We are often being asked by clients what software we are using, and specifically, why we have chosen the software that we have.
As someone that believes in using the best tool for the job + integration, over an "all-in-one solution" approach, I'm quite passionate about the software stack that we use.
So when Ethan from Motion (our calendaring + scheduling solution, that we are obsessed with by the way) reached out looking to understand why we have chosen Help Scout vs the countless contenders out there, I figured it was time to roll this up into a proper blog post.
Let's just say, I've tried every single help desk on the market (and continue to evaluate new solutions), and yet I keep finding myself coming back to Help Scout, and here's why...
(Already sold and just want some free credit? Here's a link to get a free trial + $50 credit)
Best Help Desk Tools
- ✅ Zendesk: The Incumbent
- ✅ Intercom: The "SaaS" Live Chat
- ✅ Front: The All-In-One
- ✅ Help Scout: The Customer-Centric (Top Pick)
- ❌ Superhuman: Not A Help Desk 😅
Think of Zendesk as the "Salesforce" of the help desk world. They "integrate" with almost everything (what that even means is many things... does that mean it'll do what you want it to do? questionable), they have help docs, an included community platform even. But what's it like to actually use? Well, painful. There's zero joy in using it. It feels like you're using archaic and unintuitive software, I've still yet to meet a customer success rep that has had even one positive thing to say about it, or rather, I've yet to meet someone that hasn't "hated it" to be more specific.
In Zendesk, you are a ticket number, not a person. And yes, customers feel this, it's incredibly apparent and frustrating to experience:
But what about the community component? We want a community!
Well, good luck building one with Zendesk, another area I'm obsessed with, community software (love Discourse + Insided) and I have still yet to see even ONE Zendesk "Community" implementation that isn't just filled with customers complaining about said SaaS that the community was built for, with it all fallen on deaf ears by the company. That's a different story all-together though.
Intercom is great, but is quite expensive for what you get, and it's super live chat focused. Something I'm regularly reminding small businesses of is that having a live chat has a huge (hidden) cost associated with it, especially as a small team. It brings with it anxiety of responding (had one client that wouldn't use the restroom out of fear they weren't there to respond to a customer shortly after implementing Intercom into their business. Yep, it's safe to say that it didn't last very long for their small team, they are no longer using Intercom. They also charge based on number of contacts and the various components (features) and it gets wildly expensive very quickly. They are great though and the industry standard for live chat (if you can justify having a few full-time employees to manage your live chat).
My main question here is, are you planning on having your social channels and chat apps as your main source of support? I mean really, think about that question deeply. I understand that the gut reaction is "yes, that would be great!" - but maybe those 5 customers of yours that prefer to message you via Facebook Messenger or Twitter DM's shouldn't be the sole cause of fragmentation across support channels, requiring you to then use a tool like Front to rope it all back in. So ask yourself, just because you "can" open up your support channels, "should you"?
If the answer is "yes", then that's where I can vouch for Front, but again, you're accepting support fragmentation, and good luck roping that back in in the future. Again, if you're a small team, you should probably have a primary and centralized support channel, usually "firstname.lastname@example.org" - that way you can better control routing and tracking feedback.
Also, if you're like us and you love using Superhuman for your direct emails, you're not going to benefit from the other features of Front, like "shared inboxes" and such across the team. You really need to use Front as your main email inbox to get the most use out of it.
4. Help Scout
Help Scout on the other hand can be best described as a customer-centric tool. They have done an incredible job at building somewhat of a community around their software. For example, when I see a company is using Help Scout (on either the website chat or email response), I have an immediate reaction of feeling that they care deeply about customer support and will have equally caring support reps. I'm part of their "Support Driven" Slack community as well and am regularly seeing teams of all sizes (big and small) actually switching over to Help Scout from Zendesk and Intercom, among others.
They have a nice implementation of live chat in their product as well, it's actually thoughtful (and further customer-focused). How you might ask? Expectations matching. For one, you have to mindfully to mark yourself as "available", and if you aren't actively in Help Scout for a long enough period of time, it will automatically mark you as "away" (wait that's a feature...? hold on, let me explain). There's nothing worse than having a "live chat" on your website that gives the impression that you'll get an immediate response, but in reality, you just get a bot that asks for your email address because "the team is away". It's a bad expectation mismatch. Help Scout doesn't allow this to happen.
