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

What is the best help desk software?

The best help desk software is Zendesk, a powerful solution that offers innovative support tools for businesses of all sizes. Zendesk is designed primarily to help companies track, prioritize, and resolve customer cases with ease.

When your business is young, so to speak, it’s reasonable to have one agent dealing with all customer issues (tickets). However, as your business grows, the number of customer interaction channels swells, and so does your customer base.

As a result, the quantity and urgency of incoming customer issues escalate, and before you know it, you get swamped with support tickets. Consequently, response and resolution times become slower, and customer satisfaction starts to wane. What follows is that the business starts losing money faster than it can make it.

Fortunately, with a reliable help desk software, you can tidy up your support services to put your business back on track. However, finding the right one can be overwhelming. So, to help you out, we will be evaluating the top 3 help desk software — Zendesk, Freshdesk, and Salesforce Essentials. We’ve looked under the hood of these solutions, paying special attention to their core features and pricing. This way, it is easier for you to choose one that suits your needs.

leading help desk solutions

Top 3 Help Desk Software Table of Contents

Without customers, your business is as good as extinct. But, for customers, without your business, they will always find a worthy alternative. This means, to make it in the business arena, you must treat your customers well to convince them to stick around.

However, delivering outstanding customer service is easier said than done, especially in the fast-paced digital era. It requires learning various customer service tips and having great awareness of the current trends.

This is because customer expectations are changing swiftly, and it’s becoming harder by the day to deliver the quality of service they crave. Worse still, if you are offering support through a help desk system, you’ll have a new challenge to grapple with. Notably, 76% of customers expect you to anticipate their needs.

In addition to the changing expectations of modern customers, there are also many other support service problems that are of our own making. For example, according to 44% of customer service professionals, businesses are not providing agents with the right tools. There has also been an increase in interactions via email and social media ( 56%), which can be difficult without proper training. Moreover, there are other challenges like lack of proper internal skills (41%), inability to deliver seamless multi-channel experience (39%), and poor analysis of available data (34%).

Challenges Affecting Customer Experience in Contact Centers

Chart context menu
View in full screen
Print chart

Download PNG image
Download JPEG image
Download SVG vector image

Source: Calabrio and SiteCore

Designed by

If you have decided to modernize your help desk system, perhaps, all you need is a solution that can deliver excellent support service. That said, you should start by examining Zendesk, Freshdesk, and Salesforce Essentials. These are the top 3 help desk software of today, and it would be a wise move to give them serious consideration.


Zendesk dashboard example

Zendesk is an easy-to-use, cloud-based help desk solution designed to help businesses monitor, prioritize, and resolve customer interactions. It provides a comprehensive suite of customizable tools ranging from live chat to help desk to knowledge base management. Businesses, big and small, will find the Zendesk help desk platform scalable, economical, and perfectly suited to available staffing.

What Zendesk does is that it keeps all lines of communication between the support agent and users open. This way, businesses can offer excellent support on multiple channels, including web, SMS, phone, mobile app, and social media. In other words, Zendesk makes it easy to meet the customers where they are and interact with them in simple, personalized communications.

The vendor provides an exciting trial plan if you want to test the features firsthand. You can sign up for Zendesk free trial here.


An award given to products our B2B experts find especially valuable for companies

Try out Zendesk with their free trial

In addition to the features we’ve already mentioned, Zendesk also provides sophisticated tools like predefined tickets actions, business rules, guided mode, and collaboration tools. These work in unison to help support agents close cases faster, at any scale. Consequently, it raises the agent’s productivity and increases customer satisfaction while lowering support costs.

As a result, Zendesk allows businesses to maintain quality service that meets customer satisfaction. In fact, the vendor claims to have helped some brands achieve a customer satisfaction rating of as high as 90%.

Key features of Zendesk

  • Zendesk supports seamless channel integration. As such, it enables businesses to connect with their customers via any channel — web, mobile, or social media.
  • It provides ticket forms that allow businesses to gather accurate customer information.
  • Zendesk offers Service Level Agreement (SLA) views.
  • It comes with multiple agent’s productivity tools to expedite service delivery.
  • It’s easy to configure and customize.


