Intercom vs. Zendesk: Which customer help desk is better?

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Running an e-commerce store and looking for the best live chat for support? Find out why we recommend these two in this Intercom vs. Zendesk comparison.

 
 
$39/user/mo - $139/user/mo
$25/user/mo - $149/user/mo
Any business that needs quick response and automated communications with team members
Medium to large businesses that need a robust and flexible customer service solution.
$39/user/mo - $139/user/mo
Any business that needs quick response and automated communications with team members
$25/user/mo - $149/user/mo
Medium to large businesses that need a robust and flexible customer service solution.

Afraid of getting 1-star ratings for your online store support service? Try Zendesk or Intercom live chat software.

Zendesk has the edge over Intercom with its all-rounded help desk, CRM, and live chat. However, don’t count Intercom out.

It focuses its live chat on SMEs, but how did we come to this verdict? Let’s find out in this Intercom vs. Zendesk comparison.

Olark vs. Zendesk at a Glance

CriteriaIntercomZendeskWinner
SMB Guide’s Rating7.8/108.6/10Zendesk
Real-Time Messaging and Canned ResponsesZendesk
Live Chat AI and NLPML to recognize intentNative “answer botIntercom
Customizable Chat WidgetsIntercom
Visitor Tracking and AnalyticsMulti-channel trackingMulti-channel trackingZendesk
Multichannel SupportZendesk
Multilingual SupportTie
Offline Messaging and AvailabilityLack specific response timesHave specific response timesZendesk
Handoff and Escalation to Human AgentsAutomated escalationAutomated escalationIntercom
Security and ComplianceZendesk
User Experience and User InterfaceModern and clean interfaceMany features make it look clutteredIntercom
Integrations and CompatibilityAPI for custom integrations100+ integrationsZendesk
Customer supportLive chat, phone, and emailLive chat, email, and phoneTie
Pricing$39/user/mo – $139/user/mo$25/user/mo – $149/user/moTie
ScalabilityZendesk

Intercom: Key Features, Pros, Cons, & Pricing

Intercom homepage

Intercom is a customer relationship platform that combines a help desk and AI chatbots for proactive support.

The platform aims to ensure customer inquiries get resolved without the need for human agents. 

One of its standout features is the help desk that links the shared inbox, tickets, and help center in an AI-enhanced workspace.

Consolidating all these features in a central spot helps maximize productivity.

Pros & Cons

Pros

14-day free trial

User-friendly interface

Powered by AI

All-in-one customer service solution

Cons

Slow customer service

Pricey adding additional features

Pricing

Intercom pricing is simple, offering 3 plans. The pricing is per seat, and like Zendesk, it lacks a free plan.

The good thing is that the packages have a 14-day free trial period, and teams can also request a demo.

Here are the packages:

  • Essential: $39 per seat monthly
  • Advanced: $99 per seat monthly
  • Expert: $139 per seat monthly

Zendesk: Key Features, Pros, Cons, & Pricing

Zendesk homepage

Zendesk is a well-known all-in-one customer service platform that provides businesses with CRM, a help desk, and live chat.

The platform features a unified workspace with powerful tools for collaboration, ticket management, and voice calling.

Besides that, Zendesk offers a native bot that delivers smart suggestions to agents when resolving customer inquiries.

Pros & Cons

Pros

30-day free trial

100+ integrations

Omnichannel support

Intelligent AI usage

Cons

No self-hosting

Only ticketing support provided

Pricing

Zendesk’s pricing model is simple, where service teams can pick from 4 plans. One thing to note is that the pricing is per gent.

Zendesk lacks a money-back guarantee, and like Intercom, it doesn’t offer a free plan. However, startups get a six-month trial period after application.

Here are the plans:

  • Suite Team: $69 per agent monthly or ($660 yearly)
  • Suite Growth: $115 per agent monthly or ($1068 annually)
  • Suite Professional: $149 per agent monthly or ($1380 annually)
  • Suite Enterprise: Custom

Real-Time Messaging and Canned Responses

Zendesk and Intercom provide an omnichannel communication messaging function. Agents can manage conversations from a centralized dashboard and track analytics.

Intercom positions itself as a CRP, and it delivers excellent message-based communications.

intercom custom actions

Its focus on sales and marketing ensures fast chat delivery in real-time with low latency issues. It also focuses on automation, offering advanced chatbot features to generate personalized engagements.

