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The 11 Best Help Desk Software for 2022 [Ranked & Rated]

Communication is at the center of most businesses.

Whether it’s communicating with customers to help resolve service-related issues or fielding IT requests from employees, most businesses eventually need some way to manage those conversations.

One of the best ways to do that is with help desk software.

What is help desk software?

Help desk software is a tool used to organize, manage, and respond to service-related requests. Some help desks are used for external requests from customers, whereas others are used for internal service requests from team members.

Help desks may include a variety of tools like a shared inbox, a knowledge base, and a live chat solution. However, not all help desks include all of the tools mentioned.

What are the different categories of help desk software?

Just as there are 1,000 ways to peel a cucumber, there are also multiple ways you can categorize help desk software. For example, you could break it down by software type, in which case there are three major categories:

  • Cloud-based: A cloud-based help desk is proprietary software hosted online through a vendor’s site or an application. In order to access the tool, you log in to the site or application and generally pay a monthly or yearly fee.
  • Self-hosted: A self-hosted help desk is installed directly onto your own servers. It could be something you build yourself or purchase from another company. Similar to cloud-based, it is also proprietary software.
  • Open source: Open source help desk software lets developers access the source code of a program directly, giving them the ability to customize the software in whatever way they see fit. This software is generally non-proprietary, meaning there’s no single owner of the program.

Though the above may come into play when making a purchasing decision, if you’re buying an external solution, 99% of the time it’ll be cloud-based (all of the options listed below are cloud-based).

There may be some instances where you’re purchasing a solution that’s installed directly on your own servers, but it’s not incredibly common or practical for most teams because of the cost associated with the installation and upkeep of the software.

Another — and possibly more useful — way to think about help desk software categorization is in relation to who you’re using the software to serve. In that case, there are two categories: internal and customer-facing.

  • Internal: An internal help desk solution is generally used to manage IT-related issues. Employees can log tickets directly with your IT team, making it easier to manage and organize those requests.
  • Customer-facing: Customer-facing help desk software is generally used by customer support teams to manage incoming customer conversations. These tools range in functionality, but most include things like a shared inbox and some form of collaboration, productivity, and reporting tools.

What help desk software features are important to look for?

Depending on your specific use case, some features will be more important than others. That said, whether you’re using a help desk for internal or external conversations, there are a few key features to look for.

Easy-to-use interface

Any new software takes time to learn. However, some tools have much shorter learning curves than others. The quicker you’re able to train agents, the quicker they’re able to get back to doing what they do best: supporting others.

Attend demos for all the tools you’re considering, and when you’ve whittled it down to your final few, do a live trial if possible.

If you can, have people from multiple disciplines participate in the trial phase. Managers, agents, and operations folks will use the tool in different ways, but it’s important that any tool you choose works well for all those different use cases.

You should also see what the experience is like from the submitter side. Submit a request and do a few back-and-forth interactions to really get a grasp on what it’s like to use the tool from both sides of the conversation.

Reporting and metrics

Though not every part of what makes a great customer experience can be quantified, there are plenty of things that can be. With access to reporting and metrics tools, you’re better able to understand which areas you excel in and where you still have room for improvement.

Look for tools that can help you determine, at a minimum, what days and times of day are busiest, common reasons people reach out, average response times, and CSAT ratings.

Some tools even offer pre-built dashboards to make metrics reporting quick and easy. It’s also good to have options to make custom dashboards to keep your most meaningful metrics easy to view.

Collaboration and productivity tools

Two of the biggest benefits of using a help desk tool are the capabilities to collaborate with others and to streamline work. Access to those tools helps reduce the burden on agents, giving them more time to focus on the people they’re supporting.

For example, with Help Scout, you can add more context to a conversation with private notes, reduce duplicate work with collision detection, and give lightning-fast responses to common questions using saved replies.

You should also keep an eye out for features that help you automate manual tasks like assigning and sorting incoming requests.

Scalability

As your team continues to grow and change, so will your needs. Since switching help desks is a big undertaking, finding a solution that can grow with you is important.

It’s best to look for a tool that will work well for at least the next 18-24 months. Anything less than that and you might be setting yourself up for a future headache. Anything beyond that timeframe gets pretty hard to reliably predict.

Pay attention to each tool’s pricing structure and make note of whether you’d have to switch to a different plan to meet future needs. Some tools charge per user, and some charge by volume. Tools that charge per user are generally much easier to forecast future costs for.

