Choosing the right customer service and support software (CSS) can be tricky, especially considering how many factors go into a software's pricing-number of users, customer support, integrations, and more.
Understanding features and how they relate to your business is one way to save money. In this article, we'll discuss some of the other tips and tricks that can help you save on customer service software. We'll begin by defining CSS software and briefly discuss how it's different from customer relationship management (CRM) software before breaking down CSS software features based on their price.
The customer service and support department, in its initial years, was referred to as the "complaints department" for businesses in IT, finance, retail, and more. However, over the past decade, the scope of CSS has broadened to incorporate other business functions. According to Gartner, "customer service and support is a business strategy that optimizes revenue and profitability while promoting customer satisfaction and loyalty."
CSS software can help you gain customer satisfaction and loyalty by offering the following features:
Customer self-service portal
Analytics and reporting
Now, this might sound reminiscent of a lot of the features available in most CRM suites. CSS and CRM software have overlapping features related to customer service management, so let's break down the differences and explain how you can focus on the important CSS features.
In a nutshell, CSS refers to technologies and processes that are used to address customer complaints and to maintain the customer management life cycle. CRM is a broader category of customer management that seeks to optimize business processes and increase revenues by analyzing customer data from sales, marketing, and customer services perspectives. Sharing of customer data between inter-departmental functions of a business is core to CRM. Other than customer loyalty, customer retention is another business priority for CRM software.
Being aware of your customer care business requirements and matching them with pricing plans of CSS software, can help save money. For example, you may be using a wide-ranging customer relationship management (CRM) suite like Pipedrive, when you only need features specific to CSS such as chat, email support, and ticketing customer requests. Why pay extra for the features that are not related to CSS? Scale down to software that only manages customer services and you'll save a lot of money.
There's no shortage of CSS software on the market, each offering different pricing combinations. How do you choose a solution with the right features and pricing for your business? To make it easier for you to shortlist a CSS software, check out GetApp's Category Leaders to learn about the top CSS software vendors ranked according to reviews, integrations, mobile, media, security.
Based on this ranking, we have sorted the pricing of 15 CSS solutions into three main categories: Starter price range, Mid-Range price range, and Enterprise price range, which only represents the mean values of the prices. The CSS pricing meter below represents an average estimate of the price of each CSS software based on the number of users, taken from the pricing websites of the top 15 CSS GetApp Category Leaders.
Note: Prices are on a per user per month basis. Pricing plan terminologies used by different software providers vary and may not exactly match with the categories defined here. The categories here only provide a general estimate of the pricing ranges and target user base supported by different providers.See the Appendix to learn more about the methodology we have used to arrive at the three price categories
Once you have decided on the price range for your CSS software, it's important to understand what features you should be considering. In this section, we will discuss some of the most important features to look for in CSS software. Does your business require all of these features or just some of them? We have identified the price categories in which these features are most likely available and listed them accordingly in the table below.
Note: The above results are not based on a specific piece of software, but instead derived from analyzing the 15 applications from GetApp's CSS Category leaders. For example, the green tick mark represents the presence of a feature in a particular price range for 50 percent or more of the applications.
After you've purchased software, it's important that you have access to customer support, training, and a dedicated account manager to troubleshoot any technical issues and enhance your knowledge base. However, just like the features of customer service software, getting customer support may come at a price. All CSS solutions offer a technical help desk to resolve general customer queries, but you can often receive further add-ons on such as training support and priority support. For example, ZenDesk provides a knowledge base free of cost to it users, which acts as an online training platform for addressing the common FAQs for administrators and agents.
The table below provides a glimpse of the typical customer service features of the top 15 CSS software solutions, and the price ranges within which each service is offered. Choose a CSS software that fits your requirements of customer support based on your budget.
Before purchasing CSS software, consider the following questions. Thinking through them will help to reduce the cost of your software:
Monthly vs. annual subscription plans: If you opt for an annual subscription plan you will save at least one or two months' worth price on the software. However, with the annual subscription plan, you are locked into using the software for at least a year-even if you don't find some features suitable for your business requirements. Choose an annual subscription plan while renewing a contract if you are completely confident that all the features meet your business requirements. Alternatively, go for the monthly subscription plan of a CSS solution if you have finished the trial period and find yourself satisfied with the software but anticipate moving on from the software soon afterwards.
