If someone told you they were starting a one-size-fits-all clothing line, you’d probably stop investing. With so many different body types and fit preferences, the reality is that one size simply doesn’t work.
it’s the same with software. The truth is that many programs work on a one-size-fits-all model. To help make sure you find the right fit for your customer support team, we’ve put together this comprehensive guide to understanding and buying customer support software.
13 Best Customer Support Software Platforms
To help you get started finding the right support tool for your team, we’ve put together this list of the 13 best customer support software platforms.
send text messages
hubspot service center
salesforce service cloud
Since there are so many different channels to customer service, and so many different approaches a team can take, we decided to include a variety of tools. they range from all-in-one solutions to a few more niche offerings like in-app support.
1. help explore
the best all-in-one customer service software.
Growing teams don’t typically have huge budgets or tons of time to spend setting up and learning a new tool, so they need something sophisticated enough to cover all the bases, simple enough to get up and running quickly, and flexible. enough to grow with them over time. help scout checks all these boxes.
help scout focuses on providing a great experience for both its customers and its support team:
Manage email and live chat from a centralized tool. customers can contact you from wherever they feel most comfortable, and your team can work in a single support queue that contains all your customer requests.
Create a customizable help center with documents to help customers get the answers they need on their own while reducing the number of support requests your team must respond to.
Saved Answers allow support reps to create a database of canned answers so they can quickly respond to the most frequently asked questions, saving your team time and getting answers from customers faster.
Agent-centric features like collision detection reduce disruption to your team by showing if someone is already working on a ticket. it also prevents customers from getting duplicate responses for a better customer experience.
With customer profiles, you can view past interactions and customer data from connected apps to create a curated customer experience.
help scout includes pre-built reports so you can see how your team is performing from day one. View metrics showing which times of the day are the busiest, common reasons for support requests, average response times, and which channels are most popular with your customers.
With a few plan options to choose from, on-demand add-ons, and even the ability to create a custom plan if needed, Help Explore is a great fit for any team.
Price: Starting at $20/user per month.
2. help documents
the best customer service software for independent knowledge bases.
In recent years, there has been a greater focus on self-service options. it’s very cost-effective and self-service tools are the preferred support option for many, in fact, up to 67% of users.
Knowledge bases allow customers to find answers themselves, which means faster time to resolution for them and fewer tickets for your team.
helpdocs is a strong contender for those looking to invest in a standalone piece of knowledge base software. Its straightforward pricing, strong feature set, and easy-to-use interface make setting up your first knowledge base a piece of cake.
price: starting at $49 per month.
Best standalone live chat customer support software.
If your team needs to communicate with customers in real time, live chat is a great option. provides the immediacy of phone support but at a lower cost, making it ideal for small businesses.
Things like team management, robust analytics, smart automations, and a host of other features mean olark can meet the needs of almost any team.
olark has straightforward pricing, no term commitments on most plans, and the ability to add certain features a la carte. That means you can get the features you want and skip the ones you don’t, making it ideal for smaller teams.
price: starting at $29/seat per month.
4. air call
the best customer service software for call centers.
Although phone support is sometimes associated with larger teams, it can still be an integral part of a small business’ support efforts, especially those offering more complex solutions. Statistics show that customers prefer to solve complex problems in person or over the phone with a live representative.
aircall offers several different plans suitable for teams of all sizes. All of their plans include phone support essentials like IVR, the ability to set custom business hours, and call queue. Having those essentials means your team can get phone support up and running quickly.
Price: Starting at $30/user per month.
the best customer support software for larger teams.
zendesk is a ticketing system used to manage conversations with customers. With any Zendesk plan, you can manage email, Twitter, and Facebook conversations. on its higher cost plans, you can also manage phone and chat conversations.
Although Zendesk is generally associated with larger teams due to the relative complexity of the product, the resources required for initial setup, and overall cost, they do have some lower-cost plans.
those lower-cost plans lack some features like chat, phone support, and custom reports, but should cover the basics for those who want support primarily via email.
price: starting at $19/agent per month.
6. cool desktop
the best customer service software for business teams.
although very similar to zendesk, freshdesk has some elements that separate them. First, they have two support offerings: one just for a help desk solution and one that covers omnichannel support.
There are tiers of plans in both, but the help desk solution is lower in cost on average compared to the omnichannel product, and is probably what most small businesses would consider.
as with zendesk’s lowest cost plan, it only covers email, twitter, and facebook, so if you’re looking for other channels, you should look at omnichannel options.
freshdesk also has some features such as an ai response service and field service management services that are offered as a la carte add-ons, adding some flexibility to your offering. we will note that the AI functionality is only available on the higher cost omnichannel support plans.