Quality customer support

No matter how user-friendly a tool is, chances are you’ll have questions about it at some point. Though you may assume people making help desk software would be very helpful, that’s not always the case.

Once you have a list of serious contenders, take a look at each of their knowledge bases to see how comprehensive their content is and how easy it is to navigate. You should also send a few requests to their support team to see how quickly they respond and how helpful they are in your interactions overall.

The 11 best help desk software solutions

In order to begin your search, it helps to know at least some of your options. Below is a list of 11 of the best help desk software solutions on the market right now.

Whether you’re looking for a customer-facing tool or one for internal use, we’ve got some options for you to consider.

1. Help Scout

Best help desk software for teams who prioritize customer satisfaction.

Help Scout is a complete customer support platform that includes every tool you need to deliver an outstanding customer experience. When you sign up for Help Scout, you get access to a number of tools.

Shared inboxes

Help Scout’s shared inboxes include collaboration tools like @mentions and private notes to ask others for help or to add more context to a customer conversation.

There’s also collision detection to reduce duplicate work and workflows to automate routing and routine tasks.

Finally, saved replies make responding to routine customer queries a breeze.

Knowledge base

With Docs you’re able to create, manage, and organize self-service content.

The WYSIWYG editor makes content creation a breeze. You’re also able to upload videos, images, and other types of content directly to articles or embed videos to create even more robust self-service content.

Performance data helps you see which articles are performing best, which ones could be doing better, and what content you should create next.

Live chat

Help Scout’s live chat widget, Beacon, is a multi-use tool that includes live chat as well as proactive support options through Messages.

The live chat function has online and offline options to help customers find the answers they need when and where they need them.

With Messages, you’re able to segment audiences based on specific customer attributes, schedule messages, and even see performance data to help further refine your efforts.

Reporting

Help Scout comes loaded with pre-built dashboards so you’re able to see how your team’s performing right away. You can also create custom reports that focus on the metrics of your choosing.

If you want to do even more with your data, our API lets you export to the business intelligence tool of your choosing.

Customer profiles

Customer profiles are automatically created for customers you’ve interacted with through Beacon. They show basic information like their company, their role, and any previous interactions you’ve had.

You can edit and update customer profiles any time, ensuring all information is up to date and relevant. You can even automate the updating process by adding a few lines of code to any Beacon implementation.

Mobile apps

Finally, Help Scout offers mobile iOS and Android apps for teams who need notifications on the go or to resolve issues while they’re away from their desktop machines.

Though Help Scout’s features are impressive, we think our best asset is our world-class support team that is ready to help out 24/6. We also have an extensive knowledge base for those who prefer self-directed learning.

Price: Starting at $20/user per month.

2. SysAid

Best help desk system for ITSM.

screenshot of sysaid's help desk

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SysAid is a help desk ticketing system that manages internal IT requests. They offer a number of SLA management features like ticket and workflow automation to reduce SLAs. You can also build a self-service portal for knowledge management so employees can handle basic requests like password resets on their own.

You’re able to get things going quickly with a host of templates and default forms, or you can create your own custom ones to best serve the needs of your organization and your team. Since most IT tools are used in conjunction with one another, you also get access to a number of third-party integrations.

SysAid has powerful asset management features that make it easy to manage all of the assets in your network and see hardware and software for each of your end users.

Price: Contact SysAid directly for pricing.

3. Hiver

Best basic help desk for small businesses.

screenshot of hiver's customer service software

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The best way to think about Hiver is as an extension to your Gmail account. With it you’re able to do things like leave internal notes on conversations and even assign conversations to specific agents.

Hiver also gives you access to some reporting to better understand team performance and gain insights into the common reasons customers reach out.

It is worth noting that Hiver doesn’t include any additional tools beyond a shared inbox like most of the others on this list, which may limit its ability to scale with your team. Also, some basic features like reporting are only included on their higher-cost plans.

Price: Starting at $12/user per month.

4. Freshdesk

Best support software for call center support.

screenshot of freshdesk's customer service software

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Freshdesk is a multi-use help desk that’s good for larger teams, especially those in a call center setting.

When you sign up, you get access to tools like a shared inbox, a knowledge base tool, and chat capabilities for managing support requests. You also get an allowance of incoming minutes to handle customer phone calls (the amount of minutes varies based on the specific plan you choose).

You also get access to some third-party integrations to keep your support tech stack connected. Though powerful, Freshdesk’s pricing/plans do get a little confusing as there are a number of optional add-ons. Also, the features we mention above are only available on their higher-tier omnichannel plans.

