Last updated on Dec 29, 2020
Customer service is probably the most crucial thing to get right with a business – particularly when it’s in the business’s name. Software as a Service without the last bit is a bit harder to sell when you hand the customer the product and just say “Good luck!”
That’s why the biggest and most successful companies out there are pouring millions into developing and refining their customer service experiences. They’re constantly tweaking the way they respond to questions and the way they catalogue these questions in the first place to make sure each customer feels like they’re being listened to.
After all, it only takes a couple of viral bad reviews these days to absolutely tank the public image of any company.
Fortunately, the same tools that the big players use are also available to you. The problem only lies in the fact that there are just so many alternatives out there. After all, since this is such a basic business need, everyone wants to capitalize on the demand.
So we’ve compiled a list of the very best tools you can use to give your customers the best experience they deserve – and keep your company’s reputation sparkling clean.
It’s likely that you’ve already used some kind of cataloguing tool or management software to keep track of your customer service tasks. But you’d probably find it pretty astonishing how many businesses, even medium-sized ones, are actually using nothing at all.
Without some kind of database, documentation, or knowledge base system, your customers are essentially flying blind when trying to use your product – or else relying on the Internet to give them answers.
Customer support software can be broken up into a couple of main categories. First, there are knowledge bases, where you can create an interactive wiki-like section of your site to act as a user manual and FAQ.
The point of the customer service knowledge base is to have a high-quality resource for customers to use as their first touch point when looking for service answers. This takes stress off your customer service team because they’re now free to focus on the people with the really tough questions.
Of course, it’s not really a great idea to remove human support agents from the flow entirely, since a lot of people really value being able to talk to a real person when they’re running into problems.
That’s why there are also ticket management systems, which help you track specific issues as they come up and as they get resolved by your team. Without one of these, it’s easy for a customer to get lost in the shuffle and their issue to go unresolved – plus it lets you keep track of how successful your team is in terms of time spent on each issue and time to resolution.
It’s important to remember here that even though many of these tools share functionality (to make a comparison easier), they can and do coexist at many workplaces. There’s no reason why you can’t be using a combination of two or three of these to make your life even easier!
Document360 is a tool laser-focused on building a great knowledge base. You can easily integrate the knowledge base design with your overall site design, and publish both an internal knowledge base (for your own company documents and policies) and an external one (for your customers to search through and get help about your product).
To achieve this goal, Document360’s knowledge base editors and the knowledge bases themselves are simply packed with features.
Naturally, the page editor is built for top efficiency. You can write Markdown or rich text directly in the editor and customize it however you’d like to without even taking your hands off the keyboard – perfect for power users on late-night editing runs.
As you edit, you can quickly save drafts and revert back to previous versions, and at the same time preview changes at the page level or the project level. If you roll out a new edition, you can choose to tag it as “beta” and tag the old one as “deprecated” so you maintain complete control over who sees your content and when.
Finally, Document360 is constantly updating their tool with new functionality that the community absolutely adores. Each month, a new report on the additional features and bug fixes made in that month lands in the Release Notes section on the Document360 documentation. Check out the page for a first-hand look at what their knowledge base looks and feels like!
Document360 is available for a 14-day free trial. Pricing scales per project per month, with various numbers of team accounts unlocked with each tier – from 2 at the $49 price point to 30 at the $499 price point
Intercom aims to be the one-stop shop for creating a complete customer service funnel to get your customers connected with real support feedback.
The idea is that customers always prefer real human interaction over automated messages. So once they put in a query into the online chat support or the email support window, your team instantly sees it in their inbox and can reply quickly and efficiently.
Intercom also comes with a help desk/knowledge base function so that you can create articles and attach them to your chat replies to each customer. This is their “educate” feature, which allows customers to also view that help desk directly instead of making your employee time their first resource.
However, some people have reported that Intercom is a bit pricey for what it actually offers, and they change their pricing scheme regularly to keep up with their updates. There’s also not a lot of automation or macro features, which are now present or even standard with other tools.
Pricing for Intercom starts at $87 per month for the Essential tier, with custom add-ins (such as the knowledge base) available for an additional fee.
HelpShift is an example of a customer service tool that does include automation by default, such as adding autoreply messages to let users know how their issue is being resolved and automatically updating the tags for each issue as it moves through the process.
