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Zendesk vs Salesforce vs Freshdesk: Comparison of Top 3 Help Desk Solutions

Category: B2B News
What is the best help desk software?
The best help desk software is Freshdesk, a cloud-hosted platform designed to help you deliver quality customer support. When compared with other top solutions like Salesforce Essentials and Zendesk, Freshdesk comes up with better overall performance, able to adapt to businesses of any size and industry and deliver the right balance of help desk features such as ticketing system, knowledge base, automation, collaboration and communication tools, and multi-channel capability.

Are you looking for a top help desk software? You can narrow down your choices to Freshdesk, Zendesk, and Salesforce Essentials and you can’t go wrong. They are among the most popular and reliable help desk solutions used by both startups and top brands from diverse industries. All of them can scale to the requirements of businesses regardless of size but they have been specifically designed to cater to the needs of small businesses with easy-to-use tools and budget-friendly pricing. Though the three solutions have many similar features, each also has unique offerings as you’ll find out in this guide.

When trying to compare products, it is important that you use similar metrics so you avoid skewing the outcomes. We zeroed in on six key areas where, we believe, you should match the three products against each other for a solid comparison. At the end of this article, you should have a clearer picture of how each help desk software is superior over the other two in specific areas, insights that will help reinforce your purchase decision.

A good help desk solution for your business should be easy to set up, flexible to different user roles and scalable to business of any size. All three solutions here meet these criteria. This is important in the case of implementing a help desk system; the users, both agents and customers, likely don’t have any technical skills to tinker with the app. While low-tier systems as help desk apps are not as comprehensively demanding as enterprise systems in terms of onboarding new users, user experience here is just as critical. Imagine an agent spending more time looking for data in your knowledge base than actually providing the customer with the answer.

Similarly, if your company is growing fast, one of your challenges will be scaling support. There are plenty of techniques on how to scale customer service, but it is also important for your tools to scale with these techniques. Luckily, all three solutions here can adapt to customer support spikes without hurting your cash flow or involving huge sums of capital outlay.

So let’s dive in and briefly get to know Freshdesk, Zendesk, and Salesforce Essentials. Remember to take advantage also of the free trial offers provided by the vendors, the better to evaluate the features firsthand.

Overview of Freshdesk

Our experts have systematically analyzed a wide range of help desk software apps, and after a thorough examination found Freshdesk to be the best available solution on the market. Our panel of experts gave Freshdesk a high score which places it in our help desk software ranking list. Freshdesk provides flexible pricing packages and even offers a free version of the tool for small teams of up to 3 users. You can easily test all key features of the app with their great free trial as well. You can 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 is based in San Francisco, CA, and boasts more than 50,000 customers worldwide including prominent names like Honda, 3M, Pearson, University of Pennsylvania, Petronas, and Cisco. The app can be used by organizations of any size but is especially popular among small and medium businesses. Freshdesk offers reliable customer support through phone and email, and provides a knowledge base for self-help. It is scalable for large enterprises that can make use of premium features like custom email servers, custom agent roles, portal customization, and IP whitelisting. If you want a more comprehensive look at Freshdesk and its features, integrations, and pricing, you should read our Freshdesk reviews.

Overview of Salesforce Essentials

Like the other two apps, Salesforce Essentials is also based in San Francisco, CA. It is made up of a CRM solution with a customer service component and is part of the Salesforce suite of business apps. The software offers email and social media support and you can use its robust CRM features to leverage customer support data to boost your sales. Salesforce Essentials is offered as an out-of-the-box solution for small businesses that want to launch their own help desk support or customer service then integrate it with other Salesforce products later on. You can read our comprehensive review of Salesforce Essentials to learn more of its benefits, features, capabilities, and pricing. If you’d like to explore the product firsthand, simply sign up for a Salesforce Essentials free trial here.