Freshdesk dashboard example

Cloud-based help desk solution Freshdesk is a powerful help desk software built by Freshworks for the retail, IT, utilities, hospitality, and insurance industries. Boasting reliable multi-channel capabilities, smart automation, community forums, and a self-service portal, this cloud-hosted platform enables firms to delight their customers with excellent service.

Even more, help desk software Freshdesk is a slick system that is easy to set up and configure thanks to its intuitive options. The solution also provides reliable built-in capabilities to automate redundant help desk tasks. Features like time-triggered automation, automatic email notification, and intelligent ticket assignment can support seamless service delivery and supercharge the productivity of support agents.

You can check the solution closely when you sign up for Freshdesk free trial here.

Most importantly, the solution centralizes all customer interactions from email, phone, web, chat, and social media in a single interface. This way, it streamlines customer services and helps relay customer issues (tickets) to the ‘most’ qualified support agent. Better still, the supervisor remains in the loop of every interaction and can monitor all open tickets and act on them appropriately.

The customer-facing tools that come with the program such as the knowledge base, community forums, and self-service portal help customers serve themselves. With these, it’s easy for customers to find help online on their own, track their tickets, and share ideas. This way, the software takes the work off the support agent’s plate, giving them time to handle more complex and attention-demanding issues.

Key features of Freshdesk

  • Freshdesk provides robust ticket management tools.
  • It comes with reliable team collaboration features.
  • It offers excellent multi-channel support.
  • Besides, Freshdesk offers powerful automation to supercharge agent productivity.
  • It comes with powerful customer-facing tools like a self-service portal, community forums, and knowledge base
  • It offers powerful support analytics and reporting.

Salesforce Essentials

Salesforce Essentials Dashboard example

Salesforce Essentials is a reliable sales and customer support solution built by Salesforce for small businesses. Primarily, the support software Salesforce Essentials is designed to help companies deliver excellent services that win and convince customers to stick around.

To achieve this, first, Salesforce Essentials was made to be easy to set up, use, and maintain. It takes minutes to get the platform up and running, thanks to the guided setup and in-app tutorials. Once it’s fully configured, users can easily pull customer information from the phone, chat, email, social channels, spreadsheets, and calendars. This way, business owners can maintain a holistic view of all customer’s information and interactions in one place.

If you want to know more about the features, you can easily sign up for Salesforce Essentials free trial here.

Second, with all the vital customer information on one screen, Salesforce Essentials makes it easy to identify key contacts and follow up high-potential leads. Also, there is no more manual tracking of calls, emails, or meetings. The Einstein Activity Capture automates tracking, allowing users to spend less time on spreadsheets and more time closing deals.

Even better, Salesforce Essentials automates repetitive tasks. So, it simplifies the work of support agents and enables supervisors to distribute tasks based on the expertise and availability of agents.

Lastly, Salesforce Essentials exhibits a robust multi-channel capability. It allows businesses to connect with customers from all support channels, including chat, phone, email, and social media. Thus, it’s easier for agents to deliver personalized customer experiences.

Key features of Salesforce Essentials 

  • It provides guided setup and in-app tutorials to simplify the setup process and its use.
  • The Einstein Activity Capture automates the tracking of calls, emails, and meetings.
  • It has a robust multi-channel capability.
  • It provides customer-facing tools like a self-service portal.

Comparison of Key Features

Ticket management

Freshdesk Ticket Management

Freshdesk’s ticket management dashboard is comprehensive and offers a bird’s eye view of your support operations.

First up is Zendesk, a force to be reckoned with in ticket management. Zendesk’s guided mode is perfect for businesses that want to prioritize and line up support tickets for their agents. The feature helps instill the principle of first-come, first-served to your agents, preventing them from cherry-picking support tickets.

However, sometimes, the top-to-bottom approach to support ticket resolutions isn’t flexible enough. This is true for businesses operating in a fast-paced environment where different types of issues come in thick and fast. In such cases, Zendesk provides features like SLA views and business rules to help meet stringent SLA agreements or handle tickets in order of urgency.

