IT departments can respond to customer and employee requests faster and in more helpful detail—without the hassle of convoluted ticketing—when they're working within a fast, efficient help desk solution. Freshdesk and Zendesk are two of the most comprehensive help desks out there, but not all help desks are created equal. Freshdesk already came out on top in a head-to-head comparison against Spiceworks, but Zendesk is much stiffer competition. Both are affordable software solutions for small to midsize businesses (SMBs) that offer custom forms and reporting, a deep knowledge base, and various ticketing options and integrations. However, each one has clear strengths that may render it a better fit for your business. Below, we stack up the key features, strengths, and weaknesses of Freshdesk and Zendesk.
Business Plans and Pricing
For its basic Essential plan, Zendesk begins at just $5 per agent per month (billed annually) or $9 per agent per month (billed monthly). This entry-level plan gets you unlimited email and social channels, a basic knowledge base, a Web widget and mobile software development kit (SDK), and predefined responses or macros for up to five agents or users.
- Zendesk's Team plan, which begins at $19 per month, ups that to 10 users and adds a branded help center, customer portal, business rules, performance dashboards, and a public apps marketplace.
- Then there's the Zendesk Professional plan, which begins at $49 per month, and includes community forums, multilingual content, and analytics.
- Finally, Zendesk's Enterprise plan, which begins at $99 per month, includes custom agent roles, added forms, and controls.
- Both the Professional and Enterprise plans include unlimited users and a free trial (which the lower-priced tiers don't offer). Zendesk also makes you pay for voice calling and for live chat capabilities for more than one agent.
Freshdesk offers a free 30-day trial and includes four different tiers priced at flat rates on a per-agent basis (billed annually). Freshdesk's Blossom tier costs $16 per agent per month, and offers social support channels, community forums, and a gaming mechanic.
- For $25 per agent per month, Freshdesk's Garden tier adds live chat, and multiple products and locations.
- Following this is the $40 per agent per month Estate tier that offers enterprise reports, portal customization, and custom agent roles.
- Freshdesk's $70 per agent per month Forest tier adds IP whitelisting and custom email servers.
- Freshdesk offers 24/7 email support and access to its knowledge base at no extra cost.
Zendesk's pricings structure starts out lower but its pricing scales up faster than does Freshdesk. Plus, itemizing a core feature such as live chat as a separate service makes it less cost-effective than Freshdesk (which includes live chat with every tier but its most basic one). Edge: Freshdesk
Freshdesk's tickets are simple to generate and manage, and can be assigned to individual agents or in bulk. Freshdesk also includes unlimited email ticketing, a dedicated call center, private note functionality on tickets, a rich text editor, and what the company calls "agent collision detection" integrated with team inboxes to prevent IT overlap on a ticket.
Additional features in Freshdesk include in-ticket contextual customer information, smart suggestions for IT solutions, and ticket merging over multiple channels. Freshdesk also offers a long list of integrations, and can reply to commonly asked customer questions on incoming tickets with automated responses written by IT. These automated responses provide the relevant information and IT saves time by keeping the most common types of tickets off of the IT department's plate.
Zendesk's ticketing interface combines all email, phone call, live chat, help center search, and social media support questions in a single view. The interface highlights conversations in need of attention, indicates which support agents are handling what tickets, and allows agents to service multiple requests at the same time. The interface does all this while surfacing relevant information from a large marketplace of integrated apps and services including JIRA Service Desk.
Zendesk also tracks all of the ticketing data to provide productivity analytics on individual employees and teams. Zendesk also uses customized, editable ticket views with notes functionality. There are also automated tools called Triggers, which implement business rules to streamline workflows regarding when tickets are opened and solved (in common or custom-use cases).
Both Freshdesk and Zendesk have comprehensive ticketing features including clear workflow management, automated processes, and customization options. It's a dead heat. Edge: Even
To ITIL or Not to ITIL?
The most polarizing line of demarcation among help desk software solutions is whether or not a service adheres to the Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL), a set of guidelines for "best practice" IT services management. ITIL is published as a series of five volumes, each of which covers a different stage of the IT service management lifecycle: service strategy, service design, service transition, service operation, and continual service improvement.
