What is Zendesk?

Duncan Anderson
January 27, 2021

​ This is one in a series of posts examining communication technologies. By cutting through the marketing hype and getting to the essence of a product or technology, we hope to shed light onto a confusing space. This short overview of Zendesk addresses what the technology is, what it's good at and what it's perhaps not so good at.

What is Zendesk?

Zendesk provides a suite of solutions that include a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tool, help desk software, online knowledge management, team collaboration, live chat and more. It's a sophisticated set of capabilities that can be very powerful for the right organisations. However, many organisations will already be committed to products that overlap with at least part of the Zendesk suite — e.g. maybe you already have a CRM tool? And smaller organisations probably don't need, or can't afford, everything that Zendesk offers. Some might also struggle to dedicate time to configuring what can at times feel like a slightly overwhelming tool.

How much does Zendesk cost?

Zendesk provides a variety of pricing levels that depend on the functionality you want to adopt and the size of your team ​ One of the biggest challenges to getting a cost for Zendesk, is working out which tier and functionality is appropriate for you — it takes effort to examine Zendesk's tiers and really understand what you get and if you really need it. e.g. you first need to choose from Support, Sales or Platform. Then within each of those products there's multiple sub-tiers — although the functionality is good, picking the right pricing plan is not! ​ Once you've chosen the functionality, Zendesk’s pricing is based on the number of agents who use the system — the bigger your team, the more you pay. At the time of writing, prices ranged from £5/month/agent up to £149/month/agent for Zendesk Support. Unlike some competitors, the number of customers you interact with through the technology does not influence how much you pay.

What is Zendesk used for?

Zendesk's tagline is "Zendesk makes support, sales, and customer engagement software for everyone." As this implies, the company offers technology that helps across both customer support, sales and customer relationship management. It's a powerful idea — by having a common set of technology across these areas you can build a sophisticated customer management solution.

What is Zendesk Chat?

Zendesk Chat is the component of the Zendesk suite that provides a live chat solution. The technology originated from a company called Zopim that Zendesk acquired in 2014. ​ It's also worth noting the Zendesk Sunrise Conversations product, which is the re-branded Smooch product that Zendesk acquired back in 2019. Sunrise Conversations is more of a developer-focused solution, providing sophisticated APIs so you can build conversational solutions that integrate with other systems. We were fans of the original Smooch and feel it can be powerful if you have the budget and development team to build bespoke conversational solutions. However, it's not for everyone and isn't an off-the-shelf product you can just implement.

Who uses Zendesk?

Zendesk lists Venmo, Tesco, OpenTable, Uber and Shopify as customers on its website. ​ As can be seen, they have a number of large brand names which should instill confidence in the company and the product — it's certainly an established and reputable product from a large global technology company.

Who are Zendesk's competitors?

Chat, CRM and ticketing systems are many and varied, so Zendesk has quite a long list of potential competitors. ​ The most obvious ones for their chat product, given Zendesk's global scale, include: Intercom, FreshDesk and Drift. ​ Other parts of the Zendesk suite would compete with CRM providers like hubspot or Salesforce.

Does Zendesk include a bot?

The Zendesk product doesn't include bot capabilities, instead offering integration via third party solutions. This means additional cost and integration complexity. These integrations appear to be from third party live chat/bot products into the Zendesk ticketing system, rather than by adding a bot to Zendesk Chat. Zendesk Chat itself doesn't have any native bot abilities.

Can Zendesk generate leads on my website?

Zendesk can generate leads, but only in a basic way. It works by putting up a contact form for users to add their name, email and phone number. This isn't very engaging, so it might not be the best solution if you want to grab people's attention with a more interactive lead generation tool.

Does Zendesk pester users?

Just putting a chat icon on your website doesn’t always attract attention. That’s why many products allow you to configure attention grabbing animated messages. In our tests, such animated messages can have a very large impact on the number of people interacting with chat - over doubling the rates. Unfortunately, Zendesk’s abilities in this area are very limited, which is evidenced by the number of websites with Zendesk that only offer a static chat button.

Why would I choose Humanise.AI over Zendesk?

Zendesk is a good solution when its function fits your needs. However, for many businesses it's overkill. In our experience, many Zendesk customers are only using a small selection of its features — e.g. many customers who originally bought the Zopim live chat product are still only using Zendesk Chat. For them, Zendesk offers a level of sophistication they don't need. ​ From a Humanise.AI perspective, Zendesk doesn't support the kind of exciting next-generation user experiences that we're building.

What do we mean by next-generation?

We mean the automation of complex cross-channel communication journeys. e.g. something like this:

  • Send an email inviting someone to complete a process by chatting with a bot.
  • If they don't action that within seven days, send an SMS reminder.
  • When they do chat with the bot, send an email to confirm they've completed the process.

None of that can be done with Zendesk. No bots, no customer journeys, no converged digital channel solution.

Humanise.AI is bot-first — all our implementations include a bot, only involving a customer service agent when that is needed. The objective of bot-first chat solutions is to remove a large number of routine enquiries from customer service agents, allowing them to focus their skills and improve service on more complex cases. At Humanise.AI we typically automate over 70% of customer enquiries. Unfortunately, this isn't something Zendesk can really help with. ​ The user experience of Zendesk Chat can also be quite disappointing — on pressing the chat button on a website you're just presented with a form to enter your contact details. This isn't very friendly and likely a bit of a turn off for many. In addition, because of the vintage of Zendesk chat, there are a lot of customers who bought it some years ago and have perhaps lost enthusiasm for its use. In our tests, websites using Zendesk were typically poor at responding quickly to our enquiries. At Humanise.AI we pride ourselves in delivering a slick and interactive user experience — which includes attention grabbing banners, a friendly and interactive bot and a modern chat experience. ​ If you'd like to know more about Humanise.AI's PlatformOne, you can get hold of us at info@mail.humanise.ai.