Zendesk provides a powerful messaging system that is highly available. It also has outstanding reporting that allows agents to analyze conversations at a granular level.

However, because of its holistic approach, it has delayed message delivery at peak usage hours.

zendesk real time messaging

With canned responses, Intercom focuses on simplicity. It allows agents to customize the canned responses by creating snippets or templates with formatting and images. 

Agents can also use dynamic variables to personalize the message with customer info, like name or email. It makes it ideal for sales and marketing alignment.

Zendesk, on the other hand, offers extensive canned response capability. Its Fin AI helps with automating responses for fast and accurate delivery.

Unlike Intercom, agents can categorize the responses, use macros, and create branching logic for various scenarios.

✅ Winner: Zendesk

Live Chat AI & NLP

Intercom uses ML to recognize intent and trains its chatbot with interactions. It also allows the chatbot to process complex chats through branching logic or handoff escalation to a human agent.

Intercom messenger

One thing to note is that chats that need in-depth context will require human intervention.

Intercom also responds to inquiries with pre-defined answers. The chatbots are dynamic and handle FAQs well and with accuracy.

Zendesk uses its native Answer bot and leverages NLP to analyze customer inquiries. It then goes on to generate responses from its in-depth knowledge base content. It allows the chatbots to handle more diverse inquiries, including troubleshooting steps or specific info.

It’s worth noting that Zendesk AI requires manual updates for improved effectiveness, unlike Intercom. It means that for complex inquiries, it routes them to human agents.

zendesk live chat ai

With bot customization, Intercom has an edge since it allows the personalization of greetings and branching logic.

Zendesk bots are rigid and only support the customization of basic responses.

✅ Winner: Intercom

Customizable Chat Widgets

Intercom offers extensive chat widget customization options, unlike Zendesk. Agents can tweak the font, chat window size and position, add logos, and change the theme color.

Not only that, but the Intercom also allows configuration of its functionality.

intercom chatbot

Agents can send offline messages and automated greetings, collect data, and create pre-chat forms and chat routing rules.

With the wide customization options and drag-and-drop editing tools, Intercom makes it easy to implement the modifications. It also allows businesses to align the customizations with their brand easily.

Zendesk offers a moderate customization option for the chat widget. Agents can tweak the theme color, add logos, and change the font.

zendesk customizable chat widgets

However, adjusting the size and position of the chat window has limitations. Zendesk also allows functionality configurations. For example, agents can send offline messages, automated greetings, and create simple pre-chat forms.

Unlike Intercom, Zendesk requires HTML and CSS coding skills to implement detailed customizations. However, the platform offers enough customization options to align the modifications with your brand.

✅ Winner: Intercom

Visitor Tracking and Analytics

Intercom focuses on user engagement and tracking metrics like form submissions, clicks, and more. It comes in handy when finding new leads and understanding visitor pain points.

Intercom also generates user profiles based on data from responses, browsing habits, and general interactions.

intercom analytics

The data makes it easy to create personalized support and targeted communication. However, unlike Zendesk, Intercom lacks granular reporting and analytics on metrics like session duration or page views.

Zendesk, on the other hand, provides general visitor tracking on user engagements. However, unlike Intercom, the software offers granular reporting on metrics like bounce rate, referral sources, time on site, and more.

zendesk analytics

The data gives accurate insights into visitor behavior and the best optimization opportunities.

Unlike Intercom, Zendesk also allows report customization on metrics relevant to business objectives. Not only that, Zendesk supports data segmentation based on custom-defined criteria.

It allows businesses to create targeted campaigns and provide a personalized experience to customers.

✅ Winner: Zendesk

Multichannel Support

Intercom integrates with various communication and analytics platforms but linking needs an API. Unlike Zendesk, the platform offers few pre-built integrations. 

Not only that, Intercom offers tools like an in-app messenger, product tours, and live chat. It helps streamline conversations across platforms from a single inbox.

Zendesk offers a broader range of pre-built integrations than Intercom, and setting them up is easier since Zendesk provides a library of guides.

The ticketing system on Zendesk is powerful, allowing agents to manage conversations from several channels. They include social media, email, phone calls, and web forms.

✅ Winner: Zendesk

Multilingual Support

Intercom supports over 30+ languages in the chat interface and in-app messenger. It allows agents to translate chats through Microsoft or Google Translate, enabling them to communicate with customers globally.

