If there is a single most important aspect of a successful online business that sets you apart from your competitors even in a crowded & tough space, it has to be good, responsive & efficient customer support.
However, good customer support is one of the most difficult tasks to accomplish as well, particularly if you are a small team in charge to tackle a large pool of customer base.
That is the reason it is extremely important to use the right channels and systems in place to offer customer support. Channels like email are efficient only in case of a very small number of customers to take care of.
Once you cross that threshold, it becomes absolutely vital to use a complete system of support tools in place like a live chat tool, ticketing system, a properly organized knowledge base, video tutorials, etc.
Although there are quite a lot of SaaS tools in the market to accomplish this, Zendesk is easily one of the pioneers in this space.
However, based on the size of your company or your support team, the specific features you need, Zendesk might not be the best choice for your use case as it might get very expensive for your budget.
We will have a look at the best alternatives available in the market for Zendesk, their unique features, and their pricing structure. Let's get right into it.
Pricing - starts from $15 per month per agent for ticketing, $29 per month per agent for ticketing + live chat.
Free Plan - Yes, available.
LiveAgent is a support tool that has a wide range of features from ticketing, live chat, help desk, call center, knowledge base, customer portal & forum, feedback management, IVR, time tracking, etc.
The unique strength of LiveAgent is that you can essentially run your complete system across multiple channels and not limited to chats, emails, and support tickets.
Apart from those traditional channels of support, LiveAgent provides you with social media channels including Facebook & Twitter, Slack, voice calls, video calls, and contact forms.
You can build multi-brand knowledge bases under a single LiveAgent account. This will be of huge help for businesses that have a lot of brands under single ownership to manage all the support activities under one roof.
LiveAgent also supports a shared inbox to give all your support agents access to a single dashboard and view the existing & solved tickets.
There are many types of live chat widgets to choose from and completely customize it to match your brand design and colors. You can also set up proactive chat invitations on specific pages of your website to encourage the visitors to start the chat.
LiveAgent also supports real-time typing-view on the live chat which helps in significantly reducing the response times of the agents. It is also possible to see the visitor's country, IP, time, and referrer to be better prepared to tackle the queries.
Pricing - Free to self-host & install - paid plans start from $39.95 for priority email support & branding removal.
If all you need is a simple to use & implement help desk for your business, HESK is a perfect choice. It is one is the most cost-effective ways to start with a help desk and support system.
The best part about HESK is it is free to self-host and install on your own server that gives maximum flexibility for running the support system the way you want to.
You can also build a detailed and in-depth knowledge base for your product or service in HESK which helps in significantly reducing the number of support tickets.
You also get support for free through the public support forum. The only charges are for priority email support or if you would like to remove the "Powered by Hesk" branding which is completely optional.
Even that is extremely affordable at just $39 for one year and goes up to $199 for 3 years & branding removal in 5 installations. This is just a one-time fee and the branding doesn't reappear after 1 or 3 years.
Also, if you do not prefer to self-host it, there is a cloud version as well where HESK takes care of all the hosting and installation requirements with servers in the US, EU & Australia.
The cloud version costs just $19 per month for unlimited agents and unlimited support tickets, which really is an incredible value for money.
The only limitation is the file upload storage which can be purchased additionally if you exceed the limit. The self-hosted version can be moved to the cloud version by the HESK team if you want to and all the data including the tickets and settings will be transferred as well.
Overall, HESK is a fantastic free or low-cost alternative to Zendesk that helps you start with a support helpdesk without allotting a huge budget for it even for a fairly large support team.
Pricing - starts from $15 per user per month.
Free Plan - No, but a 14-day free trial is available.
If you need a simple ticketing system along with a shared inbox, customer portal, and a knowledge base, SupportBee is the perfect match for it.
SupportBee might not have a huge features list, but that is its advantage as well. A majority of companies just need the fundamentals right to start with a support system and SupportBee makes it incredibly easy to implement it.
Tickets are well categorized and organized in the shared inbox as answered, unanswered, and archived. Team members can also comment internally if they need any additional information on a specific support ticket from a colleague.
The support tickets can be resolved right when it is received or assigned to a specific agent. This is particularly useful if an organization has multiple departments and support agents are distributed across each department.
It is also possible to build a knowledge base for multiple websites under a single SupportBee account with multiple file formats and uploads supported. The knowledge base can be completely customized to match your brand's design & colors, connect a custom domain, and also an SSL connection.
Another fantastic feature in SupportBee is that you can build a customer or client portal where your customers can easily view the status of all of their support tickets. This will help in avoiding a lot of back & forth emails and gives accountability to the support agents to get the tickets solved.
The best part is customers can easily access the portal with just a private link and there is no need for a username or password. Similar to the knowledge base, the customer portal can be customized and connected to a custom domain as well.
Pricing - starts from $19 per agent per month.
Free Plan - Yes, available.
Freshdesk is probably one of the biggest names competing with Zendesk when it comes to customer support and helpdesk software.
It is a part of Freshworks, which consists of a suite of products including live chat, sales CRM, conversion rate optimization, recruitment, project management tools, etc.