Meanwhile, Freshdesk packs a punch in terms of robust features like collision detection, SLA management, scenario automation, and team inbox. Interestingly, Freshdesk merges tickets coming from one customer about the same issue, allowing agents to deliver a unified response. Better still, when dealing with complex, multistage issues, Freshdesk allows you to break them into smaller tickets to speed up resolution.

Lastly, Salesforce Essentials is no match for Zendesk or Freshdesk when it comes to ticket management. However, the solution is worth a look if all you want is to deliver a consistent and personalized experience across your sales channels. Its notable ticket management features include case management, business automation, and knowledge base.

Verdict: There is no doubt, Zendesk and Freshdesk get the accolades in this category. The two solutions have robust ticket management features, and it’s difficult to pick a clear winner between the two. However, Zendesk has the upper hand, albeit slightly, thanks to its guided mode, business rules, and feature-rich team inbox.

Collaboration features

freshdesk collaboration

Freshdesk comes with collaborative tools such as forums where agents can resolve tickets together.

Zendesk’s collaboration add-on is the solution your agents need to collaborate and stay on the same page. With Side Conversations, agents can communicate with anyone within the organization via Slack or email, without leaving the ticket. The side conversation can be initiated to seek guidance on a complex issue, confirmation, or approval. What is intriguing is that responses in the side conversations stay in the respective ticket.

Better still, with Zendesk, you can let your agents tap into the knowledge of subject matter experts via Light Agents. The light agents can read and comment on support tickets without needing full access to support. This way, they contribute to issue resolution and enable full agents to respond to each ticket with the right answers. The best part is that all answers from the back-and-forth communication are retained in a central knowledge repository. As a result, no context is lost

On the other hand, Freshdesk appreciates the fact that it takes great teamwork and efficiency to deliver exceptional customer service. For this reason, the platform provides powerful tools like Team Huddle, Shared Ownership, and Linked Tickets. These tools empower your support team to work collaboratively with other teams from across your company.

Finally, Salesforce Essentials is still a cut below Zendesk and Freshdesk in terms of collaboration capability. But this doesn’t mean that the solution lags far behind. The Salesforce Essential has robust collaboration tools like Chatter and Salesforce CRM Content.

Verdict: From our scrutiny, we noted that both Zendesk and Freshdesk have superior team collaboration features. We also noticed that Salesforce Essentials has powerful collaboration tools, although it’s primarily focused on sales teams. However, taking into consideration the key collaboration factors, Zendesk is superior thanks to its feature-rich collaboration hub.

Mobile app support

Zendesk Mobile Application

Zendesk offers a mobile application that lets you manage your help desk operations on the go.

Mobile phones have become an integral part of our lives, as the world inches closer to an era of mobile. As this happens, customers nowadays seem to have developed an innate liking for instant services. Because of this, it may be necessary to equip your help desk agents to help them respond to customer issues anytime, anywhere.

Luckily, the 3 top help desk software all offer mobile apps to help agents respond to customer queries and tickets while on the go. The Zendesk Support mobile app allows agents to get ahead of the day and keep the wheels turning even when they are away from their desktops. It provides a 360-degree view of the agent’s dashboard in real-time and brings the right conversation, people, and information together.

Freshdesk, on the other hand, provides a mobile app designed to streamline customer issues from different channels. The app makes it easy to access and answer tickets from channels like Facebook, Twitter, phone, chat, and email. Moreover, it gives agents a quick overview of the help desk and allows them to deliver seamless, real-time customer service.

Meanwhile, Salesforce Essentials doesn’t come with a standalone help desk mobile app. However, users can build better mobile experiences through the Salesforce mobile app. The best part about the Salesforce mobile app is that it allows you to handle customer issues and keep your eyes on the entire business as well.

Verdict: When it comes to the mobile app, all three apps serve the intended purposes — handling customer queries on the move. However, going by the ratings on the Google play store, the Salesforce app beats both Zendesk and Freshdesk convincingly. The only quibble we have about the Salesforce app is that is doesn’t offer a standalone mobile app for customer support.


Salesforce Essentials customization

Salesforce Essentials offers different customization options to help you tailor the system to your sales workflow.

