Why I moved from ZenDesk

Customer Service is important

For pretty much every imaginable company out there, if you have some kind of web presence, you are going to need good customer service software.

Unless you are a well funded business, it's highly unlikely that it makes sense for you to roll your own solution. Instead you are going to choose from one of the many SAAS providers available. Unfortunately, it's pretty much impossible to make this choice without having real experience using each alternative, as they all look equally shiny and wonderful if you believe their marketing hype.

I'm going to explain why I switched from ZenDesk to HelpScout, and why you should probably avoid ZenDesk also.

ZenDesk marketing hype

If you head over to ZenDesk.com and buy into their shiny marketing propaganda you will be led to believe that ZenDesk is a heaven-sent solution for customer service. When I was researching Customer Service SAAS options a couple of years back, I was pretty impressed. I had previously used UserVoice and had no massive complaints. But I wanted to offer my clients the best solution that was available, so I was curious to try out alternatives.

After giving it a quick try I was contacted by a sales rep and she was pretty persuasive arguing its superiority on every level. The price also seemed pretty attractive, so I decided to give it a try.

ZenDesk is an oxymoron

The first thing I noticed when starting to use their user interface was how horrible it was. I'm sure ZenDesk will argue that the UX is absolutely wonderful, but for any normal human being the UX is absolutely horrible. It most definitely is not Zen-like. Just one of the many annoying "features" is that each support request you click on opens in its own little "tab" in the UI. So if you are going through the days 30 or so requests you soon have loads of these crappy tabs open, which is absolutely not helpful.

Another annoying thing is that by default a reply leaves a support request 'open'. I find this is a pretty terrible default because this means in practise you will quickly end up having hundreds of open support tickets. It makes much more sense that by default a reply closes a support ticket, which will automatically get re-opened if the customer subsequently replies. Before we migrated one startup to HelpScout we had nearly a thousand open tickets because of this, which basically means your support system is broken as you have no easy way of evaluating how many open tickets you have.

In general the whole UI just seems horribly clumsy and over complex.

ZenDesk triggers suck

Any decent Customer Support software needs to provide a way to automate certain workflows. For example: automatically add a "tag" to a support request matching certain criteria.

Now not only does the UI for managing this in ZenDesk feel like you have rocketed a decade into the past, but there are some things in ZenDesk that are just impossible to do. For example, try setting up a trigger to do something based on the subject of an email. You can't. This really had me scratching my head when I stumbled across this limitation – it really seems bizarre that the so-called leading customer service SAAS does not allow you to take actions based on a support request's subject text!

HelpScout FTW

I've been really happy moving to HelpScout. The UI is easy to use and I've found that support agents can use it with minimal training. I can set the default action to 'close' tickets: hurrah!

Another nice bonus with HelpScout is that for the same price you can have multiple 'mailboxes': which basically means you can manage multiple brands/services with one account. This is incredibly powerful because it's pretty common that your business might have two or more brands or services. To do that in ZenDesk you have to pay for some crazy expensive Enterprise package.

Finally I really like the simple way you can integrate a little custom "app" into the HelpScout interface, so for example you could show custom customer data next to their support request (e.g their internal customer id etc). You can do this nowadays in ZenDesk also, but it's much simpler to integrate with HelpScout, you just basically need to implement a response for one HTTP POST.