Practical WordPress Development

Using Help Scout For WordPress Support

A few months ago, I wrote about Finding The Right WordPress Support System in which I laid out my points for what I’d look for in a support system. The post ended up generating a lot of really good feedback, and – as of last week – I officially chose Help Scout as my WordPress support system.

Obviously, it’s been about three months since I originally published that post so I clearly took my time (read: evaluated services after the responsibilities of my day job) deliberating on which service I to use.

As with any more decision, there were a number of factors that contributed to this decision.

Help Scout For WordPress Support

Help Scout For WordPress Support

I should preface this post by saying that over the past few years of self-employment, I’ve learned a lot and have worked hard to focus my efforts on areas that I’m genuinely passionate about.

As such, I’ve been slowly working through the process of renaming the business (filing all of the usual paperwork), and giving a lot of thought as to what I want to offer both service-wise and product-wise.

A couple of years ago, I dabbled with offering a couple of premium WordPress plugins both of which did okay, neither of which I was excited to maintain so I simply killed them off.

There’s obviously much more to this story, but for the sake of this post, I digress.

Simply put, one of the things I want to get back into doing is offering premium WordPress plugins; however, I want to make sure that I do it right this time, and part of that is making sure that I use a support system that fits my existing workflow.

So here’s what ultimately attracted me to Help Scout:

1. The Pricing

Since I’m just starting to get back in the game of offering premium plugins, I didn’t want to drop cash into a service prior to this part of the business actually making money.

Help Scout offers a free plan for up to three users and one mailbox which works perfectly for my currently needs. Fingers-crossed, as I begin to offer more plugins, I’ll be able to easily scale up to one of their paid plans.

Ultimately, I’m not a fan of paying for something that I don’t need under the assumption that I may need it in the future. There’s no guarantee there – but there is a guarantee that free is something I can afford for what I’m planning to offer :).

2. The Ease of Use

Quite simply, if you can use email, you can use Help Scout. Essentially, it’s an extraordinarily powerful, elegant, and straightforward ticketing system that works just like email.

The main difference is that although tickets are sent to an email address, they are managed within the context of the Help Scout application.

For those of you who have been reading My Day-To-Day series, you know that email and how I use it – as is true for most of us – is detrimental to getting things done during the day. I didn’t want introduce something new that would completely disrupt the way I get work done.

3. The Simplicity

As mentioned above, Help Scout is essentially an email service specifically designed around support and they have done an excellent job keeping it that way.

Although this will require that I have to login via the web interface – which some may argue is yet-another-thing – the simplicity of how the service works coupled with some of the features such as rules, filtering, and so on will make it trivially easy to manage any incoming tickets.

4. The Documentation

Help Scout Email

An example of a Help Scout Email

Finally, I hate spam and unsolicited email as much as the next person. Truth be told, I unsubscribe automatically from almost any email that enters my inbox that I didn’t explicitly sign up for.

For whatever reason – and this is probably for a personal issue more than anything – it’s infuriates me, but that’s a whole other post, I think :).

That said, Help Scout periodically sends emails introducing new features. The emails are incredibly simple, too. They include their logo, a video of the new feature (which averages probably two minutes – just enough for anyone’s Internet-attention-span), and a link to the page on the web.

It’s so well done, looks so good, and doesn’t require that much time to keep up to date that I actually enjoy seeing what it is they are introducing.

So far, they’re batting 1000 when it comes to impressing me with features.

There’s More To Come

Obviously, I haven’t shared a lot of what it’s like using Help Scout – this is primarily because I won’t be releasing my next plugin until the next couple of weeks, because I’ve got a rebrand happening, and because there are a few other things that I have to put in place before I’m ready to completely go live with everything.

Anyway, I did want to go ahead and share what I’ve settled on as I’ve begun to build up (or re-build) this part of the business if for nothing else than the sake of being consistent with my past posts.

There will be more to come as I use Help Scout for WordPress support over the next few months.


  1. Jason Resnick

    I’ve been using Help Scout for our business and it is really a simple and extremely helpful tool — I think you made a great choice.

    • Tom McFarlin

      Thanks Jason – so far, the setup and configuration is seamless.

      Next month is when it’ll be put seriously put to the test, so we’ll see. It’s deviation from what we at 8BIT use, but I’m optimistic it’ll work fine for my needs.

  2. Adam W. Warner

    +1 for HelpScout. We have completely switched to using it now for the very reasons you indicated above.

    One thing that wasn’t mentioned above that’s been very powerful for our team is their “Email Commands” found here.

    For those who aren’t familiar, these are simple @ tags that allow you to do things like assign tickets, add private notes, etc., but the beauty is that it’s all done within your simple email reply.

