Intercom vs. Zendesk: Which Is Better?

Written by Emily Peck on Jun 27, 2022
Intercom vs Zendesk - Which is Better?

It wasn’t all that long ago when customer service just consisted of support agents speaking with customers over the phone Since then, the landscape of customer service has changed drastically, incorporating various other touchpoints that a customer can have with your company. Whatever people are using to communicate with each other, whether it be online or over the phone, they expect to also be able to talk to the businesses they use with those same tools and platforms. Among the many challenges facing businesses today is the pressing need to meet their customers where they are. 

In navigating this conundrum, several digital tools can come in handy, and two of the most popular options are Intercom and Zendesk. As both platforms have their pros and cons, it can be difficult to decide which one is right for your business. To guide your decision-making, we explain the key features and qualities of each, and the role that a omnichannel conversational AI platform (Netomi!) can play, for the ultimate CX strategy.  

What Is Intercom?

Intercom has positioned itself as a messaging platform rather than a comprehensive CRM solution. This differentiates it from Zendesk, which offers a more traditional CRM experience. Intercom’s primary focus is engaging and communicating with customers through live chat, in-app messaging, and email. This makes it a great choice for businesses that want to provide their customers with a more personal experience.

Intercom also offers a few features that are unique to its platform – one of these being the ability to segment users based on their behavior. This means that you can send targeted messages to different groups of users based on how they interact with your product. Intercom also offers a suite of tools for customer support, including a knowledge base, a help center, and a community forum.

What Is Zendesk?

Zendesk is a comprehensive CRM and support suite that offers a variety of features for customer support, sales, and marketing. One of Zendesk’s most notable aspects is its robust ticketing system. As Zendesk initially began as a help desk ticketing system, it’s no surprise that the platform makes tracking and managing customer inquiries seamless.

Zendesk has over 160,000 customers, including some well-known brands like Siemens, Uber and Instacart. Zendesk identifies itself as a growth-enabling, all-in-one solution. 

Feature Comparison: Intercom Vs. Zendesk


Zendesk’s core feature has always been its ticketing system, and it remains the industry’s finest. Since Zendesk’s inception, its ticketing system has remained the best in the business.

Zendesk’s dashboard ties together your customer interactions from every possible channel. This makes it easy for agents to manage requests and communicate with customers more efficiently. They also offer features that enhance collaboration amongst employees if you have a bigger team.

Intercom’s helpdesk is the most popular option, which complements their chat tools rather than replaces them. It’s well-designed and simple to employ, but it lacks the more complex capabilities of Zendesk.

Knowledge base

With Zendesk’s Answer Bot, relevant articles are automatically suggested to your customers, saving them time while they look for solutions. This also reduces the workload of your support agents.

Both Intercom and Zendesk provide you with their own Operator bot, which immediately suggests relevant material to clients via the chat widget. When it comes to creating an optimum knowledge base experience, both Intercom and Zendesk are excellent choices with similar capabilities for your needs.

In-app messaging

While Zendesk offers a wide array of support features, many more than Intercom, there are a couple of major features it lacks that Intercom has. The first is proactive, in-app messaging, and the second is email marketing capabilities.

In-app messages are notifications sent to users while they’re engaged with an app on mobile or PC. It allows companies to interact with customers while they’re active in the app, delivering information based on time or behavior. They may be utilized to alert consumers about product updates, provide assistance, and promote specials that are relevant to them.

Email marketing

Another feature Intercom offers that Zendesk doesn’t is email marketing tools. Email marketing is one of the most effective ways to communicate with your customers.

Intercom’s email marketing service provides value for businesses at every stage of the customer lifecycle and can be combined with in-app messaging for even more interaction. These interactions can take the form of newsletters, onboarding emails, and product setup emails.

Real-time analytics

As a full-featured all-in-one solution, Zendesk has one big feature that Intercom lacks: real-time analytics. Zendesk’s real-time analytics are displayed on a live feed, and help agents decide where they should spend time to assist customers best.

Pricing Comparison: Intercom Vs. Zendesk

Team PlanStart Plan (1 seat)
Grow PlanGrow Plan (5 seats)
Enterprise PlanEnterprise and Pro Plans
30 Day Free Trial14 Day Free Trial

Zendesk offers tiered pricing based on the level of service you need, the size of your teams, and other factors. Every feature is available in the broadest option, Zendesk Suite, which is the version most companies would be implementing. After all, most businesses find it easier to use one solution for all of their needs rather than parceling duties out to different tools. 

While Intercom offers a “Starter Plan” for very small businesses, the price for larger companies is scaled upward, too. If you only need the services Intercom offers, then you’ll only spend around $75 a month for two seats. Zendesk is around the same price for its smallest suite offering. Larger companies should expect to spend more.

​​Zendesk is ideal for both sales and messaging solutions with sophisticated features, whereas Intercom is best for finding the greatest messaging solution and, with the ability to add and subtract add-ons, its price customization is a nice benefit.

The Verdict: Intercom vs Zendesk – Which Is the Best CRM Solution?

Having the two presented side by side, which is the best CRM solution? The answer, as with most things in life, is that it depends on your specific needs and ultimate goals. Both play a key role in a strong CX strategy – if you’re looking for a comprehensive solution that can handle all of your customer interactions, then Zendesk is a great choice, while, if you’re looking for a messaging-focused solution that will help you streamline your customer support, then Intercom might be the better option.

There is no harm in testing the waters before committing to one or the other, as both Zendesk and Intercom offer free trials. 

How to leverage AI to get even more out of Intercom and Zendesk 

There is power to be realized in partnerships and the strategic combination of forces, and companies using chatbots for customer service can further enhance the CX, taking it to new heights. While platforms like Zendesk and Intercom streamline the agent experience and can decrease resolution times, omnichannel conversational AI platforms like Netomi are now acting as the first line of defense when it comes to customer support. Netomi’s virtual agents sit alongside human agents to supplement and enhance the capacity of support teams, ensuring the seamless resolution of customer queries.

Once you get a better sense of clarity on the defining features of Intercom vs Zendesk and decide on which platform to implement, the Netomi AI takes the best course of action with every incoming support ticket:

  • The AI can automatically resolve common, highly repeatable tickets without having to loop in a human agent (‘auto-pilot’ mode)
  • For more complex tickets, the AI can gather information from the customer or back-end systems, and even draft a response for review, before handing off to a human agent (‘co-pilot’ mode) 
  • For the most complex tickets that require a human hand, the AI can summarize and route tickets to the most appropriate  agent for the task 

By leveraging the out-of-the-box Netomi virtual agent integration, companies enhance both the agent and customer experience, while also reducing costs. Other chatbots don’t sit natively within the agent desk, but with Netomi, virtual and human agents work alongside each other, creating an efficient and ultra-powerful customer service team.