Zendesk Alternative: Why Customer Service Platforms Aren't Built for Product Support

Let’s start with the basics.

If you’re not familiar with Zendesk, here’s what you need to know: It is a rather flexible helpdesk app that supports businesses of any size.

It’s got features that are highly scalable, so you can have anywhere from 1 to 500 customer service agents on hand. There’s multi-channel and strong self-service support on both the basic and premium packages.

Zendesk is cloud-based and therefore accessible via desktop and mobile. Any chats, emails, social media posts, or submissions from web forms are instantly turned into tickets and gathered into a system that operates as a one-stop shop for customer-facing issues.

With the self-service portal, you can dive into a deep knowledge base as well as online communities to search through FAQs. This allows companies to essentially offer round-the-clock customer service despite having just a few agents at the ready.

Zendesk also gives managers impressive analytics and reporting tools to help them measure key metrics such as agent performance and customer satisfaction. If you are new to customer support, Zendesk offers up a number of report templates to get you started.

For managers and team leaders, Zendesk provides powerful reporting and analytics to measure key metrics like customer satisfaction ratings, resolution speed, and agent performance. Newbies to customer support management will also find the 20+ report templates helpful. 

Zendesk comes with some significant benefits:

  • Additional features such as branded front-end web interfaces, multi-location time zones, and screencasting.
  • 100+ pre-designed integrations with third-party applications and an API key for apps
  • Ability to manage thousands of tickets on a daily bases with a small team
  • Custom branding for freelancers
  • Broad integration with key systems such as CRM, ecommerce, social media, etc.
  • Adaptable rules and macros for flexible ticket management

While it comes with a huge array of useful tools and advantages, there are a few drawbacks.

Zendesk is not the right solution for every business.

Many organizations have limited resources and time to deal with Zendesk’s advanced functionality and vastness. Startups with tight operating budgets often do not have the bandwidth to manage Zendesk.

Zendesk users have reported its previous years of product innovation have not kept pace as the product has plateaued in terms of functionality. Also, some businesses wind up spending more than planned in order to secure specific features based on Zendesk’s pricing tiers. On the other hand, smaller companies that purchase the whole Zendesk suite sometimes end up not using all of the tools included.

Alternative Customer Support Platforms

With roughly 70% of the market share, Zendesk is the most popular helpdesk solution out there.

Fortunately, there are a few great alternatives in the market. Here is a quick list with some pointers for each:


Second in the market behind Zendesk, Freshdesk is a cloud-based customer service portal that offers a bundle of features (customized branding, agent collision, gamification, etc.) for businesses to address customer concerns. With just under 10% market share, Freshdesk is a competitive, GDPR-ready alternative to Zendesk.

Help Scout

With features like an integrated knowledge base, traffic cop, and real-time analytics, Help Scout delivers a more human touch for customer service teams. Their focus is on personalized services delivered through effective communication with customers, and it shows. At just over 6% market share, Help Scout is making its mark by being a little different but still very effective when it comes to enabling quality customer support. (formerly UserEngage)

The name says it all. is all about improving user engagement and boosting conversions at every point in the sales funnel. The platform is built for companies that embrace transparent communication channels to drive results. focuses on ensuring that communications are efficient and secure between customers and businesses using the platform.

A slight step behind its peers, Kayako offers live chat tools, custom fields, and solid integrations for its users. All of this comes together in a less-than-ideal overall view for teams, but the focus is still on closing the gap between customers and service teams. Offering unified customer services is the big goal with Kayako.


As so many businesses embrace a mobile-first approach, Helpshift is leading in this area.

Recognizing that customers are engaging with a massive number of apps for every little product and service, Helpshift has focused its efforts on in-app support that is completely mobile. This approach has not limited their feature offerings either, which allows for a robust and unique approach to customer service.


Uservoice is all about customer feedback and how it can be used to offer improved services to customers. Pulling in answers from customers by asking them direct questions is a strong approach that allows for the development of user insights based on the feedback. Uservoice excels at this direct engagement with customers.


Groove is all about ease of use and its simple design. It is set up to allow for the conversion of support tickets into engaging customer experiences. From their knowledge base, ticketing, and support widget, Groove’s platform is divided based on the services it offers as a complete tool.


The end goal of customer service is to enrich your brand by keeping customers happy.

Apptentive focuses on helping you build that brand through tools like ratings, personalized notes, and actionable insights from consumer data. The platform’s design—which is very strong on mobile—has customer satisfaction written all over it as your brand’s key priority. 

Not All Customer Service Platforms Are Built for Product Support

You just can’t be everything to everyone. The same goes for support platforms.

At the moment, Zendesk’s core revenue driver (around 85%) is its Support solution. This solution already uses AI to help automate responses and resolve customer issues quickly. Zendesk is also layering in new offerings that are meant to drive more proactive customer interaction across different channels, ranging from chat, text, voice and more.

In the past, Zendesk focused its research and development budget on serving enterprise customers with bigger technology requirements than SMBs. Now, their R&D resources are increasingly directed towards omnichannel integration.

Say a customer interaction begins over text but the customer wants to finish it with a quick call. Making this omnichannel communication process easier is the key to delivering a better experience for the end-user. Zendesk is also investing in its self-service platform which is a key driver for customer satisfaction.

The team at Zendesk understands its limitations and that’s why they’re building Sunshine, one of the company’s boldest offerings to date. Sunshine is a modern CRM (as the company aims at Salesforce’s market share) that allows businesses to synthesize and act on large amounts of consumer data regardless of where it lives.

Companies are seeking more complete pictures of a consumer’s individual relationship with their business (and new ways to leverage that data). Sunshine accomplishes this by creating a unified view of customers across multiple applications and allowing for cross-functional interaction. 

Using Sunshine’s tools (like Events and the Custom Objects API), users can capture customer activity in a timeline as well as collect further information tied to specific products.

In short, Zendesk’s rollout of Sunshine demonstrates that they understand the bigger picture and the need to link customer service with product support in a more holistic and omnichannel fashion.

Companies looking to compete in the world of helpdesk software will certainly need to move in this direction to stay competitive and meet the needs of their clients.

Why Next-Generation Support Platforms Are The Future

Regardless of the quality of your product(s), the inquiries will keep coming.

Are you ready?

The best way to get ready is to stay ready with the right support platform in place. You’ll want a platform that is purpose-built for supporting technology products. A next-generation support platform should offer collaborative support, network monitoring, and shared knowledge to enable organizations to deliver top-notch customer service and product support.

Zendesk and many other alternative platforms just aren’t equipped for the deep integration of the two. With Relay, it’s quite simple to sell, activate and service business technology products at scale. That’s the kind of range your customer support platform needs to keep customers happy and profits high. 

You’ll want to keep the high-quality support flowing 24/7 and a support platform like Relay allows you to do just that. You can grow your business without adding to your headcount. Imagine that.

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