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A multi-channel helpdesk that works inside Gmail

Zendesk vs Intercom – A Detailed Comparison

Jan 23, 2024
15 min read
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Choosing the right customer service platform is pivotal for enhancing business-client interactions. In this context, Zendesk and Intercom emerge as key contenders, each offering distinct features tailored to dynamic customer service environments.

Understanding the unique attributes of Zendesk and Intercom is crucial in this comparison. Zendesk is renowned for its comprehensive range of functionalities, including advanced email ticketing, live chat, phone support, and a vast knowledge base. Its ability to seamlessly integrate with various applications further amplifies its versatility.

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Intercom, while differing from Zendesk, offers specialized features aimed at enhancing customer relationships. Founded as a business messenger, it now extends to enabling support, engagement, and conversion. Notable for its focus on personalization and flexible customer service experiences, Intercom’s strengths lie in its modern live chat capabilities, detailed customer data analytics, outbound messaging, and efficient chatbot functionalities.

While both platforms have a significant presence in the industry, they cater to varying business requirements. Zendesk, with its extensive toolkit, is often preferred by businesses seeking an all-encompassing customer support solution. 

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Intercom, on the other hand, is ideal for those focusing on CRM capabilities and personalized customer interactions.

This exploration aims to provide a detailed comparison, aiding businesses in making an informed decision that aligns with their customer service goals. Both Zendesk and Intercom offer robust solutions, but the choice ultimately depends on specific business needs.

Zendesk Overview

Zendesk is a customer service software offering a comprehensive solution for managing customer interactions. It integrates customer support, sales, and marketing communications, aiming to improve client relationships. Known for its scalability, Zendesk is suitable for various business sizes, from startups to large corporations. 

Zendesk UI

It features a centralized system for handling customer support tickets, including tracking, prioritization, and resolution. The platform is customizable and supports numerous third-party application integrations, enhancing its versatility in customer service management​.

Explore the best Zendesk Alternatives

Intercom Overview

Intercom is a customer support platform known for its effective messaging and automation, enhancing in-context support within products, apps, or websites. It features the Intercom Messenger, which works with existing support tools for self-serve or live support. 

Key offerings include automated support with help center articles, a messenger-first ticketing system, and a powerful inbox to centralize customer queries. 

Intercom UI

Intercom’s solution aims to streamline high-volume ticket influx and provide personalized, conversational support. It also includes extensive integrations with over 350 CRM, email, ticketing, and reporting tools. The platform is recognized for its ability to resolve a significant portion of common questions automatically, ensuring faster response times.

Explore the Top 10 Intercom Alternatives

Zendesk vs Intercom – which should you choose?

When comparing Zendesk and Intercom, various factors come into play, each focusing on different aspects, strengths, and weaknesses of these customer support platforms.

1. User Interface and Design

When comparing the user interfaces (UI) of Zendesk and Intercom, both platforms exhibit distinct characteristics and strengths catering to different user preferences and needs.


  • Design: Zendesk’s interface may appear more traditional and, to some, slightly outdated. However, it offers a straightforward approach to sorting and filtering queries, which can be beneficial for managing complex customer support scenarios.
Zendesk Agent Interface
  • Customization: The dashboard is customizable and supports integration with over 500 apps, enhancing its functionality.
  • Omnichannel Functionality: Zendesk consolidates all communication channels into a single interface, facilitating easier management of customer interactions.

How itGenius saved 40 hours a month by moving from Zendesk to Hiver


  • Modern and Intuitive: Intercom’s UI is known for its modern and user-friendly design. It offers a more intuitive experience, especially for users who value a sleek, contemporary look.
Intercom Agent Interface
  • Streamlined Process: The design emphasizes streamlined processes, making it easier for users to navigate through the platform and manage customer interactions effectively.
  • Engaging User Interaction: Intercom’s UI design makes inter-team collaboration and customer engagement more engaging and less cumbersome. This aspect of the design contributes to a more pleasant user experience overall.
  • Effective Live Chat Interface: A standout feature in Intercom’s design is its live chat interface, which is highly customizable and modern, providing a smooth experience for both support agents and customers.

Strengths and Weaknesses:


The strength of Zendesk’s UI lies in its structured and comprehensive environment, adept at managing numerous customer interactions and integrating various channels seamlessly. However, compared to the more contemporary designs like Intercom’s, Zendesk’s UI may appear outdated, particularly in aspects such as chat widget and customization options. This could impact user experience and efficiency for new users grappling with its complexity​​​​​​.


