The best customer support platforms for software and SaaS companies

The best customer support platforms for software and SaaS companies
By Diana Potter | On Oct 21, 2021
8 min read
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Are you looking for a customer support platform? If so, you probably know that the most daunting part can be figuring out which products to look at. In some of our previous posts, we talked about how to know when you need a platform and when it’s time to upgrade. We’ve also shared a comparison of top support platforms by pricing, product tiers, and other features. But there are so many options — from the big players like Zendesk and Service Cloud, to the newer players like Dixa, or the smaller ones like Front — it can be hard to know where to start. Do you go with a brand you’ve heard of or used before? Or one that might be more specialized for your team’s specific needs?

In this post, we’ll be talking about features and platforms that are the best fit for software or SaaS (software-as-a-service) companies. Stay tuned for our next post, when we'll be sharing more about the best platforms for consumer-facing (B2C) companies.

The information we’re sharing is based on conversations we’ve had with a number of different support leaders. One leader we talked to has built several teams from 1 to 12, another grew their team from 10 to 200 members, and a third has grown multiple teams ranging in size from 1 to 100 people. We asked them which features they needed at different stages as their team grew, and then we aggregated their insights and identified the common elements that we believe will apply to most companies. Remember, though, that your needs may differ. It’s always a good idea to sit down and figure out what you want and need from your software before pursuing a search.

Which group do you fall within? 

Every company has different needs, but here are some groupings that can help you reflect on your company’s current position. You may meet some criteria or all of them. If you’re sitting across more than one category (you might notice that the category characteristics do overlap in places), choose the one that matches your situation the most closely.

Mouse

Company Age Very new You’re a very small company, so small you may not even be visible to your competitors yet. Small doesn’t mean you’re not powerful and capable of amazing service, but it does mean you have limitations. You’re early in your journey and might not have your first support person yet and the company’s founders or other team members are covering support on top of everything else. If you do have dedicated support, it’s unlikely to be more than three people.   Your main need is to provide the best support you can, as quickly as you can. Being personal is important because that connection is key early on in business. Thinking about features like automation, deflection, assignments, or similar isn’t even on your radar yet. You’re going to progress toward it — some basic versions of those feature sets wouldn’t hurt, but they aren’t a need. Your Help Center is probably a static “FAQ” page, but you’ll want to extend it as the team grows and you’re planning ahead for that now. Company Size Very small but more than one person Support Team Size  Very small or non-existent Funding Raised  (if applicable) Angel or Seed round Customers Small group, but close relationships Top 5 Features Needed Email/messenger, customer history, ticket statuses, help docs built-in, and macros Budget As small as possible Time Available Limited

Raccoon

Company Age 2–5 years old You have your feet under you now and even have a dedicated support person or several. Your team is unlikely to be more than eight people, but it’s growing. If you’re raising venture capital funding, you’re likely around Series A.  You’re starting to do some automation and using reporting when you have time. You definitely use features like macros and bulk replies, and you’re probably looking at other channels. Even if you’re not ready to commit to something synchronous like live chat, it’s something you’re planning for. Integrations with other software products you use are also on your radar. You have the time to invest in a Help Center and using self-serve for deflection is a growing focus. At this point, all your Support team members are probably helping out in your Support queue, but you do have a manager or team lead who is planning for the future.   Company Size 10–50 Support Team Size  3–15 Funding Raised  (if applicable) Seed, Series A Customers Primarily SMB rather than Enterprise. You want a close relationship, but scaling is on your mind as your customer base grows Top Features Needed Same as Mouse, plus agent and volume reporting, bulk replies, CSAT, tagging and/or categorization, and automation capabilities Budget $–$$ Time Available Limited, but you can get some dedicated assistance

Wolf

Company Age  4–10 years old Not only do you have at least one person dedicated to leading your team, you likely have one or more team leads reporting to that person. Your team is most likely in the 10–50 people range. If you’ve raised venture capital funding, you have probably already raised or are talking about a Series B or C.  You’re definitely using automation and even getting into chatbots. You’ve been using a built-in Help Center, but recognize the need for self-service and are exploring either more advanced documentation features or a completely separate platform for education. You likely have SLAs with customers and are doing custom prioritizations. You may have one big team or teams split into tiers — either way, ideally, you can automatically assign tickets and even round-robin between assignments. You may not be ready to integrate with the platform’s API yet, but it’s something you’re considering for the future. Company Size 50–500 Support Team Size  10–50 Funding Raised (if applicable) Series B or Series C Customers A shifting focus to larger companies or complex deals where you need SLAs and heavy prioritization Top Features Needed Same as Mouse and Raccoon, plus live chat and other channels, multiple mailboxes, Zapier or more integrations, and powerful automations Budget $–$$$ Time Available You can absolutely dedicate engineering or operations time as needed

