10 minute read · Published May 18, 2024

Finding your fit – top Zendesk alternatives

Latest Update May 22, 2024

Keeping track of customer queries can be a logistical nightmare. Ask the customer experience team and they’ll tell you that even their best reps end up wanting to pull out their hair – some days are simply too much. If such events were one-off, you’d dismiss them, pat your reps on the back and say, “Don’t lose heart, tomorrow will be a better day”. But the fact is, for a SaaS business, especially one that is growing rapidly, a growing volume of support tickets is more often the norm than not. 

This is why customer service platforms backed by AI capabilities come in to not only organize the chaos but also to relieve customer support teams. Zendesk is one such platform. 

However, even though Zendesk can manage conversations across various channels, it may not be the right fit for every business. 

Mastery of Zendesk's numerous functionalities and workflows requires time, which means it can be slow for teams to realize the benefits of customer service automation. 

Also, while Zendesk can scale as your business scale, its pricing structure may pose challenges for cost-conscious organizations. 

Some users report that they find the setup process time-consuming, and the user interface overwhelming. Businesses seeking a platform with a gentler learning curve or a more intuitive interface can find alternatives better suited to their customer service needs.

Key features to look for in a Zendesk alternative

If you’re evaluating platforms to compare with Zendesk, here are some thoughts you should be pondering over –  

  • Does this work for my budget?A comprehensive customer service platform doesn’t have to mean being “expensive”. Explore options with free plans or tiered pricing that fits into your growth trajectory so that you don’t have to commit precious dollars upfront and can instead expand your workflows and functionalities as and when your business grows.
  • Does the feature set fit my team’s needs?You want features that fit your team’s needs, not exhaust them with fancy tabs and buttons. No use in paying for features you’ll never use. Have a clear understanding of the specific challenges that your customer support reps face, prioritize them, and look for functionalities that solve those challenges.
  • Can you implement the solution quickly and get speedy support yourself?It’s nothing short of a nightmare to invest in a platform that takes a long time to set up, where your team ends up spending a lot of time “training”. Look for platforms with intuitive UI and dedicated onboarding support. A helpful account manager or strong customer service behind the chosen customer service platform serving your customer support folks can be the difference between frustration and immediate success.

Top alternatives to Zendesk

Intercom

Intercom is at the forefront of AI-powered customer service solutions. It runs on three pillars – 

  • AI agent for customers: Intercom's AI agent tackles common issues instantly, 24x7, freeing up human agents to look after complex situations.
  • AI copilot for agents: Intercom's AI copilot acts as a super-powered knowledge base, providing agents with instant access to all the information they need, right at their fingertips.
  • AI insights for leaders: Intercom analyzes conversations to identify areas for improvement and delivers actionable insights to support leaders.
User interface of Intercom

Key features and benefits:

  • Customers can get instant help, anytime, anywhere, thanks to Intercom's chatbots on email, chat, and even within an app. 
  • Intercom's automation is a win-win. Customers get faster resolutions, and agents can focus on higher-value interactions, leading to more successful outcomes. 
  • With Intercom's shared inbox, teams can collaborate in real time. Co-presence indicators show who's available, and “@mentions” ensure everyone's on the same page. 
  • Provides an integrated, on-brand knowledge base accessible to customers across channels.
  • Insights backed by AI analyze customer interactions and identify areas for improvement – a much-needed area of intelligence for leaders. 

Pricing plans:Intercom's pricing starts at $39 and goes up to $139 per seat per month. Onboarding and support require additional fees.

Pros:

  • By automating repetitive tasks, Intercom eliminates delays and gets your customers the answers they need, when they need them. 
  • A straightforward implementation process with a user-friendly interface makes it easy to get started.
  • Provides a centralized knowledge base for self-service customer support.

Cons: 

  • Intercom can be cost-prohibitive for small and medium businesses because of its expensive starting point. 
  • Users have reported less robust reporting capabilities as well as limited knowledge base customization options.

CommandBar Copilot – the AI-powered assistant businesses love

Image showing the home page of CommandBar's Copilot

CommandBar Copilot is an AI-support agent that complements the efforts of your customer service team. You can train it to resolve user questions, show users messages that are relevant to them, and connect it to your data no matter where it lives. 