Zendesk provides the tools and flexibility required to tailor a support system to match the needs of your team. For example, you can create your workflow, simple or complex, to suit the way your support team works.

In addition, it lets you customize ticket views based on conditions like status and assignees. This way, you can see only the most relevant ticket information. Better still, its a breeze to create unique macros to respond to standard tickets or manage tickets flow your way.

Freshdesk, meanwhile, is just as effective as Zendesk in terms of collaboration. With Freshdesk, you can customize every aspect of the help desk system to match the way your business functions. The platform provides ready-made themes and supports full CSS customization of the support portal. Additionally, it lets you modify agents’ roles, create custom ticket forms, and build custom apps to streamline workflows.

Lastly, with Salesforce Essentials, you can customize your sales process using the “Set Up Your Team’s Sales Process” walkthrough. Even more, the platform enables you to do advanced customizations to map opportunities and leads to your sales process. This way, you can easily monitor every stage of the sales process from prospecting to closing.

Verdict: Again, it is a close call to pick a winner between Zendesk and Freshdesk. As you may have noticed, for every collaboration tool offered by Zendesk, Freshdesk has an equally powerful alternative. However, Zendesk has the edge because it provides some advanced features that permit a higher level of customization.

Reporting and analytics

Zendesk Analytics Dashboard

Zendesk’s support analytics dashboard allows users to gain insight into the overall performance of their support team.

Zendesk provides powerful reporting tools that analyze data on tickets, channels, and customer satisfaction. Besides, the platform allows you to analyze the individual performance of every agent as well as the overall performance of your support team. Most importantly, with Zendesk, you can find key metrics and weigh your team’s performance against global benchmarks.

The best thing is that Zendesk reports are dynamic, and you can use filters to manipulate data to discover new trends. For example, you can use filters to establish the satisfaction rating, the number of new and solved tickets, and even the average response time.

Meanwhile, Freshdesk packs a suite of powerful reporting features. The number of features you can access depends on the plan you’ve signed for. For example, the ticket trend reporting capability is available in all plans. On the other hand, premium plans include advanced features like customer satisfaction rating, agent performance, team performance, and enterprise reporting. What’s intriguing is that, with Freshdesk, you can automate the entire reporting process. For example, you can set the solution to deliver reports when certain goals and metrics are reached.

Meanwhile, Salesforce Essentials allows you to use data to derive helpful insights that power data-driven decisions. However, with the Salesforce Essentials’ basic plan, you can only create custom dashboards and reports. To get access to advanced reporting features, you have to subscribe to higher plans.

Verdict: The three solutions provide powerful reporting and analytics modules. However, Zendesk has the edge over the other help desk solutions because of the number of available reports, frequency of data, and report filters.


Freshdesk integrations

Freshdesk can integrate with other Freshworks tools via API.

The three products stand on the shoulders of industry behemoths and are constituents of an extensive software ecosystem. As such, the solutions work seamlessly with the other tools in their respective ecosystems. Additionally, each vendor offers a marketplace where you can find third-party applications to integrate with your help desk system.

For starters, the Zendesk help desk integrates with more than 500 out-of-the-box apps and integrations. The Zendesk Marketplace has numerous categories of apps and integrations that extend the functionality of the Zendesk help desk, streamline workflows and increase agent productivity. Some of the popular integrations include Nicereply, CloudTalk, Dojo, Email Tracking, Slack, Notify, ReviewBot, and more.

Freshdesk, meanwhile, allows you to work with over 300 apps in various categories. The most popular integrations include Slack, MailChimp, TeamViewer, Google Analytics, Atlassian JIRA, Google Contacts, and Attachment Manager.

Salesforce Essentials also parades an extensive enterprise cloud marketplace (Salesforce AppExchange) with numerous tools to extend its functionality. Some of the salient integrations include HelloSign, Dropbox, MailChimp, and GetFeedback.

Verdict: Zendesk takes the accolade in this category hands down. The number of third-party apps, partners, and integrations the platform offers has no equal.


Zendesk Pricing Plans

Zendesk offers cost-effective pricing plans that are bundled depending on the features you require.