Elephant

Company Age 8+ years old   Your team is huge now — or at least it feels that way. When you hear the word Enterprise, you know they’re talking about your company or you hope to be in that group soon. If you’re raising venture capital funding, you’ve likely raised a Series D or further, or an IPO is on the horizon.  You have a complex team set up with multiple layers of management. You most likely have people dedicated to operations, education, people management, and strategy. You keep hearing about the cost of service, ways to optimize your team, and services to lower your costs. Deflection, bots, automation — those are hard requirements. You operate in more than one channel and your team likely offers live chat or phone support to specific customer groups. You need incredibly granular reporting and the ability to export data to analyze outside the platform. You have the resources to create custom integrations. Data security is a table-stakes feature and you wouldn’t proceed with any software that didn’t have custom agreements and SLAs as well as a dedicated account manager. Company Size 500+ Support Team Size  50+ Funding Raised (if applicable) Series D all the way to Public Companies Customers Customers of all sizes. Custom setups, automation, SLAs, security — these are all their needs and therefore yours as well Top Features Needed Same as Mouse, Raccoon, and Wolf, plus teams, advanced permissions, security and compliance features, powerful automation, and API access Budget $$–$$$$ Time Available You’ve probably got at least one full-time person who is dedicated to operations along with engineering resources

As your company and support team grow, you’ll want and need different features. In part, this is because you’ll have different priorities and resources, but also because your relationships with customers will shift over time. Stay tuned over the next few weeks as we're compiling a super helpful checklist of the common features needed by each group.

The best platforms for each group

Now that you know which group you fall within, let’s talk about the support platforms that might be the best fit for you. As always, this list is meant as a starting point. You will likely need to do a detailed evaluation to determine what is best for your situation.

Mouse   Because you’re small, you’ll probably want something less complicated. Sometimes having all the features can actually be a detriment; instead, you just need to get straight to the main problem. That’s not to say that these platforms aren’t feature-rich, but they focus on just the right features for you in this phase.  In this category, Front, Help Scout, Intercom, and Zoho are all great options. Their price points and feature mixes start in the range you’re likely looking for. Help Scout and Intercom also have room to grow with you as your company grows. Raccoon     As your team grows, your needs slowly expand. While some of the previous Mouse options can often keep going into this stage, you’ll typically find yourself increasing to a higher plan level and stretching the limits of what’s possible.  If you’re starting to look around instead, add Freshdesk, Salesforce Essentials, Trengo, and Zendesk to your list to compare. Know that Freshdesk and Zendesk will probably scale the best as you advance past Raccoon and into Wolf. Wolf    At this point, you may have outgrown some of the best earlier options. Your needs for reporting, integrations, and automation may have you looking around. Something more complex sounds ideal because your needs are now more complex.  Start looking at HubSpot, Kustomer, Dixa, or evaluate increasing your plan level with Freshdesk or Zendesk. HubSpot and Zendesk are more likely to hold up for longer if you anticipate growing into Elephant fairly soon.  Elephant    By this point, you have a pretty clear idea of what you need — everything. Complexity is power and your budget is less of a limit.  If you use Salesforce as your CRM, Salesforce Service Cloud is likely a no-brainer. If you use HubSpot as your CRM, focus on HubSpot’s Customer Service tool. Otherwise, you’ll likely want to look at the higher plan options for Zendesk — especially if your team is in the market for a new CRM and wants to give Zendesk’s Sell platform a go.

This table is meant to be a guide. We’re building a full chart that will list the features offered by each platform in detail. If you’re interested in receiving this when it’s ready, be sure to sign up for our newsletter at the bottom of this post. As well, check out our detailed product comparisons chart that includes information on product tiers, pricing, security, and compliance features, as well as implementation support options.

Conclusion

Now that you have some potential support platforms to look at, it’s time to start your search. If you haven’t already read our series on finding a support platform, make sure to check it out here. We have some great posts to help you on your journey. You can also learn about some of our favorite features in Zendesk, HubSpot, Freshdesk, and Dixa (coming soon).

If you’re looking for advice but your team is more focused on eCommerce or other B2C, stay tuned for our next post.

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Diana Potter

Diana is a support, success, and experience leader. She’s currently the Head of Customer Experience for Qwilr and previously led customer departments for a number of leading companies. When she’s not writing or helping customers you’ll find her off in the woods taking photos or curled up with a book.

TestBox empowers you to have a self-serve, customer-led experience so you can buy new software and feel confident that you made the right choice. Currently focused on Customer Support, TestBox allows you to test out Zendesk, Freshdesk, HubSpot, Dixa, and other products side-by-side. It takes a matter of minutes to sign up and take these products for a test drive. Find out more at TestBox.com or follow on LinkedIn.

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