The best part is that the Intercom chatbot can detect language automatically and respond to inquiries accurately.

Zendesk supports over 40+ languages and provides more management features like the “Zendesk Language Support.” Through it, agents can create multilingual content like tickets, emails, and knowledge base content.

However, unlike Intercom, the live chat multilingual support on Zendesk depends on the subscribed plan. Since Zendesk relies on its ticket-based system, it struggles with complex non-English inquiries.

It makes it prone to poor accuracy and misinterpretation.

✅ Winner: Tie

Offline Messaging and Availability

Intercom offers an offline messaging feature where customers can leave their inquiries during offline hours.

However, the platform lacks an in-built display of the availability window. Not only that, agents have to configure offline and online status manually.

Intercom offline messaging

The good thing is that Intercom offers customizable automated replies to visitor inquiries, acknowledging message receipt.

Intercom also prioritizes real-time communication during business hours. Agents can also integrate custom chatbots to deliver responses around the clock.

Zendesk also provides offline messaging when agents are off. The platform also allows the creation of triggers based on keywords and phrases in offline messages.

zendesk offline messaging

Unlike Intercom, Zendesk allows custom operating hours to be set and displays estimated wait times in the live chat.

One thing to note is that the subscribed plan determines the level of features you can access. The good thing is that Zendesk is flexible in setting the availability of agents depending on the time zone or schedule.

✅ Winner: Zendesk

Handoff and Escalation to Human Agent

Intercom has a smoother transition process, offering pre-filled forms of customer info and their conversation history.

It also alerts the agents of an incoming handoff, which is handy in emergencies. The platforms also allow assigning agents based on their expertise and workload.

Intercom also edges Zendesk in context retention. It ensures that the data and chat transcripts get carried over during handoff for smooth intervention.

With the focus on real-time engagement and pre-filled agent forms, Intercom offers a quicker and more effective intervention.

Zendesk also provides a well-defined escalation. Depending on custom-defined rules, it allows the routing of conversations to specific agents. 

The platform also retains chat transcripts. However, accessing prior chats requires extra steps that can slow the resolution process.

Not only that, but dependence on the ticketing system can add complexities to responding to inquiries.

✅ Winner: Intercom

Security and Compliance

Intercom goes above and beyond with its security measures. It encrypts data at rest and in transit, including TLS 1.2.

It also allows role-based access and conducts security audits often. Not only that but in some regions, it provides data residency options and 2-factor authentication.

Intercom is also compliant with SOC 2, GDPR, and CCPA. One thing to note is that Intercom isn’t explicitly compliant with HIPAA.

Zendesk also employs security measures similar to those of Intercom. For example, it encrypts data at rest and in transit and offers multi-factor authentication.

Not only that, Zendesk is open about its practices, and it conducts security audits regularly.

Like Intercom, Zendesk complies with GDPR, CCPA, SOC 2, PCI DSS and HIPPA regulations. Not only that, Zendesk provides detailed resources for customers to understand their compliance.

With data retention policies, Intercom allows data retention policy customization depending on need.

Zendesk, on the other hand, offers more detailed control of the retention policies. Agents can set retention duration and specific data types.

✅ Winner: Zendesk

User Experience and User Interface

The intercom interface is modern, with ease of navigation from the dashboard. The platform also provides a wide range of customization options.

Intercom interface

For example, users can modify the chat widget and branding. However, tweaking the agent’s workspace has limitations compared to Zendesk.

The intercom interface is responsive to mobile devices, allowing agents and customers access remotely.

Zendesk provides a feature-rich interface. However, unlike Intercom, Zendesk has many features that make it look cluttered and can overwhelm users.

zendesk interface

Zendesk also offers extensive customization options. Users can tweak their workflows, brand, and user roles. It makes Zendesk offer better flexibility but requires configuration, which can consume time.

Zendesk is also responsive to mobile devices; users can access it on the go.

✅ Winner: Intercom

Integrations and Compatibility

Intercom integrates with systems like e-commerce, CRMs, communication, and analytics. It also provides a capable API for custom integrations and data scraping.

However, one thing to note is that custom integration requires tech skills.

Intercom integrations

Intercom also has pre-built integrations that users can connect and use in their workflows. However, there are fewer options than Zendesk. Something to note is that setting up the pre-built integrations is simple.

