interrupting the conversation and agents can take over conversations from bots or other team members where required.
The system’s intelligent chat routing technology automatically assigns conversations to the most relevant team member and feedback capture allows you to implement pre-chat and post-chat surveys, as well as ask users to rate the agent who dealt with their case (just don’t overdo it with the feedback requests).
LiveChat’s “messaging mode” is another powerful feature that enables asynchronous messaging – the same system used to power instant messaging apps – so your agents can talk with customers over hours, days or months without the session closing.
We can’t explore all of LiveChat’s capabilities in this review but the platform packs plenty of these “smaller” features that make a big impact on your support strategy. Take a look at the feature comparison section on the company’s pricing page for a detailed breakdown of everything the platform has to offer.
How much does LiveChat cost?
LiveChat offers four plans with prices starting at $16/month per agent for the Starter plan. With this plan, you can implement chat support on multiple websites and software apps and integrate the system with your email and social media accounts.
The Starter plan also gives you access to most of the platform’s chat features but there are some exceptions, such as file sharing and chat tagging. However, the main limitations of the Starter plan are the basic reporting features, standard security and limited customisation options.
Upgrading to the $33/month per user Team plan gets you those file sharing and chat tagging features but you’re still not quite getting all of the chat and messaging features available on higher plans, including chat takeovers, routing rules and working hours.
The Team plan opens up plenty of reporting features and enhanced customisation options but white labelling is reserved for LiveChat’s Enterprise plan.
The $55/month Business plan opens up those last few remaining chat features and also unlocks all of the platform’s reporting capabilities. All that’s missing at this stage is the full set of customisation, security and support features reserved for the Enterprise plan.
LiveChat pros & cons
- Chat support: As a dedicated system for managing chat-based support, this is where LiveChat excels and it delivers a greater depth of features in this niche than you’ll get from chat systems in most all-in-one solutions.
- Software & eCommerce integrations: Simple integration with apps and online sites makes this a great option for software and eCommerce companies.
- Usability: LiveChat is an intuitive platform and the company provides excellent support itself.
- No phone support features: LiveChat doesn’t include any system for providing phone call support.
- No self-service: Likewise, you don’t get any tools or features for providing knowledge bases, help centres and other self-service resources.
LiveChat isn’t an all-in-one customer support system and it doesn’t claim to be. This is a dedicated platform for providing chat-based support on websites and software applications with plenty of features you won’t get from chat systems in support software that tries to cover every channel.
As a specialist tool, this is something for companies that prioritise chat-based support or need a dedicated platform for implementing advanced chat capabilities into their existing support system.
#10: HelpCrunch: Conversational support & lead generation from the same system
Pricing from $20/month
HelpCrunch is a chat-based customer support system that allows you to add widgets to multiple websites and mobile apps. The built-in help desk infrastructure allows you to manage email and chat support tickets through a shared inbox and automation features to speed up your team’s productivity.
As a reference, HelpCrunch says its system should increase your ticket resolution rate by 5X, allowing team members to handle up to five conversations with customers simultaneously with no confusion or crossed wires.
HelpCrunch doesn’t have a built-in CRM but it does have its own system for storing customer data into profiles, including all of their contact details, user attributes, previous interactions, support history and private chat notes that team members can add to help with future interactions.
- Shared inbox: Get all support emails and incoming chats from customers in your shared inbox and respond via your preferred channel.
- Live chat: Acquire more leads on your website, convert them into paying customers and provide customer support faster.
- Chatbots: Automate lead capture and customer support with smart chatbots.
- Knowledge base: Help users get the best from your product and find fixes to their problems.
- Automatic messages: Send automated chat and email messages to the right people at the right time.
- Email marketing: Send emails to customers to maximise engagement throughout the customer cycle.
- Lead nurturing: HelpCrunch helps you generate more real-time conversations with qualified website leads and close deals faster.
- Conversation ratings: Send requests to customers to rate their experience after closing the conversation.
- Saved responses: Respond faster with pre-made answers to common questions.
- Popups: Make your offers pop and instantly boost conversions on your website with easily customisable popups.
- Reporting: Check your team’s productivity and customer satisfaction at a glance.
- iOS & Android apps: Provide support on the go and ensure high customer satisfaction across platforms.
