This review is very positive about Freshdesk. But if you are planning to use Freshdesk in conjunction with a forum (bbPress in our case, fully integrated with WordPress),
you should be very aware of a huge limitation in Freshdesk: it doesn’t respect the Reply-To address. Helpscout is no better.
Update 1 December 2013: Freshdesk has fixed the Reply-To Address and we’ve been able to fix our incoming forms to use reply-to, making our work a lot easier.
Update 25 April 2014: I’ve recently reviewed Freshdesk’s new Freshfone feature, including extensively testing Freshfone call quality.
As many of you know, we’ve moved from selling just services to also selling product (FV Flowplayer, the most feature rich and intuitive HTML 5 video player for WordPress). For services, every clients gets his or her own TeamworkPM project with messages, task lists, milestones. But that kind of overkill doesn’t make sense for purchased product where many people won’t need support and many people will just need one or two requests answered.
Part of preparing support was improving our very active forums. But in addition to the forums for free support, with a paid product we needed an efficient help desk solution. We didn’t want our customers to feel that they were in a help desk: the personal feel is very important to us. Support should be as easy as email.
When WPMU mailed us their glowing review of Help Scout we thought this is just what we needed.
When we first got our hands on Help Scout we thought it was great. Multiple shared mailboxes with internal notes.
The WPMU trial was long enough to really give Help Scout a good try: 3 months. And you don’t know if something really works until you use it in anger. So we loaded up all of the following from Foliovision together with the full attached teams:
There were about ten people with access to Help Scout of which four were near daily users and another six had questions to answer two to three times/month.
The interface in Help Scout is gorgeous and very logically laid out. First impressions were great.
helpscout dashboard single company
Set up for individual users is also easy.
helpscout interface profile notifications
Writing responses looks good too.
helpscout adding note and reassigning
The first problem we ran into was that Help Scout will not let you edit the incoming text. I.e. if someone writes to Foliovision and/or fills in a form with some internal tracking information, we can’t edit that out. We wrote Jared and heard back that not being able to edit the replied to thread is a feature, not a bug. We disagree.
If we wanted to edit the incoming information we should set up all our contact forms to use the Help Scout API. We’ve got lots of different contact forms so that’s lots of makework projects for us.
Having lived with 37signals style support for eight years, I’m happy to say that its time is over. The latest round of 37signals support from 37signals themselves resulted in their loss of a $250/month almost eternal contract (related to the absolute feature freeze on Basecamp Classic which is still 37signal’s best product). But I digress.
Even worse than these two limitations (which are difficult as the first one meant that we had to give up a pile of painstakingly engineered in-house tracking information and the second meant that we had to reprogram all our forms) were the bugs.
- Very regularly the inline WYSIWYG editor would freeze and stop allowing any pasting.
- Often (about one of out of five or eight tickets) our replies would just get lost on save. Sometimes in an invisible way, sometimes you’d see it fail. Nothing worse than lost replies (usually when we tried to make an internal note and change status at the same time). Fortunately I have a keyboard logger which meant that rescuing these notes was only a matter of about five minutes, albeit each time. Our coordinator Anna does not and so she was not at all happy with the lost info.
So about halfway through our trial, I wanted to make a long term commitment to Help Scout and help Jared clean up the bugs/limitations. We did have an issue which was pricing. As I mentioned above we had four real users and six occasional users. If we took anyone out, our workflow would become byzantine which was exactly why we were considering investing in Help Scout. Our annual budget for a help desk whether self-implemented (osTicket or RequestTracker) or rented is about $1000. We would have been happy to pay this up front. I explained our situation in detail (four active users and six present users who are there just for occasional workflow issues).
Once again Nick Francis at Help Scout came up with the 37signals attitude. “At $15/month/user our application is more attractively priced than the competition. There is no flexibility on pricing.”
I don’t know about you, but if I were selling a buggy SAAS application with an extremely limited feature set, I’d be interested in picking up $1000/year from a team who can actually help me improve the software.
We continued to think about either reducing the number of users or moving a department or two out of Help Scout to bring us down to three or four users. Together with the bugs and the poor customer support, we decided to trial some other applications.
- APO.io does not have spam filters of any kind and does not allow multiple departments (both limitations are just nuts). Otherwise APO.io is the best looking of them all and the fastest (nice clean HTML and CSS with no frameworks). Same limitations with reply-to.
- LaDesk.com from Quality Unit has both a SAAS version and a self-hosted bought version. We were very interested in the purchased version as it would have an annual cost (outside of the hosting which we maintain in any case with multiple dedicated servers) of $300/year for ten seats averaged over three years. Full editing features, lots of flexibility, great Twitter and Facebook integration.
Unfortunately it’s ugly as heck (1997 wants it’s brown on brown interface back) and what’s worse it uses some awful PHP framework which make every page reload (and there are lots of them) take 20 seconds with a spinning wheel. I was about twice as slow working in LaDesk.com as my email client (Apple Mail) which would make it a very expensive solution in time lost. Perhaps the self-hosted version hosted closer to our office (rather than Texas) might be a bit faster.
We want to design attractive and sensible software. Working in help desk which looks and performs like this (despite the first class feature set) would make us worse designers and programmers.
We also ran into an issue with “reply-to” which Help Scout does support. Basically LaDesk.com recognises the “from” address instead of the more useful “reply-to” which means that lots and lots of forms would have to be hand-tweaked for LaDesk.com. Quality Unit support was not great on this issue. At this point, we headed for prettier pastures.
- SupportBee.com has a much better pricing model (priced by number of tickets) for us than Help Scout. The per ticket pricing model does have a downside for us (it means we can’t put our NewRelic and other server notifications into our help desk as our ticket count would go through the roof). We’d also have to think carefully about whether to put HR in as the ticket count is pretty high there as well.
On the very big upside, we could put almost the whole team in (about fifteen people) so whatever is there could be answered properly.
