“Sorry, we’re closed.”
The old “we’re closed” sign is a familiarity in the world of brick-and-mortar—and the 20th century. But this is the 21st century. We’re in the middle of a digital revolution. There’s no reason your store should have to look closed to anyone who’s visiting your website. After all, websites don’t have hours.
But what if you have a responsive website and want your customers to feel welcomed, as if your store were “open”? Enter services like Intercom, which provide “conversational” support for ecommerce outlets like yours.
Conversational support translates to customer support, or a “conversational relationship platform,” as G2 puts it in its review of Intercom. Software like this reaches out to customers who might be at your site, helping them along the customer journey.
You might think of it as customer support. You might think of it as automated sales. The truth is, it can do a little bit of everything.
But what if you don’t want to use Intercom? Luckily for the modern ecommerce store, there are plenty of alternatives out on the market. We’ve taken the liberty of listing them below. Check out the individual listings to look for the pros and cons of each platform’s features and see if there’s an ideal customer relationship platform for you.
- Intercom Alternative #1: Zendesk
- Intercom Alternative #2: Drift
- Intercom Alternative #3: LiveAgent
- Intercom Alternative #4: HubSpot
- Intercom Alternative #5: LiveChat
- Intercom Alternative #6: Helpwise
- Intercom Alternative #7: HelpCrunch
- Intercom Alternative #8: Froged
- Intercom Alternative #9: Ringblaze
- Intercom Alternative #10: Olark
Intercom Alternative #1: Zendesk
The premise behind Zendesk is simple: you automate as much of the customer support and outreach you can, allowing you to feel a sense of “zen” behind the scenes.
Does it deliver? The customer ratings we found on Zendesk suggest that it does: it provides a suite of support features that help you disconnect from that chain tethering you to your desk. With plenty of integrations and automations available, Zendesk does a good job of collecting a lot of customer data and giving you analytics to help optimize your store. It also doubles as a CRM, helping any customer support people you have working so they can access customer information as soon as they start talking.
- Comprehensive features with plenty of automation available make Zendesk a powerful option for large stores
- People report that it’s easy to engage with customers through multiple channels, such as SMS support and online chat
- Lack of phone integration options means you’ll generally be reaching some of your more tech-savvy customers
- Some customers find that Zendesk overwhelms users with too many emails rather than keeping the interactions smooth and streamlined
The Suite Team pricing tier on Zendesk runs $49/agent/month, making it perfectly affordable. There are also less expensive options if you just want to dip your toes in the water.
Intercom Alternative #2: Drift
Drift is an interesting service: rather than being more about customer support, it aims at B2B companies who are looking to start conversations with their visitors. If you need something that’s more conversational—after all, B2B should feel less automated and more like a handshake situation—then Drift might be the Intercom alternative worth checking out.
There’s a free option with Drift, which opens up features like live chat and customer feedback. You can also create a welcome message to give your B2B presence online a warm and welcoming presence. The question is: as Drift opens up its pricing tiers (and the rest are all “Contact Us” enterprise-style pricing tiers), do you get what you’re paying for?
- Chat widget gets rave reviews, with people saying it’s fully customizable and looks great. This is critical for B2B companies looking to establish their brand and avoid looking like they’re relying on third party services—even if they are
- Targeted campaign features help you provide more customized feedback to people you’re interacting with, helping to promote the sense that this is a personalized approach and that you care about your B2B customers
- Some people have reported that Drift, being relatively new on the market, has had some bugs for them. Individual mileage may vary, but you may want to keep Drift’s customer support information handy as you get set up
- Don’t expect to get much use out of the free plan. It’s an introduction to the product, but you won’t open the features you really need until you work with Drift’s customizable pricing tiers
Intercom Alternative #3: LiveAgent
As you might guess by the name, LiveAgent is a service based on getting people in touch with someone no matter where they may be in the customer journey. Visiting the website? You can leave them a welcome message. Asking about a product? You can engage with them and answer their questions. This is an option for anyone who wants a store to feel like a retail outlet that has people ready to assist customers no matter where they may be in their respective buying journey.
