If you want to jump around the article, use our table of contents to navigate between major sections.
Table of Contents
IntercomIntercom describes itself as a customer messaging platform. Based on the three products they offer (Messages, Inbox, and Articles), they can also be seen as a helpdesk software solution. Let’s discuss what each product does.
1. MessagesMessages is all about sending targeted, personalized messages to customers and receiving notifications whenever customers interact with your business. These notifications can also be triggered by time, so those who aren’t interacting with your business aren’t completely forgotten.
2. InboxInbox focuses on the organizational aspect of all those messages your business is sending and receiving. Users can assign, reply to, and close conversations across their entire website with Inbox. This includes in apps and social media. Intercom, essentially, is offering businesses an omnichannel approach to customers interested in reaching out with whatever channel they’re most comfortable with.
3. ArticlesArticles offers businesses a knowledge base for their customers interested in self-service customer support options. Articles can be created by support agents and can be accessed even on smartphones and tablets.
ZendeskZendesk offers seven different products for businesses interested in helpdesk CRM software (Here's our Beginner's Guide to Understanding Helpdesk Software) to choose from. We’re going to focus on four products that we (Zendesk Chat, Zendesk Message, Zendesk Inbox, and Zendesk Guide) consider to be the closest comparisons to what Intercom offers their customers. Let’s see what they do.
1. Zendesk ChatZendesk Chat is most comparable to Intercom’s Messages product. Zendesk Chat allows businesses to reach their customers instantly via web, mobile, and messaging. Live chat is not a unique feature in helpdesk CRM software by any means, but being able to chat with customers through channels like social media can personalize conversations to increase the overall customer experience.
2. Zendesk MessageZendesk Message is actually a part of Zendesk Chat. The two products can work simultaneously together for businesses interested in specifically using Facebook and Twitter for different live chat channels. Zendesk Message also offers businesses a chatbot that can automate mundane tasks that keep agents away from the more important matters.
3. Zendesk InboxZendesk Inbox, as you could probably guess, matches up closest with Intercom’s Inbox. Zendesk Inbox’s main focus is for businesses to have a single inbox that can be accessed anywhere and by any team member. This helps to keep emails organized so everyone on a team knows who’s talking to who and can join in if necessary.
4. Zendesk GuideZendesk Guide is Zendesk’s knowledge base solution that offers users easy access to articles for customers looking to take advantage of self-service options instead of dealing with agents. Zendesk uses a chatbot called Answer Bot to help customers navigate the knowledge base easier.
As You Can See…Both providers are very similar to each other in terms of what they offer. The differences come in the features they provide, what each company provides as a whole, and how they go about ensuring customers receive personalized and positive experiences every single time.
Intercom MessagesWe’re going to start with Intercom Messages. Messages, as we said, is meant for sending targeted, personalized messages to customers based on time passed or certain behaviors. Judging by their prices, businesses of any size can take advantage of the software.
|Messages Send targeted email, in-app and push messages to leads and customers Starting at $29/Mo||Monthly Active People||Essential||Pro|
|Up to 100 People||$29/Mo||$49/Mo|
|Over 10000 People?||Chat with Sales|
|Auto and Manual Messages||Yes||Yes|
|Clearbit Reveal Integrations||No||Yes|
|Custom Email Templates||No||Yes|
|Email Delivery Windows||No||Yes|
Zendesk Chat and MessageWe're comparing these two products versus Intercom’s Message because Zendesk Message is technically a part of Zendesk Chat. Here’s how Zendesk Message and Zendesk Chat compare:
Zendesk Chat Pricing
|$0||$14 Per Agent/Mo||$29 Per Agent/Mo||$59 Per Agent/Mo|
|1 Concurrent Chat||All Lite and...||All Team and...||All Professional and...|
|Chat Rating||Unlimited Chats||Unlimited Triggers||Widget Unbranding|
|30-day Chat History||2 Triggers||Unlimited Departments||Real-time Monitor|
|2 Departments||Operating Hours||Roles and Permissions|
|Zendesk Message||Chat and Agent Reports||Skills-based Routing|
|Widget Customization||Conversion Tracking||Web SDK|
|Public Apps||Private Apps (Requires Support)||24/7 Live Chat Support|
Zendesk Message Features
- Uses channels like Facebook and Twitter to bring more personalized chat and support experiences to customers.
- Offline messaging is available.
- Bots can be used to personalize interactions, handle simple tasks, and direct customers to agents if necessary.