It is one of the most feature-rich helpdesk platforms out there currently. The team inbox has collision detection to ensure that a single ticket is not attended by more than one agent. It also has canned responses and merging of tickets on the same issue to maximize the productivity of support agents.
Tickets can be divided into several sub-tickets & tasks which be then worked upon by multiple team members. This is really useful for large enterprises where complex support tickets arise and must be resolved by experts in different fields.
For fairly medium to large-sized support teams, Freshdesk lets you set up Service Level Agreements (SLA's) to define the customer support expectations of your organization and keep a track of the performance. When there is a dip in the expected levels, you can decide on increasing the team size and set up activities to improve your team's performance.
Freshdesk also supports field service ticketing and the mobile apps for both iOS & Android are super helpful to resolve tickets on the go.
Freshdesk also has a lot of built-in automations that can automatically prioritize or assign to a specific support agent based on the inquiry and where it came from. It can also scan through the tickets periodically and reminds you of the tasks involved. It also avoids the reopening of tickets once the customer responds with a Thank You message.
Another strong plus of Freshdesk is the availability of a huge marketplace where you can integrate with a lot of other third-party tools.
Pricing - starts from $15 per month per team member.
Free Plan - Yes, available.
Helpcrunch is a complete support and marketing tool consisting of live chat, email marketing, pop-ups, knowledge base, help desk, etc.
It is much more affordable than Zendesk and if you are currently using Zendesk, you get all the data migrated to Helpcrunch for free.
Having support tickets, live chat, and email marketing under a single dashboard saves a lot of time and makes it very convenient for the support teams rather than juggling multiple tools & dashboards.
Helpcrunch is also a fantastic option for SaaS products as it supports in-app messages.
Pricing - starts at $50 per month for 2 users.
Free Plan - Not available.
There really is no introduction needed on HubSpot. It is one of the most well-known and widely used CRM's in the market by small & medium scale businesses and even many enterprises.
While the CRM and email marketing features of HubSpot is well known, HubSpot also has a very good helpdesk and ticketing feature. It is offered under the Service Hub plan of HubSpot.
The tickets can be viewed and tracked in a single dashboard by all your support agents. You can get key metrics like response times and the number of overall tickets resolved.
As HubSpot has excellent live chat, CRM, and email marketing features, you can build powerful automations to completely automate the support ticket initiation process. Each ticket has a lot of information on the customer's history, past issues, product details, etc. which is where HubSpot's strength as a CRM comes in.
You also get a powerful chatbot builder and a knowledge base feature to offer a complete and efficient support system.
Pricing - starts at $10 per month per user.
Free Plan - Yes, available for solo inbox and 10 boards.
Drag is a simple application that helps you convert Gmail into effective support and help desk system.
You get a group inbox where you can use common email addresses like firstname.lastname@example.org to manage all the messages in one place. Once you receive an email to this email address, it can automatically be set up to open a new support ticket.
Drag also supports internal team chat where you can collaborate with teammates and share email templates, get any specific help, assign or escalate a ticket within the team, share boards & cards, etc. You can comment on the chat with the mention of a specific ticket for a better context.
It is also possible to automate many internal workflows within the support team in Drag. For example, once the ticket is moved on the priority level, you can set up an automated email flows to both the customer and the teammate involved.
All the emails can be tracked within Drag and you can also connect with your Calendar to set deadlines, task reminders, etc. Drag also gives you detailed reports on the performance of individual agents and also collective teams which are super helpful to get an idea of the team's progress at a glance.
Pricing - starts at $60 per month for 350 monthly support tickets.
Free Plan - No, but a free trial is available.
Gorgias is a customer support tool that is designed exclusively for e-commerce businesses and hence has a huge edge over Zendesk if you are running an online store.
It comes with exclusive apps for Shopify, BigCommerce, and Magento which covers most of the e-commerce stores.
Another huge plus of Gorgias is that the pricing is not dependant on the number of users, but the number of support tickets. Therefore, an unlimited number of users can handle customer support in your organization as long as it is under the limits of the allowed support tickets.
It is possible to easily set up a live chat and support ticket system for your online store. You can personalize the tickets with the data you get from Shopify and BigCommerce.
With a powerful rules engine, you can automate a lot of support issues with customer tags. Starting from the pro plan, you also get customer onboarding to get started with Gorgias.
Overall, if you are an e-commerce store owner, Gorgias is a fantastic alternative to Zendesk.
Pricing - starts at $15 per month per user for 5 shared inboxes.
Free Plan - No, but a free 7-day trial is available.
Helpwise is another excellent multi-channel customer support system that can be used to assist your customers via email, SMS, WhatsApp, live chat, and calls.
You get a shared inbox for email, SMS, WhatsApp, and also social media channels to have every support issue organized across all the team members.
So, there you have it. If you are looking for a new customer support & helpdesk tool to implement for your business or for an alternative to Zendesk, the above ones listed are some of the best options available.
Each one has its unique strength and based on your use case, you could pick the one that matches your exact requirement.
Do you agree with the list? Let me know if you are using any other helpdesk tool that works well for your business.