The most affordable option here? $15/agent/month for email support, ticketing, contact forms, and many of the other basic features you might expect out of your customer relationship platform.
- Like Zendesk, offers comprehensive features that will give your website the feel of having far more people assisting customers than there actually are
- Setup is easy, which is great for small companies that might be using platforms like WordPress and don’t have time to go back and forth with customer support
- If you’re looking for help from the online documentation, you may be looking for a while
- Even though people report positive experiences with customer support, it may take you a while to get in touch with them
Intercom Alternative #4: HubSpot
HubSpot is such a ubiquitous company these days that we’ll have to zoom in and isolate one of their key service offerings: the HubSpot Service Hub. Say that three times fast. The service hub aims to bring your customer support channels together in a single dashboard—which can be especially convenient for anyone already using other HubSpot tools.
Service Hub Free is a nice method for trying out HubSpot if you’re not sure that it’s the right tool for you, or if you worry about getting upsold to other HubSpot services. You’ll get customer support contact fields, ticketing, and conversational bots to help you try out the platform for the first time.
- Intuitive use. It can be a bit intimidating to use something like HubSpot for the first time, but they steer you through the process for easy setup and intuitive use—you can expect to have it up and running in a hurry
- High-quality support and tech documentation means that you won’t be the first person invited to this rodeo
- You may have to connect with another offering like HubSpot Marketing Hub to really squeeze all of the juice from this particular fruit
- The system can get messy if you aren’t organized from the start, and there’s not much the high-quality support team can do to help you on your end
Intercom Alternative #5: LiveChat
Primarily a chat and help desk program for small businesses, LiveChat is a nice Intercom alternative because it can help you build a friendly, responsive presence in a hurry. You don’t even have to be running a Fortune 500 company to look like one. Given the name, the emphasis is of course on having live chats with your customers along the buying journey, but there are plenty of other features here to enjoy.
A big aim of LiveChat? Improving customer satisfaction by keeping a close eye on their feedback. Their “Starter” package—$16/agent/month—gives you some of the basics, including chat customization and chat history for the customers you’ve already spoken with.
- It’s live! The minute you have a visitor, the system swings into action, giving you details that can be especially exciting if you’re new to the world of customer relationship management software like this
- Plenty of great customer service to help you get set up easily, which is often a challenge for people who aren’t used to using chat software
- If you have a lot of people lining up with your site, you might expect some bugs as the servers “back up”—at least that’s what one user on G2 reports
- People want a little more customization, such as a “dark mode,” but otherwise you’ll be hard-pressed to find reviews with major issues with LiveChat
Intercom Alternative #6: Helpwise
If you have a team of people ready to jump in and help customers with their problems, great. What’s not-so-great? Getting them all organized. It can feel like herding cats. Helpwise’s emphasis is on building a dashboard/inbox that makes it easy for anyone to pop in and start helping out customers.
To that end, they make it easy to create your own threads with colleagues, helping you track those conversations as well as your external conversations.
Their “premium” service is only $20/month, featuring 10 shared inboxes, the live chat widget, and up to 25 rules for setting your automation. Is it enough? Let’s check out the pros and cons.
- Designed for internal teams, it’s an ideal solution for anyone who needs to get a team on the same page to make their outward-facing customer experience more streamlined
- Features like the tagging system help you guide customer conversations through a complicated workflow
- You may have bugs with the running of the software, though some users have found that the customer support Helpwise offers more than makes up for it
- Since everything is about empowering individual agents, you may find it difficult to set mass rules for all users to get everyone looking like the same team
Intercom Alternative #7: HelpCrunch
For support, marketing, and sales, you may find it hard to discover a better-rated helper than HelpCrunch. However, does that mean it’s an ideal Intercom alternative, or are its features aimed at a specific type of business?