Intercom’s UI excels in modern design and intuitive functionality, particularly noted for its real-time messaging and advanced features. It is tailored for automation and quick access to insights, offering a user-friendly experience. Nevertheless, the platform’s support consistency can be a concern, and the unpredictable pricing structure might lead to increased costs for larger organizations.

2. Automation

When comparing the automation and AI features of Zendesk and Intercom, both platforms come with unique strengths and weaknesses.


  • Administrator Automation: Zendesk provides administrator automation which includes settings for routing, creating queues, ring groups, and rules for customer direction. This feature streamlines the process of managing customer queries, directing them to the appropriate teams or agents.
Zendesk Automation
  • Chatbot Flow Builder: Zendesk offers a chatbot flow builder that enables control over chatbot interactions, including transferring customers to live agents, linking articles, and presenting menu options. This tool aids in automating responses and actions based on customer interactions.
  • Workflow Management: Zendesk’s Admin Center allows for the customization of ticket workflows, including setting up custom ticket fields, service level agreements (SLAs),and triggers based on customer actions and details. This level of customization aids in automating processes and responses, ensuring a more efficient handling of customer tickets.

9 Automations to Implement in Ticketing Systems


  • Chatbot Lead Qualifying and Smart Routing: Intercom’s automation engine, Operator, empowers chatbots to gather essential information from website visitors to qualify leads and route them appropriately. This feature ensures queries are directed to the most suitable agents or departments.
Intercom Automation
  • Assignment Rules and Workload Management: Intercom provides automatic assignment rules to route tickets based on conversations or user data, and workload management tools to distribute incoming conversations and workload among team members evenly. These features are crucial for managing high volumes of customer interactions and ensuring balanced work distribution.

Strengths and Weaknesses:


Zendesk’s multichannel functionality is quite robust. It’s known for its unified agent workspace which combines different communication methods like email, social media messaging, live chat, and SMS, all in one place. This makes it easier for support teams to handle customer interactions without switching between different systems. Plus, Zendesk’s integration with various channels ensures customers can always find a convenient way to reach out. But, it’s not without its drawbacks. Some users might find the system a bit overwhelming due to its extensive features, and setting up and customizing these multichannel integrations can be a bit complex, especially for beginners or smaller teams.


Intercom, meanwhile, takes a slightly different approach. It really shines in its modern messenger interface, making real-time chat a breeze. Its multichannel support is more focused on engaging customers through its chat and messaging systems, including mobile carousels and interactive communication tools. However, compared to Zendesk, Intercom might not offer the same breadth in terms of integrating a wide range of external channels. While it excels in interactive and engaging communication, especially on mobile, some businesses might find its focus on chat-based interfaces limiting if they need extensive email or voice call support.

Both platforms have their unique strengths in multichannel support, with Zendesk offering a more comprehensive range of integrated channels and Intercom focusing on a dynamic, chat-centric experience.

3. Omnichannel Functionalities

When comparing the omnichannel support functionalities of Zendesk and Intercom, both platforms show distinct strengths and weaknesses.


  • Text: Allows for responding to inbound text messages, with each text automatically creating a ticket in Zendesk Support.
Zendesk Knowledge Base
  • Zendesk Guide: Streamlines customer support by enabling businesses to create and manage a comprehensive, easily accessible knowledge base, enhancing self-service and efficiency.
  • Live Chat (Zendesk Chat): Enables companies to offer live chat support to customers. Chat sessions become tickets post-chat. Includes a real-time list of website visitors, providing proactive support opportunities.
  • Web Widget (Classic): Embeds Zendesk Support options on websites or help centers, offering access to knowledge base articles, live chat, and ticket submission forms.
  • Mobile SDK: Integrates Zendesk support options in native apps, allowing in-app ticket creation, live chat, knowledge base access, and direct feedback/ratings.
  • Channel Integrations: Includes apps that connect to various platforms, allowing agents to respond to messages, reviews, and comments from these channels as regular tickets.
  • Computer Telephony Integration (CTI): Connects Zendesk with third-party telephony systems, allowing ticket creation from CTI channels.

