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Resolving the Intercom vs Zendesk Dilemma

If you have been wondering which to choose Intercom or Zendesk, the good news is you aren’t alone. That’s true, businesses vary by industries, size, purposes, the software they need, a budget for that software, and the list can go on. However, the customer service (and the ways how a company delivers it) creates a centerpiece of a brand. So, here is why a help desk platform can actually help.

How to Compare Intercom vs Zendesk?

To begin with, putting help desk platforms “side by side” is a thankless job as software differs in functionality, price, and purposes. The compared vendors share a strategy of delivering their services either separate add-ons and all-in-one tools.

Intercom has Messages, Inbox, and Articles. So, all of Intercom is a package of all offered tools.

On its side, Zendesk offers Guide (self-support), Chat (live chat), Talk (call center), Connect (campaigns), Explore (analytics and reporting), and Sell (sales force automation) add-ons that you can buy separately or add to Zendesk Support (ticketing software.)

Both solutions provide a campaign tool, live chat, and a knowledge base. That services we will compare in terms of functionality and price. The odes to the “clean and modern user interface” are omitted.

Intercom Messages vs Zendesk Connect

Messages and Connect are designed to fulfill the same purpose: to help customers before they ask you for it. So let’s go down to the feature + price comparison.

Intercom Messages

Intercom Messages is offered in the Engage customers package. It has a twofold price: a base plan + a number of active people.

Intecom messages

Types of messages in Intercom Engage. Source: YouTube

1. Essential costs $49/mo. Plus the active people: 201-500 will take $16/mo, 501-2000 will add $40/mo, and so on.

It includes multiple channels support, campaigns and audience targeting, automated messaging along with triggers and scheduling. A/B testing is unavailable, but reposting on messages and CSV export at your disposal. Also, you get open APIs, messenger framework and options to integrate with other apps.

2. Pro takes $75/mo.

If you have 201-500 active people, then plus $20 + $75, 501-2000 will add $45 + $75, and so on.
With this plan, your get Essential functionality and add custom email domains and templates, the ability to set user permissions, basic A/B testing, smart campaigns, and message reactions. Plus, get integration with GitHub and basic Salesforce.

3. Premium tier requires to contact Intercom for the price.

Strengthen the Pro toolset by adding your branding and advanced A/B testing. Here are available custom API limits and integration with Salesforce, Marketo, and Clearbit.

Note: You get billed every month. Active people are leads and customers who received, sent a message or logged into your Intercom in the last 90 days. Also, if you have up to 200 customers, you don’t have to pay the fee.

Zendesk Connect

Zendesk Connect helps to automate and evaluate proactive email, website, and mobile messages, as well as segment users and send triggered campaigns. You can design personalized messages with media files and set the A/B test of different combinations (email vs email, and email vs push vs SMS). Added value is the option to create message chains that send on predefined conditions. Along with the CSAT history, Connect integrates with Zendesk Support what synchronizes contacts and ticket history.

Zendesk Connect

Creating a segment in Zendesk Connect dashboard. Source: Venturebeat

There are no price tiers and functionality limitations. Zendesk Connect charges you for the monthly-messaged users (aka MMU) only. MMU is a customer who received a message from you. There is a scale where you get the fee for the number of customers. The prices are billed annually. For instance:

  • 2000 MMU - $153/mo
  • 10000 MMU - $391/mo
  • 20000 MMU - $578/mo
Recap: Intercom Messages may cost you less but provide tier dependent features. Zendesk Connect doesn’t divide its functionality into parts, so you just pay for the customers who got messages from your brand.

Intercom Inbox vs Zendesk Support + Chat

Opposing these two is a bit complicated. Intercom Inbox has features that vaguely remind the Zendesk Support, but the offered package Acquire customer (Messages and Inbox) is more paralleled with Zendesk Support + Chat.

Intercom inbox

It is a collaboration place for marketing, sales and support teams where all interactions are stored. Also, using custom bots, you can manage lead qualification, grow subscribers list or route the conversations to a specified team.

Inbox includes Messages features in the Acquire customers package. It has a threefold price: a base plan + a number of seats (support agents) + a number of active people.

Intercom Inbox

Shared agent inbox in Intercom. Source: Intercom

1. Essential - $87/mo with 2 seats included (each new seat +$19/mo). If you have 201-500 active people, add a $16/mo fee, for 501-2000 -$40/mo, and the like. The more active people, the higher the price.

