Best Help Desk Software (2020): Reviews & Pricing
Introduction to help desk
Customer satisfaction has always been a key ingredient in any business’s success. But in today’s hyper-competitive environment, providing an elevated customer experience is absolutely critical. Brand image, revenue, and retention are all riding on your ability to make users feel like they’re valued.
Help desk software has risen to fill this need.
What is it, and how does it work? Simply put, it’s an interface for customers to easily get in touch with you when they need to. When customers have a question, service request, or problem, they can contact you via the help desk and get their issue resolved quickly.
A help desk system streamlines customer-facing interactions by converting inquiries into ‘tickets’ and automating information retrieval tasks. It allows you to keep a single, unified record of customer interactions across all communication channels.
The market for help desk software has expanded rapidly in recent years, as more small and midsize businesses adopt SaaS digital tools for customer success. Statistics show that by 2023, the help desk industry will reach $11 billion USD; that’s a whopping 33% in projected growth over the 2017-2023 period.
Help desk features come in many packages—sometimes they are integrated into a service CRM and sometimes they are offered in a standalone product.
Here’s our list of the top help desk solutions.
15 best help desk software (2020)
Zendesk is well known for its pioneering help desk software, including Zendesk Support. The platform feeds incoming inquiries from customers via email, tweets, chat, and social channels into one place, speeding your ability to respond and making your business smarter.
By flagging conversations that need attention and lining up tickets intelligently, Zendesk allows agents to knock them down in just the right order. Records are tracked until the issue is resolved, and issues can be organized by type. There’s robust team collaboration tools, well-developed reporting and analytics tools, dynamic request forms and built-in SLA management too.
Somewhat pricey. Ticket response time metrics cannot be customized to incorporate business hours and holidays, which can lead to skewed data.
Essential plan is $5 per user/per month, billed annually
Team plan is $19 per user/per month, billed annually
Professional plan is $49 per user/per month, billed annually
Enterprise plan is $99 per user/per month, billed annually
Elite plan is $199 per user/per month, billed annually
Zendesk offers a free trial with the Professional plan.
Front is a customer service software that seeks to personalize the help desk experience and align your team communications. The platform allows you to effectively manage a high volume of email, support tickets, live chat, and SMS inquiries via a single collaborative inbox.
Set reminders, save canned responses, share draft responses with team members and collaborate in real-time for better results. Integration with Salesforce and other CRM platforms enhances your customer data. Analytics tools track metrics like individual agent performance and ticket resolution time.
Customization options are limited. Users have reported the platform can be laggy and/or buggy from time to time.
Starter plan is $9 per user/per month billed annually, and $12 per user/per month billed monthly
Plus plan is $24 per user/per month billed annually, and $29 per user/per month billed monthly
Pro plan is $39 per user/per month billed annually, and $49 per user/per month billed monthly
Enterprise plan is $79 per user/per month billed annually, and $99 per user/per month billed monthly
A 14-day free trial is available for all plans; no credit card is required.
3. Help Scout
Conversational customer support software with knowledge base, reporting, and messaging tools. Eschews the conventional help desk ticketing system for an airy, personalized messaging format.
User contact information, transcripts of earlier conversations, and data and activity from other apps display on the sidebar, making it easy to gain access to the right contextual info. You can collaborate with other team members on a case by tagging them; this sends them a notification and brings them into a conversation.
Knowledge base tools allow you to seamlessly embed docs into your web pages, and create ‘Instant Answers’ with the Beacon widget. It’s easy to build a help center website, and SSL is automatically built into anything you make with Help Scout.
Reporting features are not as robust as many competing help desk apps.
Basic plan is $10 per user/per month billed annually, and $15 per user/per month billed monthly
Standard plan is $20 per user/per month billed annually, and $25 per user/per month billed monthly
Plus plan is $35 per user/per month billed annually, and $40 per user/per month billed monthly
Company plan is priced in consultation with the vendor
A free 15-day trial is available for the Basic, Standard, and Plus plans.
Multichannel, all-in-one help desk support solution. Automates repetitive tasks and improves your response and issue resolution times. Status updates indicate which tickets are the highest priority, while canned responses allow you to quickly send out predefined, experience-honed messages.
Features a ticket heatmap, ticket satisfaction metrics, and reports on first response times.
It’s a relatively new app, just launched in 2019, so the features list is somewhat limited (although the vendor is adding new ones all the time).
