Budget constraints preventing you from buying a help desk tool? Check out these top-rated free software options.
As a customer service manager, you may be aware of the multiple benefits of help desk software, including a more efficient ticketing process, improved customer service experience and customer satisfaction, and increased employee productivity.
According to our survey of more than 500 small business leaders this March (methodology below), 59% required new business software to respond to COVID-19, and among those businesses, nearly half (45%) needed new software for their customer support team.
If you’re one of those businesses that needs new help desk software, you might find yourself in a jam: you need the software, but you don’t have room in the budget as you try to minimize costs in the wake of COVID-19. If you’re in that position, this article is for you.
By browsing the top, free solutions on the market, you can find a tool that meets your immediate business needs while offering the flexibility to expand capacity and capabilities when needed.
What does “best” mean? Each of the six tools included in this article appears in our Top 20 Help Desk Software report, based on verified user reviews and web search interest (full methodology here). We then reviewed those top 20, and identified the six that offer a free option. They are listed in alphabetical order.
Capterra’s Top 20 Help Desk Software report (Source)
Each of the options listed below is completely free, meaning that it’s not a free trial, or a free expansion to a paid tool.
So what’s the catch?
Free help desk software is typically limited in the number of users allowed, or features included, or some other capability that limits its usefulness depending on the size of your support team. The idea is that if you like the limited version, you’ll likely be willing to pay for the expanded paid version. Of course, if you have a very small team with limited needs, you might never need to upgrade, and that’s fine, too.
6 best free help desk software for customer support teams
Freshdesk is a cloud-based multichannel help desk solution for businesses of all sizes. Its free version includes email ticketing, social media ticketing (only for Facebook and Twitter), knowledge-base management, and reporting.
The unique selling proposition of Freshdesk’s free version, called Sprout, is the support for unlimited agents. The plan offers ticket trend reporting, which lets agents track the status of their open and closed tickets in real-time.
Freshdesk offers four other plans—Blossom, Garden, Estate, and Forest—which include expanded features such as event-based triggers, service level agreement (SLA) management, chat and chatbot-based support, as well as surveys.
Cost to upgrade: $15/agent/month (when billed annually) for the Blossom plan, which adds automations, integrations, and more.
JIRA, the software developer that produces Atlassian project management software, offers a free help desk tool for teams with up to three agents working on one service desk. This plan includes unlimited customers (or at least as many as your three agents can handle), service management (ticketing), operations management, 2 GB of storage, and more. The knowledge base requires Atlassian’s Confluence team workspace tool, but that is also free for up to 10 users.
Cost to upgrade: For $20/agent/month, teams can upgrade to the Standard plan, which includes live chat support, 250 GB of storage, and additional features.
A service request in JIRA Service Management (formerly JIRA Service Desk) (Source)
Spiceworks is an online network for IT professionals based in Austin, Texas, and in addition to hosting that community, they also offer free help desk software (cloud or self-hosted). The company generates revenue primarily through ads on the network.
The software itself is a complete help desk solution with ticket management, reporting dashboard, customizable user portal, and more.
Cost to upgrade: All of Spiceworks’ software—including inventory management, remote support, and website down checker—are completely free.
The Tickets interface in Spiceworks IT Help Desk (Source)
SysAid is an IT service management and help desk solution for business of all sizes. The solution is available both as a cloud-based and on-premise deployment option.
Its free version is deployed on Windows or Linux servers and supports up to two agents and 100 end users. This version offers ticket management, incident management, workflow automation, knowledge-base management, and reporting functionalities.
The free version’s USP is its asset management functionality, which allows users to track IT assets and devices. It helps agents find assets easily, while handing queries that require hardware replacements.
If you want to manage more than two agents or more than 100 assets, you can upgrade to any of the three paid plans—Basic, Full, and À La Carte. In addition to all the free features, these plans offer configuration management database, SLA management, patch management, and multiple email boxes.
Cost to upgrade: SysAid has custom pricing. Contact the vendor for a quote.
Workbooks is positioned as customer relationship management software, but the free version includes all the capabilities necessary to run a service desk, including ticketing system, knowledge base, and communication. It also includes marketing management, sales management, reporting, and more.
If that seems too good to be true, remember that the free version does come with its limitations. It only allows two users, 1 GB of storage, and one database, and it does not include automation, integrations, multi-language support, or custom layouts.
Cost to upgrade: For $30/user/month (when paid annually), teams can upgrade to the paid version, which includes 10 GB of storage, customization, automation, integrations, five databases, email/live chat/phone support, and more.
6. Zoho Desk
Zoho Desk is a cloud-based help desk and customer service solution. Its free version offers an email ticketing system, ticket and agent tracking, SLA management, a community forum, and knowledge-base management functionalities for up to three agents.
The free version’s USP is the reporting functionality. It offers ticketing reports, agent dashboards, and manager dashboards that provide managers a complete view of the customer support operations.
Users can upgrade to three paid plans—Standard, Professional, and Enterprise. These plans offer advanced features such as social media ticketing, custom ticket templates, and advanced reports.
Cost to upgrade: For $12/agent/month (when billed annually), teams can upgrade to the Standard plan, which adds phone support, community knowledge base, reporting and dashboards, and more.
The final decision: Which free help desk solution should I invest in?
After you’ve reviewed this list of products, the next step is to select one that will best fit your business needs. The following steps will help you make that decision:
- Calculate the total cost of ownership for the upgrade plans, including training, implementation, and support costs. Check with the vendor to ensure that updating the product you choose is under/within your budget.
- Review the features in this list and select the ones necessary for optimum business performance. Eliminate products that don’t offer the essential features for your business.
- Compare the free usage limits of the products (such as the number of agents and available features) and shortlist products accordingly.
After these considerations, you may come to the conclusion that a free option won’t meet all of your needs. If that’s the case, we recommend browsing our complete Top 20 Help Desk Software report, which lists 20 top options based on verified user ratings and web search interest.
For more information on help desk software, you can check out the following resources:
This article was updated in November of 2020. Products considered for this article fulfill the following criteria:
1. Must be free
For the purposes of this article, we classified a product as free if:
- It offers a free, standalone version of the software.
- It is not a trial version of the software, in which you must purchase a paid version after a limited amount of time.
2. Must meet help desk software definition
The products that met the above criteria were then evaluated against our help desk software definition: Help desk software helps organizations manage internal and/or external ticketing by tracking and resolving support requests and incidents.
This check verified the basic help desk capabilities and appropriateness for the category. A product was classified as help desk software if it contained all the core features—ticketing, knowledge base, and communication.
3. Must appear in the Top 20 Help Desk Software report
Products that appear in the Top 20 must offer core help desk functionality and have at least 20 unique user reviews between June 2018 and June 2020. Complete Top 20 methodology here.
Results based on Capterra’s survey of 503 small-business leaders, defined as presidents/vice presidents, C-suite, or owners/founders at U.S. companies with 2 – 250 employees in March 2020. 370 out of the 503 respondents lead small businesses that conduct most or all of their business virtually.
The content in this piece provides the opinions and points of view expressed by users and does not represent the views of Capterra.