Overview of Zendesk

Like Freshdesk, Zendesk is also based in San Francisco, CA. The similarities do not end there. Zendesk also stands out for its multi-channel support and quality ticketing system. It also boasts an excellent reporting and analytics module. Another similarity is in the fact that Zendesk also offers a self-service portal to help you create a knowledge base and FAQs for customer self-help. If you want to get more information about Zendesk and its features, pricing plans and available integrations you can read our detailed review of Zendesk.

Comparison of Ticketing Module

Ticketing is a key feature for any help desk software, as it enables users to accept customer queries, respond promptly, and monitor engagements. Both Freshdesk and Zendesk boast robust ticketing modules, while Salesforce Essentials utilizes its own built-in Service Cloud component to handle tickets and cases from multiple channels. In addition, to lessen the load on your support agents, Essentials allows you to create your own branded self-service support portal so your customers can quickly search for answers to common questions, or directly reach out to agents if they can’t find what they are looking for.

Freshdesk and Zendesk offer similar ticketing features including:

  • Macros to create standard replies
  • Triggers and business rules
  • File attachments
  • Views based on ticket conditions
  • Ticket queuing, status, and properties
  • Service level agreements settings (SLAs)
  • Agent collision detection

Both Freshdesk and Zendesk show the ticket source which could be chat, social media, or email, and use rich-text format to help users highlight key points in an email response. Similarly, both apps offer a shared view to help agents collaborate on handling tickets.

One of Freshdesk’s highlights is its individual ticketing dashboard which displays customer information inside the ticket, including their contact numbers. This helps agents to call customers for urgent issues while inside the ticket. Another outstanding feature of Freshdesk is that it gives smart suggestions for solutions to the ticket based on its keywords. This feature helps agents to send faster standard replies.

You can share Zendesk tickets with other Zendesk accounts, enabling you to collaborate on customer service with outside teams such as vendor or retail partners. This helps you offer customer support in conjunction with other providers.

Comparison of Communication Channels

Salesforce Essentials leverages its Service Cloud module for small business customer support teams. It is able to automatically connect and centralize cases from multiple support channels which can be accessed by agents from any device. Its automation capabilities can be applied to the hilt for repetitive tasks such as assigning work based on agent expertise and availability to ensure that questions are routed to the right agent. Service and support agents get a full view of customer information for faster response to queries and issue resolution.

Freshdesk and Zendesk provide multiple channels for contacting customers, both offering integrated phone, live chat, and email support, social media integration, and self-service center. You can integrate your Facebook and Twitter pages with the apps and offer customer support right inside your customers’ favorite social websites.

Both applications offer a self-service portal to create a knowledge base and community forum. Both solutions also support customization to suit your brand feel and colors. Freshdesk goes a step further and enables replication of your website’s CSS style in the help center for seamless branding.

Zendesk’s self-service center is offered in more than 40 languages, which is great if your main markets include non-English speaking countries. Freshdesk and Zendesk also provide a support widget that can be embedded on your website so that visitors need not leave the site page to access your help center or submit a ticket.

Freshdesk’s widget is especially impressive as you can place it as a subtle tab anywhere on the page and it expands when clicked. In contrast, the Zendesk widget only appears in the bottom part of the website. In the Freshdesk widget, customers get smart suggestions based on their query’s keywords.

Comparison of Mobile Features

Freshdesk has the most robust mobile platform, but Zendesk has greater reach as it offers versions for Kindle and Windows. However, Zendesk offers only select mobile capabilities, and you need to tweak its mobile SDK (Android and iOS only) to use live chat, knowledge base, and ticket submission in the mobile interface.

Freshdesk scores in this category as it offers powerful capabilities in both its Android and iOS apps. You can perform tasks such as responding to tickets, changing priorities, and marking spam. Agents can pass a ticket to an office-based agent if they are unable to attend to the ticket in the field for any reason.

Salesforce Essentials’ mobile app lets you take customer profile and insights from your CRM data which you can access and take with you anywhere. The rest of its features are designed for CRM.

