Find the Best Zendesk Alternatives for Helpdesks and IT Ticketing Solutions

A complete guide to internal helpdesks and IT ticketing solutions that are strong alternatives to Zendesk.

If you’re currently searching for your next ticketing and IT operations system it’s likely that Zendesk is on your shortlist to consider. Zendesk offers support, sales and customer engagement software through a modern, “consumer-like” ticketing experience.

So what are the best alternatives to consider? This guide will walk you through ticketing solutions specifically catered to IT that help everyone in the company be more productive. No matter if you’re a company of 5 agents or 5000+, this guide will help you quickly get a clear picture of your best ticketing options to meet your needs going forward.

Read on to learn about:

Zendesk – The Basics

Zendesk is a platform that offers support, sales, and engagement through a seamless customer experience. Zendesk aims to reduce resolution time of support issues, allowing companies to boost ROI thanks to freed up staff and increased customer satisfaction. They offer both service desk and CRM products applied across external-facing customer service operations as well as internal-facing employee support.

Zendesk offers many benefits to its users. The automated ticketing and self-service features allows for a bot to answer and resolve tickets before an agent gets to them. When an agent is needed, omnichannel support allows users to receive a consistent experience no matter how they reach out. For example, when switching channels, like when a chat inquiry requires a phone call, agents don’t lose context or time with repetitive questions to resolve the issue. Additionally, Zendesk delivers a customizable experience through integrations.

Zendesk’s primary users are customer support teams, marketing, sales, and IT teams. If you are using Zendesk already, you know it serves as a help desk but is limited in Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) best practices for your IT teams. This means you will have to turn to third party app integrations for key features like change management. This may have your IT teams searching for an alternative.

Zendesk Limitations

For IT teams, Zendesk has a number of limitations that keep it from being the perfect ticket management and operations solution.

  • Not built for Enterprise IT standards
  • User-unfriendly experience
  • Pricing is steep, with hidden costs
  • Tickets get easily lost
  • Future direction seems to be CX, not IT

Not built for Enterprise IT standards

Unlike other ticketing solutions, Zendesk was not built around the ITIL guidelines – the industry standard for IT Service Management best practices (ITSM). You won’t find Zendesk anywhere on the Gartner Magic Quadrant for IT Service Management (ITSM) and Forrester summed the tool up overall as: “good for less-complex transactions.” Generally speaking, Zendesk leaves the impression that IT use cases are more of an afterthought as compared to the real focus around external-customer relationships.

User-unfriendly experience

The top complaint from Zendesk customer reviews is the user experience and confusing interface. The feature-rich UI is complicated, makes it easy to lose track of issues and increases the overall learning curve of the system, further straining service teams under constant pressure to move fast. It has been described by customers in reviews as the most complicated UI.

Pricing is steep, with hidden costs

Zendesk’s per-agent, module-based pricing structure is expensive and out of reach for many budget-conscious enterprises and smaller businesses/startups. While starting prices are just $5 for the most basic packages, the Professional pricing begins at $89 per user per month and $149 for Enterprise, making it expensive to deploy across many users and teams. Plus, there are hidden costs of additional modules with the best, higher-tier features only available at the most expensive plans. For instance, self-service and knowledge base features are not available at the basic tier.

Tickets easily get lost

One risk cited by customers is that it’s all too easy to lose track of tickets. Due to tickets arriving into a group inbox with blurry lines around accountability and a confusing experience of what happens immediately after a response, this injects uncertainty into a process intended to enforce clarity and security of who is handling which ticket and when. Zendesk’s tagging and routing also involve a complicated process, often requiring manual intervention to route tickets to the right agent. Users cite issues with the wrong people being assigned, or even no one answering at all.

Zendesk future not focused on IT

If there’s a two-letter acronym that sums up Zendesk’s future focus, it would be CX – not IT. Today, their products are heavily oriented towards external customer support needs. And recent Zendesk investments and acquisitions all focus on the CX side of their business (i.e Base for Salesforce integrations etc) to build their customer support software with little activity on the IT side, suggesting this continues to be the top priority for the company’s future.