Discover the 7 Best Omnichannel Helpdesk for Customer Support


  • Integration Across Multiple Channels: Intercom allows for the integration of different channels such as WhatsApp, Instagram, Facebook, Email, and SMS into its support workflows. This integration enables efficient handling of inbound conversations across these channels, providing customers with support on their preferred platforms.
Intercom Omnichannel Functionalities
  • AI Chatbot Fin: A significant component of Intercom’s omnichannel support is its AI Chatbot, Fin, powered by a combination of OpenAI’s GPT-4 and Intercom’s proprietary AI technologies. Fin can handle complete support conversations in multiple languages, provide accurate answers using a company’s support content, and seamlessly transition to human support teams when necessary.
  • Omnichannel Support for Workflows: Intercom’s workflows can be triggered across various channels, including mobile. These workflows can be configured to send auto-replies, tag, assign, and route messages efficiently. The system is designed to offer greater flexibility and allows for different auto-reply messages and actions based on the customer’s chosen communication channel.

Strengths and Weaknesses:

Here’s a breakdown of where each excels and where they might fall short.


Zendesk is renowned for its comprehensive toolset that aids in automating customer service workflows and fine-tuning chatbot interactions. Its strengths are prominently seen in multi-channel support, with effective email, social media, and live chat integrations, coupled with a robust internal knowledge base for agent support. 


Intercom stands out for its modern and user-friendly messenger functionality, which includes advanced features with a focus on automation and real-time insights. Its AI Chatbot, Fin, is particularly noted for handling complex queries efficiently. 

Download the ‘AI vs Human | The Future of Customer Service in 2024’ Report

Intercom also excels in real-time chat solutions, making it a strong contender for businesses seeking dynamic customer interaction. This unpredictability in pricing might lead to higher costs, especially for larger companies. While it offers a range of advanced features, the overall costs and potential inconsistencies in support could be a concern for some businesses​​​​.

4. Reporting and Analytics

When comparing the reporting and analytics features of Zendesk and Intercom, both platforms offer robust tools, but with distinct focuses and functionalities.


  • Explore Feature: Zendesk’s primary tool for reporting and analytics is Zendesk Explore. This platform offers a comprehensive suite for data analysis and reporting.
  • Customizable Reporting: Users can create and modify reports and dashboards to suit specific business needs. This includes creating custom metrics and attributes, setting up different visualizations (charts, tables),and filtering data.
Zendesk Explore for Reporting and Analytics
  • Prebuilt Dashboards and Reports: Zendesk provides a range of prebuilt dashboards, which are useful for getting quick insights into common business metrics and operations.
  • Datasets: Explore utilizes datasets, collections of metrics (quantitative data) and attributes (qualitative data),from different Zendesk products, allowing users to analyze data across the platform.
  • User Roles and Permissions: The platform allows configuration of different user roles such as Editors, Admins, and Viewers, each with varying levels of access, to manage the security of business information.
  • Data Export Options: Users can export reports and data in various formats for further analysis outside of Zendesk.
  • Automated Report Sharing: Reports can be shared on a one-time or recurring basis within the organization, and with individuals outside the support team on certain plans​​​​​​.

18 Key Customer Service Metrics and How to Use Them


  • Custom Reports: Intercom allows the creation of custom reports to analyze specific metrics that are relevant to the business. This includes the ability to select and visualize different data points and trends.
Intercom Analytics
  • Prebuilt Reports: Intercom offers several prebuilt reports, covering different aspects of customer interactions and team performance. These include reports on conversations, team performance, customer satisfaction, and automation effects.
  • Conversation Topics: This feature uses machine learning to analyze customer conversations and identify common topics and themes, providing insights into customer concerns and team performance.
  • Real-Time Data: Intercom’s reporting offers real-time insights into various aspects of customer interactions and team performance.
  • Automation Impact Reports: Reports on the impact of automated features such as chatbots and workflows are available, giving insights into their effectiveness.
  • Data Export: Similar to Zendesk, Intercom provides options to export data for external analysis.
  • Machine Learning for Suggestions: Intercom’s reporting tools include machine-learning-driven suggestions for conversation topics, which can help in identifying emerging trends or blind spots in support coverage​

Key Takeaways

  • Focus and Strengths: Zendesk offers a more comprehensive suite for in-depth data analysis across various Zendesk products, suitable for larger operations or those needing extensive data analysis capabilities. Intercom’s strength lies in its focus on conversation analysis and automation impact, making it ideal for businesses prioritizing customer interaction data and automated support features.
  • Customization and Flexibility: Both platforms offer significant customization in reports but differ in their focus areas — Zendesk with its wide-ranging datasets and metrics, and Intercom with a strong focus on conversation analysis and automation.
  • User Interface and Accessibility: The ease of use and accessibility of reporting tools might vary between the two platforms, with Zendesk offering a more traditional data analysis experience and Intercom focusing on more modern, AI-driven insights.

