If you’ve ever searched for a way to communicate with your customers, it’s likely that you’ve come across a variety of Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tools. One of the most popular of these is Intercom, a platform that allows real-time messaging with customers to drive engagement and grow your business.
Today’s customer doesn’t wait around. That’s why customer support over the phone or through email is yesterday’s choice. But if Intercom isn’t for you, what options do you have? Let’s find out.
Whether you’re looking to switch away from Intercom, or you’re starting a brand-new business, there are plenty of alternatives.
With over 30,000 businesses turning to Intercom to convert leads and track customer relations, it’s certainly one of the strongest contenders on the market. But there are some complaints consumers have regarding Intercom:
- It is unpredictably expensive because of its pricing model, which depends on the total number of “active users” at a fixed and variable fee.
- The way Intercom determines the total number of “active users” is a little misleading, resulting in a higher number of “active users” than you might expect.
- Sometimes, Intercom creates false expectations for your customers, leading them to believe your team will respond immediately even if no one is available.
- There is no way to merge conversations between windows, so your customer may receive messages from multiple agents for the same question.
- Intercom’s own customer support is inconsistent and unreliable.
With those prominent issues, what makes Intercom so popular? Offering not only customer contact but also marketing tools, help desk software, analytics, and lead management, Intercom is simply one of the most comprehensive CRM tools out there. Because of these advantages, it maintains its competitive edge despite its shortcomings.
Below are the five top picks—we sorted the wheat from the chaff, so that you don’t have to.
Drift is a close alternative when compared to Intercom itself. Its four main features include live chat, targeted messages, knowledge base, and help desk tools. They also offer a number of features Intercom doesn’t provide: an integrated calendar that allows for automatic booking, chat bots for automated responses, tools for recording sales videos, and so on.
The major highlight of Drift as an alternative to Intercom is their AI. This eliminates the need for forms, thus streamlining the process for both your business and potential customers. It also allows you to provide leads with personally tailored welcome messages based on their information.
In order to get your chatbot up and running, you don’t need to know anything about coding. Drift provides a “bot builder,” which allows you to determine how user input will qualify your leads. With the help of the chatbot, Drift lets you qualify in real-time, removing the redundancy you would normally encounter with forms.
On the Standard plan, Drift’s “live view” allows your customer service team to view anyone actively browsing the site. From there, they can reach out to these prospective leads and engage them in a conversation to help you convert more potential customers into successful sales.
All of Drift’s packages are priced per month, billed annually, and there’s a free package that offers some bare-bones tools. The other tiers are ideal for different business types and build off of the features of the tier before.
Pros And Cons
Drift has both advantages and drawbacks when it comes to CRM. Some of these may determine whether or not Drift will fit your particular niche.
- Features an innovative chatbot to remove the need for forms even when your team is offline
- You don’t need to know coding in order to make or use your chatbot
- ”Live view” allows customer service representatives to see and engage directly with active viewers
- Free plan provides a surprising number of tools
- Responsive user interface and widget akin to Intercom’s, but with more streamlined features
- One of the pricier Intercom alternatives, most businesses would desire but not necessarily be able to afford the Professional tier
- Lacks comprehensive customer support features like ticketing
Intercom vs. Drift
While Intercom is on the pricier end of CRM software, and Drift’s more comprehensive packages can also be expensive, Drift does have a bit of an edge over Intercom in its Free and Standard tiers. For businesses that can afford both Intercom and Drift’s middle and higher tiers as options, Drift’s chatbot provides a big advantage in the way it streamlines lead qualification and reduces redundancy in your business model. And, if your company is moving away from Intercom, the familiarity of the UI and widget will make this transition easy.
To learn more about Drift, you can visit their website here.
Our verdict? A solid 7/10—and a suitable free Intercom alternative.
SmarEngage is designed to be a full service engagement autoresponder that handles email marketing as well as live chat (via Facebook Messenger). Simple (but powerful), not to mention SMS Text messaging and Web Push Notifications.