Other limitations included no BCC function (very useful for those of us using Highrise or CapsuleCRM drop boxes in our CRMs). The CapsuleCRM integration was awful (left a note in CapsuleCRM with a link back to SupportBee, talk about extra clicks and lock-in) but Prateek did fix it under prompting although a bit late for us. We would try SupportBee again especially if they added BCC. The HTML email support is very good.
- ZenDesk.com didn’t get a look in on account of their absurd pricing model and very top heavy system. We wanted to be transparent via email and not build the Tower of Pisa with visitors feeling like they are in a help desk at all. The ZenDesk free offer is like heroine as there is no affordable option if you do grow ($50/month/user is ridiculous). Unlike SupportBee which has been built for proper HTML email support from the beginning, ZenDesk’s HTML support has traditionally been awful. So ZenDesk is currently more money for a worse user experience.
I’m not going to include UserVoice.com, UserEcho.com or UseResponse.com or any of these other excuses to annoy users with complex and unwieldy feature suggestion systems instead of real hands on email help. Kayako is similarly excluded as it’s not possible to make Kayako seem just like ordinary email.
Finally we came across Freshdesk. What attracted us to Freshdesk were the glowing user reviews on GetApp.com. Users really love Freshdesk.
Great service and social world integration. Had a great experiance using Freshdesk. Got frustrated with other service. McRam Williams (21st of January)
Fantastic Tool, Incredible Support, Unbeatable Price. Their name says it all – a breath of fresh air when it comes to support systems. A bright, energetic company that is providing a tool at a price which is perfect for SME’s. Their innovative approach and rapid development means that new features seem to be appearing every day and the best thing of all is that they actually listen and respond to featured requests. It’s like having our own personal development team providing an enterprise level ticketing system at a fraction of the price of other systems currently on the market. Review by Scott (2nd of April, 2012)
Next generation helpdesk. I evaluated several helpdesk SaaS tools. Freshdesk has all the features I need: high performance Ticket handling, a clean Dashboard, Ticket escalation, flexible notification system and social integrations. And, most important: Agents are ready to go thanks to a very small learning curve. Review by David (16th of October, 2012)
We almost didn’t try Freshdesk on account of the premium prices (as high as $50/month/user) but it turns out that the lower level plans which do have reasonable pricing are enough for smaller companies. On either Sprout or Blossom, we have everything we really need at around $15/month/user. On top of that on Sprout you get the first three users for free forever and only pay for the additional users – that’s a fantastic way for new companies to get up and running and even expand as you keep the three free users (unlike competitors where you must pay for all four users when you move from free to paid).
freshdesk incoming tickets dashboard
Here’s a sample incoming support email with even the image attachments inline so you can get straight to work:
freshdesk html email parsing inline attachments
The preferences and customisation potential is elaborate but extremely tightly organised and visually attractive. Most defaults are good so you don’t need to change very much here to get started.
freshdesk complex but well organised preferences
The Freshdesk Dispatchr is the hidden gem which allows you to apply easy emails (like filters) across all of your incoming mail and agents. Get just the notifications you need, make sure the tickets are going straight to the right person. S/he can then decide to reassign or make an internal query before responding. Best of all, dispatchr is very flexible so you don’t have to reprogram your existing forms to get first class automated sorting.
The HTML editor works, the dispatcher system is extremely flexible, the pages load quickly. Freshdesk works and does what you want. A quick tip: the HTML editor is much better behaved (pasting and text expansion work properly) in Chromium than Safari 5.1). Apparently Freshdesk even has data export.
To come back to Help Scout, there is no data export. When I contacted Nick and Jared about data export, they told me to write a custom exporter on their API. Of course that is duplicate effort, as I’m sure many people have written this code before. When I suggested they might have some code I could use as a basis for that export, they told me to fly a kite. That kind of support is not what Help Scout advertises. I would stay very far away from Help Scout.
The best part of Help Scout are the great marketing emails and customer support handbooks they send you about high quality customer support. Help Scout do not practice the support principles they preach. If they did it would make their pretty but currently also ran product competitive. Still I remain grateful to have been exposed to their thoughts on customer support and help desks. I highly recommend you check out Help Scout’s rich resources section on customer service.
In general it’s time for an open source or commercial Help Desk which works on top of IMAP and doesn’t try to replace it. Google managed to make mail sing with Gmail. Surely someone else could make IMAP sing as a rock solid and fast help desk system.
In the meantime, your best bet for a transparent email support system is Freshdesk.
Alec has been helping businesses succeed online since 2000. Alec is an SEM expert with a background in advertising, as a former Head of Television for Grey Moscow and Senior Television Producer for Bates, Saatchi and Saatchi Russia.
While Freshdesk is very much a pure UI/UX clone of Zendesk, I must say I’m not complaining either. Their free plan and app Just Works(tm).
Thanks for mentioning SupportBee. It was great interacting with you over the support emails.
We will be adding the bcc feature in the near future.
We have rolled out bcc support in SupportBee – blog.supportbee.com/2013/10/11/bcc-option-forward-email-setup/
That’s great news. We continue to use Freshdesk and are very happy with it, but SupportBee is certainly a great alternative for a large team without too many tickets.
This was really useful! Thanks for the writeup. We are currently using WHMCS for support and I hate it. We need something that makes it easier for my team and integrates nicely with a CRM. I’ll checkout Freshbooks, and Supportbee.
I’m really surprised to see you found freshdesk as the best answer. I have been disappointed with Freshdesk after working with them for over a year.
The problems with Freshdesk are (1) The UI makes it take two clicks to do EVERYTHING! You can’t just send a reply, you have to hit the dropdown and click send and set as resolved to make the message even send. (2) Inserting common answers takes three clicks and never pastes in the write spot.
Further, the spam problem with Freshdesk is CRAZY! They have a mark as spam button but it doesn’t even prevent the sender from sending more spam.
I’m ready for someone new.