5. Pricing

Pricing for both services varies based on the specific needs and scale of your business.


Zendesk Pricing

Zendesk offers a variety of plans under its Suite package, with annual subscription rates per agent per month as follows: Suite Team at $55, Suite Growth at $89, Suite Professional at $115, and Suite Enterprise at $169. There are additional charges for advanced AI and data privacy and protection features, each costing $50 per agent per month.

Zendesk costs 2x more than Hiver


Intercom Pricing

Intercom, on the other hand, provides three main plans: Essential at $39 per seat per month, Advanced at $99 per seat per month, and Expert at $139 per seat per month. Additional costs apply for features like AI chatbot resolutions, email campaigns, SMS, WhatsApp, and phone calls. There is also a Proactive Support Plus upgrade starting from $499 per month.

Key Takeaway

Zendesk’s per-agent pricing structure makes it a budget-friendly option for smaller teams, allowing costs to scale with team growth. 

On the other hand, Intercom, starting at a lower price point, could be more attractive for very small teams or individual users. However, additional costs for advanced features can quickly increase the total expense. 

Choose Zendesk for a scalable, team-size-based pricing model and Intercom for initial low-cost access with flexibility in adding advanced features.

6. Vendor Support Quality

Comparing the customer support team quality for Zendesk and Intercom, there are a few key points to consider:


Accessing customer support from Zendesk can be challenging, especially for those subscribed to the more basic plans. Zendesk prioritizes premium, personalized support services for its higher subscription tiers. This approach can be a significant limitation for smaller businesses or those operating within a tight budget.

They have a 2-day SLA, no phone support, and the times I have had to work with them they have been incredibly difficult to work with. Very rarely do they understand the issue (mostly with Explore) that I am trying to communicate to them. The support documentation is incredibly lackluster, and it’s often impossible to know which guide to use as they have non-sensical terminology that makes even finding the appropriate guide very difficult.

I would not recommend Zendesk for their lack of support alone. It seems that it’s been built to allow you to do most things but with non-user-friendly UI.


Moreover, for users who require more dedicated and personalized support, Zendesk charges an additional premium. These premium support services can range in cost, typically between $1,500 and $2,800. This additional cost can be a considerable factor for businesses to consider when evaluating their customer support needs against their budget constraints.


Intercom generally receives positive feedback for its customer support, with users appreciating the comprehensive features and team-oriented tools. However, there are occasional criticisms regarding the effectiveness of its AI chatbot and some interface navigation challenges. The overall sentiment from users indicates a satisfactory level of support, although opinions vary.

The help articles can sometimes be a little difficult to follow, which makes it hard to use them when wanting to learn certain areas in Intercom.


Key Takeaway

Zendesk provides limited customer support for its basic plan users, along with costly premium assistance options. On the other hand, Intercom is generally praised for its support features, despite facing challenges with its AI chatbot and the complexity of its help articles. 

Zendesk, less user-friendly and with higher costs for quality vendor support, might not suit budget-conscious or smaller businesses. 

In contrast, Intercom, with its more consistent and accessible customer service, could be a better choice for those valuing comprehensive and user-friendly support, despite minor navigation issues.

…Or just opt for the better alternative – Hiver

Hiver is a customer support solution that operates directly within Gmail, offering a seamless experience for businesses looking to streamline their support processes. Here’s a deep dive into what Hiver brings to the table:

Hiver UI

1. Gmail-Based Interface

Hiver’s most significant selling point is its how its seamlessly built inside Gmail. This means there’s no new software to learn. Teams can manage customer emails directly from their familiar Gmail inbox. This integration significantly reduces the learning curve and improves adoption rates within teams.

2. Shared Inboxes

Hiver transforms Gmail into a shared inbox. This feature is perfect for support teams that handle large volumes of customer emails. It enables multiple team members to access, manage, and respond to emails from a shared email address (like [email protected]),ensuring no customer query goes unanswered.

3. Email Assignment and Tracking

With Hiver, emails can be assigned to specific team members. This clarifies responsibility and ensures accountability. The platform also allows tracking of these emails, so managers can monitor progress and ensure timely responses.