One of SmartEngage’s most attractive features is their multi-channel messaging approach. You have the option to resend a chat message as an email if your lead doesn’t view it, or click the action you wanted them to. This allows you to more effectively and efficiently communicate with leads to answer their questions and convert leads into sales.
By focusing on efficiency, SmartEngage’s toolset helps minimize the time investment you have to put into customer relations and communication solutions. This is achieved in part by their targeted messaging feature, which allows you to send both email and text messages to leads with tailored information based on both your business and product’s information and insight about your potential customers.
The customization options available in SmartEngage’s messaging is built on the backbone of Facebook Messenger. You can tailor targeted messages easily because lead insights are automatically collected and compiled as a potential customer browses your website. As a result, you’re able to see personal and behavior-based customer data as well as their customer journey.
SmartEngage is a highly affordable Intercom alternative with four packages and a customizable Enterprise solution.
Pros And Cons
To determine whether or not SmartEngage is right for your business, it’s worth looking at both the pros and the cons as they pertain to your niche and business model.
- Highly affordable Intercom alternative
- Free trial to test before making a full transition
- Very customizable targeted messaging system
- Unlimited number of messages
- Unlimited number of emails
- Unlimited number of web push notifications
- Includes SMS Text messaging
- Multi-channel communication makes customer interaction efficient and effective
- Supports integration with many external tools such as WordPress, Google Analytics, Zapier, and more
- Messaging built on Facebook is not preferred by some
- Is focused on being a cross-channel autoresponder more so than a live chat platform
Intercom vs. SmartEngage
While SmartEngage and Intercom are arguably similar in many ways, SmartEngage provides a few extra features at a fraction of the cost. Among these key features is Smart Engage’s multi-channel communication support which is completely lacking from Intercom’s set of tools. This set of CRM tools manages to provide more for less while somehow making the entire process more efficient.
If you are transitioning from Intercom or another CRM suite to SmartEngage, you even have access to an onboarding agent that will migrate your data for you (for larger customer lists) and help make the transition a smooth one.
And for this reason SmartEngage is our #1 Alternative rated a 10/10 by our review staff.
To learn more about SmartEngage, you can visit their website here.
Freshchat, a platform by FreshWorks, is one of the newer CRM solutions on the market. Also one of the more affordable Intercom alternatives, Freshchat strives to provide a streamlined, minimalistic approach to CRM. With quite a few crucial features available even at a free tier, Freshchat is a competitive alternative platform.
The primary focus of Freshchat is their live chat platform and how it can be used as a driven messaging and sales solution. Their interface is minimalist and very user-friendly and holds up well when compared to Intercom’s. Despite being a newer platform, it appears that Freshchat has taken cues from Intercom and built upon the CRM giant’s plethora of features.
Freshchat’s messaging interface serves to target and qualify leads effectively and with the goal of getting you a higher conversion rate, preventing the common problem of users browsing your site for mere seconds before moving on. With triggered messages, chatbots, visitor intel, multi-channel messaging, and more, they have put a real focus on how conversation with potential customers drives business and engages an individual.
In addition, there are a few live chat features Freshchat has added that are somewhat unique and go beyond what most general CRM solutions offer. With user segmentation, you can have your leads categorized by their on-site behavior as well as geographical location. You can also ensure that your potential customers get comprehensive support with features such as in-app messages, in-messenger FAQs, specified message channels to separate chats by subject, support for more than 30 languages, and a priority inbox to filter messages.
Freshchat is another highly affordable Intercom alternative with an attractive Free tier and 30-day trial options. You can choose between being billed monthly or getting a better deal by being billed annually.
Pros And Cons
Although Freshchat has a plethora of live chat tools that make it stand out, there are a few drawbacks to the platform as well that might not make it right for your niche.
