Boris Mann

Open Source. Community. Decentralized Web. Building dev tools at Fission. Cooks & eats.


What Support / Feedback Service Should You Use For Your Small Company

Let me start by saying that it feels like we’re actually in a golden age of great online support & feedback tools. I’m sure there are more than the ones that I’m listing here. Also, at different times, I’ve recommended each of these tools for a specific purpose - many of them have broad feature sets.

With that in mind, I recently did a mini-analysis of 5 different services that provide support & feedback functionality. I was analyzing from the perspective of a small company that is just starting out, for a mainly B2C product, with desired features covering both support (email / widget / etc.) and public feedback / user suggestions. Low cost growing to a projected small number of support people (say: 5 people) was also a factor.

In addition, domain aliasing aka CNAME support to be able to use the domain name of my choice was a must have (I’m not going to build web traffic to somebody elses domain). In other words, I don’t care if you have cheap starting plans, I’m going to care about the level at which I can do domain aliasing, otherwise I won’t use you.

I actually started with Assistly, and really liked the system. But the deeper into it I got, the more confusing it was, and the more it was clear that it was built / optimized for much larger organizations. It is a relatively new service, so it may be going through some growing pains.

Testing all of these other services again *, it was clear that all of them were built around per-agent pricing, which seems to be optimized for the way larger companies work: there are support people, and there are the rest of the organization. Assistly’s Flex Agent plan does a good job of recognizing that everyone in an organization needs to do some form of support, but at it’s core, it also had the per agent pricing.

* I didn’t re-test Get Satisfaction, which I’ve used in the past. It doesn’t offer domain aliasing (or private email support) until their $99 plan either so didn’t meet my needs in terms of price. I think it’s a great community support system and the one you should look at if you’re mainly doing public community management.

And so, we come to Tender, which seems explicitly geared to small company support. It starts at $24, but includes 3 agents and pretty much everything you need to do support and public feedback / knowledge base out of the box.

Its next tier adds (more) custom branding and more agents, but in both price and features seems to be designed to be something you grow into (rather than the infinite progression of per agent pricing of the other services).

Tender is optimized for email. Notifications are sent out, and you can then either reply or perform administrative actions via email. Technically, it’s also optimized for RSS, since it has both unauthenticated and authenticated RSS feeds which let you consume everything in it from the comfort of your RSS reader.

Perhaps more broadly I should say that Tender seems to be optimized for conversation. Which also seems to be a fit for how smaller companies help their customers, rather than “support”.

Below, the table with notes on all the contestants.

Name / Pricing Plan Link Starting Price Users Domain Aliasing Notes
Get Satisfaction $19 1 No
(starts at Connect $99 w/5 agents)

Focused on public community.

Zendesk $9 1 No
(starts at Regular $29/agent)

Has extensive email support ticketing, decent Twitter integration. My pick for larger companies.

Tender Support $24 3 Yes!

My recommendation for small companies.

UserVoice $5 1 No
(starts at Plus $25/agent)

Only recently added support. My recommendation if you want to focus on voting / feature suggestions.

Assistly $0 1 Yes!

Bonus points for $0 plan, great Twitter feedback integration.

Got other suggestions for great support & feedback services? Please add them in the comments.

###Update April 30th, 2012

I manually ported this entry over from Posterous.

Assistly was acquired by Salesforce and rebranded as

I know that our own plan at Goodbits for Tender was grandfathered, and I suspect many of the other pricing plans have changed as well.

One other item to add to the list (although it’s not really support, per se) is Intercom. It’s an awesome customer dashboard and communication tool. See Kalv’s write up about Intercom.

Further update: My answer today is Intercom - read the longer post on the Full Stack tools section »