Comparison of Reporting and Analytics Tools

Both Freshdesk and Zendesk provide robust reporting and analytics tools to help you measure customer support performance. Important features offered by both solutions include:

  • Dashboards that help monitor agents’ performance and identifies star performers and weak links in your team
  • Time tracking for individual tickets
  • Customer satisfaction surveys
  • Track important ticketing data from a number of resolved tickets
  • Customer satisfaction ratings to assess agents’ performance
  • Average response time

Both Freshdesk and Zendesk offer powerful reporting tools to help you create visual reports and metrics for analysis and presentation.

Freshdesk goes a step ahead as it simplifies customer satisfaction analytics with emoticons that help to track your team’s performance. It is also able to gamify customer support with leaderboard scoring and awards. You can award your best performers for good performance, which can serve as a big motivation factor.

Zendesk offers 50 best practice reports including customer experience, agent performance, and operational efficiency. Its Enterprise plan has up to 200 custom fields. You can compare your support team’s performance against your competitors that also use Zendesk. This can help to motivate your agents to do better.

Sales Essentials offers contact management that enables you to get a 360-degree view of customers, including their communication history, past activities, and social engagement. This tool has been designed for assessing online deals and campaigns.

Comparison of Integrations

All three products offer robust integration capabilities. Salesforce Essentials gives you the advantage of being able to integrate with other apps in the Salesforce ecosystem such as Marketing Cloud and Pardot. Salesforce likewise has its own cloud computing marketplace – AppExchange – which is home to thousands of business apps that you can access, download, and install to fully extend the functionalities of the Essentials platform.

Freshdesk integrates with a host of popular apps including e-commerce, CRM, productivity, and invoicing products. Top brands like Google, JIRA, Nimble, Dropbox, Zapier, Shopify, and MailChimp work well with Freshdesk, which also integrates with Salesforce business apps.

Zendesk has a comprehensive app store that enables users to add more features such as project management, marketing automation, e-commerce, and live chat. Most add-ons are free, and the rest are minimally priced. You can use Zendesk’s API to create your own third-party app.

Comparison of Pricing

All three solutions are cloud-hosted platforms that offer subscription-based pricing. All of them also offer free trials.

At $25/user per month for up to 10 users, you get value for money with Salesforce Essentials that integrates both CRM and help desk functions. In one platform, you get Sales Cloud Essentials with CRM features and Service Cloud Essentials with help desk tools to assist you with managing leads and delivering quality customer support.

Five plans are offered by Freshdesk starting with a free plan for use by an unlimited number of agents. Free plans are usually limited in features so you may try out their paid plans with more features and advanced tools. Premium plans have prices ranging from $19/agent per month to $89/agent per month.

Zendesk offers several plans based on its separate modules – Support, Chat, Talk, and Guide. You can get one, two, three modules or the entire package, depending on your needs. Each module gives you three to five plans to choose from starting with a Basic plan with around three features to an Elite or Enterprise plan with complete help desk features and advanced capabilities. Plan prices range from $9/agent per month up to $199/agent per month.

What’s the Next Step?

Zendesk, Freshdesk, and Salesforce Essentials are all powerhouse help desk solutions. Any of them will go a long way to helping you deliver top-notch customer support. After a careful analysis of these three tools (as well as other popular help desk solutions), our experts picked Freshdesk as the best possible choice for a company looking for a reliable and efficient help desk service. Aside from its solid features and capabilities, it also provides a great freemium and free trial plan that will let you test the key features of Freshdesk. You can easily sign up for Freshdesk free trial here.

By Jenny Chang

Senior writer at FinancesOnline who writes about a wide range of SaaS and B2B products, including trends and issues on e-commerce, accounting and customer service software. She’s also covered a wide range of topics in business, science, and technology for websites in the U.S., Australia and Singapore, keeping tabs on edge tech like 3D printed health monitoring tattoos and SpaceX’s exploration plans.

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