- Expansive and thorough set of live chat features
- Affordable and generally unrestrictive pricing packages
- Free tier with 10 team members, 10,000 unique visitors per month, and unlimited contacts
- Minimalist and attractive streamlined user interface
- Recently added an Android mobile app so it is now available on the App Store and Google Play Store
- Lacks some agent-specific functions such as leaving a note for another team member or filtering conversations by agent
- Unable to merge conversations or users
- May give more than one triggered message per visit
Intercom vs. Freshchat
If you are looking for a chat-focused alternative to Intercom, Freshchat is a CRM solution that takes the features Intercom has and expands upon them. The result is a comprehensive set of tools that allows you to engage with and qualify leads in a number of unique ways. It has a great user interface for both you and your potential customers, which is something that goes a long way when it comes to converting leads.
Freshchat also pulls ahead of Intercom if you’re looking for a mid-ranged CRM suite with a more than reasonable price point given its breadth of features. This makes it a great alternative solution even for small businesses.
To learn more about Freshchat, you can visit their website here.
Used correctly, live chat software can be a gamechanger, earning you more clients, customers and money. That’s why relying on a trusted name in marketing would be a good idea.
HubSpot is a good all-around choice. It offers a scalable marketing platform, one of the features of which is its live chat feature. Alongside live chat, you get everything that HubSpot is known for, from SEO tips to landing pages. And with everything integrated in one platform, analysing your data becomes that much easier.
In terms of price, HubSpot isn’t cheap. But if you’re also going to need a CRM, premade quality landing pages and email marketing tools, then HubSpot kills all those birds with just one stone.
Our verdict? The sheer range of tools HubSpot offer make them great for enterprises, and startups that plan on scaling up. Their prices are high, but you get what you pay for. 9/10.
LiveAgent manages to simultaneously be a very simple and feature-rich CRM suite. Originally designed with support tickets in mind, LiveAgent now encompasses ticketing, live chat, knowledge base, and even customer support via phone calls. They handle their live chat system in a pretty unique way, too, which changes the customer support experience positively.
The most advantageous and unique feature of LiveAgent is how they handle customer support requests. Rather than a user blindly sending a message out to your agent(s) as most CRM services do, LiveAgent searches for and connects your lead to an online agent directly. If there isn’t a representative currently available, the widget places the user in a queue until an agent becomes available, which is truly unique to LiveAgent from what I’ve seen.
LiveAgent also offers a cloud-based calling service, allowing your customer service representatives to communicate with users in a way Intercom simply doesn’t provide. This isn’t exclusive to LiveAgent in the CRM solution world but it is definitely advantageous when it comes to connecting with and converting leads.
There are also two features of LiveAgent that paint a more comprehensive real-time picture for your agents. At any time, you can view a live map of current website visitors. In addition, when someone visiting your site clicks on the chat button, your agents will be notified so they can be prepared to answer a user query as swiftly as possible.
LiveAgent’s packages come in essentially three tiers that denote what features you receive. This straightforward pricing approach allows you to choose what package is right for your business.
Pros And Cons
LiveAgent is a great CRM service with an expansive set of tools that evolved out of a simple support ticketing solution but it does have its shortcomings. That being said, it does boast a good number of positive, effective, and unique features.
- Connects leads directly to live representatives
- Places leads in a queue when a representative is unavailable
- Supports cloud calling center functionality
- One of the most affordable live chat services
- Balances and integrates features effectively
- Online chat support can help with the more technical parts of the UI
- Not the most attractive user interface
- No chatbot or automated messaging options
- Limited customization
Intercom vs. LiveAgent
LiveAgent has a good track record and is consistently rated highly by its users. For the variety of features offered and their unique live chat experience, this gives it an edge over Intercom. It also offers cloud call support, a feature Intercom simply doesn’t have at all.
Its user interface is not as streamlined as other Intercom alternatives, and even falls short of Intercom itself, but the overwhelmingly positive reviews show that this is a relatively small concern when compared with LiveAgent’s advantages.
To learn more about LiveAgent, you can visit their website here.