I should begin my mentioning my first concern about your post. It’s highly negative but it’s impossible to determine who you are. In fact, I considered not publishing it due to the mismatch. You left a response using fishkins.com domain and bob as your email address. Are you Jim Harmer or Bob Fishkins or someone else altogether? Perhaps a competitor…
Your issue with two clicks to reply is a bit disingenuous: it’s actually a quick dropdown which allows you to reply and set an appropriate status. Not as simple as straight reply but better than a row of five buttons in my opinion. Freshdesk is for grownups which means tickets can have more than a single status (for easier sorting in the future: it’s great to be able to pull all the tickets attending customer answer in the future).
I have a suggestion to help with common answers: use text expansion. All the help desk users can share answers via the Freshdesk system and then add the ones they need all the time to a text expander like Typinator (OS X).
A final suggestion to improve your work with Freshdesk would be to use Chromium (we never recommend Chrome as it’s spyware) as the text editor works much better with Chromium 30 than Safari 5.0.5. I do think Freshdesk should not be as fussy about the browser it requires but as long as it works well with at least a few of the major browsers, I’m fine with it.
I don’t know what platform you are thinking of moving to Jim/Bob but you might want to find a viable alternative before dumping Freshdesk. We couldn’t find one south of $30/user/month. SupportBee remains on our radar for its per ticket rather than per user pricing. It would be great to be able to bring our full team on but for the moment, it’s a relatively small group of us providing email software support. Development clients get support in project management (TeamworkPM).
So in short, six months later we remain very satisfied with Freshdesk. We particularly like the internal notes feature which lets us discuss support issues privately in context and saves a lot of copying and pasting to project management but still leaves a searchable record.
I settled on help scout. Support Bee was close but their workflows/macros were extremely limited.
Help Scout, is seamless, no ticket numbers, auto replies and other ugliness that makes our clients feel like they are a ticket. They feel we are personally handling each issue. The manual and auto workflows are amazing and have become core to our business.
If you don’t want to talk with people and want to force them to help their self first, use zendesk/freshdesk. If you want to provide direct amazing service use Help Scout.
I’m afraid you are quite wrong about Freshdesk (lumping it together with Zendesk): Freshdesk very, very easy to make it an invisible email help application. That’s the whole point, you can customise it to suit your own workflow.
Nearly every negative….I wonder. Hopefully this post played a roll in waking Nick Francis and Jared McDaniel up from their fatuous stupour and to take customer feedback seriously.
HelpScout owner Nick Francis is the kind of guy to register a .net domain in 2011, start building a business and file a UDRP against the guy who registered the .com in 2009. Of course he had his backside handed to him by ICANN.
But now he’s back for more, trying to sue the Andy Eder the German owner of HelpScout.com in Virginian court.
Thanks for your blog. I’m seriously considering moving to Freshdesk (currently on netsuite – pure hell and its about $120 a month per user). I’m tossing up between freshdesk and desk.com which from my research is very similar (i think freshdesk works out a bit cheaper).
Im a bit concerned how you attack everyone who points out any negative points about Freshdesk though. Or shares their positive experiences about other products.
It leaves the impression you are receiving some kind of kick back for supporting Freshdesk which makes all your positive points about the company invalid….
Give the different solutions a try. I’m not favouring Freshdesk. Any bias would be against HelpScout which really and truly sucks and wasted months of my life.
As a long time customer of Freshdesk, the first & oldest in fact. I would agree with you Alec on your assessment of Freshdesk. I’ve also evaluated Help Scout, along with countless others, (sort of a bizarre pastime of mine).
My experience with Help Scout was pleasant and I luckily didn’t encounter the issues you’ve recapped. Help Scout definitely has a different approach, one that obviously didn’t meet your firms requirements.
Regardless, the price and functionality of upstarts like Freshdesk, Help Scout & Groove have collectively put the incumbents like Zendesk, Desk & UserVoice on notice. Having followed this industry for years, I’m just thankful that small businesses like ours, finally have well designed, feature rich and affordable options from which to run our help desks.
There were so many things wrong with HelpScout (no reply to addresses, no editing down of reply to texts, replies mysteriously going missing, poor performance of the WYSIWYG editor) that our entire staff hated HelpScout and had even come to loathe the idea of shared help software before we finally found FreshDesk.
A coincidence that the broken software was created by unhelpful and dishonest prats, perhaps not. If you like working software and helpful suppliers, I’d sincerely recommend staying as far away as possible from HelpScout.
My recommendations in the space remain Freshdesk and SupportBee. Curiously enough, the Indians are now solidly outbatting the Western world in delivering easy to use and reliable SAAS help desks. Freshdesk got around to fixing the reply to issues much more quickly than SupportBee fixed my wishlist.
Microsoft will now be joining Adobe among tech giants with Indian leadership. Of Google’s thirteen senior executives, five are Indian.
I too celebrate the end of the very expensive walled garden of Zendesk, Desk and UserVoice. We’re going to have to do better Luke, if we want to stay in business and flourish.
BTW, Luke your pricing is very competitive for the sophistication of the product you are offering. If Flourishapp’s inventory really works and has some sophisticated stock count and ordering tools attached, you’ve got a winner on your hands.
To update the article, Help Scout does now respect properly-formed reply-to addresses: I use this every day to process webforms.
You know how some people are Apple fanboys and behave like Google owns their first born? Yeah, we all know them. Somehow, no one ever asks them if they get kickbacks from Apple or Google. Alec, to me, is a fan of a good product. Not to make it sound like there are no other good products in the market. Zendesk came first and they have a great product. But Alec here chose Freshdesk and is defending his choice. In fact, he’s asking you to try other software alongside Freshdesk. I am sure you’re well on your way to doing that but if you haven’t, try other software, come back here and post a comment on your findings. Sound okay?
Thanks for the detailed review. I’m considering moving from hosted Kayako to a simpler help desk and have both Help Scout and FreshDesk on my radar, in addition to Groove. I really like Groove (it’s more feature packed than Help Scout) but their reply to customer emails don’t look as good as Help Scout (nor do they provide any way to customize it’s look).