Deeper support, less waiting: Copilot can be trained to handle complex user questions, resolving issues efficiently and reducing reliance on live agents for common problems.

Self-service champions: Copilot provides interactive walkthroughs, guiding users through product features and functionalities which reduces the volume of platform-related support tickets. 

Smart targeting, zero annoyance: Copilot analyzes chat interactions to understand user needs and sentiments. It then proactively delivers relevant information, eliminating generic messages that have the tendency to frustrate customers.

Zoho Desk

Zoho Desk is the platform of choice for those looking to bring together customer interactions from emails, chats, text, and social media into a single place. Customers today tend to start a conversation on one channel and continue it on another, and Zoho Desk is built for just this – to automatically route inquiries to familiar faces! 

User interface of Zoho Desk

Key features and benefits:

  • Manages tickets and customer requests across channels, brands, products, and departments – all in a single place.
  • Contextual AI shares relevant solutions from your knowledge base directly with customers conducts sentiment analysis, and shows agents relevant solutions from the knowledge base that can be used to respond to support tickets. 
  • All repetitive activities from ticket assignments to notification rules to workflows can be automated. 

Pricing plans: 

Zoho Desk offers a free trial, allowing you to take it for a spin and experience the full range of features before committing. Once you’re ready to buy, you can choose from a completely free plan to a $40 per user per month package, and you'll only need to pay for what you use.  

Pros:

  • Zoho Desk is budget-friendly which makes it a great choice for any business that needs an economical customer service solution. Also, it has five tiers to choose from, so no matter the scale of your business and the size of your wallet, Zoho makes quality technology accessible and affordable for you. 
  • Zoho Desk is favored by users because of its quick setup and onboarding process. Your teams can get up and running faster with minimal disruptions in day-to-day business.
  • Zoho boasts a large online community. So if you are looking to borrow best practices from peers, Zoho becomes a great choice for support and learning.

Cons:

  • Zoho Desk is limited by what it offers at different levels. For instance, the free plan lacks integrations, and AI capabilities are restricted to the higher-priced plans.  

Freshdesk

Freshdesk centralizes all interactions no matter how your customers choose to reach out. Freshdesk even utilizes AI to automate the mundane, routine tasks that are the burden of every customer service rep. Plus, it seamlessly integrates with existing tools – so you can play around with data coming in from multiple sources and figure out the best way to approach your customer service.  

User interface of Freshdesk

Key features and benefits: 

  • Pre-written responses for common questions and advanced automation rules slash resolution times. 
  • Everything's centralized within Freshdesk, so no one has to go around scrambling for information and everyone's on the same page. Plus, it integrates third-party tools, creating a unified environment for all customer interactions.  
  • Freshdesk's built-in analytics anticipate customer needs, allowing your team to offer proactive support before issues arise. Plus, customizable reports give you a clear picture of everything from team performance to process bottlenecks and CSAT scores. It’s a great way to identify areas for improvement and make decisions based on evidence that keeps your customers happy.

Pricing plans: 

Freshdesk offers a variety of plans to suit any budget, starting with a free forever plan. It's perfect for small teams or businesses taking their first steps in customer service, where you can experience all the essentials without making a significant investment upfront. Paid plans of course unlock additional features and functionalities, giving you the power to scale your customer service alongside your business growth.  

Pros:

  • Freshdesk's intuitive interface is a breeze to learn, no matter how new you are to the team.  
  • Several users rave about Freshdesk's affordability compared to competitors. They offer a free plan, making it a perfect fit for smaller businesses looking to experiment with automation in their customer service. 
  • Positive user experiences highlight the exceptional quality of Freshdesk's customer support and account management teams. They're there to answer your questions and ensure your success every step of the way. 

Cons:

  • While Freshdesk offers automation features, some users find them to not be granular enough. Such features might require customization or workarounds to handle the complexities of customer service scenarios.
  • Concerns have been raised about tickets getting lost in the system, especially during transfers between teams. This can disrupt workflow and frustrate customers. 

Hiver

Built for Gmail, Hiver empowers your team to manage everything from assigning tasks to running advanced analytics, all within the familiar Gmail interface (exciting, isn’t it?). Hiver boasts a user-friendly experience, scales with your business, and provides responsive support – all at a competitive price point.

