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Top 3 Help Desk Software: Comparison of Freshdesk, Salesforce Essentials and Zoho Desk

Category: B2B News

What are the top 3 help desk software solutions? Plenty of help desk systems offer a robust feature set at competitive prices nowadays. It is challenging to find the leading products with such a variety of options available, hence, our B2B specialists reviewed top help desk software platforms based on their overall capabilities.

Our experts comprehensively checked out 50 products in our database and narrowed down their top 3 choices in terms of functionality, value for money, and service quality.

  1. Freshdesk [ start free trial here ]
  2. Salesforce Essentials [ start free trial here ]
  3. Zoho Desk [ start free trial here ]

Overall, Freshdesk is ranked as the best choice among the three products. However, Salesforce Essentials and Zoho Desk are also strong contenders in the category. It is important to note that your business requirements play a huge role in choosing which product you’ll deploy in your workflows. Any of these three products are reliable so we prepared a help desk comparison to provide you with more information about each of them.

The future of customer service and support is evolving in a lot of ways. In an article in CIO, Charles Araujo shares the trends that are shaping tomorrow’s technology support, culled from his talks in front of more than 2,300 technology support professionals in MGM Conference Center. Their discussions boiled down to two trends that are opposite yet a counterbalanced demand for more automation and personalized customer-facing experience.

Personalization tops customer experience expectations. (Source: CX Advantage)

Evidently, the top players in the industry are quickly responding to this change. For instance, Freshdesk responded to its users’ top feature requests and updated the app with customer segments to leverage personalized support experience, multilingual support, and improved audit logs, among others.

Salesforce, another key help desk player, announced this year the roll-out of Salesforce Essentials for Sales and Service Cloud for small businesses. It aims to help companies deliver one-to-one customer experience. Meanwhile, Zoho Desk enhances their help desk processes by introducing Zia, a context-aware augmented intelligence bot, for automating crucial operations such as anomaly detection and sentimental analysis, among others.

Their agility and proactive response to market demands makes these three apps some of the leading players in the category. Let’s get to know their features and functionalities the better to appreciate how they can help your business.

top help desk software

Freshdesk Features and Pricing

Our team of experts conducted a comprehensive evaluation of the products and selected Freshdesk as the top product in the help desk software category. To know why the product ranks high, you may read our detailed Freshdesk review for complete information about its features and benefits. You may also check out the software firsthand when you sign up for Freshdesk free trial here.


This award is given to the best product in our help desk software category. It highlights its superior quality and underlines the fact that it's a leader on the market.

Freshdesk won our Best Help Desk Software Award 2018

Our score
User satisfaction

Freshdesk specializes in its customer service solution. Built for small businesses and enterprises, it packs the essential features you need in responding to customers, automating tasks, personalizing communications, and collaborating across your organization all in a highly scalable platform. Its main features include a multi-channel ticketing system, automation, customizations, collaboration, and reporting analytics. This easy-to-use software also empowers your agents to respond to emails, chats, and calls in a centralized location.

Freshdesk offers various options for it plans to suit your needs and budget. In addition to its free trial, the software has a forever free plan for unlimited agents. It includes basic features like a Freshchat and Freshcaller integration, email channel, and basic social channel which is a good option if you are just getting started. For its premium plans with more advanced features, the price ranges from $19 per agent per month up to $89 per agent per month.

Salesforce Essentials Features and Pricing

Salesforce offers a pared down Service Cloud in its Salesforce Essentials (it also includes a pared down Sales Cloud). Essentials gives your agent a simple and centralized interface to manage your customer inquiries coming from various channels such as chat, email, phone, and social media platforms. Productivity tools are easily available for agents to respond to customers quickly and efficiently in-context to their concerns and questions. It provides out-of-the-box sales and service CRM solutions to provide an end-to-end solution to customers.

A branded self-service is also included to help your customers find answers to basic question fast. Furthermore, self-service allows your agents to focus more on urgent and complex requests. To get to know the product and its features and benefits better, we recommend you to read our comprehensive Salesforce Essentials review.

Salesforce Essentials is built to provide a help desk solution for small businesses with up to 5 users. This out-of-the-box solution is priced $25 per user per month. Implementing the software is streamlined with in-app tutorials and an easy setup process. You can also explore the software firsthand at no cost for 14 days when you sign up for Salesforce Essentials free trial here.

 Zoho Desk Features and Pricing

Zoho Desk is also a reliable help desk solution that specializes in its context-aware approach. It provides productivity tools for your agents, performance visibility and insights for your managers, and reliable experience for your customers. Customers can reach out to you in any channels – live chat, email, phone, and social media – while bringing together your agents across departments for an in-context, unified customer support.