Live chat, auto messages, email marketing, a help desk: HelpCrunch does offer plenty for anyone who’s building their own company website to enjoy. You can also steer your customers the right way by engaging them at different buying points. With a $15/month “Standard Live Plan,” HelpCrunch provides a limited version of its offerings that sometimes feels a bit like a trial version.
- Comprehensive features will offer you plenty of opportunities to engage with customers across the spectrum of the buying journey
- Good customer support and configuration makes HelpCrunch an easy onboarding process for new sites
- Price. The early pricing tiers don’t offer a lot in the way of functionality if you’re really trying to launch a website with a lot of active users
- There are also some billing issues, with some customers not liking how once they shut off billing, the cancellation meant that they couldn’t continue through the full billing period
Intercom Alternative #8: Froged
No, it doesn’t refer to being overwhelmed with an amphibious animal. Froged is a customer engagement platform that’s aimed at building a steadier sort of relationship with your customers: ideally, bringing them in for the long haul. This is good for any company that relies on upsells, repeat business, and even subscription models. After all, you don’t want to catch a customer off-guard when they’ve been buying from you for years and you don’t know much about them.
To make sure you’re never in that pickle, Froged allows you to tag customers and build up an extensive history for them that anyone using the customer service platform can check out. Relatively new to the market, companies are still sussing out what they think about Froged. If you’re concerned about it yourself, you can always sign up for the free trial version, which sets you up for customizable live chats, Slack notifications, and chat notifications.
- People love the chat interface: easy to use, intuitive, and natural for customers to use as well
- A no-credit-card-required free trial version is available, which can be a rarity among Intercom alternatives
- In some versions, Froged doesn’t email customers when there’s been a reply from the company, which means that even your honest attempts at communication might not come through right away
- As a new company, Froged’s customer service might still be lacking as they build up the capacity to help people with new installations
Intercom Alternative #9: Ringblaze
This is a unique item on our list because it’s less about the software and more about connecting with customers on the phone. If you have a business that relies more on voice messages and that personal interaction, Ringblaze may be worth considering as an Intercom alternative. However, before you do so, make sure you know what Ringblaze has to offer.
With Ringblaze, you can create telephone numbers appropriate for US, Canadian, or international numbers. You can then use an auto attendant to deal with incoming customer calls. Think of Ringblaze as a great way to publish your phone number on your site without giving people your personal number directly. It’s ideal for anyone who wants to offer personal, customized communication—but not that personal.
At $15/user/month billed annually, the pricing is reasonable and includes unlimited calling. There is even a call widget that will help you integrate Ringblaze with a more digital setup.
- Includes call history and call recording features so you can have some awareness of what you’ve been over with customers in the past
- A custom voicemail greeting helps you sound like a much larger company, even if you’ve only recently established yourself
- Not a full conversational relationship platform, but instead a supplement for anyone who wants to offer customer chat over one specific medium
Intercom Alternative #10: Olark
Olark is all about speed, especially as it relates to sales. If you sell big-ticket items and constantly have customers asking about them, or filling up your inbox, this can be an ideal Intercom alternative which will help you free up your time.
How does it work? Like many of the others on this list, it primarily works through its chat features, which has been particularly beneficial for companies who still need to make sales during the social distancing required during a pandemic. Olark is all about connecting you with the people asking the questions—the people who might be your leads.
Its $17/month/user plan includes in-browser chat, chat ratings, and customizable designs, all of which are essential if you want to get those big-ticket items sold while looking like a trustworthy company.
- Metrics make it easy to see your performance with customers and what you can improve on as you make sales
- Integrates with Helpscout, giving it more robust features that you can use to build a different sort of Intercom alternative
- A desktop software option might be better for some teams who want to browse and chat at the same time; otherwise it can get a bit clunky
- Dedicated chat pages can be difficult to use, and don’t always seamlessly iterate with a company’s existing web structure
Which option is best for you? Hopefully this list has helped enlighten you about the alternatives out there, and what their different specialties are. If you look hard enough, you can find an alternative that suits your specific needs without being Intercom.