Zendesk provides an extensive integration stack of 1000+ pre-built and third-party systems. It also provides a marketplace where users can find any platform they need, including CRMs, communication, and more.

Zendesk integrations

Users will also find a capable API that they can use for custom integrations. However, like Intercom, it requires tech skills to use it. 

With pre-built integrations, the Zendesk stack is extensive, unlike Intercom. Connecting the integrations is also easy since the platform has detailed guides and documentation on the steps.

✅ Winner: Zendesk

Customer Support

Intercom provides 3 channels to reach customer service: email, live chat, and phone(higher plans). The support provided on Intercom is decent, with live chat providing fast response times.

Email and phone can take up to 3 hours to get a reply. The self-help resources offered by Intercom are also extensive, with a blog, help center, webinar, and vibrant community.

Zendesk channels for reaching support are also 3, including live chat, phone, and email. The response on Zendesk is average with email and phone, taking up to 2 hours.

Live chat is fast, with response times of less than 3 minutes. Zendesk also provides extensive self-help resources like a blog, a knowledge base, and a vibrant forum.

✅ Winner: Tie

Pricing

Intercom offers a user-based pricing model with 3 tiers. Each tier unlocks more features and increases user seats.

User-based pricing suits smaller teams because it doesn’t penalize agents. Intercom lacks an enterprise plan, and users must pick a package that matches their needs.

Zendesk offers tiered pricing with 4 plans based on services and features. The pricing is per agent, and the platform charges for add-on services. Its per-agent pricing suits larger teams with dedicated support since you pay for active agents.

Unlike Intercom, Zendesk provides an enterprise package with custom services for large enterprises. One thing to consider is that Zendesk plans have associated costs.

So, assess them before committing.

✅ Winner: Tie

Scalability

Intercom relies on the user-based pricing structure. It means that adding more users raises the cost, and if you exceed the plan cap services, you must upgrade.

On the other hand, Intercom lacks an enterprise package, which is limiting, unlike Zendesk.

Zendesk employs a rather complicated pricing model with tiers in each service. It means that scaling agents will require buying add-on services or upgrading tiers, which can be costly.

Unlike Intercom, Zendesk offers an enterprise package providing dedicated support teams along with custom services.

✅ Winner: Zendesk

Standout Features of Intercom

Besides its stellar AI-enhanced workspace and customizable chatbots, Intercom offers 2 features that make it unique. They include:

In-app messaging

Agents can integrate the Intercom interface on their mobile app or browser and start chatting through the in-app messenger.

It eliminates the back-and-forth of switching between platforms like live chat. The in-app messenger on Intercom is well-integrated, unlike Zendesk, which requires expert configurations.

Product tours

Agents can create custom product tours in-app for better customer experience when onboarding.

It is a handy feature that helps ease the learning curve, especially for first-time customers.

Standout Features of Zendesk

Zendesk excels as one of the best all-in-one customer service solutions. However, here are 2 features that make it stand out.

Powerful ticketing system

The ticketing system on Zendesk is feature-rich, unlike Intercom, which allows agents to create, assign, and categorize tickets.

Not only that, the platform offers granular reporting and analytics on performance and emerging trends.

Integration stack

Zendesk integrates with 1000+ platforms, unlike Intercom, which are pre-built and third-party.

Agents can also pick an application from the marketplace that can help improve their workflows.

Intercom vs. Zendesk: SMB Guide’s Verdict

Our Intercom vs. Zendesk comparison shows that both platforms share similarities in most of their services. However, depending on your business needs, one will offer more functionality than the other.

After thorough evaluation and testing, we picked Zendesk as the winner. Here is why:

Zendesk provides an all-in-one customer service platform with a powerful help desk, live chat, and CRM. Its ticketing system is its standout feature, where every submission automatically creates a ticket and gets queued.

The call center is another standout feature where agents can take or receive customer calls to solve inquiries. These and other services are the reason Zendesk wins.

Intercom is an excellent alternative offering proactive support through customizable chatbots and a help desk. Its In-app messenger and product tours are its unique selling points.

However, the lack of granular reporting and integration limitations make it lose.

Choose Intercom If:

You want a sales-focused help desk that uses chatbots for proactive support.

Choose Zendesk If:

You need an all-inclusive help desk to help fix complex customer service processes.

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Jessica Pereira helps SaaS and digital marketing brands build long-lasting customer relationships with meaningful content. Her favorite topics include career development, productivity, and email marketing.