Zoho Desk’s ticket management system is multi-channel, multi-department, and multi-brand. Customers can access a self-service help center and knowledge base where they can engage with the user community and find answers on their own. It packs main features such as artificial intelligence (named “Zia”), automation, time tracking, customization, reports and dashboard, agent productivity and company-wide collaboration. Check out our Zoho Desk review for more information about its features.

Like Freshdesk, Zoho Desk offers a free plan. While it is only for 3 agents, it already includes numerous basic features such as basic reports, email inbox, web form, domain mapping, agent and manager dashboards, and remote support for a single user. If you decide to unlock more features, you can start with its premium plan called Professional for $12 per agent per month. You can start test-driving the software when you sign up for Zoho Desk free trial here for 15 days at no cost.

Comparison of Basic Plans

Let’s start comparing the basic plan of each software, the likely entry point of new subscribers. Here’s a quick rundown of the inclusions.

Freshdesk has various offerings for every business size. Its starting plan is Blossom designed for small teams and priced at $19 per agent per month when billed yearly. It includes the following features:

  1. Email channel
  2. Integrations with Freshcaller and Freshchat
  3. Basic and advanced social channels
  4. Knowledgebase
  5. In-context team collaboration
  6. Session replay
  7. Satisfaction surveys
  8. Time tracking
  9. Custom domain mapping

Salesforce Service Cloud Essentials is also built for small service teams. Priced at $25 per user per month, it is packed with tools for:

  1. Company-wide collaboration
  2. Case auto-assignment
  3. Web and email case capture
  4. Omni-channel routing and supervisor
  5. Lead-contact account management
  6. Integrations with Salesforce Chatter, Lightning App Builder, among others
  7. Customizable reports and dashboards
  8. Case email auto-response

Zoho Desk is limited but specifically catered for startups, small teams and enterprises. The premium starting plan, Professional, costs $12 per agent per month, the lowest among the three products, with the following features:

  1. Advanced SLAs
  2. Two-way Zoho CRM sync
  3. Integrations with Cloud Telephony, Zoho BugTracker, Invoice, and Books, among others
  4. Advanced reports and dashboards
  5. Time tracking
  6. ASAP Plugin and SDKs
  7. Advanced layout customizations
  8. Blueprint

Comparison of Ticketing Features

Freshdesk, Salesforce Essentials, and Zoho Desk offer a robust ticketing management system to streamline communications with your customers. They support all communication channels used by your customers and gather them together to response in a centralized and in-context manner.

Freshdesk has a refined solution to cater your tickets and communication channels. It is heavily packed with features such as team inbox, SLA management, collision detection, activity log, custom ticket views, and canned responses. It also merges tickets into one if it comes from the same customer about the same issue so you can unify your response in context. Freshdesk supports phone, email, and e-commerce. For social channels, it provides Facebook and Twitter support through its integrations.

On your website, customers can contact you through the portal and feedback widget. It automatically converts all emails, call or feedback into tickets to ensure you don’t miss follow-ups, have to switch from multiple channels, and respond late. Freshdesk is ideal for you if you want to configure the support channels on your end for the ticket creation.

Salesforce Essentials’ help desk solution manages your ticketing process at each step. Incoming tickets are automatically prioritized and multiple agents can access, track, and update these tickets using any device. Its three key features include business automation, case management, and knowledge base. You can set and customize workflows and rules to accelerate and automate recurring tasks for your agents. Cases are routed automatically to ensure you don’t miss anything and cases are forwarded to the right agent or team.

Salesforce Essentials stands out with its person-to-person level of communication in all communication channels. Salesforce is known for its powerful CRM solution, hence, the tool is for you if you are looking to deliver a consistent and personalized customer experience across your communication channels. All channels are organized in a single view that can be accessed by your agents from any device.

Zoho Desk also packs an array of features for communication and ticketing workflows. It is available on any channel: email, web form, social media, live chat, and telephony across departments. With its context-centric approach, the software ensures agents can view the previous tickets of the customers so they don’t have to introduce themselves and state their inquiry again and again. This is available through its Zoho Mail Add-on feature. As an integrated solution, it also eliminates the need to open multiple tabs as it syncs emails, contacts, and tasks, among others, through the Microsoft plugin.

It also has Zia, an Artificial Intelligence, specifically for customer service teams to assist customers in finding answers, auto-tags tickets, and shows agents relevant solutions from the knowledge base to use in the ticket response. It has automation for assigning tickets, notification rules, workflows, and SLAs and escalations.

Any of these products offer a feature-packed ticketing management system. They all equip the core features needed to fulfill your customer support workflows. To help you choose, you can look at the plan you’re eyeing for in each product and compare which features are included in the package.

Comparison of Mobile Solutions

Freshdesk’s, Salesforce Essentials’, and Zoho Desk’s mobile solutions are all capable of providing an on-the-go tool for your team. They enable your agents to stay connected using any device. Their apps can be downloaded on either iOS and Android device.