They have more of an "email first" approach, with a "we might be live though" as a secondary. So when the live chat shows on your website, you can be sure that there's actually a human on the other end. Great expectation matching, which as a small team, I appreciate a lot. Now take that, versus Intercom, which simply upon seeing the logo, you and everyone else expects to speak to someone immediately, and if you aren't on the other end, they get frustrated - you're set up to lose versus surprise and delight (which is what Help Scout constantly allows for). If you're a small team, why not set yourself up for success and delight out of the box?
What does "Customer-Centric Companies" even mean? Okay, well product aside for a moment, Help Scout has somehow managed to get the companies that have the most customer-focused support teams onto their software. Time and time again, I am constantly blown away by the support I receive from companies that just so happen to be using Help Scout. In a way, it inspires me to always "do better" and go above and beyond with my own customers. Companies using Help Scout seem to attract employees that genuinely care about their customers, treat their employees well, leading to genuinely happy experiences, and conversation exchanges that make you forget your frustrations when reaching out to support. You're not a "number", you're a human, and you're talking to another human, it's great.
To list a few of the companies that I'm describing above:
- Zapier (shout out to Christian) wait, what... you know their name? exactly
- Postmark (shout out to Brian)
- Superhuman (shout out to Carlton) — believe it or not, Superhuman used their own software for their support channel for the first couple years in business! (aside: totally jealous, that sounds fun), but as they scaled (didn't take much), it was incredibly clear that Superhuman wasn't meant to be a help desk and it wouldn't work, so they switched to (big shocker) Help Scout and have been happy with it ever since.
- Help Scout (obviously - just wanted to shout out Kelly)
- Efficient App (come on, of course we're going to put ourselves on this list) 😅
So with that, you're in good company, and if you've used any of the above services and have reached out to their support team, I'm sure you'll know exactly what I'm talking about.
By using Help Scout, whether or not you like it, you're joining a "customer-centric support community". What do I mean? When I see companies using Help Scout, I can't help but just feel connected to them - just like that, they feel like a friend. Somehow Help Scout has managed to do this and it's not surprising given that they invest a lot into CS research, education, and they treat their employees really well.
In terms of features, they have a super easy-to-use workflow automation feature that allows you to easily prioritize conversations, assign tickets, move between mailboxes, etc. think of Gmail filters on steroids. You can even build a workflow that runs with the click of a dropdown item (you can choose to have this be a manual or automated workflow). For example, I have certain types of conversations automatically tagged (and I use the purple color tag to insinuate that a "manual workflow" should be ran, and then I have "Approve" and "Deny" which runs through and removes a tag + adds a tag + marks the conversation as "closed"). So it makes building out processes work really well:
Anyway, I'm sold, how do I try it? Here's an extended free trial + $50 credit.
We've seen many people try to use tools like Superhuman or Gmail as their company's shared help desk. This just doesn't work or scale.
Now we 100% understand the appeal of being able to use Superhuman to manage support tickets—it would be way more fun, right? Yeah, but they aren't a help desk.
They don't have shared inbox functionality (and sharing a support@domain inbox between team members is going to evolve into a complete mess very quickly). In-fact, Superhuman themselves actually used Superhuman as their help desk... Until ultimately switching to Help Scout 😅
Workflows & Automation
Superhuman does not allow for automating of workflows, for example, when an email comes in and has XYZ in the subject line, or contains xyz.com, assign to team member A or B. That's a function of a help desk, not an email client.
So yeah, stay away from Superhuman for your team help desk, just use it for your personal email inbox. 😄
Does It Integrate?
Of course! Check out the Help Scout Integrations page to see all the integrations we've built. We've built a pretty rad integration between Copper + Help Scout that logs new support tickets (along with the link to access that conversation) directly into the CRM activity log under the customer, along with any support notes.
We also have our own internal custom integration between Help Scout + Asana which creates a task for a new support ticket, and automatically pushes updates from Help Scout (like status changes and assignee) and updates the task within Asana.
Let us know if you want to learn more about this!
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(please note only eligible companies will be chosen for the audit.)