User interface of Hiver

Key features and benefits:

  • Manage live chat, chatbot, knowledge base, and even voice communication – all within your inbox.
  • Turn emails into actionable tasks, assign owners, and leverage shared inboxes with internal notes for the kind of teamwork that delivers exceptional customer service.
  • Hiver's rule-based automation handles the mundane, freeing your team to focus on complex issues.
  • Ensure fair workload distribution with automated round-robin assignment of customer queries to different teams.
  • Track key customer service metrics in real time with data reports and dashboards.  
  • Connect your favorite apps to Hiver using APIs and integrations.

Pricing plans:

Starting at just $15 per user, per month makes Hiver an accessible solution for businesses. Premium plans are available, topping out at $79 per user, per month, offering additional features for growing teams. You can take advantage of Hiver's 7-day free trial, with no credit card required. Hiver also offers savings when you choose an annual subscription plan.   

Pros:

  • Since Hiver integrates seamlessly with Gmail, there's no need for extensive training on a completely new platform. 
  • The familiarity of Gmail allows your team to navigate Hiver's features intuitively. They can easily locate information, assign tasks, and manage customer interactions. This translates to increased productivity, reduced cognitive load, and streamlined workflows.

Cons:

  • Hiver currently requires a pre-existing email interaction to create a support ticket. This might not be ideal for situations where proactive outreach or phone inquiries initiate customer service needs.

GrooveHQ

GrooveHQ offers a customer service platform designed to be simpler and more intuitive than competitors like Zendesk. It emphasizes a clean interface and focuses on essential features for startups to manage customer interactions effectively.

User interface of GrooveHQ

Key features and benefits

  • GrooveHQ offers a central location to manage email, live chat, social media, and self-service knowledge bases. It integrates with some of the most popular apps like Slack and Shopify, keeping your team organized and in sync.
  • By offering self-service options and live chat, GrooveHQ helps startups deflect basic inquiries and prioritize complex ones. This reduces the need for additional support staff, leading to cost savings and improved customer satisfaction.

Pricing: 

GrooveHQ offers tiered pricing plans to fit the needs of growing startups. Plans start at $16 per user, per month. This makes GrooveHQ an attractive option for budget-conscious startups. Higher tiers, priced up to $56 per user, per month, unlock additional functionalities like advanced analytics, priority support, and advanced API access. Opting for an annual subscription unlocks significant savings of 20%. 

Pros:

  • Easy to learn and navigate, minimizing training time.
  • Having a central hub keeps things organized. Your team can easily locate customer information, track ongoing conversations, and prioritize tasks without getting lost. 

Cons:

  • GrooveHQ doesn't offer the extensive integrations available with Zendesk.
  • Relies on visual notifications for new tickets, which might be missed if not actively using the platform.

Choosing the right alternative

Your customer service is an extension of your brand so your customer service platform should reflect this. After all, your customers will love or hate you based on their interactions with you – whether you are being represented by a human or an AI-powered platform hardly matters to them. Before exploring Zendesk alternatives, take a moment to consider these key questions:

  • What do your customers really need? Do they require simple email interactions, or will real-time chat support be more likely to alleviate their fears? Understanding your customer preferences is crucial.
  • What's your growth trajectory? Are you a startup, or a well-established business? Consider functionalities and scalability when making your choice.
  • How will you balance between affordability and required capability? Explore the different tiers and feature sets on offer. Remember, free trials are your friend! Even though they may be limited in what you can play around with, you can still leverage trials to test features and the platform’s UI before committing to a paid plan.

Finding the perfect Zendesk alternative

Zendesk is just one “desk” among many. Every business operates differently. What works for a large enterprise might not be ideal for a growing startup. You need a platform that caters to your specific processes, team size, and support channels.Understanding why customers reach out is crucial. Are they seeking simple answers through a knowledge base, or do they need resolutions via real-time interaction in a chat window? Identifying your customer's preferred support style allows you to choose a platform that facilitates those interactions.

By taking the time to reflect on these key factors, you'll gain valuable insights that allow you to assess Zendesk alternatives. The perfect platform seamlessly integrates with your workflow, caters to your customer base, and scales with your growth – ultimately allowing you to deliver exceptional customer service that reflects your unique brand.

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