Starter plan is $4 per user/per month billed annually, and $5 per user/per month billed monthly
Team plan is $19 per user/per month billed annually, and $24 per user/per month billed monthly
Enterprise plan is priced in consultation with the vendor
A 14-day free trial is available for the Team plan; no credit card required.
5. Teamwork Desk
Mutichannel, user-friendly service desk and support desk platform. Set priorities to tickets, build triggers and canned responses and optimize your team’s response to customer issues with ticket allocation, real-time performance monitoring, and collaborative task management.
Teamwork Desk’s customer support gets high marks for availability and quality of service.
First response time and ticket resolution statistics do not take into account your business hours, which can lead to misleading agent performance metrics.
Free forever plan is free for up to 5 users
Pro plan (minimum 5 users) is $9 per user/per month billed annually, and $11.25 per user/per month billed monthly
Premium plan (minimum 5 users) is $15 per user/per month billed annually, and $18.75 per user/per month billed monthly
Enterprise plan is priced in consultation with the vendor
6. Agile CRM
Agile CRM offers helpdesk ticketing features as part of its comprehensive suite of sales, marketing, and service tools. Customer ticketing for support teams offers feedback forms, knowledge databases, and customer segmentation tools. Performance analytics can track SLA violations and agent resolution times to ensure a high quality of service.
Customization options are limited. If you upgrade from free to the Starter plan, the price jump is very reasonable, but if you scale up again to Regular, you’ll find yourself paying over 3x more per user. This creates a significant financial obstacle for using the platform as your business scales.
Free version available for up to 10 users
Starter version is $8.99 per user/per month (billed every two years)
Regular version is $29.99 per user/per month (billed every two years)
Enterprise version is $47.99 per user/per month (billed every two years)
7. Vision Helpdesk
Converts emails, incoming voice calls, social media chat, and customer requests via web form into tickets, allowing you to manage service and support from one platform. Powerful automation tools for SLA, escalation, workflow, and macros for multiple ticket operations (change of status, department routing, and more).
Vision Helpdesk provides a private collaboration tool for team members to support one another on cases and share files, as well as in-depth task management for better productivity. Set up achievement levels and ‘quests’ to gamify your work and promote friendly intra-team competition.
Vision Helpdesk’s Android and iOS mobile apps are kind of clunky. Its user interface is also somewhat dated and could use a refresh.
Starter Help Desk plan is $12 per user/per month billed annually, and $15 per user/per month billed monthly
Pro Help Desk plan is $20 per user/per month billed annually, and $25 per user/per month billed monthly
Satellite Help Desk plan is $24 per user/per month billed annually, and $30 per user/per month billed monthly
Pro Service Desk plan is $32 per user/per month billed annually, and $40 per user/per month billed monthly
Ent Service Desk plan is $48 per user/per month billed annually, and $60 per user/per month billed monthly
A full-featured 30-day free trial is available; no credit card is required.
Inbound tickets from every channel are unified for whole-team use, which helps to balance rep workload. Intelligent ticketing learns which rep is best suited to deal with each issue. Every ticket has rich contact profiles and histories of past service requests.
There are automation features for sending responses to customers, like auto-suggested solutions for common problems, and customers can search within a unified knowledge base. Reporting tools can track everything from customer satisfaction to service rep performance.
Freshdesk integrates with Freshservice, Freshsales, and all the other products in the vendor’s well-developed business management ecosystem.
Customization options are limited. When you close a ticket, the customer will receive a notification; sometimes said customer will kindly tag you back with a “thank you,” which unfortunately will automatically re-open the ticket.
Sprout is a free plan
Blossom plan is $15 per user/per month, billed annually
Garden plan is $29 per user/per month, billed annually
Estate plan is $49 per user/per month, billed annually
Forrest plan is $10 per user/per month, billed annually
Freshdesk offers a 21-day free trial on the Estate plan.
Designed to work ‘out-of-the-box,’ with minimal implementation time. Kayako aggregates incoming issues from email and social media as well as through its live chat module. Features a self-service help center, as well as canned responses for easy in-depth replies to well-worn inquiries.
You can invite team members to help with tickets and add internal notes. With smart business rules, you can streamline workflows, particularly with reminders. There are customer satisfaction ratings, team analytics and a variety of reporting options.
When you reply to a ticket generated by email, the text from the original email thread is not included (it has to be copied and pasted in), which may annoy some users. The search feature is also not the most robust.