4. Collaboration

Hiver excels in fostering team collaboration in several innovative ways:

Shared Drafts in Hiver
  • Shared Email Drafts: Team members can co-compose emails in real-time. This feature is incredibly useful for crafting precise responses to complex customer queries.
  • Internal Email Notes: Instead of forwarding emails or using external chat apps, team members can attach private notes directly to email threads. These notes are invisible to customers and provide a platform for internal discussion and quick information exchange.
  • Collision Alerts: Hiver provides alerts if multiple team members happen to be responding to the same email. This feature prevents duplicate responses and ensures a more organized communication strategy.

5. Automation

Hiver’s automation capabilities are designed to optimize workflow efficiency:

Automations in Hiver
  • Automatic Email Routing: Emails can be automatically assigned to team members based on predefined rules, such as the email’s content, sender, or subject line. This ensures that emails are promptly directed to the right person.
  • SLA (Service Level Agreement) Management: Hiver allows setting up SLA reminders and warnings, ensuring that customer queries are addressed within the agreed-upon timeframes.
  • Workflow Automation: Routine tasks like categorizing, tagging, and marking emails can be automated, saving time and reducing manual errors.

6. Reporting and Analytics

Let’s take a closer look at how Hiver’s Reporting and Analytics can help you enhance your customer service.

Hiver Reporting
  • Response Time and Resolution Time: Hiver tracks how long it takes for your team to respond to a new email and how long it takes to fully resolve an issue. These metrics are essential for assessing the efficiency and effectiveness of your customer support.
  • Volume Trends: The tool provides insights into the volume of emails received over different periods. This can help in identifying peak times and planning resource allocation accordingly.
  • Tailored Dashboards: You can create customized dashboards in Hiver to focus on the metrics that matter most to your business. Whether it’s tracking specific types of queries or monitoring the performance of individual team members, these dashboards provide a tailored view.
  • Data Export: The ability to export data for further analysis is a valuable feature. You can use this data for detailed reporting, presentations, or integrating with other analytics tools.

7. Proactive Customer Support

Testimonial on Hiver’s 24×7 Customer Support

Hivers offers round-the-clock proactive support across all its plans, ensuring that no matter the time or issue, expert assistance is always available. This 24/7 support model is designed to provide continuous, real-time solutions to clients, enhancing the overall reliability and responsiveness of Hivers’ services.

8. Pricing

Hiver offers three main pricing plans for its customer support solution as of 2024:

  1. Lite Plan: Priced at $15 per user per month, this plan is designed as an entry-level option. It includes essential tools for customer service, such as email management features (tags, notes, and conversation IDs),team collaboration tools (collision alerts, shared drafts, approvals),and support for up to 2 shared inboxes with a maximum of 10 users per inbox and 10 shared labels. Additionally, it provides access to iOS & Android mobile apps, onboarding support, and 24×7 chat and email support.
  2. Pro Plan: This is the most popular option, costing $39 per user per month. It includes everything in the Lite plan plus additional features like voice call engagement, more advanced automation options (including service-level agreements and CSAT surveys),and comprehensive analytics (including user, tag, and customer reports). The Pro plan also offers out-of-the-box integrations with several tools like Asana, JIRA, Salesforce, Slack, Zapier, and QuickBooks. It expands the usage limits to 5 shared inboxes and 50 shared labels.
  3. Elite Plan: At $59 per user per month, the Elite plan is designed for high-volume needs and includes everything in the Pro plan, plus advanced automation features (such as email body search automation and skill-based auto-assignment), HIPAA compliance, priority support with a dedicated success manager, and the ability to manage an unlimited number of shared inboxes, labels, and users. The Elite plan also features Harvey, Hiver’s AI Bot, which enhances efficiency through features like natural language processing, intelligent template suggestions, and ‘Thank You’ detection.

All plans come with a 7-day free trial, and no credit card is required to sign up for the trial

These plans make Hiver a versatile tool, catering to a range of business sizes and needs, from startups to large enterprises looking for a comprehensive customer support solution within Gmail.

Try Hiver for Free

Shobhana has been recognized as a 'Top Customer Support Voice' by LinkedIn. Her expertise lies in creating well-researched and actionable content for Customer Experience (CX) professionals. As an active member of popular CX communities such as CX Accelerator and Support Driven, she helps professionals evaluate tools for their support team and keeps a keen eye on emerging industry trends.

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