- Team collaboration features allow agents to assign tasks to each other and resolve conversations to create more fluid workflows.
- Agents can also use rich media to give conversations a more personalized, visual aspect.
The Verdict: Intercom -We typically encourage users to buy products based on their own specific needs because the size of a provider’s features list doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll transfer over to your business’ strategy; however, if you’re a small business looking to improve your support team’s reliability and are looking to improve the overall customer experience through personalized messaging features, Intercom Messages is the smarter choice. Intercom has an extensive list of integrations and features businesses of any size can take advantage of. This includes enterprises. Businesses can A/B test messages to make sure they’ll perform effectively; businesses can gain valuable insights regarding their messages through customer feedback; businesses can integrate with Salesforce to take advantage of other customer data to further target customers; businesses can send automated messages based on time- and behavior-related triggers.
Intercom InboxIntercom Inbox helps Intercom users manage conversations with leads and customers in the business’ apps, inbox, and social media. Again, the focus is the customer experience and providing customers with an omnichannel support solution. Let’s look at how Intercom Inbox holds up in terms of price.
Intercom Inbox Pricing
|Inbox Manage, reply, and resolve conversations with leads and customers as a team Price per Seat $19/Mo *2 Seat Minimum||Priced On Seats||Essential||Pro|
|Each Additional Seat||$19/Mo||$39/Mo|
|More than 15 Seats?||Chat with Sales|
Intercom Inbox Features
|Notes & Mentions||Yes||Yes|
|Lead and Customer Profiles||Yes||Yes|
|iOS & Android App||Yes||Yes|
|Operator Lead Qualification||Yes||Yes|
|Round Robin Assignment||No||Yes|
Zendesk InboxNow it’s Zendesk’s turn in the hot seat. Similarly to Intercom Inbox, Zendesk’s product offers teams an inbox that can be accessed by anyone anywhere. It even uses a bot to help users navigate the software and send emails to customers automatically -- but how does it compare to Intercom Inbox?
Zendesk Inbox PricingAs it turns out, Zendesk Inbox is a very new Zendesk product still in its beta period. There’s no way of knowing if Zendesk’s features will be worth the price, but this doesn’t mean we can’t break down what the features are anyway. What matters most is that your business is choosing the provider with features that best fit your business’ needs.
Zendesk Inbox FeaturesSo let’s dive into features!
- Inline Notifications: Share information with your teammates by @mentioning them in your internal team notes. They’ll be notified via email or browser.
- Sort Emails: Assign an email to yourself or delegate to a team member.
- Omnichannel Support: Most products can work and integrate with each other to give users a more personalized experience.
- Chatbot Integration: Chat integration can help Zendesk users implement chatbot software in any of its products. A huge plus is that this is AI-backed.
- Insights and Analytics: Measure team’s performance. Prescriptive dashboards from the Zendesk Explore integration showcase the analyses that matter most for team operations and customer experience. Zendesk Explore enables anyone to create custom metrics, reports, and dashboards, and even perform data joins—without SQL.
Intercom ArticlesIntercom Articles, as we mentioned, is a knowledge base product for users interested in providing their customers with a self-service support option that will improve the customer experience while giving agents the freedom to handle more important issues that truly need an agent to work on. As with the other products, we’re going to first look at pricing.
Intercom Articles Pricing
|Articles Create and publish help content to a public knowledge base $49/Mo||Fixed Monthly Price|
|Unlimited Articles Included|
Intercom Articles Features
|Public Help Center
Accessible knowledge base with visually-appealing interface
|Smart Suggestions (Operator Bot)|
Feedback loops for improving content
Connect Articles and Inbox to scale support
|Smart Inbox Suggestions (Operator Bot)|
Zendesk GuideZendesk Guide is a powerful knowledge base product just like Intercom Articles. Users can take advantage of many of the same features Intercom offers. Zendesk understands how important self-service support options are, so let’s look at how much it costs users for these options, and what they are exactly.
