Zendesk vs. ServiceNow

Help desk software shouldn’t be overly complex. Discover how Zendesk vs. ServiceNow compare and see how you can improve the employee and customer experience.

Zendesk vs. ServiceNow: A comprehensive guide

Last updated August 28, 2023

Don’t compromise on finding software that elevates customer service interactions while delighting employees with IT support capabilities and a beautiful interface. These factors can improve the customer experience (CX) and strengthen employee satisfaction. If you’re looking for great help desk tools that keep costs low and a responsive agent interface with an intuitive layout, look no further than Zendesk.

Customers prefer Zendesk over ServiceNow because we offer fast time to value, easy implementation, and a robust toolset of help desk features that are ready to go without any additional configurations. These are just a few areas where Zendesk outperforms ServiceNow. Read on to learn more about why ServiceNow fails to keep pace with our offerings.

3 ways Zendesk outperforms ServiceNow

Agility and fast time to value

With Zendesk, you can get up and running quickly, onboard agents in record time, and adapt faster to change with our easy-to-use interface. On the other hand, ServiceNow can be complex and slow to set up and make changes to, according to several user views on G2.

Strategic partnership and support

While ServiceNow has standard support offerings, Zendesk offers an exclusive community of experts and thought leaders to strengthen your business strategy, share best practices, and grow your network. We also provide designated account management to guide you at every step.

Lower total cost of ownership (TCO)

Zendesk offers an excellent TCO with low implementation and administrative costs—employees can pick it up within hours. ServiceNow requires a substantial three-day training course and recommends six months of prerequisites for all potential administrators whose salaries average six figures.

More in this guide

At-a-glance comparison: Zendesk vs. ServiceNow

Here’s a quick look at the capabilities of Zendesk and ServiceNow’s help desk software. We based all findings on customer feedback and extensive research.

What’s needed to deliver the best support
Critical capabilities
Reviews and ratings User reviews and accolades G2 (4.3 stars)

  • #1 spot for Best Software Product
  • Best Customer Service Product
  • Best Product for Mid-Market
G2 (4.1 stars)
Analyst rating Leader for customer service Leader for ITSM
Ease of deployment Fast time to value Weeks to months (90% of customers deploy in 8 weeks or less) 6–12 months (at a minimum)
Level of assistance Product is intuitive to self-implement; professional services assistance is available Heavy consulting engagements
ROI High with low implementation efforts and a focus on best practices for operational change management Limited due to high implementation efforts
TCO and agility Implementation costs Low High
(3x–4x year one license cost)
Maintenance costs Low High (minimum 2 developer resources)
Speed to make changes Fast Slow
Knowledge required None Database architecture, scripting, ITIL (for ITSM)
Customer experience Native channel breadth All channels natively (voice, SMS, chat, messaging, web form, email) No native voice or SMS; basic asynchronous chat
Social channel coverage 15+ native social messaging integrations No native social integrations
Omnichannel widget Yes No
Chat and messaging experience Embedded into the browser experience Separate browser window
Agent interface Omnichannel integration All channels automatically create tickets Required to manually create tickets from chat
Real-time experience Yes No
Tailored agent experience Contextual, dynamic, and customizable agent workspace Static interface with set information frames
Macros Yes No
Intuitive layout Yes Clunky
Robust integrations Integrated tools 1000+ apps in the Zendesk Marketplace Limited integrations in marketplace
Jira integration Yes Limited
Salesforce integration Yes Limited
Native Slack integration Yes No
Employee experience
(IT, HR, internal use cases)
Incident management Yes Yes
Problem management Yes Yes
Change management Yes Yes
NPS surveys Yes No
Asset management Integrations available Yes
Configuration management database Integrations available Yes
Service catalog Yes Yes
Reporting and analytics Custom reports Yes Yes
Custom dashboards Yes Yes
Custom attribution Yes Yes
Custom metrics Yes Yes
Real-time reporting Yes Yes
Easy to implement Yes No
AI Pre-trained CX data models Yes, based on data points from real service interactions No, limited pre-trained CX data models
Simple setup Yes No
Security Granular permissions Yes Yes
Audit trails Yes Yes
Data redaction Yes Yes
SSO Yes Yes
PCI Yes Yes
Fedramp Yes Yes
HIPAA enabled Yes Add-on (requires NOW platform
Encryption at REST Yes Yes
Data locality Yes Yes
Knowledge management Robust help center Yes Yes
Self-service analytics Yes Yes
Intelligent content gap identification Yes No

Zendesk vs. ServiceNow: Features comparison

Both vendors offer customer service and IT support software, but let’s look at the facts to determine which is the best.