If you need a more comprehensive ticket management to solidify your IT service desk with a consumer-like experience, see the alternatives we found. We researched 9 different options for you to choose what works best for your organization.

Best Zendesk Alternatives

  1. atSpoke
  2. ServiceNow
  3. Jira Service Desk
  4. Freshservice
  5. Spiceworks
  6. SolarWinds
  7. Help Scout
  8. Aisera
  9. Moveworks

1. atSpoke

atSpoke is a modern workplace operations platform built to ITIL standards that helps businesses scale by giving every employee what they need to be their most productive. The product is purpose built to work with a company’s existing SaaS toolset, allowing internal teams to deliver better support faster. Teams that use atSpoke get more done right where they work and resolve requests faster within one central command center, backed by ticketing automation, a dynamic knowledge base, and end-to-end machine learning.

atSpoke offers personalized, conversational ticketing built for Natural-language Understanding (NLU) requests. The highly intuitive UI design accelerates agent productivity. atSpoke allows for 5x faster ticket resolution and resolves 40% of tickets automatically through AI-driven workflows. IT agents are freed up while employees get convenient and immediate self-help in the tools they already use with conversational omnichannel experiences that allow organizations to unlock their workforce’s productivity. atSpoke moves work forward faster at an affordable price for today’s enterprise and those aspiring to get there! Find full pricing and features listed here.

Pros:
  • Workplace operations platform with AI weaved end-to-end with out-of-the-box machine learning and natural language understanding
  • Personalized auto-resolution with AI-driven self-service
  • Automatic triage, routing, tagging and escalation with load balancing
  • Intuitive, conversational ticketing through advanced workplace request NLU model
  • Integrated knowledge base with automatic updates
  • Rich, customizable reporting and analytics
  • Trigger events in third party systems (ie Okta)
  • User roles and permissions to control access to information
  • Integrations with channels, HRIS, asset management, SSO, Project Management, Access & Device management, knowledge management, operations management, people management, and video conferencing)
  • Powerful API for further extensions
  • Visibility of every workflow
  • Built to ITIL standards
  • Get started in days, not months
Cons:
  • Does not primarily focus as much on external-facing customer service operations
  • Main use cases enable IT and HR teams with tasks such as managing a service desk, streamline ticketing, employee onboarding and knowledge base management
  • Chat-first interface with native usability and functionality focused around in Slack and Microsoft Teams
  • Geared towards IT and HR teams relying on chat as the main interface to manage processes day and streamline workflows

More information: www.atspoke.com

2. ServiceNow

ServiceNow offers service management software under the NOW platform, targeting enterprise users across IT, HR, customer and field service. Their product focuses on scaling service and ticketing operations quickly by leveraging AI capabilities to “bridge the gap between traditional IT and modern business needs” through ITSM, business management, asset management, DevOps,  and security/compliance. While offering a robust solution, the feature-laden product may be under-utilized by IT teams for the heavy price tag, with long integration time frames to implement at scale posing barriers to rapid deployment. A less-than-intuitive UX can also mean a steeper learning curve and ramp up time across teams.

Pros:
  • Robust IT feature set native to platform 
  • Incumbent enterprise tool 
  • Strong in AI/ML automation
  • Highly customizable
Cons:
  • Long integration time frames
  • Features sold at a premium may be overkill for IT 
  • Complex UX 
  • High learning curve

More Information: www.servicenow.com

3. Jira Service Desk

Jira Service Desk is an ITSM help desk ticketing software from Atlassian geared specifically for enterprise IT teams (many of whom already use sister product Jira) and officially ITIL-certified.  While highly capable and extremely configurable, the complex UI and manual procedures can be intimidating and frustrating to end users – posing a barrier to usage and high training needs. The cumbersome nature of the tool often requires full-time staff to manage the instance. The ticketing process is still relatively manual, with Atlassian only recently moving to shore up conversational ticketing and AI capabilities through acquisitions. In May 2020, Jira Service Desk acquired the conversational ticketing solution Halp, which allows users to submit requests through Slack.