Like many of the platforms we’ve looked at today, HelpCrunch doesn’t include a call centre system for providing support over the phone. However, you can add this functionality into your support using the native integration for Aircall.
HelpCrunch also makes it easier to provide self-service support with its knowledge base toolkit that helps you create content easily using its WYSIWYG builder. You can manage all of your content from the system and add a search bar with smart suggestions to help users find the most relevant documentation faster.
The platform also offers up some useful email marketing features that can add plenty of value outside of your customer support strategy. You can create and send email newsletters to subscribers, automate email campaigns to nurture leads and create campaigns faster with email templates (or create your own from scratch).
The platform wants to help you capture more email leads, too, with its own toolkit for creating and adding popups to your website and mobile apps.
How much does HelpCrunch cost?
HelpCrunch offers three different plans, starting from $12/month per user for the Basic plan, which covers you for one chat widget, three automated messages and three popups. This plan also includes the help desk system, knowledge base toolkit and basic automation features.
All HelpScout plans allow you to have unlimited contacts on the system while the email marketing features come at an additional cost.
Upgrading to the $20/month per user Pro plan allows you to add five chat widgets to websites and mobile apps with unlimited auto messages and unlimited popups. You also open up the system’s most advanced automation features, full customisation options and remove the HelpCrunch branding from your front-end tools and resources.
If you’ve got a large support team or you’re dealing with a high volume of emails every month (50,000+), then you might want to speak to HelpCrunch’s sales team about the Enterprise plan that covers you for unlimited team members, widgets and emails.
HelpCrunch pros & cons
- Affordable: HelpScout is an affordable system for smaller teams prioritising chat-based support.
- Ease-of-use: The platform simplifies the challenges of providing customer support by prioritising chat, email and self-service.
- Cross-platform: A solid, no-fuss option for adding chat widgets to multiple websites and mobile apps.
- No phone support: You can’t provide phone support with HelpCrunch – it does include an Aircall integration but this is your only option.
- System bugs: We ran into a few issues such as automatic emails not being sent (or being sent multiple times) and widgets sometimes failing to load.
HelpCrunch is an interesting option for smaller businesses looking to prioritise email and chat-based support. Its plans are affordable for small teams and the system offers up a unique mix of customer support and email marketing features – although you have to pay extra to unlock the best of its email capabilities.
At the same time, HelpCrunch misses some key features that have become quite standard for customer support software. The lack of a native call centre isn’t the biggest issue (this is common) but only having one integration option (for Aircall) seriously limits your options.
What is the best help desk & support software?
In this article, we’ve looked at a wide range of different help desk and support platforms, some of which aim to provide everything you’ll need in a single system while others specialise in one or a select few channels.
Choosing software products is always a challenge and we want to help make this easier for you in this comparison section where we look at the following criteria:
In the pricing and features sections, we’ve put together a couple of comparison tables that you can glance over and quickly see how the different platforms stack up against each other. Finally, in the usability section, we’ve selected the three best systems and explain why they’re our top picks for usability.
Best value for money
The table below is designed to help you gauge which platforms offer the best value for money. It shows which providers offer a free plan and the starter price for their paid plans. It also shows the starting price for their most expensive plans (where pricing details are available).
Keep in mind that most companies don’t reveal pricing information for their enterprise plans so you have to take the pricing info in the “top plan” column very loosely. The main reason we include this information (where it’s available) is to help you get an idea of how much a price difference to expect between plans.
|Tool||Free plan?||Starting price||Top plan|
As you can see, only two of the companies featured in this article offer free plans – Freshdesk and Zoho Desk – and these are two of the more affordable options, too.
We’ve placed an asterisk on the “top plan” pricing info for HelpCrunch because, although $20/month is the starting price for its Pro plan, this only covers you for one user and no emails, and your monthly fees increase with every additional member and the volume of emails you handle.
For example, the Pro plan will cost $226/month for five team members and 50,000-100,000 emails and pricing scales all the way up to $1,040/month for 20 team members and a million emails. Again, you’ll find all the information you need on its pricing page but we wanted to raise this as HelpCrunch isn’t as competitively priced as our table would suggest.
Best for features
For this table, we’ve selected five features (or more accurately feature sets) that best reflect each platform’s coverage of help desk and support channels – email ticketing, phone calls, chat, in-app messaging and self-service features.
