It’s Intercom VS Zendesk, the battle of two well-known software in the help desk category. 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. But if you’re not familiar with them, think of the software as online human resource departments. For instance, customers and staff alike can channel messages through it. The methods that help desks use, however, is meant to cater to possibly thousands to millions of messages. Because there could be a thousand customers complaining at any given hour to all your staff having problems with business protocols. Generally, humans can’t handle this volume of exchange, that’s why help desk software was made.
As service desks, both Zendesk and Intercom seem to provide the same solutions to problems most businesses face. However, what’s inside their hoods are different. Although some of the features of Zendesk over Intercom may look the same, the methods used to solve your problems will be different. As both their approaches will vary, you may prefer one method over the other. We’ll look at several features that businesses need such as a ticketing system, team messaging, customer communication channels, and more. So, let’s compare Zendesk to Intercom and vice versa!
Intercom vs Zendesk – The Rundown
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. We will compare those services in terms of functionality and price. The odes to the “clean and modern user interface” are omitted.
Product Feature Comparison
Let’s compare Intercom and Zendesk using the features they have. In this case, we'll see what their similarities and differences are.
To begin with, communication with customers is important these days. Without proper channels to reach you, usually, customers will take their business elsewhere. And, thanks to the internet, a few taps will lead them right to your competitor! As you will see further, Intercom and Zendesk offer almost the same features when it comes to chatting with a couple of differences.
This software is no slouch as it offers a feature called ‘Business Messenger’ that comes with its own AI chatbot. The AI chatbot can work 24/7, awaiting the query of a customer. Moreover, Intercom bots can converse naturally with customers by using conversation starters, respond with self-help, and knowledge base articles. In a way, this is similar to what Zendesk offers. However, the difference would be the ease of use. Intercom Messenger is easy to customize and install. Create a chatbot with minimal coding and customize it to your heart’s content.
Here you have the option of live chatting with customers via your website, mobile, and messaging. The plugin, however, is a bit hard to use as reviewed by customers. Installing it might take some technical skill and even when installed, could malfunction a bit. Still, the Chatbot of Zendesk Message is a powerful one. It uses artificial intelligence (AI) to assist customers through self-help options or access to the right knowledge base article before connecting them to your team. And this, undoubtedly, leaves your agents free to solve urgent matters.
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.
Lite, which delivers one concurrent chat, pre-chat and offline forms, chat tags, conversation rating, and 30-day chat history.
Team, which 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.)
Professional, which comes 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).
Enterprise, which includes the Professional plan + roles and permissions, skill-based routing, AI chatbots, web SDK, and widget branding.
An inbox is a valuable tool for your team to communicate. It’s not just for emails to coworkers. The inbox is used to refer tickets to other agents who can solve them. Therefore, a helpdesk with a good inbox can make your team efficient in solving problems.
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.
The team inbox of Intercom has the same features as most help desk inboxes. However, it takes things a step further by streamlining their inbox with chatbots and Articles integration. It has a threefold price: a base plan + a number of seats (support agents) + a number of active people.
Essential plan includes the live chat, email, and mobile apps. 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 message insights. Also, you can do CSV export.
Pro plan provides you with the features from Essential, plus you can set pages where the messenger is shown. The automation is applied to scheduling demos and lead qualification. Here 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.
Premium plan does not only include the Pro set, but also provides you with the branding and customization options, SLA, custom bots, revenue, and sales performance reports.
Also, this software offers a feature called ‘Business Messenger’ that comes with its own AI chatbot. It can work 24/7, awaiting the query of a customer. Moreover, Intercom bots can converse naturally with customers by using conversation starters, respond with self-help, and knowledge base articles.
The in-app messaging of Intercom is also a big plus. If your business has an app, in-app messaging can be used to send messages to customers. You can use this with the push notification of the app to keep your customers in the loop of possible promos, rewards, and more.
It delivers a multi-channel support system where you can set business rules, SLA, and ticket routing based on the agent's skills, language, expertise. Zendesk also enables the integration of public and private apps. It provides a unified inbox across its many features. Each message will have identifiers so that they will be easy to recognize at a glance. As a result, you’ll be able to see the sender, anyone who replied, and the dates of their interaction. There are five price tiers.
Essential plan. Here agents get options of predefined responses and translated interface. Contacts, ticket history, and contact forms enhance customer data management. The overview report shows the key data metrics.
Team plan differs from the Essential one by setting 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. 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 for web and mobile.
Professional plan adds to the Team set by adding SLA management, multilanguage placeholders in forms, CSAT, and follow-up surveys. Zendesk Explore powers the reporting. Also, this tier allows the integration of private apps. If needed, you can buy add-ons: multiple support request forms, light agents, or Pathfinder apps.
Enterprise plan. It strengthens the Professional toolset with skill-based routing and a free pathfinder app. This price tier supports multiple ticket forms, 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.
Elite plan. This price tier adds to the Enterprise 99.9% Uptime SLA, a disaster recovery program, and has only monthly billing.
Knowledge Base Solutions
Knowledge Base includes articles or documents that provide technical help to customers and your employees. It is like an online encyclopedia of support articles. 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 has Articles as a knowledge base solution 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.
Moreover, it also comes with a bot called Operator. The bot feeds customers and employees the right articles upon making a query. The main difference is its connectivity with the Intercom Team Inbox. This makes things faster for your team to access information without bothering other agents. Also, a feedback form can be found at the end of each article. The answers are analyzed to help streamline the AI and can also be collated into a report for your perusal.
Support customers (Inbox and Articles) has a twofold price: a base plan + a number of seats.
Essential plan. 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 message insights. Also, you can do CSV export.
