Compare Help Scout With Other Popular Customer Support Tools

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Help Scout
Help Scout

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Compare Help Scout pricing vs. other tools

Product Free Plan Available? Starter Plan Mid-Range Plan Advanced Plan
Help Scout Yes, for startups and nonprofits $20/user/month $40/user/month $60/user/month
Zendesk Yes, for startups $49/agent/month $79/agent/month $99/agent/month
Freshdesk Yes, for up to 10 agents $15/agent/month $49/agent/month $79/agent/month
HubSpot Service Hub Yes, includes 1 shared inbox $45/month for 2 paid users $450/month for 5 paid users $1,200/month for 10 paid users
Intercom No $74/month Custom Custom
Front No $19-$49/seat/month $99/seat/month $229/seat/month
Dixa No $39/agent/month $89/agent/month $139/agent/month
Trengo No $18/user/month $29/user/month $41/user/month
Gorgias No $10-$60/month for 50-300 tickets/month $360/month for 2,000 tickets/month $900/month for 5,000 tickets/month
Zoho Desk Yes, for up to 3 users $7-$14/user/month $23/user/month $40/user/month

Help Scout review

Help Scout is a great tool for support-focused teams and overall customer communications. It can assist with support tickets, success conversations with larger customers, and professional service conversations when talking through paid projects. These are just a few of the benefits it provides.

Help Scout pros

Unsurprisingly, Help Scout has many pros! We really liked the human-centered design and that it encouraged a collaborative team approach to customer support. 

Help Scout is a great tool for support-focused teams and overall customer communications. It can assist with support tickets, success conversations with larger customers, and professional service conversations when talking through paid projects. These are just a few of the pros it provides.

Which features you can access will depend on the tier of Help Scout you use. We’re familiar with the Plus and Company tiers, both of which have the entire feature set. Note that the Standard tier does not include Custom Fields, Teams, or Salesforce (and other features).

Custom fields for all your data needs 

Help Scout has a wonderful Custom Field feature that gives you the ability to store information such as reminder dates and conversation-level comments with the relevant conversation. You can reference these custom fields in workflows (automations) and export or import the data from these fields via an API, which means you can use the data with other tools.

Conversations over tickets

Another thing we liked about Help Scout is that it takes a refreshingly human approach to support. It’s a philosophy that has percolated throughout the platform, from the design to how features have been implemented. For example, inbound emails are not “tickets”, they’re “conversations”. And the entire program is designed to help you continue these conversations with your customers. A handy sidebar shows previous conversations with the customer and other relevant data. Intuitive controls let you assign conversations, and tag or follow them. 

Overall, we found it to be so easy to use that we think new team members will be able to learn the software quickly, which offers the added bonus of reducing onboarding time.

Automated actions with workflows

Workflows are Help Scout's automation mechanism. You can use automatic workflows to perform actions on conversations (such as tagging a ticket, assigning a ticket to a team member, or triggering a notification to a manager) based on predefined criteria or you can use manual workflows to perform multiple common actions together.

Administrators will appreciate the step-by-step approach to setting up workflows, and when team members click on a workflow name, they’ll be able to see exactly what it does.

Workflows are the omni-tool for any automation in Help Scout, so once you have a firm grasp of how they work, you’ll be able to use them with custom fields, properties, and other criteria to automate many of your frequent processes. 

We found them especially useful for:

  • Automatically tagging and routing tickets based on certain keywords.
  • Bumping tickets based on reminder dates or if the customer has been waiting a while.
  • Organizing conversations in folders.
  • Highlighting conversations with satisfaction ratings.

Note, though, that automatic workflows only run once per conversation. Stay posted for our next post on the challenges we experienced with Help Scout, when we touch on this. For more ideas and examples of how to use workflows, read this article on the Help Scout website.

Teams and shared inboxes

Help Scout recommends team members share an Inbox. That’s not to say that you can’t assign conversations to individuals, but to keep the queue flowing, a shared inbox is encouraged. 

In a similar fashion, Help Scout offers a Teams feature so you can assign a conversation to a team instead of an individual. For example, instead of assigning a conversation to Angela in accounting, you can assign it to the accounting team. That way, anyone in the team can access the conversation from the team's folder. This is critical when the volume is high, if an agent is on leave, or if an agent is already responding to another conversation (agents can be in more than one team), and the queue must keep “flowing”.

Working through a common queue ensures no conversation goes unattended and any SLA breaches are highlighted. This feature also pairs well with workflows and makes handling skill-based queues a lot smoother.

If you’re looking for a customer support platform that’s easy to use, even for new team members, Help Scout might be the tool for you. 

Help Scout cons

While we loved Help Scout’s refreshingly human approach to support, we did think these three limitations — no built-in SLAs, limited automations, and no email deflection — might be challenging for many organizations. A further drawback for those providing multi-channel support (like voice) is that you’ll have to rely on integrations, which is always an added level of complication. 

That said, overall, we think Help Scout is well suited for small support teams using email and chat. In this case, it wins for its elegance and simplicity.

No built-in SLAs

The first thing to note is that Help Scout has no built-in SLA feature — something we consider to be a necessity in any customer service organization. Instead, Help Scout suggests tracking the aging of conversations using a combination of different features to create an SLA-like experience.

We recommend 

We added tags to track conversations that had nearly reached an SLA threshold or had already crossed one so that we could easily identify them. This required setting up workflows for SLAs and setting the workflows to run in the appropriate order. Unfortunately, this isn’t a perfect solution, because workflows can only run once per conversation.

