Where there is a product, there is an alternative to it. Help Scout is no exception. These days, many consider it to be one of the best tools for small and medium-sized companies. But not everyone can afford Help Scout and for some, the help desk isn’t up to the task. Enter Help Scout alternatives.
We’ve gathered a list of some of the most promising tools the Internet has to offer and tried to identify their key strengths. Thus, if you’ve been looking for a decent Help Scout alternative, you’ve come to the right place. Let’s get started!
What is Help Scout?
Help Scout is a help desk platform that was designed with small to medium size businesses in mind. It is also extremely popular among freelancers due to its simplistic nature. One of the key defining features of Help Scout is its shared inbox system. It allows multiple agents to freely collaborate using a unified space where all their work will be visible to others.
Another important benefit of Help Scout is the fact that it can connect to a larger number of third-party applications than its competitors. The tool has a very robust integration system that doesn’t require a lot of effort to hook it up, which also makes it the best choice for beginner programmers.
Before we jump into the alternatives, we’d like to stress out that we try to be as honest as possible. Hence why we developed a review policy that aids us in this endeavor. Typically, we cover five main aspects of the tool: the price, the usability ratio, unique features, scalability, and flaws.
We believe these characteristics can help understand how the tool performs, as well as what kind of problems it might have. Thus, without further delay, let’s see what are the most popular Help Scout alternatives.
Alternative #1: Zendesk
Next on our list is Zendesk. This is a help desk that does not need any introductions but we’ll do it anyway. Zendesk is a help desk solution that aims to convert your staff into the customer retention team. Zendesk delivers high-quality outcomes at reasonable pricing.
One of the main aspects is that people with little to no knowledge about Zendesk will be able to use it. But not all is great when it comes to advanced features and tools. They are very intricate and sophisticated in nature as they are highly capable. This means that to use the system to its fullest, you have to be a power user, which requires you truly studying the system.
The basic UI is not cluttered with menus and everything is conveniently positioned on the left side of the screen. The main info has a lot of descriptions and you will be able to learn about things without referring to the search engine. You can also trigger the tutorial sequence at any given moment, making it a nice bonus. The tutorial itself is fairly basic but it will definitely help you get started.
As for unique features, Zendesk comes equipped with full CSS rebranding capabilities. This might seem as irrelevant to some but you can customize every nook and cranny. The options are so packed that you can make the whole thing look as if it was built from the ground-up for your company.
Another major feature of Zendesk is its automation and rule systems. By using the automation system, you can completely eliminate all mundane work. Whether its ticket routing or automatic responses, you can configure it to do just about anything. It truly is limited by the fact that it doesn’t have a mind of its own. Then there’s the rule system that allows you to set specific permissions and rules on different scales. From individual agents to groups to departments, you can manage access on multiple levels without a hitch.
Out of the box, you can connect Zendesk to 100 different services in just a press of a button. And the best part of this, the number of seamless integrations continues to grow. The next thing is that all plans are scalable and you won't lose anything during the transition. Another point is that Zendesk comes with its own live chat solution. It so robust that many small call centers opt to use this one instead.
You might also like: A List of 10 Best Apps for Zendesk to Make Your Life Easier
Now one of the worst things about Zendesk is that it has a steep learning curve for power users. You really need to dedicate a lot of time to learn this system through and through. It is highly customizable and very powerful but if you have no idea how to use it, it becomes pretty standard. And then there’s the fact that a technical set up is required. True, this is somewhat mitigated by the fact that the company gives you support but we just wish it was simpler. Last but not least, the tool is very expensive if you choose to use all of their features.
As for the pricing, the tool has a plethora of pricing options and listing them all would simply be inefficient. The average price of their plans hovers around $60 and typically includes all the basic features, plus things like multilingual content, CSAT surveys (which is great), custom dashboards, and multi-brand support. The company also offers a free version but is quite limited in what it can do. We suggest that you stay away from the free option unless you have a team of three people and don’t really need the advanced features.