Inbox plan is $15 per user/per month, billed annually
Growth plan is $30 per user/per month, billed annually
Scale plan is $60 per user/per month, billed annually
Enterprise plan starts at $100 per user/per month, billed annually
Kayako offers a 14-day free trial on any plan.
Full-fledged CRM with help desk and contact center features. Bitrix24 allows you to manage incoming service and support issues from live chats, emails, phone calls, social media and messenger apps in one place. It’s easy to monitor tickets based on priority, status and SLA details.
There are simple auto-reply features to offer customers basic information with custom-canned answers. Open tickets and conversations can be routed to specific agents, shared between team members, or transferred during the resolution process.
The UI looks great, but can be confusing to navigate across the platform’s various modules. Platform customization options are limited, and might not be sufficient for super niche business applications. Users have noted the app can occasionally get a bit laggy.
Free starter business tool suite for up to 12 users
CRM+ plan for up to 6 users is $55 per user/per month billed annually, and $69 per user/per month billed monthly
Project+ plan for up to 24 users is $55 per user/per month billed annually, and $69 per user/per month billed monthly
Standard plan for up to 50 users is $79 per user/per month billed annually, and $99 per user/per month
Professional plan is $159 per user/per month billed annually, and $199 per user/per month for an unlimited number of users
The prices above are for the cloud-based version. On-premise solutions are also available
11. Zoho Desk
Zoho desk is a multichannel, multibrand, and multi-department help desk for managing email, social media, live chat, telephony, and web forms. Deep analytical and reporting features and easy setup of different SLA and workflow rules across channels. Features a contextual AI assistant called Zia, which can be trained with the included Skill Builder interface to assist customers, predict anomalies, detect trending ticket tags, and track customer sentiment.
Fully integrated with Zoho CRM, allowing sales, support, and service teams to share information with full transparency. Zoho desk is priced below many competitors, making it attractive for budget-conscious small businesses.
Great minimalist UI, but this means accessing more in-depth information requires extra clicks, which can be time-consuming.
Free version for up to three agents
Standard version is $12 per user/per month billed annually, and $18 per user/per month billed monthly
Professional version is $20 per user/per month billed annually, and $30 per user/per month billed monthly
Enterprise version is $35 per user/per month billed annually, and $45 per user/per month billed monthly
A 15-day free trial is available for all plans; no credit card required.
Contemporary help desk tool with minimalist, AI-powered interface. Machine learning uses natural language understanding (NLU) to understand intent without contextual cues and uses human-in-the-loop process to train itself as you resolve tickets over time. Self-service AI uses knowledge base resources to answer familiar questions via chatbot and allows you to intelligently route and resolve service requests.
Attach links and files to your responses, and turn successful case resolutions into knowledge base entries with a single click.
Relatively new vendor, so some features are not fully developed just yet, and integrations are limited. Pricing structure puts the app out of reach of many small businesses.
Standard plan is $4 per user/per month billed annually
Plus plan is $6 per user/per month billed annually
Enterprise plan is priced in consultation with vendor
The minimum annual contract commitment is $7,200 (includes support for 150 employees in Standard plan, and 100 employees in Plus).
ThinkOwl is a Multichannel help desk software aimed at unifying team processes and customer messages for better dialogues, and better productivity and service results. Trigger service processes from email, train chatbots through your interactions with users, customer self-service portal, and smartphone app for exchanging messages and documents on-the-go.
ThinkOwl features AI-powered tools for case assignment, search and recall of relevant customer and case data, event triggers and recommended responses based on case context.
Product documentation could be better. As it stands, the lack of easy access to in-depth product information could be a potential obstacle to implementation.
Silver plan for small support teams is $16 per user/per month billed annually, and $19 per user/per month billed monthly
Gold plan for growing support teams is $42 per user/per month billed annually, and $49 per user/per month billed monthly
Platinum plan designed for larger businesses is $79 per user/per month billed annually, and $89 per user/per month billed monthly
Diamond plan for advanced, custom needs is $129 per user/per month billed annually, and $149 per user/per month billed monthly
Help desk solution targeting SMBs, ecommerce businesses, managed service providers, schools, and nonprofits. Deal with email, social, voice, and chat channels from one platform, and use automation for rules and workflows to cut down on menial tasks. Integrates with Facebook and Twitter.
