Not feeling the Zendesk love

When I saw that Zendesk released their iPad application this week I decided that I’d take another look at their online help desk service. For a while I’ve been using Salesforce for tracking support cases and have found my needs are very basic. To me Salesforce is overkill for my support needs — especially at $65/mo per users (aks pricing – the hidden downfall of SaaS).

So for what seems like the 5th or 6th time I signed up for a 30 day trial of Zendesk. My conclusion? People who review and write about Zendesk don’t run a help desk for a living — or if they do they spend the bulk of their time setting it up and maintaining it.

My opinions this time aren’t much different than the last 5 or 6. The service to me is one stinking helping of fail.

Here are my main concerns with Zendesk

  1. First, it’s incredibly difficult to see how I’d setup a ticket and just plug in the customer’s name. Every time I try to do this “out of the box” it assigns the ticket to me since I’m logged in. The model here appears to be that you enroll your hundreds of customers into yet another system that they have to remember to log into.  Fail #1.
  2. Second, I give up and create a user. Then when I try to go to create a ticket and the helpful text tells me that it will lookup my users for me. But it doesn’t. So God Bless anyone who has more than three clients and needs to remember names. No, really this isn’t a joke. It’s the way Zendesk performed for me out of the box – hence my observation that this probably attracts help desk folks with lots of time on their hands who love to spend a lifetime setting this up (Observation: The same people are usually attracted to Getting Things Done methodology which has a similar difficult implementation).
  3. Third, the integration to Highrise for CRM sucks for me. No, scratch that, it blows. It’s basically a lookup window. I mean this is one short step away from just keeping a piece of paper on my desk and looking at client names. Who are these guys kidding.  The integration appears to have been first written in 2008 — and I’m guessing whoever wrote it has since jumped off a  Highrise out of frustration.
  4. Fourth, it seems to want to have all my customers create accounts. That’s going to go over real well as customers (with active support questions that cannot wait)  have yet another password to track and another login to manage. Fail.
  5. Fifth, in my opinion the whole interface looks like something that was state of the art when the web launched in the early 1980’s — but geez – it really looks dated.

My .02. Anyone else have even remote success with Zendesk?

5 Replies to “Not feeling the Zendesk love”

  1. Hey Wayne,

    Thanks for the feedback, not matter how constructively negative I’m always interested in hearing it.

    It’s interesting that 3 out of 5 of the points you made were actually about the problems you can see in getting users to use this and communicating with those users easily, it certainly seems there’s a problem we’ve created on an interface level to give that perception – and we need to correct it.

    In points 1 and 2 you mention how difficult you found it just to create a ticket on behalf of a customer. What you experienced was a failure in UI and a slight technical hitch.

    When you create a ticket, if the user exists on your account, you can simply type their name and it will auto-complete based on a search for that customer. If they don’t already exist, there is a link below the “Requester” input that allows the creation of a user in the same interface – it looks like this was missed which is an important UI learning for us.

    Instead, you made the logical assumption that you first have to go to another interface to create the user. Upon doing this, you went back to the ticket UI and started typing the name of the person, but it didn’t show up. Damn, that’s an indexing delay right there. The auto-complete is based on a search, so when you add a user we need to re-index. It looks like there’s a delay crept in there that we need to address.

    Lastly, you mention a few times that customers have to manage a whole new set of login details. That could be correct depending on how you want to use Zendesk. If a customer emails in, for example, they don’t have to register (and you can tie your existing email address to Zendesk so they also don’t need to use and remember a new email address). If you have your own software or website where they need to log in, you can use Remote Authentication to essentially tell Zendesk you want to handle the authentication of these users, which means we’ll do some clever secret-hash-communication-key-stuff so they never actually see the Zendesk login screen. More technical info here:

    We’re also looking at ways to make registration much simpler, we already have Twitter and OpenID login and will hopefully be adding new ways very soon.

    I’d agree that the UI looks dated (though I’d say more 1999 than 80s!) and we’re working on something to address that, though that’s not going to happen for a little while yet.


    1. Jake, thanks for taking the time to find this post and clarify some of its rants. Zendesk’s responses to customer feedback, in my experience so far, have been honest and professional.

  2. I hate Zendesk with a passion – very limited in customization and little or no support. They send you to outside consultants that you need to hire if you want to do any customization. I am trying to implement true ITIL incident management and this tool is currently the bane of my existence. Please look elsewhere.

  3. Agreed. The dude’s who wrote this need a class in Usability 101. I mean really, buttons at the bottom, unable to highlight or add notes within submitted emails, unable to view recent submissions on the dashboard out of the box. This is annoying.

  4. And I hate to say it, but all of these problems persist 5 years and counting after your wrote this–and worse. They decided to take more features away and jack the prices up not very long ago. And they’re screwing themselves by pissing-off the people they rely upon to insure Zendesk can be used, the technical crowd:

    I keep landing jobs in tech startups, and in every one where we used Zendesk (including one where there were many thousands of agents), it’s just unacceptable; in every one, the organization switches as soon as they can–even when that requires significant investment to escape lock-in after being dependent for some time.

    Zendesk cannot compare to even the java-based apps for ticketing from the early 90’s in actual power; it does not drive workflows–only set-up, consultants, and higher-tiers of support; their resources are a joke–hey I was looking for “workflow” and it turns out this is yet another article about tags!

    This is why businesses so often wind up just ordering hackers to do X even when Y would be better: the hacker knows it, the manager doesn’t, but the hacker wants to focus on their tool, the business needs to be able to use it to get (or help others businesses get) the job which has value to their paying users done.

    I’ve started to think of Zendesk as a bit of a wanna-be Oracle with a friendlier branding effort and hope that throwing-in “zen” will attrack money and attention from the quasi-sophisticated crowd. But it’s not zenlike at all, and Oracle’s endless set-up, maintenance, and consultants, can at least drive actual activity: Zendesk mostly relies on user-driven activity and simply coordinates it. 🙁

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