Alternative #2: New Kayako
And third on our list is the new Kayako. This is a unique platform that has many interesting features. After the company decided to abandon the old architecture in favor of more modern solutions, the product gained quite the following. One of the most defining features of New Kayako is its communication system that allows you to bridge all customer/prospect channels into one hub.
You can tell that the company behind this product made massive changes to the UI and its usability rate. The product took a lot of inspiration from Zendesk, Help Scout and others. You have a sidebar that includes all the popular options, as well as you have the conversation flow right in front of you. On the top right corner, you have the search bar that is capable of finding features and functions (something that is very common on smartphone operating systems but not on help desk solutions) and the profile icon. At the very top, you have browser-like tabs making the management of multiple customers or pages a breeze. Overall, this is a very nicely put product and you will absolutely zero problems using it.
Now if you look over at the platform, it might seem that it does not offer anything unique. But once you boot it up, you will be greeted with a plethora of powerful features designed to boost your agent performance. One such feature is the fact that you can schedule 100 different reports at the time. And the real-time visitor tracking tool will make these reports so much more accurate. Also as part of the feature set is the automated escalation of rules to stop unaddressed consumer queries. This will make sure that no customer is left out and that everyone is served fairly. Last but not least, the company provides an on-premise version of the tool.
While the tool is being revised and improved, there aren’t that many scalability options. Outside of changing plans, you are quite limited as the main scale option is to go self-hosted where you are limited by your own hardware and rule-sets. But you can at least opt for the premium plans. They provide enough automation options and the logic behind the engine is capable enough. Keep in mind that the company is still developing the platform and we are more than sure they will expand the scope of the project. It’s just at the moment it isn’t a very viable solution.
Since a ton of issues was addressed in the new Kayako there aren’t that many issues outside of scalability. But we did manage to find some in the form of poor file management and the troubleshooting feature. They seem to drag down the system in terms of performance. And then there’s the limited API system. You need to read and learn a lot of proprietary code to be able to use it effectively. And even so, it is still limited in what you can hook it up with.
The tool comes in three distinct plans. The starting plan is called Inbox and at the time of this writing is $15 user/month. It includes a shared inbox, a dedicated social inbox for smaller teams, 600+ Zapier integrations, and finally, assignments coupled with insights. The next on the list is Growth that is $30 user/month. It has everything that Inbox has but adds multibrand features, custom reporting, and advanced automation rules. Lastly, there’s the $60 Scale plan (ironic, isn’t it?). It has all that was mentioned before and adds custom security policy, Salesforce integration, and internal help center.
Alternative #3: SolarWinds Service Desk (Previously Samanage)
SolarWinds and this isn’t your conventional help desk. In fact, it isn’t a help desk at all. SolarWinds is a service desk system. Which means that you can use to serve customers and solve internal issues and tasks. SolarWinds does not require any installations or specific hardware configurations and can be used by many tenants.
If you take a moment and look at SolarWinds main menu, it becomes clear that it requires at least some reading for you to be able to use things fast and intuitively. All your main tabs are on top of the screen and each subsequent screen has a bunch of different menus, metrics, toggles, etc. For many, this will be a struggle to learn but it does prove the fact that this tool has a massive list of features. But on the flip side, the inventory tracking tab is very readable and requires little to no input on your end. If you want to close a ticket, just move your cursor to the ticket, select it, and pick the close button on top. Generally, the tool is a mixed bag of good and bad UI decisions.
As for unique features, we’ve already mentioned that SolarWinds has quite a few of them. So, the very first thing that comes into mind is the Benchmarking tool as it is something that isn’t typically found in service desks (or help desks for that matter). What it allows you to do is track individual tasks and their close rate. For example, you can set the tool to track how your HR department is working on a task by task basis. if you see that your HR is struggling with feedback gathering and that it takes them forever to complete the task, then just remove that responsibility from them.
It’s no secret that before SolarWinds became what it is, it was called Samanage, and everybody knows that Samanage was a beast in terms of scalability. Each and every feature has a scale mode and will increase/decrease accordingly, and in case you are wondering, you can move from one plan to another without losing your data or progress. The only exception being that you will be asked to download data that is not supported in the lower tier plans. In other words, you will download all your SLA setups, Low-level automation, etc. once you move from the higher tariff plan to a lower one.
