[Update 1/26/2017: This post was updated to remove some options and include Help Scout, Samanage, and LiveAgent]
Generally recognized as a leader, and definitely a trailblazing software, it’s also at the top of Capterra’s Top 20 Help Desk Software list. The index takes into account, among other factors, a software’s number of customers, number of users (help desk personnel, in this case), and social presence (Google+, Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Klout, and Capterra reviews).
Zendesk was born in a Danish loft out of a desire for a help desk software product which doesn’t require consultants to set up. It really hit when companies started to see the value in prompt, friendly customer service. The inevitable ubiquity of social media meant public praise for companies handling customer care well, and public scorn for those who didn’t. This increased demand for a software simple enough that IT pros could use it out of the box.
And while Zendesk might be Goliath, it’s not the only great option in the space. Here are eight fabulous alternatives to the top player, along with what kinds of shops each is best suited for.
ManageEngine ServiceDesk Plus is first on our list of the most popular help desk software options. It offers dashboards for projects, milestones, and tasks for all your projects. From there, the system will tell you what caused incidents so you can be proactive about preventing them. You can use ManageEngine to track purchases, prices, and vendors to more easily reduce spending, enforce policies, and eliminate redundancies.
Capterra users like the feature set and easy setup. However there were several complaints about the “complex” and “counterintuitive” user interface.
- Predefined incident prioritization
- over 150 ready-to-use reports
- Integrates with OpManager, Applications Manager, Desktop Central
- Assign Project Roles and provide access permissions to different project members
- Track status of the tasks with color coded Gantt Charts
On Capterra’s rankings, UserVoice is second out of 20 most popular help desk software providers. Its greatest strength the ability to help organize, rank, and process lots of user suggestions for product improvements. So for example, it can eliminate hundreds of versions of the same suggestion that are worded slightly differently or spelled wrong. But that really only helps the shops that are getting thousands of suggestions.
For one agent, with limited functionality, there’s a free option. The catch is how unlikely it is that a shop with one agent is getting thousands of suggestions. So to really utilize the comparative advantage, you need to go with the paid version.
Users who reviewed UserVoice for Capterra like the ease of use. Since the focus is on ticketing and the knowledge base they don’t complicate the UI with a bunch of confusing options. Users didn’t like the “difficult reporting” and lack of customizability you might want if you’re a larger or more complex organization.
- Suggests searches as the user types
- Integrates with Facebook
- Helps customer support reps know where they can improve with feedback reports
ClickDesk is the third most popular help desk software option. It offers help desk and live chat software. Their real value-add is the live chat functionality. It offers 128 bit SSL encryption on chats and calls, the ability to add additional team members to online chats, real-time reports, graphs, and analytics on customers and agents. You can even click on messages for an instant translation into your own language.
Capterra ClickDesk reviewers love that there’s a free option, and find it pretty full-featured for a free option. However, some warn that it’s worth the money for the up-time, ease-of-use, and greater feature set of a paid competitor.
- Canned answers to common questions
- Unlimited storage to archive tickets
- Integrates with 16 major platforms, including WordPress, Joomla, Zendesk, Salesforce and Agile CRM
- Answer chats with Google Talk
- Video chat capable
Freshdesk is fourth on Capterra’s rankings of top 20 customer service software providers. It’s going to work best for a larger shop which likes to run lean. The larger shops will get the most out of Freshdesk’s gamification features. It awards representatives badges, prizes, and points for answering questions promptly and thoroughly for some healthy, friendly competition, as well as an easy, fun way to measure performance.
Lean shops can also respond to demand spikes by adding extra agents for a day to work through a backlog for $1 – $3, without changing their plans. These can even be purchased in advance and used as needed.
There’s a free option is for up to three agents, with limited functionality.
Capterra reviewers absolutely love Freshdesk. They love its robust feature-set and pricing. “Freshdesk, for me, was a natural choice,” wrote Jane Kaiser, Project Manager for AttorneyYellowPages.com. “Their incredible customer service has been involved with me personally since day one, and I love that they offer me a full plan for free as long as my team is under three people.” The only complaints were around the non-intuitive interface.
- Easily prioritize certain customers based on SLA policies
- Easily turn emails and tickets into knowledgebase articles
- Use 16 different languages
- Access via mobile-friendly site
Groove was literally built to be a Zendesk alternative, according to Len Markidan, Groove’s Head of Marketing. Founder Alex Turnbull struggled with Zendesk at his last company. He desperately wanted a more streamlined help desk that puts simplicity over having as many features as possible. When he left and that help desk still didn’t exist, he started Groove.