It as well includes a knowledge base as a standard feature, which can be integrated into the chat feature like it can in Intercom. Excitingly, this knowledge base supports internationalization, which means you can translate your articles and other content into various languages to support your customers who may not have English as their first language.
Helpshift is one of the more expensive customer support platforms out there. You have to “Request Pricing” for each tier, and there’s no free trial (though of course they’ll be happy to schedule a demo for you). According to some third-party reports, the pricing ranges from $225 per month to $950 per month, plus an additional $95 for each user past the initial limit.
The name here can be a bit confusing. Zendesk Support is one of several items in the Zendesk Suite package – including a customer support management platform, a knowledge base (called Guide), a call center manager, and an instant messaging package. Basically, Zendesk breaks up what other companies have integrated into their main offerings.
Support is a ticket-raising system where agents can raise service tickets that will then be dealt with by one or a few agents over their lifetimes. These tickets can come from all over the web, including social media. Unlike many competing platforms, Support lets you tap into the Chinese market by default by offering a WeChat integration.
Their Guide knowledge base platform is fairly basic, though its integrations with other Zendesk tools make it easy to get used to if you’re adding it on to another Zendesk plan. It can quickly import Google Docs to get your knowledge base migrated from what many people use as their standard document hosting service.
Some people don’t like the fact that the Zendesk interface is relatively sparse. It kind of relies on your coworkers (or an internal knowledge base) to get you up to speed if you’ve never used anything like it before. On the other hand, if you know your way around a support tool like this, you’ll probably appreciate the minimalist design.
The Support Suite starts at the Professional tier for $89 per user per month, and bumping up to the $149 Enterprise tier after that. This unlocks unbranding, the ability to route tickets to different agents based on their own specializations, and a couple other important features.
This is a ticket management platform for keeping track of, organizing, assigning and evaluating customer support tickets. Zoho, of course, is in a larger sense the creator of a whole suite of productivity software like a project planner, a word processor, and now a COVID-19 back-to-work compliance center.
Zoho puts emphasis on having a lot of data and metrics right at your fingertips as you track the flow of tickets from customer to support specialist. Repetitive questions can be automated with canned responses or chatbots – or you could set up a knowledge base instead to link into the chat or email responses.
In addition to the knowledge base offering standard features like URL customization and complete user interface tweaking, Zoho also lets you set up simple forums and communities so that your users can complete their question-and-answer interactions while staying on your website. That’s a lot better than having them go off to some third-party platform full of trolls and advertisers!
Zoho Desk is available in a free edition for up to three users, and includes a knowledge base already at that tier. Other versions go up to $25 per user per month and add automations, social media features, live chat support, and more detailed metrics about customer satisfaction. This is definitely one of the most affordable fully-featured customer support platforms out there, and it’s available for a 15-day free trial.
While some of the other solutions in this article have been aimed at larger businesses, Freshdesk is targeting the small business market. It lets a small group of people easily process inbound service tickets in a clean and efficient way.
One of the most endearing features is the Arcade section, where points can be earned for completing customer support tasks. This automatically awards badges and leaderboard rankings to agents who get more done over a shorter time, and it’s customizable for different businesses’ needs.
It also features an automated response system and a series of customized canned forms that your agents can use to speed up their day-to-day tasks. And perhaps you have some agents with more unique skills in language or IT support than others – it’s easy to pass tasks to specialists for more targeted assistance.
Freshdesk’s knowledge base allows you to manage multiple product lines in the same knowledge base at the same time, which works great for companies offering lots of different products.
It also offers a multilingual localization tool for your knowledge base articles – in fact, their localization is even available throughout their entire website.
Freshdesk has a free trial, which includes the knowledge base, and after that its pricing starts at $15 per user per month up to $99 for the enterprise tier. Automations and a localized knowledge base only become available at the second and third tiers respectively.
Since Salesforce is the biggest name in CRMs, it stands to reason that they would have a strong showing in customer support knowledge management as well.
Service Cloud is a full case management system across pipelines, integrated into as many apps as you can imagine and providing channels for your support reps to help customers on your website, via phone, or on social media.
Naturally, since it links to Salesforce, it can quickly be configured to lead customers having issues into an upsell or cross-sell pipeline.
The knowledge base function is also integrated, allowing you to recommend knowledge base articles in chat conversations or even have a chat bot do it for you.
Salesforce Service Cloud is really designed for a single administrator – having multiple admins on the same project can make some features a little clunky.