Here you get the live chat, email, and mobile apps to manage conversations. The workflow is based on a task bot, email collector, lead and customer profiles, audience targeting, “available/away” mode and automatic article suggestion. Your team will have an inbox, canned replies, office hours, message triggers and scheduling. Also, they can assign/snooze conversations, use notes and @mentions. Reporting is delivered to the dashboards, article search analytics and messages insights. Also, you can do CSV export.

2. Pro - $153/mo with 2 seats included (each new seat +$39/mo). If you have 201-500 active people, add a $20/mo fee, if 501-2000 add a $45/mo fee, and so on.

The features from Essential, plus you can set pages where the messenger is shown. The automation is applied to scheduling demos and lead qualification. In this tier, the assignment rules and permissions, custom domain and email templates, task bot, and basic A/B testing are available. Within integration capabilities, you can connect Facebook, Twitter, Zendesk, GitHub, and basic Salesforce.

3. Premium tier requires to contact Intercom for the price.

To the Pro set, you will get branding and customization options, SLA, custom bots, revenue and sales performance reports.

Zendesk Support

It delivers a multi-channel support system where you can set business rules, SLA, and ticket routing based on agent’s skills, language, expertise. Zendesk also enables the integration of public and private apps.

There are five price tiers available on the Zendesk Support. The price depends on the number of agents. Here are the fees for 2 agents per month with the annual billing.

Zendesk Support

Tickets dashboard in Zendesk Support.

All price tiers include email, web widget, support and chat SDK, and converts tickets from Facebook and Twitter messages. The Lite versions of Chat and Guide are available in each tier too.

Zendesk Pricing Overview

1. Essential - $10

Agents get options of pre-defined responses, translated interface, while customer context and interaction history to better serve customers. Contacts and ticket history, as well as a contact form, enhance customer data management. The overview report shows the key data metrics (channel, first reply, top articles, searches, and agents.)

2. Team - $38

Add to Essential set such features as custom and group ticket views, preconfigured and custom triggers and automations. Also, you can add custom fields to user and organization fields. Yet, in this plan only one organization is available. In addition within reporting, the performance dashboards show ticket volume, customer satisfaction, and agent performance with KPI. This price tier enables a single sign-on (SSO) for web and mobile and supports the integration options and public apps integrations.

3. Professional - $98

To the Team set, you can add SLA management, multilanguage placeholders in forms, CSAT and follow-up surveys. Zendesk Explore powers the reporting. Also, this tier allows integrating private apps. If needed, you can buy add-ons: multiple support request forms, light agents (such users can read and make private comments on a ticket) or Pathfinder app (shows where a customer was before submitting a ticket).

4. Enterprise - $198

Professional toolset strengthened with skill-based routing and free pathfinder app. Guided mode to show new agents how everything works. This price tier supports multiple ticket forms and multiple business hours, custom roles and permissions. Here is also available a fancy feature of satisfaction prediction, machine learning model, your team can enter conversations with more context.

5. Elite - $398

This price tier adds to the Enterprise 99.9% Uptime SLA, a disaster recovery program (Zendesk services remain available or are easily recoverable in the case of a disaster.) Elite has only monthly billing.

Zendesk Chat

Chat add-on helps you to create a personal connection (via the web, mobile, and messaging) with customers without interrupting their experience. There are four price tiers (2 agents/mo in the annual billing):

Zendesk Chat

All chat views in Zendesk Chat. Source: Zendesk

1. Lite, which is free, delivers one concurrent chat, pre-chat and offline forms, chat tags, conversation rating, and 30-day chat history.

2. Team costs $28 and offers Lite + unlimited chats and agents, two triggers and two teams, widget customization, file sending, Zendesk Message (add Facebook Messenger and LINE) and public apps integration (on a condition you have Zendesk Support.)

3. Professional comes at $58 with Team + unlimited triggers and departments, operating hours and conversation tracking, reporting on conversations and agents, and private apps integration (on a condition you have Zendesk Support.)

4. Enterprise takes $118 for Professional + roles and permissions, skill-based routing, AI chatbots, web SDK and widget branding.

Recap: At this point, the benefit of Zendesk is a combination and price. To begin with, you can choose any Support plan with a Lite version of Chat. Or the other two options: (1) select another Chat tier to add required features or (2) contact Zendesk and ask for a function you want to at your Zendesk account as the add-on.

Intercom Articles vs Zendesk Suite

To make a comparison of these functionality packages is quite tricky. So, Intercom Articles will be opposed to Zendesk Suite - in that way the contrast is (more or less) fair.

Intercom Articles

Articles is a knowledge base for self-support, as well as internal support. This feature is available on all the channels your customers use to get in touch with your brand.

intercom articles

Setting up a Knowledge Base in Intercom Articles section. Source: Intercom

Support customers (Inbox and Articles) has a twofold price: a base plan + a number of seats.