Zendesk Guide Pricing
|$0 (Included with Zendesk Support)||$15 Per Agent/Mo||$29 Per Agent/Mo||$50/Mo|
|Knowledge Base||Lite, Plus...||Professional, Plus...||Add on Answer Bot to Guide Professional or Enterprise...|
|Support Request Form||Custom Themes||Team Publishing: Article lifecycle management, article update assignments, and publishing permissions||Automated Replies to Customers Using Knowledge Base Content|
|Google Analytics Reporting||Multilingual Content||Content Cues to Identify Knowledge Gaps|
|Agent Knowledge Base||Multiple Help Centers|
|Community Forums||Integrated Knowledge Capture Workflow|
|Customer Requests Portal|
|Knowledge Capture App|
Zendesk Guide Features
|Knowledge Base||Control Access|
|Rich Text Editor|
|Structured Content, Unlimited Articles|
|Lists and Labels|
|Restore Deleted Content|
|Available in 40+ Languages|
|Agent Efficiency||Knowledge Capture App|
|A Built-in Resource|
|Instant Customer Context|
|Self-service||Mobile Help Center|
|Embed Help Center Natively on Website with App or Widget|
|Contextual Help in Web Widget|
|Customer Portal||Request Form|
|Google Analytics Integration|
|Answer Bot Productivity Reporting|
Final Verdict: Intercom -After looking at all three products by Intercom and Zendesk, we’ve determined that Intercom is the best bet for small businesses interested in helpdesk and customer messaging software. Intercom is an overall cheaper option for small businesses because each product has a fixed price as opposed to Zendesk’s products, which are all priced per user. This allows businesses who wish to have all their members on the same page to be able to use Intercom collaboratively. This isn’t a make or break strategy by any means, but giving businesses the ability to work together and work from the same software improves the user experience which naturally improves the customer experience as well. Zendesk offers businesses tons of integrations, which are a huge help for making their software a much more powerful tool for businesses interested in giving their support teams a more seamless experience; however, those who don’t already have Zendesk products and are just starting out as a business would be taking on a significant initial cost that might be out of budget. Intercom’s products contain all the features an SMB would need for boosting the effectiveness of their messaging and helpdesk goals. Intercom even offers a Zendesk integration to help make up for the lack of features in comparison to Zendesk. Overall, Intercom has all the bases covered and users have to sacrifice very little.
|Significant Apps and Integrations|
|CRM Software||Yes (Salesforce, Zendesk, Marketo)||(Yes, Zoho, Infusionsoft, Capsule CRM, Nutshell, Agile CRM, Active Campaign, Base CRM, Pipedrive)|
|VoIP||Yes (RingCentral, JustCall, Toky, Aircall)||Yes (Nextiva, Five9, RingCentral, Dialpad, Mitel, Vonage, inContact)|
|Office 365||No, but offers Microsoft Teams||Yes|
Verdict: Zendesk -Zendesk comes out victorious for two significant reasons. The first is that Zendesk offers more helpdesk solutions than Intercom, who focuses mostly on customer messaging solutions. Zendesk, being a helpdesk CRM software provider, offers a much wider range of solutions that cover areas that Intercom doesn’t. One major example is reporting and analytics. Intercom lets businesses receive feedback from their customers, but that’s not enough. The second major deciding factor is the sheer number of apps and integrations Zendesk offers over Intercom. Intercom offers sixty-five integrations with other companies. Zendesk offers over 700 apps and integrations. Will businesses ever use all 700 apps and integrations? Of course not, but it does suggest that there is something out there for everyone. Intercom doesn’t seem to showcase any apps for their customers, but they do offer a Zapier integration that helps fill that void. The reason why this doesn’t even things out is that Zendesk has that too, meaning those 700 apps and integrations are actually over 1,000.