The difference here is simple: Freshdesk supports ITIL and Zendesk does not. The more complex question you need to answer is whether or not your business should care. Larger enterprises that need to worry about service-level agreements (SLAs) and penalties should opt for Freshdesk, which has the ITIL-aligned change management capabilities.
ITIL can be limiting, though. It doesn't pertain to customer service requests sent via social media, a medium that Zendesk (free from ITIL support) fully services as another customer support stream. Freshdesk includes social network ticketing as well but not to the same intuitive degree in terms of back-and-forth within a social network that's fully integrated into the platform. ITIL is important for many businesses but, in the larger scheme of things (with social media an ever-growing component of customer support), most help desks would be better served without the constraints of ITIL. Edge: Zendesk
Interface and Knowledge Base
Freshdesk's knowledge base includes FAQs, technical documentation, product tutorials, and tips, and it automatically displays knowledge base suggestions when customers create a ticket. Freshdesk's knowledge base also includes GIF embed functionality to make a knowledge base article a bit more fun. As for the employee interface and the user portal, Freshdesk offers a feature-packed, easily navigable, and almost completely customizable user interface (UI). It includes a Help Desk Rebranding Settings page with options for customizing logos and URLs. The page also offers branding customization that includes the hexadecimal color choice for headers, tabs, and backgrounds. Freshdesk's dashboard is also gamified with Freshdesk Arcade, a productivity-boosting system that uses "quests," badges, and points to encourage swift and accurate ticket resolution.
Zendesk approaches its knowledge base with a bit more customizability, allowing a business to create its own Self-Service Community that includes a knowledge base, community forums, and customer portal with 24/7 support. However, only the Professional and Enterprise plans offer round-the-clock email, phone, and chat support. The Essential and Team plans also don't give employees access to the internal knowledge base. The Self-Service Community is available via the Web, mobile devices, and Facebook and Twitter.
Zendesk's UI can be customized with themes and design to match your company's brand, and it also includes a performance dashboard with gamified principles. The UI is simple but its views allow agents to easily see all recently added or unsolved tickets, with customizable preferences. It also displays information such as ticket expiration time. This is one area in which Zendesk is a bit more user-friendly than Freshdesk.
Freshdesk's UI and knowledge base leave nothing to be desired from a functionality perspective, but Zendesk gives you a bit more in terms of customization on both fronts. Edge: Zendesk
Freshdesk puts a strong emphasis on security features including IP whitelisting and custom email server options available at its most expensive tier. Every Freshdesk account also comes with custom SSL-encrypted server protection. There is also an array of reporting options and analytics including customer satisfaction surveys and 16 different types of reports tracking metrics. Metrics offered include ticket response and resolve time, load analysis, top agent performance, and team productivity comparisons. However, one thing Freshdesk lacks that Zendesk offers is built-in asset management.
Zendesk also offers a variety of analytics tools including data synchronization and custom insight reports for its top two pricing tiers, and Google Analytics for Help Center integration in all plans except the basic. Zendesk also offers Zendesk Benchmark to all plans, which is a service for measuring customer satisfaction for your business and your competitors.
In terms of security, Zendesk also offers SSL encryption along with agent device management, two-factor authentication (2FA), and some higher-level features for the more expensive plans (such as audit logs, a sandbox test environment, and business rules analysis). Zendesk is no slouch but Freshdesk's security and reporting capabilities are a bit more robust. Edge: Freshdesk
Zendesk has the wider popularity and the edge in UI usability and customizability. However, its pricing tiers and separate live chat subscription make it less affordable for businesses that are looking for key features at a lower price point. Zendesk's social ticketing component and asset management functionality shouldn't be overlooked, though. If your business doesn't need ITIL compliance, it may be the better fit for your organization. Both of these services are capable platforms on which to build your company's help desk department, but Freshdesk's edges in pricing, ticket management, reporting, and security make it our pick in this heads-up help desk software comparison for SMBs. Recommendation: Freshdesk