Ease of use and agility

Agile CX software enables teams to make changes quickly because it’s easy to use and administer. With Zendesk, businesses can quickly adapt as priorities evolve. For example, pre-built and custom reports enable companies to identify key opportunities for improvement, while our out of the box integrations make it easy to add functionality as you go. You don’t need an army of developers to maintain our software, controlling overall costs.

Quote from Lush manager

In the past, ServiceNow focused on IT teams and heavy on-premise implementation, meaning they’re newer to CX. Because of those roots in admin-heavy deployments, configuring settings can be difficult and unintuitive to the average user. ServiceNow offers point-and-click configuration, but its ingrained complexity means businesses may need to hire a third-party administrator to configure the platform and perform maintenance, which can drive up costs.

Ease of implementation and deployment

Ease of implementation and deployment are important considerations when striving to speed up time to value (TTV). This is the time it takes for customers or employees to benefit from a new product or service.

Zendesk is a user-friendly help desk solution and doesn’t require an abundance of skill, time, or money to get started. Businesses can implement Zendesk in as little as 3 weeks—just ask Stanley Black and Decker.

On the other hand, businesses that use ServiceNow may need to extend their implementation timeline to accommodate the time scripting takes.

ITIL standards and capabilities

ITIL stands for “Information Technology Infrastructure Library.” The IT Infrastructure Library is a transferable set of best practices that helps businesses meet company and customer needs through ITIL problem management solutions.

Zendesk is easy to use and implement but flexible enough to meet specific needs. For example, companies can build their own holistic IT service management (ITSM) solution with the right tools for their unique needs.

ServiceNow’s solution is more complex than it needs to be and may come with high implementation costs.

Asset, product, change, and configuration management

Operational and process management are essential for the success of internal support teams. Here are some common employee experience management features:

Asset management

Zendesk integrates with the top solutions for asset management—such as EZOfficeInventory, Oomnitza, Panorama9, and Asset Panda—to help businesses gain visibility into asset management from the simple, reliable, and intuitive service desk Zendesk provides.

ServiceNow’s asset management capabilities include asset discovery, overviews, custom attributes, license management, automated workflows, and contract management. However, its user experience (UX) can be complex, as heavy admin training is required.

Product management

With Zendesk, administrators can collect IT analytics and data to understand flaws and places for improvement to inform impactful updates.

ServiceNow offers strategic portfolio management (SPO) tools that aid in strategy road-mapping and investment planning.

Change and configuration management

Zendesk is recognized for its intuitive UX and agile change management capabilities, it’s highly adaptable and fast to configure new components. Businesses can work directly in Zendesk without learning a new framework or hiring additional help. Service teams can collaborate to streamline change management using ticket forms, views, internal comments and mentions (for approvals), and business rules (automated workflows).

ServiceNow contains a configuration management database (CMDB) that allows businesses to connect to data from other platforms and track user and configuration activity. The platform can also support change management through design forms, workflows, and approvals. However, the system comes with a less impressive UX.

Users on review sites such as PeerSpot report that the platform doesn’t operate as a true configuration management tool. It requires additional configurations to achieve necessary functionalities—many of which aren’t intuitive to the average user.

Case workflows and ticket automation

Case workflows and automations are essential to ticket management. Without these key features, tickets would get lost, service would be delayed, and the delays would likely increase customer churn rates.

Zendesk has a best-in-class ticketing system that allows agents to automate workflows, manage support requests, and conveniently access contextual customer information from a customizable workspace. The Zendesk Agent Workspace also makes it possible for agents to collaborate and brainstorm solutions via side conversations, speeding up resolution times.

ServiceNow offers workflows and automations to eliminate data silos and reduce manual work. The platform has a visual workflow editor that businesses typically find useful for change management processes, but this feature is quite common. As it has roots in IT, users may not feel the software is equipped to provide an optimal CX throughout the customer journey.

Integrations and data sharing

Integrations can improve productivity, streamline data sharing, and add functionality to your team’s customer service software.

Zendesk offers over 1,300 pre-built, customer service-based apps in the Zendesk Marketplace. Our driven product management and engineering teams continuously add customizable integrations to the Marketplace. This helps us stay on the cutting edge of CX technology innovations and equip businesses with the tools they need to customize Zendesk to their specifications.

The ServiceNow Store contains about 250 apps. Users can filter through the store to find applications in categories like analytics, DevOps, field service management, and government compliance. However, it’s important to note that there isn’t an app pane in the agent workspace to view information from third-party systems.