After reading your dealings with Help Scout owners and it’s track record I’m passing on their service. I recently contacted them asking if they were considering adding a feature to change the admin interface colors (not everyone likes boring dark colors) and was basically told that they took a long time to come up with an interface design they liked and weren’t going to change that. Short and dry. Great that they like it, I don’t. Last time I checked, you need customers to run a business right?
So another heads up for Help Scout. If you are considering it, give Groove a try, at least they are far far more receptive to my suggestions. Also take a look at Groove’s blog posts, they are very informative.
Freshdesk was on my radar, but I skipped the evaluation when I saw that it’s simply impossible to compose a new email. support.freshdesk.com/support/discussions/topics/1917
That’s just a non-starter for us. I’m not sure how most companies get around that limitation. Support is not a one-way (incoming) street.
SupportBee, HelpSpot (owned software), and DeskPro (owned software) are now on our short list.
I’m curious if you ever considered either HelpSpot or DeskPro since it would seem to fit in nicely with many of your requirements and budget. If so, I would love your feedback. We’re just starting this process.
Not sure why outgoing email is so important to you or the other people on that thread.
We have Freshdesk set up to send no email notifications and removed all the links to an online help desk from the templates. In our case we can just create a new ticket and start a correspondence with a client (your requirement) with nothing to indicate it’s not just email.
Beyond that we can redirect inquiry emails into our primary Freshdesk address (i.e. email@example.com) creating new tickets from our clients incoming emails or any staff address for that matter. Redirect is not a feature in all email clients but it’s definitely in Apple Mail.
Honestly in almost a year of using Freshdesk, we have never run into this issue or any difficulty with starting an email conversation with a client.
So despite Freshdesk suggesting no new email feature is available, in practice it is.
Something which does irritate me now with Freshdesk is a new requirement to categorise every inquiry into Question, Support, Sales or some other nonsense which adds an unnecessary point of friction for us (we don’t need that categorisation). Freshdesk if you are watching this thread please remove that “improvement”.
HelpSpot. Owned but I don’t like the pricing at all. The level of support we require at Freshdesk costs $16/month/agent. $768 handles our needs (four agents). The closest HelpSpot package (5 agents) is between three and four years of Freshdesk fees. By paying monthly, we could move to a better solution if one becomes available. HelpSpot is a dead end. I’d rather go back to fighting open source to put a working solution together than buy someone else’s overpriced solution.
I write this with experience of watching abandonware and wasting Foliovision money on owned Adobe licenses (which weren’t worth the paper they weren’t written on). There is a lot of space in the helpdesk space for a fresh and inexpensive owned solution (even if there are inexpensive yearly update contracts).
We considered entering the help desk space, but did not have sufficient available resources to take it on for now.
PS. DeskPro’s pricing is even worse ($30/agent month hosted, $10/agent/month self-hosted). Thanks but at those rates I’d prefer to hand off the IT headaches to Freshdesk. DeskPro would make big inroads into the market if they offered hosted at $10/agent/month.
Frankly, the SupportBee model is the pricing model I like best (as many people as you like, governed by ticket numbers). At some point, we may look at SupportBee again but for now are able to manage with a small team of us on email support. Our larger clients are managed with TeamworkPM.
Great review, thanks! For those of you curious about how Freshdesk compares to Zendesk, we took an un-biased look at both (no affiliation with either): synata.com/blog/2014/4/16/battle-of-the-helpdesk-platforms-freshdesk-vs-zendesk
I read your review. It didn’t really take much of a position on the two services. The links to the spat between blogger Ben Kepes, Zendesk CEO Mikkel Svane and Freshdesk CEO Girish Mathrubootham was very informative.
I hadn’t seen that or the Zendesk vs Freshdesk comparisons, including just a pricing comparison.
I knew Zendesk was a bit of a bad deal for clients but it’s really targeted exclusively at the corporate/enterprise (and racist) user. No one paying with their own money could possibly prefer Zendesk. I remember there was a big pricing hike a couple of years back. Nothing more loathsome than a company out to gouge its customers.
PS. A bit ironic that you at Syntata integrate with Zendesk but not Freshdesk. Try taking a position in the future with your weblog posts: it will make them more useful and more promotable.
In passing, I note your pricing is pretty steep as well. I’d think that cross-platform search would be more a flat fee kind of service, depending on how many products one integrates rather than a per user based service. Of course next to Zendesk, you guys are the tooth fairy.
Re Steven Martins and admin colours, really?
If you want to train staff to use a system, the system has to be consistent. If the colours / fonts / whatever change, it is no longer a consistent tool. Try using Google Calendar in a multi-user, multi-calendar environment for more than 5 minutes to see the trouble that such “personalisation” causes.
To each their own, of course, but the lack of “fiddle” options is, to me, just one of Help Scout’s strengths :)
Amongst the good things about Help Scout are that it adds functionality without removing history. It receives emails forwarded to it from our Google Apps account. It sends its messages back out through Google’s SMTP servers, so the complete conversation is always available in email. If Help Scout die / we stop using them, we’ve lost no correspondence.
I’m not sold on no-options, my-way-or-the-highway software. Bad attitude was made trendy for awhile by 37signals but is so 2009 at this point.
There’s absolutely no reason HelpScout couldn’t provide useful options like respecting reply-to and editing the outgoing text without snippy and rude responses. On top of that for us in HelpScout tickets sometimes just disappeared.
We haven’t lost a single ticket in Freshdesk and whenever we’ve run into a major workflow issue Freshdesk has fixed their code.
Admin colors, yes, really. I should not be forced to use a product that I don’t love visually. Glad you like the way it is.
As I say, to each their own. There are so many things about every piece of software / SAAS that I’d love to change, but I recognise I cannot – I just have to choose, or roll my own (I’m programming Joget workflows right now to do just that).