Price: Free plan available. paid plans starting at $15/agent per month.
the best customer service software to automate telephone communications.
Sending mass communications over the phone can be time consuming and expensive, but sometimes it’s necessary. a dedicated tool can help combat both problems. text-em-all is one of the best in the business for automated telephone communication.
text-em-all offers transparent pricing and even offers the ability to calculate costs using a handy cost calculator on their site. Along with straightforward pricing, they also offer a user-friendly interface and top-notch support to ensure all your needs and concerns are addressed.
price: starting at $7.50 per month.
8. Help Turn
best customer support software to provide support in a mobile app.
In-app support is any support tool that a user can access without leaving the environment they are currently in. Typically, in-app support comes in the form of a chat app, though other iterations exist.
helpshift is a leader in app support, specifically focused on providing app support for mobile devices.
helpshift has flexible, usage-based pricing to ensure your team only pays for what they need. Combine that with a simple setup and strong support from their team, and we think HelpShift is a great choice for anyone looking for in-app support for their mobile properties.
price: starting at $150 per month.
9. hubspot service center
the best customer service software for large companies that already use hubspot.
You may be familiar with hubspot as a marketing tool or resource. Your service center brings all your customer service channels and data together in one place to help your support team through automation and self-service.
However, there is a difference between flexible pricing and unclear pricing. With so many different pricing plans and options to choose from, Hubspot’s pricing setup can become overwhelming for some customers looking to scale.
Price: Free plan available. paid plans start at $45/mo.
10. sales force service cloud
Best customer service software for teams providing support through slack.
salesforce is best known as a sales crm tool, but it also offers cloud services, a customer support platform. can be a good fit for teams looking to provide support through slack – the service cloud integrates natively with slack.
in addition, you can use the salesforce cloud services to send automatic responses to frequently asked questions via sms, facebook messenger and whatsapp.
Price: Starting at $25/user per month.
11. living agent
the best customer service solution to automate live chat.
liveagent combines email, calls and social media communication into a unified dashboard, offering easy setup and integration with the rest of your platform and tools to help your team be productive.
what sets liveagent apart from all the other tools we’ve mentioned is its gamification approach to customer support. Teams can earn points and rewards for completing tasks, making customer support fun for your team.
price: starting at $15/agent per month.
12. service now
the best support software for IT teams.
servicenow is a support ticket management platform that helps you manage internal requests.
servicenow offers advanced features like AI-assisted ticket routing to help increase productivity. self-service options and virtual assistants help employees get answers quickly, and reporting means you can track performance and find areas for improvement.
price: contact for prices.
13. zoho desktop
the best customer service software for sales-focused teams.
zoho is probably best known for its crm tool, but it also makes help desk software. zoho desk has a number of features such as a shared inbox, phone integration and chat. however, some of those features, like chat, are limited to the highest-cost plan.
zoho desk also has a robust selection of integrations to connect with the rest of your technology stack. For larger teams, there are team management features you can take advantage of, like time tracking. they even offer AI options for self-service, though that feature is also limited to the highest-cost plan.
Price: Free plan available. paid plans starting at $14/agent per month.
what is customer service software?
customer support software is a set of tools used to collect, organize, respond to, and report on customer support requests.
A customer service system can be used to manage one or multiple communication channels, including email, live chat, messaging, and self-service, and can also be integrated with external communication tools such as networks. social networks or group chat systems.
Businesses often use cloud-based customer support software to enable faster and more efficient customer support provided by multiple customer support agents all working within the same tool.
what are the benefits of using customer service software?
You can certainly provide excellent customer support without using specialized software, and many online businesses start with nothing more than a free email account. soon, however, growing companies tend to run into some limitations and rough edges.
Using a specialized customer service system helps you create a better customer experience that improves customer loyalty. Here are the key ways it enables those experiences:
provide more responsive and consistent support. Dedicated support software features such as automated workflows, tagging, knowledge base integration, saved responses, and more, they help their team spend more time helping. customers and less time fighting with your tools.
Gather customer information. Identify, collect, and organize all helpful feedback, feature requests, bug reports, and use cases so they can be used to improve customer satisfaction.
work better together. customer support software enables you to reduce duplicate work, track customer inquiries, coordinate a response across multiple teams, and provide up-to-date responses .
analyze and report. use the built-in reporting features of customer service software to understand changes in support volume, team productivity, type and size of the client and much more.
