14 Best Customer Service Tools for Small Businesses

14 Best Customer Service Tools for Small Businesses
January 26, 2018 focusdigitalgh

There are hundreds of customer service apps out there, is it possible to not be overwhelmed?

Research is definitely a good thing. Choosing a customer service platform is a big investment.

On top of the direct cost, it also takes time to move existing data over, make changes to your website, and train your support staff.

To make it a bit easier, I’ve compiled a list of the best 14 customer service tools.

I’ve given you a brief description of the features of each tool so that you’ll quickly know if it could fit your business.

There’s a lot of overlap between tools, but I’ve tried to categorize them as logically as possible.

All-In-One Customer Service Platforms

The platforms in this section have everything you need for a complete customer service set-up.

Go with one of these if your customers need consistent help, and you want to manage everything from one place.



Zendesk is the most established business here.

It’s a complete customer service solution, with tools for every single part of customer support. This includes:

  • Support: a ticketing solution. Allows you to track, assign, and manage tickets that customers create
  • Chat: a standard live chat application that you install on your website
  • Talk: supports both phone calls and texts. Allows you to distribute them to your customer service agents
  • Guide: a content management system that allows you to create an easy-to-use knowledge base for your customers
  • Explore: analytics and reporting so that you can identify weaknesses in your customer service
  • Connect + Outbound: a built-in CRM that allows you to reach out to customers that you see are having issues.

It does everything you can really think of, which is why Zendesk is so well known. The design is beautiful, and everything “just works.”

You can either buy all the tools together or individually.

I don’t have anything negative to say about Zendesk. The pricing scales pretty reasonably with your usage.



Freshdesk is arguably the second of the “big two” of customer service software, right behind Zendesk.

Of all the features in Freshdesk, most important are:

  • Ticketing support: accept and manage tickets from multiple channels (email, website, social media, etc.)
  • Dedicated call center: you can quickly set up a cheap call center to field phone calls from customers
  • Gamification: your customer service reps can earn points and rewards for finishing customer requests to make it more fun
  • Knowledgebase software: a CMS to allow you to create attractive help documents for customers
  • Reporting: see which times and days of the week produce the most tickets, and when your customer service reps are most productive.

It’s similar in that it includes everything you could ever want in a platform. Seriously, the complete list of features is huge.

But, there’s a few big difference as well that could sway your decision.

First, there’s only one product. Unlike Zendesk where you can buy an individual part, you have to buy Freshdesk as a whole. This means that it could be overkill for your business if you only need a portion of the system.

However, Freshdesk is significantly cheaper than Zendesk when you compare the whole packages together. So even if you don’t use all of Freshdesk, the price could still be comparable.



What if you need a full suite of customer service tools, like Zendesk and Freshdesk offer, but can’t quite afford the high price tag.

That’s where you take a look at LiveAgent, which is specifically built for small and medium-sized businesses.

It has all the big features that you’ll ever need, plus a few unique ones:

  • Universal inbox: this allows you to see messages made through email, chat, social media, forums, and a few other sources.
  • Automate ticket assignment: a really neat feature that allows you to set how many tickets a certain rep should get, and it automatically assigns new tickets accordingly.
  • Live chat: a standard live chat widget for your website.
  • Call center: lets you take customer calls. Also has a video call option, which could be useful for certain types of businesses.
  • Knowledgebase CMS: lets you create support docs for customers.
  • Gamification: lets customer service employees earn points and awards.

The features all look the same as the other big tools, so what’s the difference?

First, the price is a lot lower.

Second, the software isn’t quite as smooth. While all the features sound great, parts of the user interface are clunky and need to be refined.

If you don’t mind contacting support for help once in awhile to save a decent amount of money, LiveAgent is a solid all-in-one option.



Groove is the final all-in-one solution I’ve included here.

It’s gotten really popular over the last few years, and while it offers many of the same features as competitors, it does so with an interesting approach:

  • There’s a single plan that you can sign up for. It includes unlimited everything, as far as agents and tickets go. It’s also quite a cheap price compared to competitors.
  • The software is beautifully designed. It’s modern, intuitive, and flexible.
  • You’re paying for the core tool. So it comes with all the core messaging and ticketing functionality. However, then there are several add-ons that you can choose to buy on top of that. For example, if you want a live chat widget, you have to sign up for Olark, and then you can integrate that into Groove.

In my opinion, this is an advantage. You integrate only the specific add-ons that you need, and in the case of live chat, you integrate a specialized tool that is well developed. It is a bit of extra work on your end up front though.

Some add-ons, like the knowledge base, are completely free. You just tick a setting in your account to turn it on.

One particularly unique feature is that while you can answer tickets in Groove itself, you can also configure it with your own email software, like Gmail or Outlook. Then you answer tickets just like you normally answer emails. Some people love this option.

Help Desk Software

These customer service tools are similar to all-in-one tools, but are missing one or more of features that I would consider core features.

If you don’t need those specific features, these options can still let you create and manage tickets and emails, without paying extra for unnecessary extras.

Help Scout

Help ScoutHelp Scout has a simple design, but has all the features that a good ticket management software needs.

On top of that, you can build a limited knowledge base using the provided CMS. It’s very easy to link to these articles when you’re responding to tickets.

It’s extremely affordable per user, so if all you’re looking for is a solid ticketing and email system, it’s a good option.