1. Essential costs $38/mo. with 2 seats included (each new seat +$19/mo)

Within the conversation, you get live chat, email, mobile apps, and SDKs. Then, as for the workflow, there are lead and customer profiles, email collector, task bots, and automated article suggestions. The agents also get inboxes, notes, and mentions, office hours and canned responses. Reporting is delivered to the dashboards (i.e., summary, leads, team performance), article search analytics and messages insights. Also, you can do CSV export.

2. Pro takes $78/mo. 2 seats included (each new seat +$39/mo)

Pro features strengthened by messenger visibility, Facebook and Twitter integration, automated conversation assignment and lead qualification. Also, here are available assignment rules and permission, and statistic surveys.

3. Premium tier requires to contact Intercom for the price.

Within the Premium, you can also set your branding and SLAs, have an advanced messenger and customize emails, custom bots, revenue and sales performance reports.

Zendesk Suite

Zendesk Suite includes such services as Support, Guide, Chat, and Talk. It also comes at two pricing tiers:

1. Professional costs $178 for 2 agents/mo (annual billing). In the Support section, you get email and social channels, web widget, mobile SDK, reports and dashboards, and private custom apps and integrations.

Then, the Guide section delivers community with collaboration forum, a knowledge base for agents, Knowledge Capture App, reports and dashboards, and multilingual content (if Support price tier offers that.)

Lastly, chat add-on offers unlimited chats, triggers and departments, widget customization, conversation tracking, chat and agent reports, operating hours, and integration with public or private apps.

Intercom doesn't provide phone support, but Zendesk Suite has one. For instance, it enables automatic ticket creation, call recording and voicemail transcription, IVR phone trees, call monitoring and barging, a callback from a queue and, real-time dashboards and reporting.

Zendesk Talk

The overview of call statistics in Zendesk Talk. Source: Zendesk

2. Enterprise takes $358 for 2 agents/mo (annual billing) and adds to Professional the following:

Support has multiple ticket forms, business rules analysis, custom roles and permissions, multi-brand, guided mode (for new agents), and satisfaction prediction.

The Guide is enabled with article lifecycle management, content cues to identify knowledge gaps, and multiple help centers.

Chat can be branded, and you get real-time dashboards, web SDK, roles and permissions, and skills-based routing.

Within Talk, the tier adds monthly diagnostics and 99.95% SLA.

Recap: Intercom Inbox has a pinch of tools from all its services, yet with more focus on the articles and shared inbox. However, Zendesk offers more extended functionally for a corresponding price.

All of Intercom vs Zendesk

Now before you jump into any conclusions, let look at all of the Intercom packages and try to find matching functionality in Zendesk plans. So, to be sure that we compared all the possibilities that one could get once migrate to Intercom or Zendesk.

All of Intercom (Messages, Inbox, and Articles) has a threefold price: a base plan + a number of seats + a number of active people.

Essential costs $87/mo with 2 seats included (each new seat +$19/mo.) You have to pay $16/mo for 201-500 active people, $40/mo for 501-2000, and so on.

In terms of functionality, this plan can be paralleled with the Zendesk Support Team price tier for $38 for 2 agents. And there is no extra fee for customers.

Think this way, you have five agents and 2000 customers you sent messages to. So, if you use Intercom, you have to pay $87 + 3*$19 + $40 = $184/mo. And if you run Zendesk Support, you pay $19*5=$95/mo (annual billing.)

Pro takes $153/mo for 2 seats (each new seat +$39/mo.) You have to pay $20/mo for 201-500 active people, $45/mo for 501-2000, and so on.


Here is the closest from Zendesk is Support Professional for $98/mo for 2 agents. Therefore, to meet the Intercom Messages features in this package, you can integrate Zendesk Connect.

So, in the situation of five agents and 2000 customers, Intercom will charge you $153 + 3*39 + $45 = $315/mo. On the other hand, the invoice from Zendesk will be like $49*5=$245/mo and $153/mo for Connect what ends at $398/mo. Thus, Connect toolset overruns the features offered in Intercom Messages Premium.

Premium tier requires to contact Intercom for the price. But in terms of features, this one close to Zendesk Support Professional or Zendesk Suite Professional.

The Summing Up

There is no easy way to choose the right help desk platform, you need to compare a lot of features to meet business tasks. It looks like Zendesk offers more functions and support options in the price tiers than Intercom. Nevertheless, either Intercom or Zendesk can be beneficial from multiple perspectives, but mostly it depends on the goals you want to fulfill.

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