In terms of editing your outgoing messages, I’ve read your article. Are you seriously telling me that you’ve built a process that requires your users to strip out extraneous information from an emailed-in form every time they have to reply to it? Seriously? OK, as I say, to each their own :) But surely a few hours re-coding some form scripts to process data in a useful way into a simple datastore would save thousands of hours a year in lost productivity, wouldn’t it?
I am interested in your “disappearing tickets” comment re Help Scout. What was the behaviour you observed? I’m not doubting it happened to you; I want to keep an eye out to make sure that it doesn’t happen to me.
No you don’t have to choose your poison or program from scratch. You can pick a partner who actually respects their clients and tried to improve the software to reflect clients’ needs.
Outgoing messages: we have lots of forms and some require us to strip a few lines of technical information. I suppose if we were someone like T-Mobile busy ripping off millions of customers that would be a problem. For our forms, the quantities are more than manageable. Not having to screw with an API to set up a basic form is hugely important to us.
Disappearing tickets: that was the problem. The tickets just disappeared (we knew they’d disappeared as we had copies in email. It happened most when we transferred tickets from one agent to another. It happened to four different people (so it wasn’t just a one-off or something associated to a single computer: not everyone was even on the same OS, let alone browser). I hope the issue with missing tickets is fixed at HelpScout. Alas, the one with attitude is unlikely to ever be fixed.
The only thing which keeps HelpScout in business is ZenDesk’s criminal pricing. Fortunately there are better alternatives at either Freshdesk or SupportBee, neither of them American.
I’m noticing American software companies suffer from a lot of bad attitude and extortionate pricing whenever they think they can get away with it. Anything but partnership and trust with their clients. I constantly see Americans working on their marketing so that they could jack prices higher. It would be nice to see them invest in performance instead and take it easier on the marketing so they don’t have to so extravagantly overprice SAAS.
Offering value and helping your clients sound to me like better values than immediate revenue maximization with the attendant ego trips.
I’m in the UK. Like you, I wanted to find “IMAP done properly.” I didn’t find it.
My users have almost zero technical knowledge. For them, Help Scout is fantastic – it works like simplified email, they don’t get to muck about setting-up folders into which things are dropped never to be seen again, and it seems robust and reliable.
ZenDesk is a crap alternative to email. My users find it alien. Customers have to “reply above the line” – not like real email at all. ZenDesk doesn’t let you send email through your own SMTP servers, with all sorts of rubbish limitations and a lack of “graceful” failover / pullback from the service. But it isn’t a bad helpdesk.
Freshdesk doesn’t work like email, either. It won’t use my smtp servers, either. It wants customers to “reply above the line” too. Freshdesk doesn’t even have ZenDesk’s compaction features to trim out inline nested responses from customers and, well, generally just doesn’t work like email.
Re your forms, no, you don’t have to change your APIs. Since your forms are coming in by email, at a basic level you just need a simple sed script to process each one before handing it off to your chosen email client / helpdesk solution. I run a non-profit arts organisation with a small staff, and that sort of thing is exactly what I do to make my users more productive. I calculated that saving 5 minutes per day of one user’s time by streamlining process was worth at least a day of my time in enhanced productivity alone.
A day of my time is worth a heck of a lot more than 5 minutes/day of one user’s time. Spending days setting up a help desk API is exactly what I wanted to avoid. We were able to do that with Freshdesk, whose dispatcher continues to do amazing work in making sure the right tickets get to the right person.
Freshdesk does work like email if you want it to (we have it working that way). And it will do it on the user’s terms. There’s absolutely no problem editing/trimming/compacting nested responses.
I like flexible software which can do powerful things on the way I want it done. I guess you prefer one size its all and playing around with API’s to get even the basics done. Enjoy.
Well, we’ll just agree to disagree then. Re a little coding, all I’ll say is that you must employ very cheap users and hardly any of them. As you say, enjoy!
Silas, we have a lot of forms. Customising them all to use an API instead of just mail forwarding would be a lot of trouble (a lot more than a day with troubleshooting). Remember that API is not portable so you are locking yourself deeper into a death embrace with that provider.
Frankly, I’d rather save the days of coding and preserve our ability to migrate help desk providers.
If I wanted to spend days coding email support, we would have taken one of the open source solutions and upgraded it (releasing the code to the world afterwards). We nearly did go down that path, but we have lots of other live coding projects now. We’ve been really happy with Freshdesk, as unlike some other providers, they’ve been really responsive to workflow issues.
With Freshdesk, there is no lock-in with the email help component (migrating FAQ and forums would be trickier but we use bbPress for those and which we do handroll).
My biggest concern right now is that I’d like to have ten users in our email support desk for occasional work but don’t like the monthly fees on a per user basis. I really don’t think comprehensive email support should be the most expensive monthly service in a company. Only SupportBee addresses the staffing limit (monthly billing per ticket). Freshdesk does give you a good start with the first three agents free forever.
Just an update to our decision. We trialled Zendesk, Freshdesk and Desk for an external helpdesk of about 10 users. Some of our clients are organisations and some of our clients are individual users. A real mix and match over all our products.
We ruled out desk.com pretty quickly as it was not very intuitive at all and lacked some core functionality we needed (could only save historical data on a higher prices plan, wasnt able to bulk import data etc.) Which left us with Zendesk vs Freshdesk. We liked the look and feel of Freshdesk better as it was a lot more user friendly. Took me about 5 minutes to figure out where everything was and it seemed to work pretty well covering all bases. We had demo’s of both and everyone had a decent play and it was pretty 50/50. Fresh desk is about 35% cheaper than Zendesk and as pointed though you get slightly more features with Zendesk its certainly not enough to warrant the additional cost. The one major flaw, why we couldnt go with Freshdesk in the end, was that you arent able to create custom fields on your organisations. Basically there was no way to link a product to a client that was a company/organisation. Something we really needed. The current company fields in freshdesk are very generic and static. Freshdesk did advise that they are working on a solution and expect the roll out of company customer fields to be about 8 weeks away (anyone in the software industry knows thats probably more like 12 weeks at least) so we had to go with Zendesk as our current support software license will need to either be discarded or renewed before then. There is also a company in Melbourne which handles the migration of Netsuite to Zendesk but isnt affiliated with Freshdesk (freshdesk dont currently have any association or offer services to migrate). So all in all we are going with Zendesk and paying more for it. We figure we’ll use it for 12 months and then have another look at Freshdesk. There is a built in functionality in Freshdesk to migrate from Zendesk.
