Read more about SaaS optimization: How to Stop Being a Target of Vendor Upsizing

Optimizing Zendesk: Rightsizing Your Plan

6 min read Mansoor Ahmed

Zendesk has become one of the most-used customer service management platforms, especially among enterprise-scale companies.

It’s undoubtedly a great tool, but as with any SaaS tool today, great power comes with great cost. Of course, you can’t drop a tool like Zendesk, as it’s far too integrated into your daily processes. Nor should you, as optimizing Zendesk can help you get more out of your subscription and possibly lower the cost as well.

While this article mainly focuses on Zendesk, if you’re using another customer service management tool like, Agile CRM, or Salesforce Service Cloud, know that many of the principles we discuss will still apply to your platform.

Zendesk Optimization

Exploring Your Customer Service Stack

Optimizing Zendesk, and its cost, starts with taking a hard look at what your customer service team actually needs, and making sure you have the plan to match. This is can be easier said than done.

Zendesk often bills itself as an “all-in-one” solution for customer support. Despite that claim, not every plan they offered was truly all-in-one. Before February 2021, Zendesk featured between 20 and 30 different plans, offering a mix of bundled and a-la-carte features. 

Today, they’ve reduced that number to just 12 plans. The cheapest plans are the three foundational support plans, which focus on email support, and range from $19 to $99 per agent per month when billed annually. If you’re looking for chat-, social media-, or voice-based support solutions, you’ll need to upgrade to one of the five Zendesk Suite plans, the cheapest of which runs $49 per agent per month. The Enterprise Suite plan, which comes with custom user roles and real-time analytics, starts at $215 per agent per month, again with an annual commitment. 

Sales, which focuses on supporting outbound sales activities like voice calls and emails, has been spun off into four plans of its own, which run from $19 to $199+ per agent per month, with an optional $27 per agent per month prospecting enrichment. The cheapest of these new plans is more expensive than the most affordable legacy plans. However, if you were already operating one of the more costly plans before the change, you may be able to save significant money by switching to the new equivalent plan.

Rightsizing Your Zendesk Features

One of the tricky things about Zendesk is that it tries to be helpful when trying to select your plans. Many users first select the plan they’re on after using Zendesk’s built-in quiz that asks you about the features you need, and then offers a plan to suit. While that seems like a straightforward tool for optimizing Zendesk to suit your needs, you shouldn’t rely exclusively on that quiz..

  1. The quiz will give you a plan that captures all your use cases. The first problem with quizzes like these is that the results will seldom offer you a slightly-less-powerful but far more economical plan. For example, you might be able to go with a cheaper plan if you are willing to forego features like self-service customer portals or HIPPA compliance…but the quiz won’t offer that up as a possibility. It’s goal is to upsell. So, even though the tool makes you feel like you got a good fit, the reality is that you may not have.
  2. You might not know what your exact use cases are. The second problem with quizzes like these is that they ask you to think about your future productivity needs–something you may not have a good frame of reference for, especially if Zendesk is your first foray into customer support management tools. And without that information, it’s not possible to select the right plan for your needs, even with a helpful wizard. That could leave you stuck in a plan that costs too much for at least the next year. 

So what should you do? It’s OK to start out using the online quiz to choose a plan. Just make sure to note the features that come with that plan. Then periodically check the “Assignee Activity” tab Zendesk’s reports dashboard. That will give you a sense of which assignees are contributing to your customer service efforts, and how they are engaging your customers.

Via Zendesk

Be aware: In the new pricing scheme, Zendesk’s differentiation between plans isn’t so much about the front-end customer experience, which remains mostly the same across all plans. Instead, pricier plans make the experience better for your agents. So, you have to ask yourself: 

  • Do your agents need private chat capabilities beyond what they could get through a tool you’re already using, like Slack or Microsoft Teams? And
  • Do they need to pull in experts who won’t directly interact with the customer?

It’s features like these, which typically aren’t covered by Zendesk’s built-in analytics, that tell you whether you should be on a $19 or $199 per month plan.

Rightsizing Your Zendesk Licenses

After getting on the right plan, you should ensure that you’re buying the correct number of licenses. Rightsizing is a critical step for SaaS spend management. One of the most effective first steps is eliminating licenses for people who have left the company or moved to a new department. While this may seem simple, it’s often a step that falls under the radar when companies get busy, and taking care of it can lead to huge savings. 

"One of the most effective first steps is eliminating licenses for people who have left the company or moved to a new department. While this may seem simple, it’s often a step that falls under the radar" Click To Tweet

If you’re on the Growth plan or above, make sure you take advantage of the included “light access licenses.” Light access licenses are free but come with reduced access and features. This makes them perfect for employees (like project managers and subject matter experts) who only need occasional access to the system. 

With many companies, you’d use their built-in analytics tools to understand how effectively you’re using your licenses. Zendesk does offer some built-in analytics tools. However, these are primarily aimed at understanding your agents’ performance and creating an overall understanding of how efficient your ticketing process is. It does little to help you understand if you’re getting good value relative to what you’re spending on your plan, which makes optimizing Zendesk that much harder.

Optimizing Customer Service Tools for Your Business

Zendesk isn’t the first tool with an elaborate and confusing pricing system. Realistically, if you have a small team and the time to spare, you can optimize your spend on the tool by yourself. However, when your team size grows, and you’re dealing with dozens, or hundreds, of licenses, it can become impractical to manually gather and analyze the data you need.

And, you shouldn’t just be doing this process for Zendesk, but for every SaaS tool you have. The savings can be immense, but so can the time and effort spent on the problem. That’s where Quolum comes in. Quolum is a tool that automatically analyzes how each employee in your company uses their SaaS tool, providing you with high-resolution information that you can use to make effective cost-control decisions. Plus, on advanced plans, you can see how much your employees use each feature–enabling you to find the right plan for your business!

But, that’s not all. With Quolum, you can:

  • Visualize spend on SaaS software over time
  • See detailed license and account information
  • See feature use statistics
  • Manage SaaS subscription renewals
  • Tag shadow IT

If you want to take control of your cloud storage and SaaS software spend, you can sign up for Quolum for free today and see how much you can save on your subscriptions. 

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