The top 3 help desk software offer free trials so you can perform test drives of the tools at no cost. Sure, these free trial plans are limited in many ways, but they are still capable of giving you a better grasp of what each tool has to offer. Once you’re ready to commit to one of these platforms, you can then choose from the paid annual or monthly plans that the vendors offer.

Zendesk pricing starts at $5 per agent per month. With Zendesk’s basic plan, you get a few basic help desk management features, including ticket sharing, ticket history, predefined responses, contact forms, interaction history, and communication channels.

The more feature-rich plans include Team ($19/agent/month), Professional ($49/agent/month), Enterprise ($99/agent/month), and Elite ($199/agent/month). With these plans, you get access to essential help desk features like advanced reporting, SLA management, guided mode, skills-based routing, and satisfaction prediction.

Unlike Zendesk, Freshdesk offers a free plan (Sprout) that supports an unlimited number of agents and includes basic features like email support, knowledge base, and analytics. There are also premium plans including Blossom ($15/agent/month), Garden ($29/agent/month), and Estate ($49/agent/month) that come with advanced features, including ticket assignment, automation, and custom roles.

Salesforce Essentials, meanwhile, provides sales and customer support tools in one app that is available for $25/agent/month. With the plan, you get tools such as email tracking, guided onboarding, and custom dashboards and reports.

Verdict: If you need a help desk solution for small business, Freshdesk is, without a doubt, perfectly ideal. However, for large businesses looking to manage numerous support agents, Zendesk is more cost-effective. On the other hand, if you use the Salesforce platform, then consider subscribing to Salesforce Essentials.

Have You Picked Your Help Desk Software Yet?

No matter what products or services you offer, exceptional customer service is essential. However, delivering the experience that your customers crave is easier said than done. You’ve to assemble a team of well-versed support agents and install IT solutions that streamline their tasks.

The top 3 help desk software we’ve analyzed can certainly help you reach the desired customer satisfaction levels and drive increased sales. We’ve put Zendesk, Freshdesk, and Salesforce Essentials to a features showdown. You already know how the tools compare, and you should be in a position to make the right decision.

In summary, Zendesk dominated nearly all the categories, including ticket management, collaboration features, customizations, report and analytics, and integration. Thanks to its comprehensive set of features and intuitive interface, we find it to be the best help desk software overall. You can learn more about what it has to offer when you sign up for Zendesk free trial here.

However, as you have seen, Zendesk vs Freshdesk was a contest of titans, and picking the out-and-out winner in each category was a close call. Besides, Salesforce Essentials was no match for the other two products. But make no mistake, Salesforce Essentials integrates a CRM component and is perfectly ideal for businesses that want to close more leads.

The ball is in your court. Take your time to identify your requirements. Then, weigh them against the features of these tools. To further abridge your decision-making process, you can also learn more about this topic through our guide to help desk software. With all these details at your fingertips, it should be easy to find software to harmonize the ticket management to prioritize tickets and speed up response and resolution time.

Christopher Robinson

By Christopher Robinson

Christopher Robinson is a senior productivity research analyst who specializes in optimizing online collaboration and project management using Scrum and agile approaches. In his work, he always emphasizes the need for distributed work training and the formation of efficient work habits. His work was mentioned in various business publications, including Entrepreneur and InfoQ. He’s a strong proponent of the GTD model. He has been cooperating with the FinancesOnline team for 5 years now, and his publications always focus on practical aspects of productivity tools that can have an actual, transformative impact on a company.

Leave a comment!

Add your comment below.

Be nice. Keep it clean. Stay on topic. No spam.


Why is FinancesOnline free? Why is FinancesOnline free?

FinancesOnline is available for free for all business professionals interested in an efficient way to find top-notch SaaS solutions. We are able to keep our service free of charge thanks to cooperation with some of the vendors, who are willing to pay us for traffic and sales opportunities provided by our website. Please note, that FinancesOnline lists all vendors, we’re not limited only to the ones that pay us, and all software providers have an equal opportunity to get featured in our rankings and comparisons, win awards, gather user reviews, all in our effort to give you reliable advice that will enable you to make well-informed purchase decisions.

No time for detailed research?

Get the best help desk software solution!

Award Zendesk