Groove is a help desk built for small teams who are either outgrowing their shared Gmail support inbox, finding it hard to keep track of things and having things slip through the cracks or frustrated by the clunkiness of their “enterprise” help desk. It’s not ideal for large (50+) teams, or teams who want every feature under the sun.
People who’ve used Groove love the customer support and how easy the software is to set up and use. “The company lives and breathes customer support. You can see it in their product, but the blog and product support are amazing extensions,” one reviewer wrote. Another user recommended buyers go through the onboarding videos before and during setup. Complaints were around search and reporting. The search functionality is rather basic, not comprehensive enough, and time-limited and the reporting is minimal, making Groove not an ideal option if you’re looking to use your ticketing system to help you prioritize product improvements.
Beyond the standard help desk features, and the streamlined setup, Groove also has the advantage of tickets that look and feel like emails to your customers.
There’s no “Please reply below this line,” or ticket numbers or support portals to log in to. If you don’t want them to, your customers don’t need to know you’re using a help desk. This can be great if you want to give your customers the feeling that they’re talking to a person, and not a corporation.
It’s also got a flat, simple pricing structure. All features are included for one price — $15 per month per agent.
And while it’s not strictly a product differentiator, it’s interesting that Groove is following Capterra’s model of giving away useful information through their blog.
“We’re really, really committed to helping small businesses,” Markidan told me. “We share growth lessons from our journey as a startup on our growth blog, and customer service lessons on our support blog. We haven’t spent a dime on advertising, and 90% of our leads come from the blogs.”
6. Help Scout
Help Scout offers your customers a support experience that feels like personal email. No clunky ticket portal or username and password to remember. In addition, its robust reporting connects your support to your product roadmap. It also helps you easily measure your customers’ satisfaction with easy-to-use Happiness Ratings.
Help Scout has a perfect 5/5-star rating on Capterra. Users love the easy setup. ”There is no learning curve with this tool, which makes it easy to train new support hires as it is all very intuitive,” wrote one. They also love Help Scout’s customer support, saying it’s “the best we’ve ever seen. They are super friendly, very quick to respond, and understand requests the first time. They are the model for customer support.” Others like the reporting functions and the saved replies feature that can include variables including the customer’s name.
- Easy and simple email integration so you can tag your emails for better organization
- Reports include variables like “busiest time of day” for better analytics
- Integrated knowledge base
- Robust API
- Tons of integrations
- Free iPhone app
LiveAgent is live chat and help desk software used by companies including BMW and Yamaha. It’s got tons of features, including a knowledge base and a customer portal/forum. Their feeback and suggestions form integrates with the forum so you can easily turn a one-way request into a two-way discussion. Like Help Scout, LiveAgent makes it easy to collect feedback from your customers with ready-made (yet also customizable) feedback buttons you can put anywhere in your website.
Like Help Scout, Capterra users adore LiveAgent, and gave it an average 5/5-stars. Users love the customer service. “They are quick, very helpful and also very nice,” remarked one customer. For such a feature-rich software product, it sounds like users find it surprisingly intuitive and easy to use. “I love the simplicity of tools, management of tickets, the possibility of integration with livechat and a call center,” wrote one customer.
- iOS and Android apps
- Phone support
- Social media integrations
LiveHelpNow is really less of a customer service software and more geared for companies using live chat to close sales. That said, it’s very well optimized for that task. One especially cool feature is that it tells you how your customer service stacks up against your competition who are also LiveHelpNow customers.
Users of LiveHelpNow are pretty pleased with the software. “Its ease-of-use and exceptional customer support staff makes it a hands-down winner,” one user wrote. This pretty much sums up the reviews. Over and over again reviewers called out support techs by name as being friendly and helpful. The only potential downside is that it may be missing some features that you want.
- Converts emails to tickets automatically
- Set agent and department-level access levels
- Real-time analytics, including geography, referral source, returning visitor
- Chats display visitor’s open social network profiles to target sales pitch
- Shopping cart, browsing habits, and previous help requests displayed so the chat operator can use the information to close a sale
Samanage is the only help desk software option on this list that’s ITIL-ready and has IT asset management capabilities. It’s also 19th on our list of the most popular help desk software products. With a self-service portal, mobile access, and advanced reporting, there’s not much you’d need that Samanage can’t offer.
Users love how easy Samanage is to learn and the friendliness of the UI. Which is surprising given how robust it is.
- Slack, Zendesk, Google Apps integrations
- Contract and license management
- SLA management
Have you used any of the suggested products? What did you think?
Looking for Help Desk software? Check out Capterra's list of the best Help Desk software solutions.