Pros:

  • Jira is mainstay of agile development teams
  • Request management, knowledge base, automation rules to escalate/assign tasks
  • Customizable to start with ITIL best practice templates out of the box and tailor to through app/integration ecosystem
  • Integrations with Atlassian products (Jira, Confluence, Opsgenie, Statuspage, Halp) to unify teams on a common platform 
Cons:
  • Overly manual process: overly hands-on way to move projects across workflow stages, 
  • Cumbersome UX: cluttered, messy, non-intuitive UI look and feel intimidates new users and poses barrier to usage – adds burden of training and subject matter expertise to operate; even veteran agents need training to navigate it
  • Lacking 360° Documentation & Visibility: no integrated knowledge base (must be created manually first in Confluence – then linked to Jira Service Desk)
  • Lacking AI capabilities weaved throughout 
  • Requires dedicated staff to maintain the instance
  • Customization difficult with complex behind the scenes work required

More Information: www.atlassian.com/software/jira/service-desk

4. Freshservice

Freshservice is the enterprise-IT service desk software, under the Freshworks portfolio of CRM and customer service software products. The product caters specifically to large IT organizations with complex workflows offering a robust feature set across the full scope of ITSM needs. The density of features however overloads the UI, leaving users confused and often causing more work for IT staff to course correct errors as a result. AI functionality (“Freddy”) is geared towards IT staff only for reporting use cases vs enabling self-service. Automation features (rules-based) have been reported as prone to breaking, with IT staff often needing to “teach” it how to do things which can defeat the time-saving benefits.

Pros:
  • AI software “Freddy” with Natural Language Processing
  • Knowledge Base
  • Self-Service Portal, Canned Responses Templates & Auto-Suggest Articles for Faster Resolution 
  • Change Management & Asset Management out of of the box
  • Configurable Automation Rules
  • Reporting & Advanced Analysis 
  • Gamification-Based Incentives for IT Staff
Cons:
  • Confusing UX causes errors and retraining
  • Upcharge for Asset Management (over 100 assets)
  • Automation features prone to breaking and require hands-on staff
  • AI limited to reporting only

More Information: https://freshservice.com/

5. Spiceworks Help Desk

While you might know Spiceworks as an IT professional industry association, they also offer free software for the IT helpdesk solution integrated with sister product Inventory for asset management and monitoring infrastructure in the Connectivity Dashboard. The helpdesk product focuses on ticket and task management, with self-service, Active Directory integration, configurable roles and team collaboration options all available free with no admin or ticket number limit. The “Free” does mean dealing with in-product ads said to be invasive to the UX, and more sophisticated enterprise users are cautioned to fully vet that all needs are met with this solution–because migrating off of Spiceworks later basically requires going back to square one.

Pros:
  • Free with no admin or ticket limit
  • Ticket collaboration for team members
  • AI functionality to analyze ticket patterns and flag potential problems and connect users with a relevant vendor to provide a solution
  • Knowledge Base
  • Integrated with Spiceworks ecosystem (Inventory asset management, IP Scanner tools)
  • Multi-site support that roll up to master help desk 
  • Online or self-hosted options
  • Reporting & metrics
Cons:
  • Clunky user experience
  • Reliability issues reported by users
  • Advertisements in-product detract from UX
  • Difficult to migrate off of without starting from scratch 
  • Can be difficult to integrate with non-Spiceworks tools

More Information: www.spiceworks.com

6. SolarWinds

SolarWindsService Desk (formerly Samanage Service Platform) offers a help desk software solution and service desk to support employee services. An all-in-one portal with a thorough IT feature set available that includes incident management, IT asset management, employee service portal, knowledge base, and problem management. The service desk is suited for companies of any size. However knowledge requests do not create tickets preventing insights into common employee requests and limiting analytics.