Pro plan features strengthened by messenger visibility, Facebook and Twitter integration, automated conversation assignment, and lead qualification. Also, here are available assignment rules and permission, and statistical surveys.
Within the Premium plan, you can also set your branding and SLAs, have an advanced messenger, customized emails, custom bots, revenue, and sales performance reports.
Zendesk Suite includes such services as Support, Guide, Chat, and Talk.
The knowledge base called Guide is a powerful feature. What makes it different from other help desk is the Answer Bot. This is an AI assistant that will help anyone navigate Guide by providing results as you type your query. The bot also ensures that the customer or employee will find the right article before contacting an agent. Thus, it leaves your team to solve other important problems.
It also comes at two pricing tiers.
Professional plan. In the Support section, you get the email and social channels, web widgets, mobile SDK, reports and dashboards, and private custom apps and integrations. Then, the Guide section delivers a community with a collaboration forum, a knowledge base for agents, Knowledge Capture App, reports and dashboards, and multilingual content (if the Support price tier offers that.) Lastly, the 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.
Enterprise plan 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.
An old-fashioned yet effective way of reaching out to customers. Auto-generated emails can be timed to remind customers about your company. It’s a wonderful way to provide information condensed in an email. Use with caution though as mass emails can quickly turn into spam if you’re not careful.
Email marketing is available in Intercom. You can connect with your users via email. Later, you will be able to run basic email campaigns from newsletters, survey forms, product setup emails, and more.
Zendesk does not provide its customers with an email marketing option for the basic subscriptions at the time of writing. However, the add-on Customer Lists available for Professional and Enterprise subscriptions does have mass email options.
Call Center Tools
One study found that 67% of customers prefer calling an agent to help solve their query. Some help desk software provides call center tools as one of the communication channels for your customers.
Intercom offers call center features for your business via add-ons. Services such as CallHippo, Ozonetel, Toky, Aircall Now are just a few of many more add-ons in lieu of call center tools built into the help desk software.
The platform offers Zendesk Talk as its call center solution to keep up with other help desks. This feature is browser-based, so you don’t need additional software or hardware.
Feedback is important to a business. Therefore, to gauge if your chosen help desk is effective or not, you use analytics. In this case, each help desk has a unique way of generating reports such as scheduling, the scope of the analysis, and more. Yes, analytics in Zendesk vs Intercom has surprising results.
Analytics features Intercom has is done through add-ons such as Google Analytics, Statbot, Microsoft Teams, and more.
Formerly known as Insights, Zendesk now uses Explore to provide analytics to help businesses tailor their services to satisfy customers.
Pricing – Zendesk vs Intercom
Now, this is where the two diverge. The prices of the two software may be justified by the value-added services and minor features that they have for their all-in-one pricing. For example, for businesses that want just a couple of features, there are subscription packages. Each of such packages contains a set of features from basic packages to advance.
So, before you jump into any conclusions, let's look at all of the Intercom packages and try to find matching functionality in Zendesk plans to be sure that we compared all the possibilities that one could get once migrating 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. 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. 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, and Zendesk $49*5 = $245/mo and $153/mo for Connect what ends at $398/mo. Thus, the Connect toolset overruns the features offered in Intercom Messages Premium. Premium tier requires to contact Intercom for the price.
Intercom vs Zendesk Pricing in a Table
|Free Trial||14 days||30 days|
|Starting Prices||$ 49||$ 5|
|Basic Packages||$49/mo for 1 year (all features for select customers)||$5/mo per agent (annual billing)|
Free: Zendesk Chat Lite
|Subscription Packages||Zendesk Support|
|All-in-one Subscription||$136/mo for 2 Seats|
$49 flat rate per month for 1 year
|$109/mo for 1 seat|
As you can see, people may go for Zendesk over Intercom due to their subscription packages. While the Intercom platform gives a flat rate of $49 to help struggling or new customers, Zendesk offers two free packages that are enough for starting businesses on a budget. However, businesses may also like the number of packages that offer specific features that they may only need with their work operations. As for the Zendesk vs Intercom all-in-one subscription plan, Intercom offers a cheaper one compared to Zendesk. At $136/mo for 2 seats, it’s cheaper than Zendesk’s $109/mo per seat.
Reviews – Intercom vs Zendesk
Intercom and Zendesk are neck to neck in reviews from various sites such as G2, Capterra, Financesonline, and more. Therefore, they’re equal in almost every category.
As a rule, Intercom reviews are positive as many users praise the interface, the ease of use, and the deployment of the software. However, some users remarked that a developer is needed to properly install the software or run the risks of problems in the future. The Intercom Messenger, in particular, performs well compared to the Zendesk alternative.
Zendesk has strong positive reviews especially since the software has mobile apps for access. Though some complained that it’s not easy to check the tickets using the apps. Because it’s something they believe the developers should fine-tune. However, the most common complaint is the pricing of some features.
What's the Verdict?
Overall, 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.
Frequently Asked Questions
Zendesk stands out as a champion of customer support due to its easy-to-use work-frame, many useful add-ons, and features in all tiers.
You can integrate your Intercom and Zendesk accounts. So it will transmit the live data on the users and what they are doing in your app. You can convert the Intercom conversations into Zendesk tickets. This option is useful for those who are looking for a smooth switch from Zendesk to Intercom.
Sure, Intercom allows you to create articles and deliver a bot that answers customer questions with specific articles and resolves issues faster.
They have similar features, but Intercom has lots of features and tools that better integrate each other. However, Zendesk has more advanced support capabilities.
Yes, you can replace Zendesk with Intercom as both platforms have a rich set of features and integrations. Both platforms are targeting large enterprises.
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