KayakoKayako has a modern design. It reminds me a lot of Slack. If you enjoy using Slack for a chat tool, you’ll also enjoy Kayako.

On top of a solid ticketing system, Kayako also comes with a live chat widget to embed on your website. You manage the chats in the backend with your tickets and emails.

You can actually use the chat tool for free. If you like it, you can upgrade to get access to the email management system and advanced features like automation.

Automation consists of triggers and actions. For example, you could configure it to assign any ticket that comes in from Twitter as “high priority”, or send you a message if a negative rating comes in.


TeamSupportTeamSupport is interesting in that it is one of the few customer service tools that specifically is built for B2B customer support.

Instead of managing customers individually, the software allows you to support users as part of an organization. This helps your customer support spend less time tracking customer issues across the same business.

The drawback is that TeamSupport is quite expensive per user. It comes with the standard ticketing and email platform, plus the ability to create a knowledge base.

If you run a B2B business and have struggled to keep track of users that need support, TeamSupport is a great option if you can afford it.

Zoho Desk

Zoho DeskZoho Desk has a modern design that has recently been improved. It supports ticket and email support, plus the ability to create a knowledge base.

What’s unique about Zoho Desk is that it offers a free plan where you can have up to 10 users. You still get all the basic features on this plan, which is amazing.

If you upgrade, you get access to advanced features like automation and live chat support.


HappyFoxIf you’re looking for a solid ticket management system, HappyFox is a good option.

There aren’t too many things unique about HappyFox, but it has a relatively competitive price with plenty of features. It’s not enough to be considered all-in-one, but close.

It allows customers to create tickets from multiple channels, and you can manage them all from the platform.

There are several integrations you can install, depending on the plan you purchase. For example, live chat is available on all plans, but being able to send SMS to customers is only available on higher tier plans.

There’s a lot of effort put into the tool to allow you to create pre-defined templates. These will save your staff time responding to common questions.


DeskeroDeskero has a unique perspective on customer service tools which some people love and others hate.

The system is designed to more manual than automated on purpose.

Some people don’t like it when a customer support tool automatically assigns tickets. Instead, they’d rather a supervisor assign them based on difficulty and the individual skills of support staff. That’s what Deskero allows.

The pricing is on the low side for small teams.

An interesting offer from Deskero is that if you purchase the premium plan, which is expensive, you can actually get software customization. That means they will help tailor Deskero to your specific business, which is great if you have a unique workflow.

Salesforce Desk

Salesforce DeskSalesforce Desk is, of course, a Salesforce product.

If you already use another Salesforce product, this is a great option because it integrates right in. You also probably already like the general approach and design they use.

Overall this platform is reasonably priced, right around average for all plans. It’s designed to be as simple as possible to get up and running quickly.

On top of a solid ticketing platform, there are a few other features I’d like to highlight:

  • Automation: there are a variety of ways to automate repetitive tasks, mainly answering repetitive questions from customers
  • Surveying: there’s built-in tools to survey customers and get their feedback and satisfaction levels.

Live Chat Tools

These tools focus purely on embedding a live chat widget on your website. If you’re just looking to use a quick and simple solution, a full helpdesk could be overkill, and a live chat tool could work better for you.



LiveChat is a simple but extremely attractive live chat tool that you can install on your website.

Visitors or customers can click the little bubble in the bottom corner to open up a chat window.

You’ll see all the conversations in the backend, which looks like any social media chat app that you probably use in your personal life. The backend also attempts to pull up customer information, which can be handy.

There’s both a desktop and mobile app that you can use on your side.

On top of the basic chat, there are more advanced features like analytics, and being able to automatically collect user feedback (through surveys, chat ratings, etc.).

While there is a free trial, LiveChat is a pretty expensive chat option. If you’re looking for a top of the line option, LiveChat is great. If you just want a bare-bones live chat option, there are other cheaper options.


HelpOnClickThis is another option if the only customer support you’re looking to offer is through live chat.

As with the other top options, you can chat with visitors and customers either on desktop or mobile.

The most useful feature that HelpOnClick has to offer is the use of a virtual agent, which is a chatbot. It can run 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and doesn’t cost any extra. You can train it to answer common questions, which saves you a ton of time if you keep getting the same questions over and over.

On top of the basic chat, you also have analytics and reporting. Not the most important features for a live chat software, but nice to have.

Finally, you can also integrate HelpOnClick with Facebook, so that you can handle Facebook chats in the same place as your website chats.

The pricing is very simple, there are only two plans that you can subscribe to (both paid). It’s much cheaper than LiveChat, and is a great option.


TawkTawk is a really nice live chat option for small businesses with minimal customer service needs. It comes with a mobile app as well for free.

When you log in to the tool, it will show that you’re online on your website to your customers. You can manage all conversations in the backend of the tool.

It’s simple to install, looks fairly attractive, and is easy to customize.

It’s also completely free to use. However, you can opt to remove the “Tawk” branding for a small fee, even though it’s not too off-putting to customers.

One neat option is that you can hire chat agents for an extremely low hourly cost. That frees you up from having to have a window open in the background all the time.

They obviously can’t handle any advanced customer service tasks, but they can answer basic questions. It’s a great short-term option to have if the situation arises.


I know that was a lot, but it’s important to understand what each tool can offer in order to find the right fit for your business.

It’s worth spending the time upfront researching your options. Once you pick one, it can be costly to switch to a new one.



Writer: Dale Cudmore

Credit: entrepreneur.com

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