Self-service and knowledge management

Many customers (and employees) prefer self-service, and to fulfill this need, service teams increasingly need access to robust knowledge management software.

Fortunately, Zendesk empowers organizations to use, manage, and publish content internally and externally for customer and employee use. Our tool is practical for agents because the program can surface AI-recommended knowledge base articles that benefit customers.

ServiceNow allows businesses to create knowledge bases with separate content management workflows. However, businesses must use HTML and CSS for advanced knowledge base customization.

Artificial intelligence (AI)

We designed Zendesk AI with customers and agents in mind. Our artificial intelligence was trained using Zendesk CX and industry data, which is why our software is a top choice among customer-centric organizations that want to invest in a long-term AI strategy and stay on top of the latest innovations.

Here are a few ways customer service teams use Zendesk AI:

  • Advanced bots: These tools enable self-service support and answer FAQs for customers and employees who need quick answers and resource recommendations.
  • Intelligence in the context panel: The context panel provides agents with contextual information about each customer to help them resolve tickets quickly.
  • Intelligent triage: AI detects the sentiment and intent behind a customer’s support request and automatically sends it to the most qualified agent, along with contextual insights.
  • Macro suggestions for admins: Macro suggestions use machine learning to scan agent comments and support requests and provide suggested replies for administrators.

ServiceNow AI offers various use cases, but its model is not trained specifically for the customer experience. To effectively utilize the tool, the administrator must have some technical skills to assist the AI model until it can understand customer data.

Reporting and analytics

Setting benchmarks and using the reporting and analytics tools available in your software is the best way to ensure your team and organization are tracking toward goals.

Zendesk provides analytics and reporting right out of the box. And with actionable analytics, it’s easy for leadership teams to make impactful changes to support processes, products, and services. Using Zendesk, admins can review metrics surrounding agent performance and activity and collect customer feedback.

Zendesk reporting tools come with features such as:

  • 50+ predetermined reports and dashboards
  • Custom metrics and attributes
  • Several export options
  • Data visualization
  • Event-level data

ServiceNow offers two reporting options: baseline native reporting and Performance Analytics.

Native reporting is the platform’s basic reporting solution, and Performance Analytics is a more enhanced reporting module. It is relatively comprehensive but does come with steep licensing costs, and according to reviews on TrustRadius, many find it difficult to set up.

Success and support

When choosing a help desk software provider, consider the tools as they are now and the vendor’s commitment to improving its products and keeping up with industry standards. Your vendor’s customer service team should also be readily accessible to provide support as you onboard and familiarize yourself with the tools.

As leaders in customer service, Zendesk equips businesses with a community of thought leaders and the tools they need to provide successful experiences, share knowledge, and prioritize updates. As a result, our partners are always on the cusp of innovation and can implement current best practices.

ServiceNow also offers customer and onboarding support. However, users don’t receive the same benefits and knowledge they would from an organization that specializes in customer service.

Pricing plans: ServiceNow vs. Zendesk

Below, you can find information about pricing for Zendesk support software. Unfortunately, ServiceNow does not make its prices publicly available and requires customers to create an account before speaking with a representative.

  • Support Team: $19 per agent/month
  • Support Professional: $55 per agent/month
  • Support Enterprise: $115 per agent/month

*All plans are billed annually

  • Get a custom quote

While pricing plans are unavailable, it’s important to note that ServiceNow’s pricing does come with high implementation costs and requires a significant amount of dedicated administrative resources. For instance, to hire one full-time administrator, most businesses will pay between $52K and $95K annually.

And considering implementation can take longer, businesses should expect a higher overall TCO and a slower time to value.

Customer stories

Customer stories

Learn why so many customers choose Zendesk over our competitors.

Xero: Scale internal support

After rigorously testing Zendesk, ServiceNow, and Jira Service Desk’s customer service software, New Zealand-based accounting software company Xero found that Zendesk was the best. Xero has since utilized Zendesk to provide internal IT support.

At first, Xero was concerned that the conflicting requirements of different groups of users would force everyone to compromise, but Zendesk easily accommodated each team’s unique needs. Here are a few ways different teams leveraged Zendesk for success:

  • Platform services: Xero customized the Zendesk software to suit the platform services team’s ticketing needs in a short time.
  • Onboarding: Employees wanting to request software or upgrade their permissions use Zendesk to streamline interactions and get faster results.
  • Internal IT: The IT team uses integrations like Oomnitza to manage IT assets within Zendesk, log employee support calls to IT, and immediately retrieve an overview of an employee’s computer without asking additional questions.

“Everyone has been able to have their own customized implementation. That’s been really useful.”