Extend your service. Maintain high-quality service as you grow by using tools that can coordinate multiple agent teams to support a huge customer base, using organizational features , automations and third-party integrations.
When you have more than a couple of people working together to help customers, using specialized customer support software is the right choice.
the different types of customer service software
Building a customer service program is similar to building a chair. You could, in theory, build one with just two or three tools, but the overall quality and efficiency of your efforts would take a huge hit.
Whether you’re building a chair or support equipment, there are a number of tools that range from broad to specialized, and the tools you end up investing in will be a reflection of what stage you are in the trade and the resources available to you.
To determine which tools are right for you, consider the following nine types of customer support software.
help desk software
Help desk software is often one of the first tools teams invest in. It helps centralize all service-related customer interactions and depending on the tool, it can handle support requests from multiple channels like email, live chat, social media. media and phone.
At its core, help desk software allows you to manage and optimize customer conversations to create a better customer and agent experience.
shared inbox software
shared inbox software is an email tool that allows multiple people to access and reply to messages sent to a specific email address. other organization and automation features are also typically included to help effectively manage customer conversations.
Now, you may be thinking: isn’t that the same as a help desk? about. Shared inbox software is like a lite version of help desk software in that it tends to focus primarily on email interactions and not the additional channels a help desk might have.
phone support software
Today, phone support can seem like a relic of the past, so you might be surprised to learn that more than 50% of customers use the phone to contact customer service.
Plus, you’re not limited to one demographic: people of all ages, genders, and backgrounds opt for phone support. So no matter what industry you’re in, you probably have clients who would be happy to give you a call.
Phone support and contact center software are a more modern approach to handling those phone interactions.
knowledge base software
Knowledge base software is a tool that enables you to create, store, organize, manage, and share self-service content with an audience. things like FAQ pages, video tutorials, and how-to articles are common types of content hosted in a knowledge base.
Broadly speaking, there are two main types of knowledge bases: internal and external. with an internal knowledge base, the content is private and may require the user to log in to access the information, while an external knowledge base is public and accessible to anyone.
It can be helpful to think of an internal knowledge base geared towards your employees, while an external knowledge base is geared towards your customers.
Some tools focus more on one use case than another, but there are also some that are capable of doing both well.
live chat support software
sometimes customers want to speak to a live person. maybe they can’t find what they need in your help documentation or want to discuss a problem in real time and email just isn’t enough.
in those cases, live chat is an excellent option, as it offers the immediacy of phone support and consumes fewer resources. it also has a much higher average customer satisfaction rating compared to phone: 82% satisfied with live chat vs. 44% with phone.
In order to offer live chat support, you first need access to the live chat software. Like other tools on this list, live chat software can be a stand-alone product, but it can also be included as part of a larger help desk toolset.
Messaging tools are a broad category of software that allows you to provide some form of proactive support. that could come in the form of chatbot software, proactive messaging software, or some combination of the two.
in any case, the central goal of a messaging tool is to reduce friction in one way or another for the customer. The data confirms that people generally prefer tasks that require less effort.
Customer relationship management (CRM) software is a tool that enables businesses to manage and track customer interactions. It is most commonly associated with sales, but there are some applications for customer success as well.
The number one way you can help customers succeed is through personalization. With the data you’ve collected, you may be able to better anticipate needs and curate a specific experience for each customer based on where they are in their customer journey.
Research shows that personalization pays off: One study found that 80% of consumers are more likely to buy from a brand that offers a personalized experience.
social tracking software
Once upon a time, facebook, instagram, twitter and other social media platforms were simply digital homes for posting photos of the food you had eaten and arguing with strangers about politics. Although those are still the primary uses for social media, it has now also become a semi-prominent place for customers to seek support.
the common suggestion is “meet your customers where they already are.” Although it sounds like good advice, each team has time and resource constraints and can only realistically take on so many channels.
each new channel requires taking time and energy away from an already established channel or adding new resources to manage it. Our very own Mat Patterson explored this topic in depth in a helpful post for those considering social media support.
social monitoring software can be great for teams with high volumes of social support, so be sure to keep track of those numbers before making an investment.
service desk software
Sometimes referred to as a ticketing system, service desk software is more focused on you and is used to manage internal support requests; think of tools like jira. It’s not software your customer support team would use directly, but it can be important for managing certain customer issues.