Also, overall people tend to report that the learning curve is relatively high compared to other solutions, which makes sense given what a large product Salesforce is. If you have a Salesforce expert on your team, you’re good to go there!
The Essentials package costs $25 per user per month, going all the way up to $300 per user per month for the Unlimited package where you unlock the 24/7 support and configuration service. At that price you’re already way up there in terms of the competition, but if money is no obstacle, Salesforce Service Cloud might be the most useful product for you.
Besides Zendesk, Atlassian is probably one of the largest names in customer support and relationship software. Their Service Desk and Confluence products work together to provide the ticket management and FAQ/knowledge base portions of the customer service experience.
Service Desk lays out a series of templates for you to manage different types of service projects. With their wide-ranging expertise in service, they’ve made it easy to see the big picture at a glance while each employee is still able to track their own tickets and requests.
You set up a workflow for each project that has instructions for each employee on how to manage the flow through the process, making it a cinch for everyone.
Confluence as a knowledge base offers all the standard features of collaboration, layout and editing that you’d expect.
Its extra selling point, though, is its pre-set library of templates and its macros that allow you to rapidly roll out documentation articles over and over as fast as possible. Start out with a template for introductions, for instance, so that you’re never stuck looking at a blank white page for each article.
Atlassian’s pricing is a bit complex to navigate. The Atlassian Cloud Free service is free up to three agents, and the regular Atlassian Cloud service offers Jira Service Desk pricing at a range of tiers and per-agent fees. Confluence is free for up to ten users, though with more than ten a simple flat fee of $5 per user per month applies.
Help Scout goes a fair bit beyond just being a customer service platform and toward being a training system as well. They have an entire blog, guide, video playlist and webinar section to train your employees to be better customer service representatives, showing how invested they are in the human side of support.
As you’d expect, their own support is top-notch because of this. Some of the other companies on this list were reviewed online as having confusing or unresponsive customer support themselves, but Help Scout is proud of their reputation for helping their users help others.
On top of this training, they offer a pretty robust customer relationship management platform with live chat, a shared inbox and a knowledge base. All of this gets integrated into its own metrics dashboard where you can see the figures for different tags, like “Returns,” “Billing,” “Damaged Product,” and so on.
There’s a 15-day free trial for both the Standard ($20) and Plus ($35) tiers, each of them charged per user per month. You won’t get the knowledge base (called the Docs site) until the Plus tier, but even the lowest tier gives you access to the API so you can customize your own integration past the 50+ integrations that come out of the box.
This is good, since one of the few yet repeated criticisms of Help Scout is that it’s not as customizable as the other options at this price point. If you need to have complete control over every aspect of your messaging and tagging functions, you might think about looking elsewhere.
This is a solution geared toward small and medium-sized businesses that want features available in enterprise-level customer support systems.
One of their flagship features is their chatbot system, which requires no coding and is fully customizable for your own brand identity needs. It can even be set to automatically turn on only when you’re out of the office.
Naturally, they also have a live chat option, into which you can drop links to your FAQ articles – of course also created with Re:amaze’s other tools. The whole knowledge base can be hosted on their domain or yours, and it comes with full HTML and CSS UI customization options to match your own company branding exactly.
The design is clean, open and modern, which may turn off customers newer to the whole concept of a customer service management platform as there aren’t a lot of tutorials or handholding.
Re:amaze comes with a 14-day free trial. After that, it’s $20 per user per month for the basic tier, and up to $60 for the most expensive tier. The custom hosted domain isn’t available until the $40 middle tier.
With all of these options out there for managing your customer service response system, you might be a bit overwhelmed.
All you’ve got to do is to make a list of your needs and see which features are absolute must-haves for you. Do you need a knowledge base? Do you need that knowledge base to have full user interface customization? Do you need…?
That kind of question and answer can be based on a simple article like this to nail down what’s most important and therefore what product you should buy.
And when it comes to pricing, think about the money saved in employee time first. Writing a check for a couple hundred dollars every month for the rest of your career might sound a bit daunting at first, but even at minimum wage you’re paying that every couple of days per employee anyway.
If you save a handful of employees five to ten hours a month by switching to a customer service management platform or knowledge base, you’ll experience massive gains in productivity even with the extra overhead.
Try out something relatively simple with a free trial today, like Document360, and have a look at how your customer service can transform!