There will be a moderate learning curve to grasp the full extent of platform features. Cayzu does not offer community forums for troubleshooting or sharing product experiences.
Basic plan is $4 per user/per month, billed annually
Team plan is $9 per user/per month, billed annually
Pro plan is $19 per user/per month, billed annually
Enterprise plan is $29 per user/per month, billed annually
Enterprise Plus plan is $39 per user/per month, billed annually
Freedom plan for up to 70 agents is $469 per month, billed annually
A full-featured free trial is available. Plan pricing is variable; larger teams are eligible for discounted rates per user.
Service desk software for ticketing management, knowledge base, and IT asset management. Easy collaboration tools allow you to add additional agents to the same ticket. Ticket tracking, actions, and status information, and user profiles provide full visibility on support and service processes.
Asset ticket management and inventory management features allow you to keep track of customer inventory in-app, link specific inventory to ticket issues, and create custom data fields.
Multi-language support and reasonable, straightforward pricing earn the app extra points.
Works on any mobile device with an internet browser as a web app, but this makes for an overall clunky experience, with no push notifications. The color scheme is kind of bland and unfortunately cannot be customized.
Free limited access plan for 1 agent is available
3 Agents plan is $57 per month, billed monthly
6 Agents plan is $114 per month, billed monthly
9 Agents plan is $171 per month, billed monthly
12 Agents plan is $228 per month, billed monthly
A 30-day free trial is available for all plans. All paid plans have unlimited access to all features.
Benefits of using help desk software
Better customer relationships
Customers today look for consistent interactions with a business across all channels; they also want issues resolved on first contact. Help desk software makes it possible to build up specialized customer knowledge and apply best practices for each individual case, speeding resolution time and building loyalty. Customers won’t have to repeat their story to different agents either, which helps to make them feel more valued.
Efficiently manage support tickets
A ticket management system turns multichannel customer inquiries into standardized tickets, allowing service and support agents to deal with them efficiently from one unified platform. Many platforms can now intelligently filter tickets by category, urgency, and impact, and link repeat issues to your knowledge base.
Customer data can be turned into detailed and on-the-fly analytical reports, so you can see which strategies are working and which need work. This big picture visibility allows you to redirect resources toward the right areas, and identify and anticipate problems so they can be resolved. Data gathered by service and support departments can also prove invaluable for marketing and sales.
Key features of help desk software
Knowledge base functionality allows you to create a body of searchable, siloed information that’s accessible both externally, for customers, and internally, for team members. This lets users do ‘self-service’ and quickly find the answers to their questions on their own, cutting down the volume of help desk tickets (and thus human agent hours spent on answering FAQs).
Ticket automation & management
Help desk software uses a ticketing system to manage cases with service and support agents, and allow easy sharing of information with other team members. Ticket tracking allows you full visibility on ticket status, including a position in the queue, which agent is assigned to what ticket, plus a record of the contents of the conversation between a customer and team member for review and learning.
Ticket templates let you insert pre-built forms into your help desk and make them visible to customers, so they can set a “problem report” or “feature request.” Customize ticket design and insert template text to prompt the user’s response in the text field.
Customizable ticket statuses allow you to further define and manage the lifecycle of your service and support process. For example, you can create ticket statuses like “waiting for customer response” and “processing,” and set different status titles to display internally and to customers.
Ticketing automation uses triggers to direct inquiries to the right department or team member, so the most knowledgable person gets put on the case for the quickest and best result.
SLA (Service Level Agreement)
Easily create, edit, and clone service agreements for customers at different service levels, and set terms aligned to your business goals. Boost transparency by clearly laying out response times and service expectations, track high-priority issues by SLA, and boost efficiencies by tracking SLA metrics like time spent on support with individual clients and on various ticket types.
Help desk software typically integrates with CRM and other digital tools like project management software and survey apps, and call center software with an API connection. This allows them to slot into your existing workflow with ease and shares information for more detailed contact lists, reports, and analytics.
Reporting features allow you to monitor information on ticket inflow and issue resolution, team member performance, and a host of other metrics. You can also segment customers and issues by type and build personalized reports with custom fields.
Why you need help desk software
Bad customer service costs American companies something like $62 billion in business every year. If you don't want to be a part of that statistic, you're going to need help desk software of some description.
Fortunately, there are many options out there, and comparison shopping can be cost-free. Get going on a free trial with one of the above vendors, and see which platform might work best for your business!