This coverage is a key decision in choosing this type of software, depending on which channels you want to include in your customer support system.
Zendesk is the only provider that covers all five of the channels listed in our table and the platform also includes its own CRM – something very few customer support systems offer. Even though you’ll get a better CRM from dedicated providers like ActiveCampaign and HubSpot, this is a significant feature for companies looking to get as much as possible from one system.
This doesn’t necessarily mean Zendesk is the best option for everyone, though. Yes, it provides the best coverage and it’s competitively priced against the other options in this article but paying for features you don’t need and using a system that’s filled with features you’re never going to use makes little sense.
So, if you’re only looking to provide support via email, chat and self-service, you might benefit from using a more streamlined option like Intercom – just keep in mind that Intercom’s self-service system is also chat-based.
Best for usability
Usability is one of the most difficult characteristics to review because everybody has different expectations and opinions about software. We try to be as objective as possible with our recommendations and the best approach we can take here is to explain how we assess usability – so you can decide how well this aligns with your own requirements.
When we try out a new software system, we analyse each product on four key factors for usability:
- Smooth operation: The software runs smoothly without lags or slowdowns as you interact with elements.
- Navigation: Elements, tools, settings and everything else you interact with are easy to find.
- Minimal clicks: Simple actions require no more than 1-3 clicks to complete and more complex actions (eg: settings changes) within a reasonable number of clicks.
- Action completions: The quantity of meaningful actions you complete vs time spent interacting directly with the software.
Essentially, we’re looking for solid technical performance and we also want an architecture that makes it easy to move around the system and find everything we need. We want products that help us complete meaningful actions without spending an unnecessary amount of time interacting with the software itself and we want to complete actions with as few clicks as possible.
Based on these factors, three of the help desk and support systems featured in this article stand out:
Freshdesk is one of the most feature-rich tools we’ve looked at in this article, which always makes UX design more challenging. However, as with most of Freshworks’ products, Freshdesk delivers a comprehensive toolkit within a logical architecture that makes the system surprisingly easy to pick up and use from day one.
The UIs are pretty basic but the simplicity makes it easy to navigate the platform and find the tools you need. Logical automation helps to take out the manual workload of repetitive tasks without needing to set up any complex rules or workflows. If you’re looking for an all-in-one system that new team members can learn quickly, Freshdesk is one of the best options currently available.
Zendesk is one of the few customer support systems we’ve looked at today that crams more features than Freshdesk into a single platform. Zendesk’s complete platform (Zendesk Suite) comes with a steeper learning curve than Freshdesk but it also delivers a greater depth of features and capabilities for you to make use of.
This is great for functionality but the usability suffers a little for new users – a price you generally have to pay for more features and tools. All in all, Zendesk does an impressive job of implementing all of its features into a single platform and we have no reservations about recommending this as a support system.
As long as you’re willing to put some time into setting up and customising Zendesk (and training your team members to get the best out of the system), you’re not going to have many long-term usability issues.
The company is ambitious in its attempt to provide a powerful, all-in-one customer support system and tackle the inherent usability challenges this comes with. We found the system takes more time to get used to than Freshdesk and some actions take more clicks to complete as we have to navigate through more UIs and selections, but we expect this from a system that tries to provide everything.
All in all, Zendesk strikes an admirable balance between power and usability, as long as you’re willing to invest a bit of time.
LiveChat has an easier task of managing usability than Freshdesk and Zendesk, thanks to the focus on chat-based support. The company doesn’t take the typical approach to UI design, either. It recognises its focus on chat support and makes this the core element of the user experience. Rather than navigating interfaces and dashboards, you navigate conversations and access tools through chats as you need them.
The experience is closer to a live chat or instant messaging system and the platform rarely ventures outside of its core purpose. As a result, this is one of the easiest systems to start using right away and the learning curve is minimal, especially if chat is your priority channel and you’re not going to integrate LiveChat with multiple other tools.
Turn more customers into repeat revenue
The help desk and support platforms we’ve looked at in this article can reduce the workload of providing customer support. Whether you want to expand support across more channels or automate repetitive tasks on existing channels, these tools will help your team maintain stronger relationships with the people most important to your company.
By keeping more of your customers happier for longer, you’ll generate repeat revenue and drive real growth by holding onto existing customers while your marketing strategies win new ones.