Pros:
  • Follows ITIL best practices
  • Automated routing
  • Automated asset discovery with integrated CMDB for real-time impact
  • Powerful service catalog
  • Integration with SolarWinds products like dameware
Cons:
  • Limited customization
  • Managing change catalog is counterintuitive
  • Reporting limitations

More Information: www.solarwinds.com

7. Help Scout

HelpScout provides support software solutions in the Zendesk model aimed at startups supporting external customer inquiries. Beyond its lack of alignment to ITIL best practices, you won’t hear them use the term “help desk ticketing system.” Help Scout positions themselves as “not ticketing” in favor of viewing all interactions as “conversations” that should be personalized and handled collaboratively. The product centers around shared inboxes to deliver personalized experiences informed by user profiles for context. Automation through if/then logic and collaboration features for IT teams include private notes, saved replies, collision detection and tagging to categorize items for automation and reporting.

Pros:
  • Automate action via workflows with if/then logic
  • Knowledge Base for self-service
  • HIPAA compliant – for healthcare-related companies
  • Multiple Integrations (Jira, Slack, Salesforce, Twilio, RingCentral)
  • Customer satisfaction surveys
Cons:
  • No ticketing numbers 
  • Not aligned to ITIL practices 
  • No asset management 
  • “Not ticketing” mentality goes against the grain of many IT teams
  • Potential issues with integrating with internal tools

More Information: https://www.helpscout.com/

8. Aisera

Aisera is an AI-driven service solution for IT, HR, customer service, sales, facilities, and operations teams. Heavily focused on AI, Aisera labels their offering “AISM” or AI Service Management bringing NLP/NLU and conversational RPA to detect intent and automate support through AI consumer-like experiences that plug directly into existing company systems of record and offer predictive service. However IT teams may be cautioned by reports that the product feature is still playing catch-up to close the gaps in what is offered out of the box, and certain customers publicly investing in more than Aisera alone to meet their ticketing needs.

Pros:
  • AI automation and intent-based features
  • NLP and semantic NLU to power self-service
  • Enterprise-level integrations 
  • Automate repetitive inquiries/workflows in no-code workflow studio
  • Integration with AWS, Atlassian, Salesforce, etc
Cons:
  • Limitations in certain out of the box features and configurability 
  • Limitations in casual intent filtering in conversation performance reporting 
  • Restricted roles/features to admin console users
  • Flagship customers publicly investing in other ticketing tools 
  • Auto-answer feature limitations can prompt additional phone call delaying service 
  • Limitations in administrative roles/controls, intent filtering 
  • Potentially disruptive testing and validation schedules customers required to align to 
  • Clunky reporting limitations (collecting raw data for visualization/automation)

More Information: https://aisera.com/

9. Moveworks

Moveworks offers AI-driven IT service solutions for both startups and large enterprises. Through AI software pre-trained on 75M IT tickets to refine its ML/NLU capabilities, the Moveworks bot aims to completely automate IT service auto-resolving issues without human intervention. Features include understanding chat messaging requests with no scripting/training required up front, automated routing and predictive service capabilities to proactively contact a user when locked out of an account.

Pros:
  • Omnichannel, automated IT service 
  • Pre-trained AI capabilities and conversational AI for self-service
  • Integrations with ITSM (ServiceNow, Jira etc), identity/access management, facilities management, Slack, Teams, etc
  • Advanced analytics
Cons:
  • 8-week deployment timeframe
  • Requires integrations for identity/access management
  • May require additional IT service tools 
  • Pricing structures typically geared at enterprise-level budgets (available on request only)

More Information: www.moveworks.com/

Conclusion

And that completes our whirlwind tour! As you can see, while Zendesk is a well-known and heavily-utilized tool, it isn’t the solution of choice for all IT ticketing and operations teams. Exploring Zendesk alternatives that leverage deeper best practices specifically designed for IT teams can unlock net new levels of productivity for agents, and all the people they support.

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