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Help yourself help: Zendesk, Mojo Helpdesk and Tender Support reviewed

We’ve recommended more than a few helpdesk services over the years and we thought to share some observations. For the unacquainted, helpdesks are online apps devoted to managing an organization’s help and support requests. Typically, they assign ticket numbers to incoming requests (lodged through website portals and/or email) and provide a centralized “client” to manage, prioritize and organize those tickets. At their core they offer a helpful means of disentangling support requests from everything else in your inbox, an essential service for service-heavy offerings and a real timesaver for large CSR teams. Naturally, there are great helpdesks and bad ones: we’ll help you choose.

Zendesk

The behemoth of helpdesk apps has to be Zendesk and for good reason – it’s pretty ok. Features include a knowledge base (ie a forum where users can view and comment on articles you post), a slick UI for ticket requests, and an intuitive dashboard design for CSRs. Dig in deeper and you’ll find powerful “trigger” customization, as well as some cool widget ideas. It’s a good app with a lot going for it.

I have some petty gripes with Zendesk’s pricing scheme but they more or less apply to the competition as well: put succinctly, I dislike how Zendesk and others increase price levels without commiserate increases in value (I don’t get multi-language support until $59/mo? C’mon!). I suppose value is in the eye of the beholder, but still…

More important for consumers is that Zendesk screwed users earlier this year by unexpectedly raising prices across the board. Like Chargify last week, they didn’t initially grandfather anybody in, though they apologized and reversed the decision a few days later. I think it’s awesome they apologized, but it’s a bad sign it happened at all.

Mojo Helpdesk

A decent alternative to Zendesk is Mojo Helpdesk, owned by the esoteric Metadot (Das Keyboard, anyone?). Mojo’s UI is distinctly Gmail-like, which we think is great – after all, helpdesks are basically fancy email clients, and Gmail is not a bad role model. Unlike Zendesk, Mojo has a free plan, though the plan lacks email integration (a deal breaker even when free). Also of note is a kooky user satisfaction rating (users can rate your answers) and, at higher price points, some time-tracking functionality.

Unfortunately, there’s no knowledge base inside Mojo Helpdesk and it lacks Zendesk’s widgets. While we like the UI, it’s definitely not as polished as the alternatives and may turn off an organization’s users. Also strange is that you don’t get domain mapping until $99/mo – WTF Mojo?

Tender Support

A final helpdesk worth considering is Tender Support. There’s a lot to like about Tender: it has a different look than the others, favoring a forum-centered, discussion-based approach to support. Maybe it’s just semantics, but we like how users “start a discussion” inside Tender, as opposed to “submit a request” inside Zendesk or, worse, “create a ticket” inside Mojo. We also like Tender’s functionality – it does most, if not all, of what Zendesk does, including widgetery – and the API is friendly. It’s good stuff.

Ironically, Tender’s knowledge base editor is awful. I say ironically because Tender is discussion-based: the knowledge base should be robust but it’s not. In lieu of a standard text and html editor, Tender uses Markdown, a slick but not very user friendly text-to-html conversion tool. I don’t like it. Also, the forum approach probably isn’t suitable for certain services, particularly those w/ highly technical, personalized or sensitive support cycles.

Conclusions

It’s hard to recommend apps without knowing what prospective users need. That said, anyone looking for helpdesk apps should definitely check out the three reviewed above: Zendesk takes the cake for best overall, but Mojo Helpdesk and Tender Support offer tangible differentiation and deserve a chance. Check out their pricing schemes and pick the one that suits you.

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Chris Bliss works at VM Associates, an end-user consultancy for businesses looking to move to the cloud from pre-existing legacy systems.