Wow, I’m amazed that you found the price difference that close. Zendesk doesn’t have anything close to Blossom (but I guess you were looking at the top end packages).
I’m surprised you weren’t able to create multiple linked products for clients within Freshdesk but we aren’t trying anything that complicated. We have multiple discreet departments but within a single organisation.
Apologies the difference in pricing is actually 50% (the Plus plan at Zendesk for $59 a month vs the estate plan $40 a month at Freshdesk). Which is substantial but far less than the $150 or so a month we were paying for Netsuite. I must also point out that the Estate plan is Freshdesk premium plan with all bells and whistles attached whereas the Plus plan is Zendesk’s second tier plan. So it lacks custom roles and permissions, audit logs, multi-brand support and no one at Zendesk will give us “guidance” at launch apparently. It wasnt an easy decision but there was no way that Freshdesk could currently cater for our needs with respect to linking a company with a product (we needed this function for reporting purposes, which company had issues with which products the most etc amongst a few other reasons).
Overall i get the feeling that Zendesk currently has more functionality, it does after all have a good 4 or so years on Freshdesk and it has local support staff (they have an office literally 400m or so away). They also currently have better 3rd party integration (Xero for example). But Freshdesk is very quickly catching up. They appeared a lot more eager to please us than Zendesk. They came up with a possible temporary solution for us (which just proved to be too much work in the end) and expect to have Xero integration in a couple of weeks (again we coudlnt wait). I feel that in about a years time there will be nothing that Zendesk has to offer that Freshdesk cant also do. Given the price difference its a no brainer. Until then we’ll be on Zendesk waiting.
On a side note HappyFox also looks like a start-up which is playing catchup to both Freshdesk and Zendesk. At the moment it has much less functionality but give them a few years and they could be another serious contender for this market (they come in at $29 per month with all bells and whistles).
Thanks for the additional details. I think you might get hammered at launch with Zendesk. With Freshdesk, I would have tried to make each product a separate company for reporting purposes. That way you’d be able to run detailed discrete reports.
Freshdesk might have had to help you finesse the single login to support for users of multiple products (to bring them all back under a single umbrella). I’m very surprised they couldn’t do that.
Omar, I’m curious as you are at the premium price point with custom requirements: did you take a look at the owned versions out there like UseResponse or HelpSpot?
UseResponse looks to have pretty active development while HelpSpot got off to a strong start and looks to have slowed down a bit. There might be a couple of others I missed. UseResponse tempts us a bit as it’s a single license and then we can bring in as many agents as we want. We avoided that solution as we wanted to keep our forums single sign-on within a WordPress environment and ultra-lightweight: dogfooding, more control while improving our core skill set. In the end, we really wanted the clean email environment with nothing except transparent email and a back end for the agents (experts all) to be able to help each other in ticket without going back to TeamworkPM every time.
If I was more interested in a Uservoice type environment (which is what for instance Hipchat uses for its own forums and which drew me in to their feature suggestion environment just today) without the $95/month/agent price tag, I’d definitely take a closer look.
Keep us posted with your post launch experience. Good luck with your relaunch!
Thanks for the great post Alec. I learnt a lot about the competition!
We have a product – grexit.com – that lets you do customer support and sales lead management from email. The key feature is sharing of Gmail labels, which make it very easy to deal with emails as support tickets.
With GrexIt, our focus is to enhance email as a support tool. We don’t have all the functionality that you’d find in a complex, expensive helpdesk like Zendesk or Freshdesk, but where we excel is in allowing you to use your email to assign and manage support tickets. Here’s a quick guide on how you can use GrexIt for customer support: grexit.com/whygrexit/customer-support-from-email
Would love to know what you think about this.
Thanks, Niraj Founder/grexit.com
I’ve always wanted to do what you’ve done on top of Gmail except directly on top of IMAP but can’t figure out a way to monetize it. Great idea and nice execution.
First, I have to say I love your packages: 5 support admins for $26 and $71 for 25 support admins. This is an affordable way to bring on a big team, even if a company doesn’t do too much email support.
That said, I probably wouldn’t use it myself as I don’t believe building company infrastructure on Google is a good idea. First, you are building your foundation on top of a structure over which you have zero control (Google Reader anybody). Second, I don’t believe one should leave confidential data on servers in the United States as there are literally no privacy laws there.
When you started building Grexit, though, very few people knew for certain just how bad the privacy situation with American IT providers is. I know many people are insouciant about business and/or personal privacy (many of my friends and colleagues use Gmail as a primary email account). If someone is prepared to use Gmail at all, Grexit really does look great.
Had a look at your testimonials and was amazed to see Litmus (those guys build expensive and good email tools themselves) use Grexit. Great work.
Alec, thanks for your comment.
Almost all of our customers are on Google Apps, so its people who have already built into the Google system. Building it for “any” email service is theoretically possible, but cumbersome.
We deal with a lot of IMAP too – thats how ‘sync’ labels across email accounts. Gmail’s IMAP implementation is fraught with limitations, and it has taken us quite a bit of time to have it working very reliably.
Thanks for taking a look. I’ll tell you about major updates in the future through another comment here :)
For anyone who is wondering about call quality on Freshdesk’s innovative new Freshfone service (affordably uniting incoming telephone calls with email), I’ve just finished extensively tested Freshfone international call quality.
Thanks Alec for this post. I am completing an analysis for a help desk service and really appreciate the advise on that topic.
