Helpdesk Comparison: Desk vs Zendesk vs Groove vs Help Scout

As I sat down to my desk and opened my email, I saw a new email from a client. It was a reply to an earlier thread. As soon as I saw the subject, a feeling of panic came over me. I immediately remembered replying to their email, saying I would look into something and then forgetting to follow through. How did that happen I thought? I marked their email unread so I’d remember to go back and work on that issue…or so I thought. Wait, maybe I was going to mark it unread but then forgot…or maybe my phone didn’t save the “unread” status…

By this point I realized there had to be a better way to manage our support email. We use Asana and Basecamp for managing projects, but we also get email that’s outside of current projects. It might be a request for a quote, a question about a previous project, or some bug that’s popped up on a project from the past couple years. I needed a better way to track these requests – not just read/unread, but actually tracking whether they’ve been solved. I also wanted to bring Brad, our project manager/lead front end dev, into the threads without needing to endlessly cc emails to everyone.

So I decided to research four helpdesk solutions. Now these aren’t the only helpdesk solutions, nor are they the only way to solve support email, but they’re the potential solutions that I thought would fit best with the needs of Slice n Press. The four services I setup demo accounts with were Desk, Zendesk, Groove, and Help Scout. At their core, each service handles support requests, allowing multiple users to share the workload of responding to emails and keeping track of when issues are solved, or “closed.” Following is a brief summary of my first impressions of each service as I tried the demos, along with the choice I made.


Of the four options, Desk seemed like the solution most targeted at larger companies. It has a clean UI, but it seemed complex with lots of options. Desk also has a lot of features targeted at larger teams like Collision Avoidance, Case Routing, Agent Achievements, etc. Currently, pricing for Desk is $29/mo/user when paid yearly or $39 monthly. They do also have a starter plan and “Flex Hours” which allow users to pay hourly. That’s a nice way to include extra people on your team who may only jump in to handle support occasionally. I didn’t try their mobile apps, but Desk does have apps for popular mobile devices.


Zendesk is very similar in feature set to Desk. Again the UI for Zendesk felt overly complex for our needs. I’m sure it works well for larger teams handling great volumes of support, but we don’t have a team of people dedicated to support right now. Zendesk did have mobile apps, which looked nice. Pricing for Zendesk was a bit higher than Desk for the features we’d want, $69/mo/user vs $39. If you’re trying to choose between Desk and Zendesk, it will be a tough choice as both look very similar in feature set.


Groove is the third option I tried. Immediately upon logging in to the demo I was greeted by a much nicer and cleaner UI than Desk or Zendesk. Things just felt simpler than the other two solutions. Groove also has an impressive feature list without making things complex and they provide a mobile app which was simple and easy to use. I did have a few issues with Groove – emails seemed slow to send and a few other quirks popped up during my trial. I emailed their support and they were very helpful and fixed the issue. Pricing for Groove is much less than Desk or Zendesk at $15/mo/user.

Help Scout

Finally I tried Help Scout. From a feature and UI standpoint, Groove and Help Scout are similar. Help Scout has a clean UI with helpful features like Workflows for automatic processes and saved replies. One of the nice features of Help Scout is that it works without using ticket numbers so you can use the features of a helpdesk without making your clients feel like they’re “ticket #46832” instead of a person. They do not currently offer mobile apps, but those are on the roadmap. You can respond to support requests via email on your mobile device so that’s a nice interim step. Help Scout also has great pricing at just $15/mo/user.

So what did I choose?

I chose Help Scout. It has the simple feature set, clean UI, and dependable service I was hoping to find. Now that doesn’t mean it’s the solution for everyone. I also really liked Groove. If you’re a small to medium sized team looking for a support solution, Help Scout or Groove are great options. If you’re a larger team and need the more advanced features, then Zendesk and Desk are the leaders in their space and both seemed like great solutions.

How’s it working?

Great! Our response times have gone down and we’re able to have a couple of us working on the same email without needing to cc everyone. I also no longer worry that I’ll forget to follow up on an issue that’s still open. That benefit alone is easily worth the monthly fee!

Update [12/9/2013]: After posting this blog post, I was contacted by Alex at Groove to find out why I didn’t choose Groove. I explained that it was a very tough choice between Help Scout and Groove, but ultimately it came down to my concern over a couple bugs I’d noticed during my demo. He explained that Groove is very stable and that the issues I noticed were not reflective of their app. He asked if I’d give Groove another shot. I agreed to give it a try since I really did like it first time around.

Now after having used it again, I love it! It’s clean, easy to use and has great features. I also haven’t noticed the bugs I saw the first time around – everything is loading very fast, and I’ve found it’s very easy to quickly handle support threads. Groove also has some great apps like Twitter integration and a site widget that I’m looking forward to trying out. Their mobile app also makes things easy to manage on the go. If you’re looking for an easy to use support app, definitely give Groove a try. We’ll be using it to manage our support.

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