When starting out with a new app as a solo developer, one of the most popular ways of offering support is through an email address. It doesn’t take long to realize that email is difficult to manage. Communication with a customer can stretch out to weeks and months, and it can become lost in a sea of many such emails. FreshDesk is the perfect support tool for the bootstrapper to solve this problem.
When I released Chime Squirrel a couple years ago, I did not get a lot of support requests. So I managed everything through email. But as I started to get some decent traction about a year later it started to become tough to manage. Sometimes customers would start a fresh email, so then I didn’t have a thread to reference. Maybe they took a couple weeks to get back to me after I gave them some info. I found myself wasting time trying to understand the context of my support requests or trying to hunt down people I needed to followup with at a later time.
So I went on the hunt for a support solution that would work for me. There are many solutions out there to choose from. The most popular one is probably Zendesk.com. But my search turned up another similar service I had not heard a lot about at the time. It was Freshdesk.
This review is from the perspective of a part-time entrepreneur. I am bootstrapping my business, while working a full time job. So I have no real funding and money is tight. This is how I compared the services and settled on Freshdesk.
^ All pricing is based on the monthly rate when billed annually.
The first thing I look at when checking out services is the price. I don’t want to look at anything I can’t afford to begin with; I don’t care what the features are.
Freshdesk starts free for up to three support agents (not to be confused with your customers, for which there is no limit). Zendesk on the other hand starts at $1/month for each agent. Honestly, at this price I would not have a problem choosing Zendesk. If you never plan on needing more than what Zendesk offers at the bottom level, then I would say Zendesk wins.
2. Feature Pricing
Feature comparison is a little hard here. Both offer FAQ and full support at the basic level.
Zendesk gives you forums and social integration at the basic level. But if you want more you have to pay $25/agent. I am working on my second app, so I also need to support two portals. That feature is only offered here at the top level, which is a ridiculous $195/agent. That’s a really steep price for any bootstrapper.
Freshdesk is a little more stingy at the basic level, but it’s free so I can’t hold it against them. In fact I applaud them for their free plan as it is fully functional for the basics. For the next step up you pay $16/agent. At this point you get community forums and social integration. And leveling up once more I get my multi-portal support at $25/agent. A little more than I would like to spend without more significant income, but it’s manageable and reasonable.
To sum it up, Freshdesk has advanced features that are fairly priced and within my reach. Zendesk has a good product with a lot of good functionality that I can afford, but advanced features will not be within reach anytime soon.
3. Mobile Apps
Just out this week that I wrote this post! The design on the Freshdesk app is perfect. The navigation is well thought out, putting a lot of info, the right info, in a small area. It took longer than I would have liked to come out, and I almost went with Zendesk because of it, but I am very glad I stayed put.
I used the Zendesk app a lot during my trial. It worked, but it wasn’t very well thought out. I felt like it was designed two years ago and hasn’t been touched since. And I’m not the only one; it only has two and half stars in it’s rating. I would give it three just because it works.
4. iOS SDK
I have not actually implemented this in my app yet, but I am excited to. Right now you have to apply to use this feature, but it is free. It creates an environment where you basically chat back and forth with your customer (not necessarily realtime). And it all happens within your app. The customer can keep all their communication within the app. I can’t think of a better place for that interaction to happen.
Zendesk also has an SDK, but it’s very basic. You implement a table view and it creates a little form. Then further communication happens through your normal portal. I don’t see any benefit to this over just setting up your own email view. I think it is easier to setup your own email view and then you can get much more functionality out of it, like including log files.
Both of these are great services. I don’t think you can go wrong with either one. But if money is tight and you want the most value for it, I suggest going with Freshdesk. I have been using it for a few months and love it, and now that the iOS app the service feels complete.
I would love to hear about what service you use for your support. Do you have any hacks to make it better?