—Hadleigh Lynn, Head of Infrastructure and Compliance at Xero

Within five months of implementation, nine of the company’s internal teams leveraged the software to streamline operations and scale support.

Agoda: Improve employee experiences and partner satisfaction

Online travel agency Agoda helps customers find hotel bookings, rentals, flights, and more by collaborating with travel partners across 32 markets. Since the services offered can result in heavy agent workloads, the travel company decided to upgrade to a software solution that met its employees’ needs.

To improve the employee experience (EX) and lessen agent responsibilities, Agoda leveraged the automation capabilities of Zendesk to streamline replies, ticket routing, and escalations.

Before long, Agoda found that Zendesk substantially improved employee efficiency and satisfaction. This was largely due to the pinpoint accuracy of the software and the amount of time it saved busy staff. Business leaders at Agoda were able to assess the positive impact of Zendesk because the software provides complete back-end data, enabling them to gather insights and improve the EX. This enhanced EX ensured that the effective communication and insights improved their partnerships as well.

“Zendesk enabled us to interact with our partners in more effective ways, such as through chat, the help desk, and by connecting multiple email channels to the platform. Having full visibility on KPIs allows us to closely measure how successfully we communicate with our partners and how well our platform performs.”

—Andrea Sebestyen, Senior Project Manager, Customer Experience Group at Agoda

By leveraging automations and customer service data, Agoda increased help center views by 45 percent, enhanced agent productivity by 40 percent, and hit a 92 internal satisfaction score in just one year.

Eight Eleven Group: Create an internal help desk

Eight Eleven Group is a national tech company that connects IT professionals with medical software expertise to organizations requiring their services. From dealing with service requests for assets to tracking marketing projects, Zendesk has been a vital tool for managing the work and communication within the marketing and IT teams.

“We chose Zendesk because we viewed it as the best platform available to meet the needs of our employees. Thanks to the great support and adaptability of the software, we have been able to seamlessly evolve our use of it to meet the company’s needs.”

—Jake Baldwin, IT Operations Manager at Eight Eleven Group

The company has served more than 900 employees and met internal goals by implementing Zendesk and integrating the software with AssetSonar. The integration provided a robust asset management solution for tracking, organizing, and monitoring all IT assets. This enabled Eight Eleven to save invaluable time when responding to internal tickets, increasing efficiency and productivity.

Since integrating, the company’s help desk has managed 95 percent of employee requests within an hour of receiving them. And in turn, Eight Eleven Group has benefited from having more time to focus on internal system upgrades.

Frequently asked questions

Keep reading for answers to the questions prospects ask most often when comparing Zendesk and ServiceNow.

Is Zendesk better than ServiceNow?

Yes. Unlike ServiceNow, Zendesk focuses on CX, making us the best choice for customer-first companies. Zendesk is also a great option for IT support teams needing straightforward and customizable software. Leading brands like Grubhub, Shopify, and Instacart use Zendesk for both internal and external support.

Is Zendesk similar to ServiceNow?

Zendesk and ServiceNow have some similar use cases, but they are fundamentally different.

For example, Zendesk is known for having a better user experience and being easier and faster to configure, which translates to a lower overall TCO. Zendesk offers everything you need to deliver a great customer experience out-of-the-box and can be easily customized for IT support.

ServiceNow is also customizable but requires a significant investment in developers and technical resources to implement and maintain.

Is Zendesk an ITSM tool?

Zendesk is a popular and great tool for IT support used by thousands of companies, some of which include:

And with a rich marketplace of out-of-the-box integrations, Zendesk takes the complexity out of IT service management.

Does Zendesk compete with ServiceNow?

Yes, Zendesk competes with ServiceNow because both companies offer service tools for customers and employees. However, Zendesk is a stronger solution because it’s user-friendly, with a modern interface and speedy deployment. Plus, with out-of-the-box functionality, our tools are easy to implement.

Is Zendesk ITIL compliant?

Businesses can build their own holistic and flexible ITSM solution with Zendesk via partner integrations. Zendesk offers integrations with systems like Jira, Oomitza, and EZOfficeInventory to foster a simple, reliable, and intuitive ITSM solution.

Businesses can implement ITIL best practices without unnecessary complexity, manage risk, improve standardization, and gain insight into key processes to create better alignment across teams. Overall, Zendesk is easy to use, quick to implement, and flexible enough to meet your specific needs.

Ready to try Zendesk?

Experiment with a powerhouse tool for customer service and internal support and discover the lasting impact it can have on business outcomes and customer satisfaction. Sign up for your free trial of Zendesk today.