Drift are Intercom’s main competition. Founded back in 2015, their stated goal is to ‘is to turn the internet into a conversation.’ Rather than forcing customers or clients to slog through never-ending forms, they pioneered early (and high quality) live chat software.
They created one of the first live chat bots, which really revolutionised the industry.
Subscribing to drift is free—and if you only want to use their live chat feature, that’s free too, just like FreshChat. With that, you also get the functionality to book meetings and answer on the go through their app.
But if you want to unlock more features, like bots, you’ll have to pay. Prices currently listed range from $50 per month to $1500, with AI bots and more reserved for their Enterprise pricing scheme.
Our verdict? A trusted industry leader, Drift’s platform offers great functionality and scaling. Costs less than HubSpot, but you get less, too. 8/10.
Another new CRM solution on the market is Crisp.chat, an expansive suite of tools that focuses on enhancing the live chat experience your potential customers will have. Live chat isn’t the only thing Crisp offers, though: the suite also offers analytics, automated triggers, and more.
Crisp’s live chat boasts a wide variety of features in order to better engage leads and offer a memorable experience that will serve to prevent your business’s website from fading into the background along with other, more generic sites. They help capture the attention of potential customers by engaging with them via automated trigger messages. From there, Crisp’s rich user interface and breadth of customer interaction options make it easy to provide users with a unique and positive interaction.
Chatbots are an option with Crisp, as well as an integrated knowledge base, rich media sharing within the chat, and extensive integration with third party tools and social media. You have the option, if you want, to video call with customers, too, which is something not many CRM suites offer. They even have a game for customers to play while waiting to be connected with an agent.
A particularly interesting and unique feature Crisp offers is “co-browsing,” which allows your customer service representatives to temporarily take over the prospective customer’s screen, allowing them to browse together or lead the customer to the appropriate page on your site.
Crisp is actually very affordable as an alternative, especially when one takes into account all of the innovative ways they built upon the standard Intercom created. They also have a free tier that provides you with a surprising number of features.
Pros And Cons
So far, Crisp has pulled ahead of the competition in terms of just how much they offer. That being said, it’s still important to look at this CRM solution from all angles and consider your niche.
- Truly expansive chat features that provide a unique and memorable customer experience
- Attractive and customizable user interface
- Free tier that actually provides you with a good number of features
- Includes collision detection so leads don’t get bombarded or confused by multiple agents
- Company’s co-founders will sometimes answer customer support questions
- Displays even outside of active office hours
- Unable to merge conversations between agents or users
Intercom vs. Crisp
Crisp.chat appears to have taken note of the best parts of Intercom’s live chat feature and built upon it. The result is an intuitive and impressive CRM suite that takes on the main aims of Intercom with a healthy dose of creativity. It appears that Crisp is taking heed of popular trends such as social media and video integration and ensuring that your leads are truly engaged by enhancing the traditional live chat experience.
With all of the features available, you would expect Crisp to be at least at a similar price point of Intercom but that’s just not the case. In fact, Crisp is one of the affordable Intercom alternatives with a great free tier option which makes it ideal for small businesses as well as larger enterprises.
To learn more about Crisp, you can visit their website here.
The Bottom Line
With the number of CRM solutions available on the market, it can be difficult to know where to begin if you’re not just going with the industry giant, Intercom. But Intercom can be expensive, their customer support isn’t the best, and there are a number of other factors and features that may make you reconsider using it.
After heavily evaluating the top Intercom alternatives, it was difficult to choose a single winner. Most alternatives have taken a direction Intercom offers and focused on it rather than making a direct competitor. That being said, our top pick for an Intercom alternative has to be SmartEngage due to their ability to create a truly cross-channel marketing engagement platform.
SmartEngage is expansive, affordable, and overall it has a unique approach to customer engagement and does things other CRM suites don’t. This will lead to a strong conversion rate without subjecting yourself and your business to the unpredictable pricing of Intercom.