One of the main drawbacks of SolarWinds is the fact that it is very hard to configure the more advanced features. In some cases, it's easier to deal with the issue than configuring the solution. And then there’s the fact that Syslog and alerts can be overwhelming. They aren’t exactly readable and if you can read them, you will most likely get lost in the translation.
If we take a look at the pricing options, you have three of them. Keep in mind that the prices are stated in euro meaning that depending on the exchange rate, this might be cheap or not so. The name of the first plan is Team and costs it €12 per agent/month. It has basic help desk functionality and adds Incident Management, a Service Portal, and Knowledge Base. Then there’s the Business plan which is €39 agent/month, it includes everything that Team has and adds into the mix SLAs, Groups, Internationalization, and a Service Catalog. Lastly, there is a pricey Professional plan that is €69. It has everything mentioned before and adds API tokens, scheduled reports, etc. For our money, we’d go with the Business plan as it is the most optimized in terms value.
Alternative #4: Zoho Desk
The last one on our list is Zoho Desk. The main characteristic of this solution is its ability to eliminate mundane work and enhance customer satisfaction through the clever use of the automation system. The product is not new to the market and has a huge install base, meaning that it receives quality updates more frequently than others.
To make things clear, this isn’t a very user-friendly system. In fact, it is quite the opposite. The main body of the system is cluttered with micro blocks that have their own features and characteristics, whereas the sidebar is full of overly complicated naming conventions. On top of all that you have the report, customer, and community tabs. Each of these tabs will lead you to another intimidating UI solution. We do have to put credit where credit is due. It is complicated but it is also one of the more powerful systems. It can achieve significantly more tasks provided it's in the right hands.
As we already said, this is a highly advanced system that can tackle a myriad of tasks. One of the most prominent functions Zoho Desk delivers is its AI-powered chatbot called Zia. This is a self-contained, self-improving communication system that will provide a human-like response to your customers. The more it is active, the more it will learn and adapt to your business. You can set it to answer questions from customers, as well as you can use it internally to eliminate mundane work such as reporting or filling out CSV files.
Another benefit Zoho Desk has is its Multi-department module. What it does is it allows you to set a distinct help center for all your brands, sub-brands, etc. That way you can differentiate the results more clearly, as well as you can introduce drastic changes without worrying that other parts of the site will suffer.
As for scalability, the platform provides more than enough options to expand all your services. First off, you can set a separate page for all your products, then there’s the automation module which is coupled with Zia. The tool can also integrate with anything that has an API. Outside of that, you get one-click connections with popular platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. And in case you need it, you can use Zoho Desk as a multi-channel and omnichannel system.
As you might have guessed, Zoho Desk isn’t for everyone. Even if you used a help desk before, if you are willing to use this solution, you will have to learn again. The tool is very complicated in its design and will surely require extensive knowledge of the documentation. You can still use the basic features without a hitch but you will only scratch the surface as to what this tool is capable of. Other than that, it's a nice system that will work best in large enterprises where granularity is a necessity. Smaller and medium-sized businesses will have a hard time grasping the intricate functionality. It’s, just not for every company.
The pricing on Zoho Desk is actually pretty cheap. Especially considering what you get out of the tool. To begin with, they offer a free plan that has some features typically found in paid solutions. Stuff like domain mapping, SLA, and the radar app for managers are all included in the Free plan. Then there’s the €12 agent/month Professional plan. It has everything that the Free plan offers and adds in roughly 15 new features, including stuff like multi-department management, advanced automation, the blueprint system, and cloud telephony. Lastly, there’s the €25 agent/month Enterprise plan that includes the aforementioned Zia bot, Live chats, role-based access control, among many others.
Phew, this was a big one, wasn’t it? We hope we managed to cover everything these tools have to offer. As well as, we pray that you learned something new about these systems. There are many more things we could have discussed but that would take ages to put it down. But for now, that’s all we got. If you plan on moving to one of these tools, be sure to drop us a message. We will not only get you started but can move all your records in no time. Just hit us and our agent will schedule everything for you!