Limited automations for large organizations

While Help Scout’s automation system is quite versatile and can be used for many use cases, it quickly becomes difficult to manage for a large organization. Automatic workflows only run once per conversation (not per thread). This is a serious drawback when you consider that conversations can be revived by customers at any time.

We recommend

As a workaround, we used a conversation lock to force a new conversation to be created if interactions (such as the customer reopening the conversation) occurred after a specified number of days.

We also tried using tags and custom fields to layer workflows — where one workflow would depend on another (e.g., only triggering overdue conversations if a tag for “nearing due” conversations exists). However, this required creating a flowchart of all possible scenarios (only possible when there’s limited complexity) and careful planning.

No email deflection

Lastly, Help Scout does not have a built-in way to automatically deflect emails to relevant knowledge base articles. While it’s possible to choose Self Service mode in Beacon, which will first show visitors your most popular help articles before showing any contact options, or to use Content Suggestions to display specific help articles, there is no way to deflect inbound emails.

We recommend

For us, we wanted to make sure that we can save agents time when they’re answering really common queries. We set up individual workflows for frequently asked questions with saved responses. For example: The following workflow sends an email to the customer if the customer’s email contains the words ‘billing plan’.

If you’re curious to see this use case in action and give Help Scout a spin, you can sign up for TestBox and try out Help Scout with this use case preconfigured for you.

Help Scout tips

We talked to long time users of Help Scout to get their top tips and tricks that they’ve learned along the way. We’ll go in depth with our seven top tips for using Help Scout below.

Automating follow-ups 

While automating follow-ups is not a built-in feature with Help Scout, it’s something we accomplished using a custom field and a Workflow. We created a custom field called “Follow-up date,” visible at the top of every conversation we have with customers. It’s set up as a date field, and whenever we want to set a follow-up, it’ll open up a calendar view so we can pick the day that we want the conversation to re-open.

From there, we’ve also created a series of Workflows. The complication with this one is each Workflow can only run a single time, so rather than just one, we have multiple; we use tags to identify which has last run. It looks like this:

At midnight on the identified day, it’ll open up the conversation, add a note that we’ve written, and add a tag. If we want to set it to follow up again, we’ll set another date and another Workflow looks for that first tag, remove it, and add a new one with a note. 

Tagging high priority tickets

While customers don’t always know what’s truly urgent from our side, they obviously know what they consider urgent. So we want to know if a customer feels something needs immediate attention so that can weigh in when we triage a busy inbox. 

To do this, set up a Workflow looking at a customer’s message. Grab a few keywords or phrases, and set up “OR” conditions where we look for those phrases and add an ASAP tag to the ticket. This allows you to see if it tripped the Workflow (in the inbox). Give it a try with your own phrases that you think signify problems with your customers.

Following tickets

While the last couple of tips have involved workarounds, this one is a built-in feature. You can follow a conversation in Help Scout and get notifications for future responses. To do so, head to the menu and choose “Follow”.

Use this feature liberally when training new support. It’s a great way to follow conversations where you don’t know the answer or wouldn’t know how to handle them. You can then see how your colleagues helped the customer and learn by observing. It’s also great for managers to keep an eye on tricky conversations or QA to tag tickets that they’ll go back to. 

Enforcing tag and field use

To ensure our reporting is set up accurately, we use a mixture of custom fields and tags. Custom fields can be set to required—tags can’t, but we still want to ensure specific ones are included. We also use tags to enforce other settings like follow-ups. 

For the reporting data, we set up a custom field named “Has tag”. When this field isn’t set, the ticket re-opens automatically with a note reminding the team to add a product tag. We also have a Workflow set up that looks for all of our various product tags, and as soon as one is added, it’ll set that “Has tag” field. 

You can also use a variation on this function to look for bug tickets where you’re not following up. For instance, we have a rule that if a bug is still being investigated and hasn’t been filed yet in our bug tracking, we need to ensure we follow up with the customer to get all of the details we need. So in this case, we would look for the “bug” tag, then re-open the ticket if specific fields aren’t added. Alternatively, if the “bugfix” tag hasn’t been added, we would also know follow-up is needed.

Creating internal help docs

One of the niftier built-in elements with their Docs feature is being able to create private collections and restrict those articles to people logged into your Help Scout instance.

We’ve used this to create our own internal help center for everyone working with customers. We have quick answers to FAQs, processes to go through, tips on where to look next when troubleshooting and anything else you can think of.

Because these are accessible from within conversations, including chat, my team can quickly search our own docs for help while talking to customers if they get stuck.

We’ve also empowered the team to add and edit those internal docs at any time. The rule is if they learn something new they need to write it up ASAP once closing the conversation. That way the next person who comes across that thing has access to it from their own conversation and won’t get stuck.

Reporting views

We’ve talked about using your support data to improve your product or to make your team more successful, and one of the ways Help Scout helps make that happen is by allowing users to filter reports and save those views for future use. All of the tags and custom fields mentioned before are accessible in your reports, and you can combine them in any way to drill down into the matching conversations. 

To add one, click on the plus sign (+) by “Views” when you’re in your reports, and add in the combination of conditions that you want to look at. 

Changing your redirect options

Another hidden, yet very valuable feature Help Scout offers is redirect options. This defines where you go when you reply to a conversation. To change it, click on the arrow next to the send button and change your redirect. You can also use that to make a one-time change if you want to go somewhere else. 

For regular agents, we recommend they send and go to the next active conversation. This way they don’t have to think about it and don’t run the risk of cherry-picking. However, anyone who is triaging or managing, we suggest they go back to the folder so they can see what has newly come in.


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