I’ve examined Desk.com, HappyFox, Zendesk & Freskdesk for a small operation with one product going on two.
My findings are:
STRENGTH: It’s the only product with a real all-in-one inbox for tickets and forum posts/comments/updates. All other products thread tickets and forum posts very differently which can lead to different workflows for the agents. Let’s face it, some people will put inappropriate “stuff” in the forum that requires pruning by the agent.
WEAKNESS: Does not support a customer list. That means the customer cannot go back to the help desk to view the progress of his/ her tickets.
CONCLUSION: The customer list is a feature we can’t live without in our situation. We have rejected this product offering.
STRENGTH: We found the ease of configuration and managing tickets to be a pleasant surprise. The interface is simply very clean.
WEAKNESS: Some feature catchup is need but the most important lack is with the customer search that has to be separately done in the tickets, knowledge base, and forum. A customer wanting to find an answer to a question does not care where and how the answer is structured. The search needs to be unified.
CONCLUSION: This supplier is on a watch but will not be selected if it does not streamline the customer workflow.
STRENGTH: Wide acceptance and all the feature to grow from a small company to a large corporation.
WEAKNESS: The main weakness is the exaggerated exponential price increase as the corporation grows beyond a single product. A corporation with two (2) products must use the “enterprise” edition at $125/agent/month. So if you plan on having two product to support the price is simply ridiculous.
CONCLUSION: Since we intend on eventually adding a second product and don’t want to change support in doing so, Zendesk is not a good option for us.
STRENGTH: All of the features needed to grow a small business.
WEAKNESS: A few nitpicking details that will not impact the business we are putting together. The main one being the lack of notification on creation of topic & post on the forum for agents (this problem is also shared with Zendesk, HappyFox & Desk.com)
CONCLUSION: This is the preferred service option as it allows to grow from a small company to a multi-product corporation with a small price premium (single product $19 or $25, multi-product $40)
Note on Mass Mailing
For Kevin Thomas: Please note that most help desk do allow to link with MailChimp to send outgoing email to a customer list. This is also true for Freshdesk.
Very helpful information. Zendesk’s pricing tricks are truly despicable. Thanks for sharing the multiple products gotcha.
I’d contact Freshdesk about your issue with notification of new topic and new posts on the forum for agents. We set up our own forum (bbPress 1 heavily handrolled) to hold all posts for approval and to notify us. Moderation has been a big help when there’s been either a spam attack or would-be vandalism. Freshdesk should be able to fix this. I think one can run multiproduct even at $19, as we have different departments and we are at the $19 price point.
Thanks for pushing with me on the email notification for new forum posts in Freshdesk.
I wanted to share that I have received an email today from the founder of HappyFox telling me that a unified search for the forum and the knowledge base is now in beta and will be available in the next version.
In fact the separation of the knowledge base (also called solution) and forum with different branding is available from $25/agent/month on Freshdesk. You can get away with sharing the same knowledge base and forum for different products at $19/agent/month if you don’t mind having the same branding for each product . I do find that a distinct branding for each product makes for a better image.
Thanks for the updates. I agree that one should have a different knowledge base for different products. Sharing subforums could work. $25/month per agent for full featured separate product support is still a lot better than $125/month per agent.
We are also looking for a helpdesksoftware with chat. We are considering Freshdesk and Liveagent (from Ladesk). You say Ladesk is slow, can you explain this? We also didn’t find a nice chat button in Freschdesk to invite cutomers, in Ladesk you can choose between several attrictive buttons which invite the customers. I would like to know if you would still choose Freshdesk over Ladesk with the chat functions. By the way the Ladesk Saas version is very cheap, for 3 users you pay $ 39,- with all functions, by Freshdesk you pay 29 for each agent if you want the chat function included. Looking forward to your reply. Sorry for my bad Englisch spelling.
LiveAgent/Ladesk have an amazing feature set and the pricing (there was recently a half price sale on LiveAgent self-hosted extra agents) is extremely attractive as you can own it outright.
If I had to use Ladesk or LiveAgent every day, I’d consider changing my profession. We believe in dogfooding at Foliovision. I use everything my team does. There’s applications which I don’t like very much but have to accept as they are the only cross-platform solution with proper enterprise management like LastPass. But I only dislike LastPass a little bit. Ladesk/LiveAgent is in the drive people to suicide category.
If QualityUnit rewrite LiveAgent from scratch as a normal web application (which incidentally would have the added benefit of allowing customers to customise the app) without the top heavy PHP framework and a decent looking design (now it’s all brown, heavy and ugly), we’d be first in line. Out of the owned lot, we like UseResponse.com best but UseResponse is not set up to allow just invisible help desk. It’s the whole package with forums etc and we prefer to keep our help desk and our forums separate.
As our forums are bbPress they integrate perfectly with our WordPress site and we can tweak them at will.
To answer your question about live chat, we are about to try the relatively recently added live chat feature in Freshdesk. I’m not sure how helpful it will be as we prefer to give people serious answers in forums rather than chipper superficial answers in chat. I think we’ll find chat a bit overwhelming but look forward to trying it again.
Thanks for your questions.
Hi and thank you for the review. Freshdesk does look interesting and we are reviewing Zendesk, Desk.com and several others so will add it to the list. Does anyone know of a consultant or any support we can get for implementation of Freshdesk in the UK. I do not seem to be able to find any forums or communities I can access.
I think Freshdesk would help you and your team directly. Here is a link Freskdesk’s community forums.
Let us know how you do.
i was wondering if you can do a detailed review between Zendesk,Supportbee and Freshdesk.
We are a small company and for us every penny counts. it would be great to hear it from you(not convinced by other reviews on the net).