Operator BotOperator Bot is advertised as a powerful chatbot that can handle simple tasks; in reality, those simple tasks are actually much better than what they realize. Many chatbots aren’t capable of offering contextual, personalized experiences with customers, leading to frustration and distancing of the customer. Operator bot fixes this by perfecting the simple tasks. Some of these tasks include identifying and routing customers to support and sales agents. This seems simple, but it makes the world of a difference when you’re an existing customer who’s frustrated with a product, and the quick and easy solution can be found through a chatbot, but it won’t stop trying to sell you the product you already don’t like. Operator Bot can also qualify sales leads, asking people for their information, assigning leads to agents, and integrating them with Salesforce for future interactions. This is not something typical chatbots do. Operator Bot can be seen more as an assistant. This is also proven by Operator Bot’s ability to schedule sales meetings, answer users faster who are looking for help by directing them to knowledge base articles, close conversations properly so customers don’t feel like they’ve been ghosted, and ask for feedback by asking customers to rate the conversation. So just to reiterate, these are the features Operator Bot offers:
- Qualify Leads - Collect data and create leads in Salesforce
- Article Feedback - Collect feedback on articles
- Insights - Keep track of conversations with Operator Bot
- Smart Suggestions - Suggest support articles based on questions asked
- Collect Contact Info - Gather contact info so users can be notified of responses
- Team Availability - Show customers when teams are likely to reply
- Close Conversations - Close conversations to avoid ghosting customers
- Integrations - Get notified when GitHub conversations are resolved
- Conversation Ratings - Prompt leads and customers for feedback
Answer BotAnswer Bot is advertised to be more like a personal assistant than a chatbot for Zendesk Guide users. There are many similar features between the two chatbots, but there’s one significant difference between Answer Bot and Operator Bot: Machine learning technology. AI is a powerful tool many helpdesk CRM software providers are implementing in their products -- especially in their chatbots. AI, to be extremely brief, can scan unimaginable amounts of data at incredibly fast speeds, recognize patterns in the data based on previous interactions and behavior, and take advantage of natural language processing to handle more complicated tasks and respond to customers without sounding robotic. Zendesk outlines on their website what Answer Bot is capable of in a very easy-to-understand, step-by-step fashion, letting customers know exactly what they’re getting into. Let’s break down the steps Answer Bot takes when a customer reaches out with a question via email. Step 1: Answer Bot will scan the email to understand what the question is about. Step 2: Answer Bot will use its AI-powered software to suggest relevant articles to the customer. Step 3: The customer reviews the articles and determines whether or not their question was solved. If so, they mark it as answered. Step 4: If necessary, the question will be answered by an agent. Step 5: Answer Bot automatically collects feedback for future interactions.
Verdict: Operator Bot -If this verdict was based entirely on features, Answer Bot would get the win; however, we have to remain consistent with our verdicts and take pricing into consideration. In this case, Intercom’s Operator Bot gets the win. Let me explain… Operator Bot doesn’t use AI or advanced natural language processing tools, but it’s just as effective for SMBs at no additional cost. It works with Intercom’s Articles and Inbox software, whereas Zendesk’s Answer Bot works exclusively with Zendesk Guide. Answer Bot is also $50 per month. This alone makes it difficult for SMBs who are already paying a good amount of money for Zendesk Guide to commit to one of the important add-ons that make the service all the more powerful. There are other helpdesk CRM software providers that offer chatbots with their software. Intercom’s Operator Bot is the better bot overall.
IntercomIntercom offers users two slightly different mobility solutions. The first is called Intercom Mobile, where Intercom makes it easier for users to include Intercom’s customer messaging software on other apps. This means that customers who wish to use Intercom on their mobile app can do so and receive information on who their users are and how they use the app. Some features include onboarding and sending notifications. Intercom also offers an app of their own called Intercom Conversations, which is where users can access all their conversations and contacts from their mobile device. Here are some of the features included in the app:
- Team Inbox - View, manage, and respond to conversations
- Notes & Mentions - Keep agents informed behind the scenes
- Tagging - Group related people and conversations with tags for easier searching
- Real-time Messaging - Instant message delivery and see when users are typing
- Saved Replies - Canned, but personalized replies for similar questions
- Live Profiles - See visitor’s website activity, conversation history, and more
Zendesk Chat and MessageWith Zendesk Chat and Message, users can connect with their customers on a scalable app where agents can manage multiple profiles on one dashboard, get context on customer conversations, and transfer questions from your chatbot into Message. Users, like with Intercom, can use Zendesk Chat and Message on their own apps so users can communicate with their customers via Zendesk. This is possible through developer-friendly SDK. It only takes a couple lines of code. Verdict: Intercom - compared to Zendesk Chat and Message’s mobile app is better simply because of the team collaboration feature. For support teams, having agents on the same page is an absolute essential because if a customer works with two agents and receives two different answers, they’re not getting anything of value out of the experience.
Zendesk InboxZendesk Inbox, being that it’s still in beta-testing mode, doesn’t explicitly say that there is a mobile app, but judging by the pictures on the product page, Inbox will be accessible for users on their phones and tablets. If the pictures are accurate representations of what the app will look like, users are in for a pleasant surprise. These apps need to be visually appealing in order for users to really commit to them. Verdict: Intercom - Intercom, by default, wins. Zendesk Inbox focuses primarily on team collaboration tools, which is what gives Intercom such a competitive edge over Zendesk’s individual mobile apps, but there’s not enough information to make a valid conclusion on which one is better.