Freshdesk’s mobile app is highly intuitive as it supports numerous features similar to its desktop version. You can view a ticket’s status, share tickets to other tools (like Asana, Trello, and Hangouts), receive agent collision alerts, access customer information, track time and receive high-priority ticket notifications.

Zoho Desk is just as robust. It has a Work Mode functionality where agents get full visibility on tickets about their customer type, due time or internal comments, among others. Handling tickets are intuitive for smartphones by simply swiping, tapping, and scrolling through the dashboard. Its Notification Centre shows real-time updates to empower agents in staying updated. Response templates are also available to accelerate answering inquiries.

Salesforce Essentials also supports team productivity and customer responses even when on the go. It lets you manage and monitor cases in real-time. It doesn’t require you to login so you can quickly resolve cases when a notification pops up. It lets you escalate cases with high-priority and leave a comment or note for other agents to stay in context. You can also scale the tool as Salesforce enables mobile app development and numerous partner mobile apps.

Comparison of Reporting and Analytics Tools

All three products empower you to make data-driven decisions by analyzing your consolidated help desk insights. The complexity of the reporting and analytics functionality may depend on your chosen plan based on whether it offers basic or advanced reporting. For instance, only customizable reports and dashboards are offered in Salesforce Essentials. Advanced reporting tools are only available in higher plans which starts at Lightning Enterprise plan.

Freshdesk’s starting plan includes reports for helpdesk processes, agent and group performance, timesheet summary, schedules and satisfaction surveys. Meanwhile, Zoho Desk’s offers custom reports, custom and standard dashboards, and dashboards for agents, managers and ticket overviews. Unlike Freshdesk, Zoho Desk’s schedule report is only available in its Enterprise plan. However, it has an integration with Zoho Analytics to leverage your help desk insights.

Comparison of Integrations

The three products let you extend their functionality with your existing systems and integrate with third-party apps. It’s essential to look at their list of integrations to see if it works with the systems you are currently using. 

Zoho Desk allows you to expand its capabilities by setting up telephony, managing your contacts and syncing with SMS alerts. Some of the tools it connects with are G Suite, Screen Magic, Jira, and Slack. Its telephony partners include RingCentral, Amazon Web Services, KooKoo, and Aircall, among many others. Of course, it has direct integrations with other Zoho apps like Zoho CRM, BugTracker, Creator, SalesIQ, Reports, Forms, Cliq, Assist, Books and Invoice.

Freshdesk, meanwhile, has a Marketplace where it connects with an extensive list of apps in various categories. Some of its most popular integrations are Google Calendar, MailChimp, Slack, Google Analytics, and Atlassian JIRA. The categories for the apps you can integrate with include advanced ticketing, agent productivity, issue tracking, reports and analytics, knowledge management, data migration, and CRM, among others.

Salesforce Essentials also boasts a large marketplace called AppExchange. Built in the robust Salesforce system, it has numerous essential tools for SMBs to use. This includes GetFeedback for surveys, Dropbox for cloud storage, HelloSign for e-signatures, MailChimp for email management, and LMA for tracking dashboards, among others. The Service Cloud Essentials also have the advantage of including the Sales Cloud Essentials CRM tools into the service app for an out-of-the-box, end-to-end solution in providing support to customers faster and empowering a personalized customer service.

Final Verdict

In this article, we looked at the top 3 help desk software solutions: Freshdesk, Salesforce Essentials, and Zoho Desk. Regardless of which one you choose, you don’t have to worry as all three products are highly robust and reliable. At the end of the day, the important thing is to deploy the system suits your needs best.

Freshdesk, overall, gives you an end-to-end help desk solution. It only has three plans: Free, Professional, and Enterprise which is affordable and scalable to match your requirements. It is easy to use, flexible for ticket management and enables customization for your branding.

Salesforce Essentials is undoubtedly a strong software especially if you prioritize CRM for your help desk operations. This suits you if creating a personalized customer experience is your priority and if you are already using Salesforce for your CRM processes.

Zoho Desk is also a reliable tool with plenty of plan options to choose from based on your needs. This is a go-to solution especially if you are using other Zoho products. It also has a smart, in-context approach to handling customer support.

If you want to explore more options, you may check out our extended list of 20 best help desk software solutions of 2019. Our team of experts evaluated various help desk products to give you more trusted choices.

By Louie Andre

B2B & SaaS market analyst and senior writer for FinancesOnline. He is most interested in project management solutions, believing all businesses are a work in progress. No stranger to small business hiccups and drama, having been involved in a few internet startups. Prior to his for-profit ventures, he has had managed corporate communications for a Kansas City-based Children International unit.

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