Don’t take software selection lightly – that’s my advice. The amount of new players that entered the help desk arena is enormous. What people need to ask themselves is:
-What is the volume of your tickets? If it’s a high number, you may want to look for a help desk with efficient ticketing management. -Will you be rolling out an additional set of products? How do you want to support them, how do you want them to look on your site? -What kind of support do you want to provide? A help desk is a given. If you invest in a self-service portal, your tickets will be deflected but your support won’t be. -What about a community on your website, that allows users to leave feedback, suggest idea, give praise. Your agents and other fellow users can all engage out in the open. Again, SEO isn’t important to everyone, but maybe to some it is. -Do you want to offer phone or chat support? Or maybe just chat and cut out the phone altogether?
BTW – what do you think of Helprace. It’s not just a helpdesk. It’s also a knowledge base and a feedback community. As far as I know no one does what Helprace does, and there’s also a free plan for 3 users just like Freshdesk.
Your product looks like a copy of a copy of a copy. Even on pricing you are not competitive ($20/user for more than a single feature). I would have to recommend people stick with one of the originals or their more competitive early rivals. Hosted help desks are a race that is already run.
I’m astonished that you wrote “as far as I know no one does what Helprace does” when we both know that Zendesk, Freshdesk and half a dozen other competitors offer exactly that: helpdesk, knowledge base and forums. In addition, Freshdesk offers social media support and telephone support, which is a more compelling offer for us.
PS. Say hello to the democratic demonstrators at Kulikova Field in Odessa. Oh, whoops Kiev burnt the Colorados alive. Until the NAF handed the punishment ballations their hat. Good thing that the draft missed Helprace.
We’re evaluating Freshdesk and already have 800+ tickets in the system with two people on the support team. I will admit that it was an easy start.
The problem I am finding with Freshdesk is that support for their customer is almost non-existant. I have had a couple open tickets with them and did not get a response until I bumped the question twice. If you read their forums you will find that users very often ask a question (report a bug or ask for a very simple fix), get a very general answer and then silence from Freshdesk which rightfully makes them very angry.
I am now looking for alternative help desk packages because they won’t even acknowledge that they understand my problem. The problem is that the type of files people send to us for support are opened as plain text in the browser instead of downloaded as a file.
etc etc. I’m surprised that no one has mentioned their non-existent support here (yet).
I don’t like Zendesk’s pricing but am also trialling their software again after a few years. It needs to be said that their support is extremely responsive and friendly. Just like we all should be.
We actually left Freshdesk to go to Helpscout. Freshdesk lacked something that we needed and basically told us that it wouldn’t be considered for development whilst after 12 months, we’ve learned that Helpscout can prove very awkward to work with and lacks in features (plus development is really slow).
We’ve tried and tested loads of these Helpdesk style apps, I’ve wasted far too much time trying to find the perfect solution for us but since the company that built our project management app just launched a new helpdesk platform that seamlessly integrates with that (and it looks great), we’re currently migrating over to Teamwork Desk.
Thanks for posting. As you may know we are big Teamwork users. We’re thrilled to see an integrated help desk solution come to Teamwork as it means one less login. We can have our whole team of twenty five in less than what is our Freshdesk bill for four agents.
Thanks for your reply. We’re now well underway using Teamwork Desk in correlation with Teamwork PM and we’re very happy currently.
One thing I love about Teamwork Desk is their pricing model, it is far more sophisticated than other helpdesk solutions and works really well for us (the 150 first replied to tickets free and then a reasonable cost on first replied to tickers thereafter per month).
After wasting so many hours migrating to different project management / helpdesk apps over the years, I’m hoping that we won’t have to again.
Teamwork FTW :)
Until Teamwork add routing (Dspatchr in Freshdesk speak), Teamwork Desk is a bit of a toy (most help desks are). The coders at Teamwork have promised routing this week though.
In fairness to Freshdesk, there are a lot more features including integrated Freshdesk Fone and a lot more permissions for those looking for something truly enterprise. We aren’t. We’ve got our forums in bbPress, our project registration and user zone in WordPress, documentation in WordPress pages and have chosen not to offer phone support (a pointless time sync unless you are paid by the minute: phone support attracts the neediest and cheapest and most troublesome clients on the low end but that’s the subject for a separate post).
Everyone on our team is motivated and doesn’t need “Busy Bee” style badges (there just a distraction). Everyone on our team has permission to edit all documentation.
Teamwork Desk – lean, trim and focused mainly on email support and without per user charges – is just what we need.
Hi Alec, nice blog post. I have just one question that you miht be able to answer very quickly. I really like Freshdesk, but as much as I can see I am not able to edit my chat window via my own CSS codes, is this right? I saw I can do this with the support pages, but not the chat window. Would be great to hear your thoughts on this.
I don’t think you can add your own CSS. We’ve found chat a horrible waste of time in terms of sales though. We just get time wasting people who want live support for free. Free live support does not work for our business model.
The worst thing that can happen to a technology business is to sell too much product to unqualified people. If someone can’t install WordPress successfully, how will s/he ever install and configure an advanced plugin? Live supports gets stuck trying to teach basic admin tasks or trying to teach people to use Paypal.
In short live chat is probably not a good feature for tech products unless they are really simple or really expensive.
This answer is way to general – live chat can boost your sales a whole lot if you are using it right. Saying live chat is not a good feature for tech products is just plain wrong.
Your comment is a great deal more general than my explanation above. Care to explain how one makes money on live chat with inexpensive tech products which do not have a recurring component?
Actually there is a free open source alternative to both HelpScout or Freshdesk: github.com/freescout-helpdesk/freescout
@Tony Thanks so much for letting me and everyone else know about FreeScout and it’s pretty active. The project looks absolutely awesome. Is anyone offering a hosted version of FreeScout?
That was quite a read. The article is great itself (thanks, Alec), and the comments section is just wow. I’ve learned a lot from people sharing their personal experiences and feedback here. Anyways, I know this article isn’t meant to be so much of a comparison of Help Scout and Freshdesk, but in case someone is looking for one, I suggest this article (help-desk-migration.com/heres-our-freshdesk-vs-help-scout-comparison-from-top-to-bottom/). I find it very informative and, in general, very well-written.