Price: Free plan available.

5. Jira

Best ticket management system for escalation and incident management.

screenshot of jira's help desk

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Jira is generally associated with engineering teams, but it does come into play for a lot of support teams as it’s a common place for them to report and track bugs.

Users are able to create custom workflows and forms to make sure projects run smoothly, and they can assign statuses to certain tasks to keep everyone involved informed. Reports can give support reps insights into what’s being worked on and the overall workload, giving further context to bug-tracking and requests.

Price: Free plan available for up to 10 users.

6. Zendesk

Best help desk software for enterprise teams.

screenshot of zendesk's customer service software

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Almost anyone working in customer support has heard of Zendesk. They make a multi-channel support solution that includes features like a shared inbox, a knowledge base, and live chat tools.

Along with those, they also offer some more advanced AI-based solutions for chatbots and autoresponders (though those are only included on their higher-cost plans).

You also get access to a host of productivity and automation features, as well as over 1,000+ integrations to connect with other tools in your support ecosystem. To be honest, there’s not a lot Zendesk doesn’t do or many communication channels it doesn’t cover.

However, the flip side is that it’s a very complex and complicated product that requires a lot of time, energy, and resources to get up and running.

This adds substantial additional costs on top of the monthly rate, and since most teams don’t need access to all the features Zendesk offers, it’s very possible they could find a solution with what they need for less money.

Price: Starting at $49/agent per month.

7. Zoho Desk

Best help desk software for sales-focused teams.

screenshot of zoho desk's customer service software

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You may be familiar with Zoho as a CRM tool, but they also make a support solution for customer interactions.

Zoho Desk includes a lot of the usual suspects like a shared inbox and a knowledge base tool. They also have more advanced offerings like AI-assisted response and advanced automations for things like conversation sorting and tagging.

If you’re currently using other Zoho products, Zoho Desk integrates seamlessly with them. However, their more advanced features, and even some basic ones like live chat, are only offered on their highest-cost enterprise plan, which could be over-budget for some teams.

Price: Starting at $14/agent per month.

8. Front

Best shared inbox software for group email collaboration.

screenshot of front's customer service software

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When communicating with customers, most teams opt to use a group email address (e.g., support@yourdomain.com) to accept support tickets. However, some teams prefer to communicate from personal email addresses but still want the functionality of help desk software. Front lets you do just that.

With Front you can connect email, SMS, and social media accounts to a shared inbox. It also includes productivity features like internal notes, as well as some automation features to reduce manual work. They also offer some analytics and integrations, though those are only offered on their higher-cost plans.

We should also note that Front doesn’t include a knowledge base for FAQs or live chat tool for real-time support like a number of the other options on our list.

Price: Starting at $19/person per month.

9. Gorgias

Best help desk support system for low-volume support teams.

screenshot of gorgias' customer service software

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Gorgias is a help desk solution mainly focused on ecommerce. Gorgias offers access to a shared inbox tool, knowledge base tool, and live chat tool. The main differentiator from other options on the list are its Shopify, Magento, and BigCommerce integrations (although the Magento integration is only offered on the higher-tier plan).

Through those integrations you’re able to see order details, edit orders, and even do refunds directly from your help desk, which can save a lot of time and hassle for your team. However, one major drawback is that all of their plans have ticket limits, meaning your costs could vary month over month depending on volume.

To give an idea, their base plan includes 350 monthly tickets, which equals out to around 12 tickets a day — a number most teams would far exceed. From there, you’re charged an additional $25 per 100 tickets.

Price: Starting at $50 per month.

10. Kustomer

Best help desk management tool for project management functionality.

screenshot of kustomer's customer service software

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Kustomer combined help desk and project management software to create a unique type of solution. Kustomer offers multi-channel support for email, chat, phone, and social accounts. On the project management front, you can create, assign, and set due dates for tasks.

You’re also able to see a complete picture of each customer and update multiple systems at once, saving time and energy. Though Kustomer offers some impressive features, it is quite expensive, and the pricing is somewhat confusing as there are a number of tools that are add-ons.

Price: Starting at $89/user per month.

11. Spiceworks

Best free help desk for IT support firms managing multiple clients.

screenshot of spiceworks' help desk software

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Spiceworks is another help desk solution focused on internal IT requests. With it you can easily organize and manage conversations as well as set up a self-service portal to empower people to get answers and solutions on their own.

You’re also able to automate a number of manual tasks to free up time for your IT professionals. If you’re an organization providing IT services to a number of clients, you’re able to create individual sites and user portals for each. Best of all, Spiceworks is completely free.