Zendesk GuideZendesk’s Knowledge Capture App is a great tool for businesses looking to improve their knowledge base on the go. Agents can help customers by finding articles while also flagging outdated ones that might lead to confusion. Themes for the knowledge base are pre-designed and mobile-friendly, which means users will have the same visually-appealing experience across all platforms. This is especially important for users who prefer to use mobile channels over others. Omnichannel experiences are a significant trend in 2018 for this exact reason. Verdict:
Intercom - Intercom wins again. The overall effectiveness of their mobile app doesn’t give Zendesk a chance. Granted, Zendesk Guide is a specific product with a mobile app catered to that product specifically. However, Intercom’s mobile app crosses over between its products more seamlessly, which is important for users who use one or more of their products. I can have a cheeseburger.
Although Intercom has a powerful mobile app that works seamlessly between each of its products, the edge goes to Zendesk for being able to offer customers a mobile app for each individual product. When compared side-by-side, Intercom wins out because it offers more features than the more specific Zendesk mobile apps. At the end of the day, customers have to have access to apps that are catered specifically to their needs, which gives Zendesk the upper hand.
IntercomIntercom has a variety of tools for users who wish to contact them. They offer a live chat tool for users where agents will determine how big of an issue a user has. Right on their menu, they offer customers a resource tab with all the channels customers can choose from. Let’s look at the resources tab more closely. Users can choose from the following channels:
- Blog - Latest articles on sales, marketing, product management, startups, and more.
- Customers - See how customers are using Intercom
- Help Center - Learn how to install, configure, and use Intercom
- Product Tours - Learn best practices for using Intercom
- Books and Guides - Insights on customer support, marketing, and product management
- Developers - Use APIs to connect Intercom with other services
- Webinars - Industry insights and best practice advice on customer engagement and support
ZendeskZendesk has another vast resources tab for its users who wish to learn more about how to best use Zendesk. There are popular articles about the most recent business trends and about what Zendesk is currently up to, there are multiple support channels for users, and a services page focused entirely on improving the customer experience. Let’s look at the channels Zendesk offers customers.
- Knowledge Base and Self-service - Filtered by type. Ex. Infographic, Video, Infographic, Whitepaper, Webinar, Guide, Report, and Interactive eBook
- Product Support - Users can find what’s happening and product updates
- Request a Demo - Schedule a demo to familiarize yourself with Zendesk
- Library - Like a blog or archive for all things helpdesk CRM software
- Blog - Very similar to the library. It’s filled with CRM software-related and Zendesk-related articles
- Training - Acquire valuable training and certification to use enterprise-level products
- Services & Partners - For those interested in becoming a partner
- Relate by Zendesk - Blog for the Relate by Zendesk conference
- Customer Story - Blog about how Zendesk customers use the software
- Services - Focuses on customer experience, customer success, and customer service
Zendesk -Zendesk wins overwhelmingly. There are tons of blogs for all topics related to helpdesk CRM software and business software trends. Intercom’s support service is more focused on the product itself, which is good because simplicity is typically a good thing versus getting lost in a sea of information. However, Zendesk breaks down all their information in an extremely accessible way so anyone can find exactly what they’re looking for. Blogs can be filtered to show only articles that are related to exactly what you want; there are multiple pages where customers can simply call Zendesk or even stop by their headquarters if they’re in San Francisco. Intercom does not offer the best omnichannel customer support experience for its customers. As far as we can tell, everyone is required to first use their live chat software to determine whether or not the inquiry is worthy of speaking to an agent about. This is great for Intercom because they can give their agents the freedom to focus only on the bigger issues at hand, but this can alienate those who wish to call them and save time. Zendesk is a much bigger company than Intercom in terms of products offered, so they need to be accessible in order to practice what they preach. By offering their customers multiple channels to choose from to reach out, their customers are more likely to reach out for help knowing they can do so in the way that they’re most comfortable with instead of trying to figure it out on their own and not quite getting it. Zendesk even offers training and a demo so users can get a taste of what they’re getting into before diving in. Intercom offers a free trial, but the hands-on training is much more effective. Some helpdesk CRM providers even require training to ensure their customers are using the software to the best of their ability.
Let's look one more time at the main features Intercom and Zendesk offer, so we can leave you with the product that ultimately fits your business' needs the best.
- In-app Messaging
- Operator Bot
- Intercom for Mobile
- iOS & Android Apps
- Ticketing System
- Knowledge Base
- Community Forums
- Helpdesk Software
- Tech Specs