For example, LiveHelpNow offers monthly and annual subscription plans. The monthly plan costs $21, which means you would spend $252 if you opt for a monthly plan for 12 months. Alternatively, the annual subscription is available for $226.80 (one-time payment), which is 10% cheaper than 12 months of the monthly subscription plan.
How much do you save? Expect approximately 5 to 10 percent savings if you opt for an annual over monthly subscription plan.
For example, Zendesk offers pricing plans for single users in its Essential package, available for $5 per agent per month. The Team package is available for $19 per agent per month, which is useful if you need CSS software for more than one user. Modular vs. suite solutions: Most customer service and support vendors offer software features in modules that are dedicated to the needs of calling agents, administrators, or call center managers. You can opt for one of these modules if you don't want to pay for the entire suite of software.
How much do you save? Expect over half or one-third savings while purchasing modular software packages as compared to the large suite packages.
Free software options for trial: All customer service and support software offers a trial package of their software for free. Before purchasing the suite of the software, it's a good idea to try the free trial package, which usually lasts for a month. While testing out the software, make sure that you check whether or not the software fits your business requirements and whether you need software for the entire team or just individual users.
For example, Kayako provides a free version of its software for three agents that include features such as live chat, integrations with Zapier, and a help center. If you don't feel that Kayako meets your business requirements after assessing the free trial version, you can move on to another free trial version of a CSS software without spending a dime.
How much do you save? You don't spend anything! Since the trial version software is offered free, it's a good opportunity for you to assess as many solutions before purchasing software-this means you end up with the solution best suited to your business needs.
Integrations with other software: The CSS software that you purchase should be able to integrate with other software to meet additional business requirements related to financing, payroll, enterprise resource planning (ERP), and more. For example, Zendesk integrates with Slack and QuickBooks to provide more features such as internal communication between your employees and financial management. Integrations help you be more flexible with choosing CSS software options.
You may already be using Salesforce to manage your sales and looking for software that can help you manage customers. To save money you can opt for a CSS solution like one of Zendesk's mid-range packages instead of purchasing the entire suite of Zendesk, then integrate it into your existing Salesforce system.
How much do you save? You can expect approximately 5 percent to 10 percent savings annually by choosing a mid-range CSS solution that integrates with your existing software.
We hope that these tips and tricks for saving money on CSS software can help you choose the right software based on your budget. Here are some additional GetApp resources that can help you narrow your search for CSS software:
View GetApp's directory for customer service and support software to read more about CSS software, prices, and models.
Compare top CSS software by viewing the GetApp comparison page and evaluating multiple CSS products based on their features, prices, and support options.
View GetApp's customer support and services scorecard to choose the right CSS software based on your budget and business requirements.
Starter price range
The starting price of most of the products is $0 and this forms the lowest value of the range. The higher end of the Starter price range is calculated by taking the average of the lowest prices of the top 15 products. This ensures that the starting price of most of the products falls within this range. Similarly, the number of users supported by a software in this price range is the mean of the number of users supported by the starter versions of the top 15 vendors.
Example: If the lowest pricing plan (other than free versions) offered by vendors A, B, and C are $10, $5, and $15 respectively, then the higher end of the starter price range would be $10 (average of all the prices).
The lower end of the Mid-Range Price segment is the higher end of Starter Price Range. To get the higher end of the Mid-Range Price segment, we took an average of the mid prices of the top 15 products. In cases where there were multiple pricing plans between the starter and enterprise versions, we have taken the average of those plans to identify the product's mid price value.
The number of users supported by a software in this price range is the mean of the number of users supported by the mid-priced versions of the top 15 vendors.
Example: Suppose product A has four pricing plans: Basic, Professional, Business, and Enterprise at $10, $20, $40, and $60 respectively. Then the mid-price value for product A is the average of its Professional ($20) and Business ($40) plans, i.e., $30. If the mid-price of the other two vendors B and C are $20 and $40, then the higher end of the mid-range price segment is the mean of $30, $20 and $40 (= $30).
The enterprise pricing segment starts from the higher ends of the mid-range pricing segment. All prices above this value lie in the enterprise pricing range.