Price: Free.

Help desk software comparison chart

Tool Price Customer reviews Key features Best for...
Help Scout Starting at $20/user per month 4.7 out of 5 on Capterra
  • Shared inbox
  • Knowledge base
  • Live chat
  • Proactive Messages
  • Customer data management
Teams that prioritize customer satisfaction
SysAid Contact for pricing 4.5 out of 5 on Capterra
  • Ticket and workflow automations
  • Self-service portal
  • Form templates to get started quickly
ITSM
Hiver Starting at $12/user per month 4.7 out of 5 on Capterra
  • Internal notes
  • Reporting to better understand team/individual performances
Small businesses
Freshdesk Free plan available 4.5 out of 5 on Capterra
  • Omnichannel support
  • Incoming call minutes included in each plan
  • Third-party integrations
Call center support
Jira Free for up to 10 users 4.4 out of 5 on Capterra
  • Custom forms and workflows
  • Ticket statuses
  • Performance reports
Escalation and incident management
Zendesk Starting at $49/agent per month 4.4 out of 5 on Capterra
  • Multi-channel support
  • Advanced features like AI/chatbots on higher-tier plans
  • Metrics reporting
Enterprise teams
Zoho Desk Starting at $14/agent per month 4.5 out of 5 on Capterra
  • Seamless integration with Zoho CRM
  • AI-assisted responses
  • Shared inbox
Sales-focused teams
Front Starting at $19/person per month 4.5 out of 5 on Capterra
  • Send/receive messages to a personal email address
  • Multi-channel inbox (email, SMS, socials)
  • Basic automations
Group email collaboration
Gorgias Starting at $50 per month 4.7 out of 5 on Capterra
  • Shopify, Mangento, & BigCommerce integrations
  • Shared inbox
  • Knowledge base capabilities
Low-volume support teams
Kustomer Starting at $89/user per month 4.5 out of 5 on Capterra
  • Project management tools
  • Multi-channel support
  • Automations to update multiple properties at once
Project management capabilities
Spiceworks Free 4.4 out of 5 on Capterra
  • Sorting and workflow automations
  • Option to set up multiple sites/self-service portals
IT support firms managing multiple clients

How to choose the tool that’s right for your company

Knowing your options is a great place to start, but in order to pick the best tool for your team’s needs, there’s more work to be done. Realistically, there’s no one answer for what the “best” help desk is — just the help desk that’s best for you.

Follow these guidelines to determine which help desk is your best option.

Understand your primary use

Knowing how you’re going to use the software is one of the easiest ways to shorten your list. If you’re looking for an internal-use tool, that’ll shrink the pool. Perhaps you’re looking for something to manage an online shop and you are mainly focused on external communication.

No matter the case, clearly defining how you’re going to use the tool will help you narrow your search.

Make a list of non-negotiable features

Though there is a lot of crossover of functionality across help desk software, each tool does have its own nuances. Making a list of “must-haves” can help limit options. Another thing to pay attention to is which plans those features are offered on. For example, some tools only offer things like live chat on their higher-cost plans.

Know your budget

It would be great if the only thing you had to think about was how well a tool met your needs, but that’s not the case for most teams. As mentioned above, not all tools charge the same way. Note if there are any additional costs based on volume, integrations, or other variables.

Test out the options

It’s hard to truly know how a help desk solution will work for you without having hands-on experience with it. Many options do offer free trials, so take advantage when they do (though it’s probably best to limit trials to only 2-3 options).

And, as mentioned above, have people from different roles test out tools to get a number of different perspectives.

Compare notes

After you’ve gone through, tested, and vetted all of your options, it’s good to take a step back and compare notes on each option. If you have time, it might even be good to wait a couple days after your final trial ends to start comparing. Look at your own notes and the notes of others (if you have them).

In the end, choosing the best tool comes down to being thoughtful and thorough. Be sure not to rush things, and make sure you understand all the different details of any potential contender.

Taking the leap

Investing in a help desk is a big decision. But if you do your due diligence, chances are you’ll come out of the process with a solution that you’re excited about and will serve your needs now and into the future.

Take your time, be thorough, and do your best to leave no stone unturned. And if you need help switching over from your current help desk, check out our 9-Step Guide to Switching Help Desks.

Jesse Short
Jesse Short

After spending a few years working as a support agent, Jesse made the switch to writing full-time. He works as a Content Writer at Help Scout, hoping to help improve the agent and customer experience.

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