For example, many teams use a ticketing system to manage bugs reported by customers. so even if your customer service team doesn’t manage conversations directly in the tool, it’s very common for them to have some interaction with it.
the most common features of customer service software
The feature set of software platforms built for customer service covers a wide range, but can generally be categorized into six main focus areas.
collection functions help you answer the question: “how do we get customer communication into this system so we can handle it?” they provide the first point of interaction between the customer and the customer service software.
common examples include a support@ email address, “contact” forms that route messages to a support inbox, phone numbers, messaging systems, and APIs.
customer support software tools may include built-in interfaces for some channels and integrate with third-party providers for others.
Organization features are to take all incoming communication and create a useful structure for customer service teams to manage high volumes, understand what needs to be done, and respond in a timely manner.
Organizational features of customer service software include both tools to organize things manually and tools to act automatically.
common examples include:
folders and views to easily see subsets of conversations.
tags to tag conversations for later handling and reporting.
workflows to perform actions automatically or manually, such as adding tags, assigning the right person, or setting priorities.
multiple mailboxes to separate different sets of clients or communications with each other.
custom fields to capture useful information in a structured way about the request or the client.
Collaboration features enable multiple people to work together effectively on incoming support volume, from frontline support people to subject matter experts to business operations people.
common collaboration features in customer service software include:
Teams so every group in your organization can see the conversations that are most relevant to them.
the ability to assign conversations so that a conversation that requires a particular person’s skill can be clearly assigned to that person.
internal notes to allow staff to pass information between staff members while keeping it associated with the customer conversation.
private notes to alert a team member to relevant information in a conversation without making them responsible for responding to the customer.
These functions cover all the ways a response can be sent to the client in question. response functions may include:
text editors for composing and sending responses to individual emails, live chats, and messages.
Social messaging tools to publicly respond to incoming requests.
Knowledge base systems to create and publish help documents to share with your customers.
Many customer service software tools offer direct integration with other systems and APIs for programmatic integration in even more places. integrations allow a business to connect their customer service data with tools like:
slack or other communication systems to keep your team up to date.
crm software for additional customer history and context.
shopify and other e-commerce services you use to serve customers.
Social tools for other forms of customer contact.
internal systems that inform customer service decisions.
analyze and report
The reporting and analytics features in customer service software allow businesses to better understand things like who their customers are, what they’re trying to do, where they’re having trouble, and what they need.
common customer service software reporting features cover things like:
time to first reply
customer satisfaction levels
volume of incoming requests over time
common request categories
Some of the above features are common across almost all customer support platforms; others are less common or implemented quite differently. There is no single “best” customer service software, but there are ways to find the one that best suits your needs.
how to choose the right customer support software
So, which customer service software is best for your business needs? to answer that question, you must first start with another question.
“what is the experience I want my clients to have when they need my help?”
by answering that question, you get some tools to select the right product or, more often, the right combination of products.
We have a whole article on choosing the right support tool; despite the title, it is a useful guide on how to approach most customer service software decisions.
here is the short version:
Understand the job you’re trying to get done. Are you creating a high-touch service experience for a select group or a massive volume, fast? service retail sales volume? different software solutions adapt to different environments.
Assess your resources. If you’re a team of one or two, you can’t cover all support channels throughout the day. And if you’re on a budget, there’s no point in looking for the more expensive systems.
refine the list of possible options. By knowing what you have to work with and what you want to do, narrow down the categories of customer service software you are likely to use. maybe you want a shared inbox, knowledge base and live chat?
understand the “must have” features. Does this system absolutely have to integrate with an existing tool? or is it essential to have a messaging system? that will help you narrow down your options.
Create a short list. Using those must-have features, reviews, recommendations, and other sources of information, pick your best picks.
evaluate your favourites. Now you can dig deeper into your top picks, perhaps testing your customer support and talking to existing customers.
Trial time! Using customer service software is the best way to find out if it will work for you. all the feature checklists and marketing copy in the world will not replace the experience of using the software in your setup to deliver the service.
remember that serving customers is the goal
Finding out which customer support tool works best for you and your team can be a tricky task. you need to find a tool that meets your immediate needs and is flexible enough to cover future needs, while still on budget.
Although making a decision can seem a bit daunting, ending up with the wrong tool, dissatisfied customers, and frustrated team members is much worse. so take your time, be thoughtful, consider your options, and make the most informed decision you can.
No matter what software you choose, it’s the service you provide to your customers that matters. Don’t let the search for the “perfect customer service software” stop you from defining and delivering the service experience that will keep those customers coming back.