    Pretty powerful stuff:)

    • Tom McFarlin

      Ah, thanks for sharing that on Email Commands – I think that’s significantly important for those who have more than a single person working on a team or for those who have a number of different products.

  3. John Turner

    I’ve seen a lot of people switching to Helpscout but I’m trying to see the benefit over something like Zendesk.

    For me I don’t want people emailing as the 1st act of support. Most questions I get already have an answer. With Zendesk I can force the user to search the knowledge base 1st and then if an answer is not found then they can open a ticket if it’s not found.I’m not sure if help has an integrated knowledge base but this is a key feature for me.

    Zendesk has a mail api so I can answer and close tickets from my email without logging into Zendesk just like Helpscout. Example: use #solved in the email.

    Maybe I just need to try it to see :) Anyway best of luck on your new venture Tom!

    • Adam W. Warner

      That’s a good point John. The way we “force” people to read our docs is to make it a required field in our support form (which forwards to our HelpScout mailbox).

      “Did you read the FAQs and Documentation?

      Not fool proof, but we’ve found that it’s helped quite a bit. Of course, that means we maintain our FAQs and Docs on our site too…and we chose to do that on site rather than through a service like Zen because we get the added opportunity for SEO and search traffic.

      Right or wrong, that was our thinking in setting it up this way;)

      • John Turner

        Good to know Adam, yeah the last thing I want is people emailing me whenever they can’t figure something out just by searching :)

        • Adam W. Warner

          Yeah, but unfortunately, there will always be those who jump straight to support first…nature of the beast I suppose;)

    • Tom McFarlin

      Hopefully this isn’t a conflict of interest, but we – at 8BIT – use ZenDesk and have been for years at this point.

      For the scale of the stuff we do, it works well and we’ve got some much invested in it at this point between the amount of data, amount of users, our workflows, and even how our team gets stuff done, we’re locked in.

      With my own business, I have more flexibility. In fact, I experimented with ZenDesk for a year with my previous too products but I personally found it overkill for my own workflows – but that’s just me.

      FWIW, I think it’s a stellar product, but for where I’m headed, Help Scout seems to fit the bill a bit better.

  4. Nick Francis

    Tom – As a founder, I’d just like to say that we’re honored you chose Help Scout. Customers like you that write articles like this have helped us grow the business the right way and we are extremely grateful. Thank you so much for letting us be a small part of the business you are building.

    • Adam W. Warner

      Hi Nick, nice to see you chiming in here. You may have guessed by now, but HS is getting quite a name in the WordPress plugin dev community:)

    • Tom McFarlin

      Sure thing, Nick – and thanks for taking the time to comment!

      Looking forward to putting it to the teest in the coming weeks and I’m sure I’m have more to say as things pan out.

      You guys have a solid product and I’m eager to put it to good use.

  5. Phil Derksen

    HelpScout looks fantastic, but I think once you’re invested in a system it’s a burden to switch even if they’d serve you better. Same with apps for accounting or project management and such.

    Like John I picked Zendesk last year and it works good enough for now. I’d rather direct folks to search the KB first too.

    But it seems all the established ones, HelpScout and Zendesk included, seem to have a pretty extensive API and Zapier hooks so customization shouldn’t be a problem. There’s also WP-based support systems that work for a lot of plugin shops as well.

    In any case I appreciate all the posts on plugin support issues here Tom. I need to share some of mine as well. We can all learn a lot from each other’s experiences.

    • Tom McFarlin

      HelpScout looks fantastic, but I think once you’re invested in a system it’s a burden to switch even if they’d serve you better. Same with apps for accounting or project management and such.

      I’d agree with this. In fact, this is why I literally took months deliberately evaluating every system.

      I wanted to make sure I didn’t have to make to switch in a few months – I’ve been burned by that before.

      No fan, for sure.

      As I mentioned to John, my startup uses ZenDesk and have had a great experience with them, too.

      For a single person, though, I found I couldn’t quite get it to mesh with my workflow.

      We can all learn a lot from each other’s experiences.

      Absolutely – I love hearing how fellow developers get their stuff done. Nothing is sacred, you know?

  6. Mally

    Hi, how do you deal with spam on helpscout. I’ve recently started using it but I’ve found alot of spam is appearing. thanks Mally

    • Tom McFarlin

      Heya Mally – good question! Honestly, since everything passes through Gmail for me first, nothing has seeped through because it’s being caught by Google’s spam catcher.

      That said, I haven’t been using it long enough to see this happen yet.

      What mail service are you using that maps to Help Scout?

    • Nick Francis

      Hey Molly,

      There are several ways we can jump in and help you with that … would you mind emailing our support team? help(at)helpscout(dot)net is our email and we’d love to get the spam under control for you. :-)

  7. Sean

    i use hs,, works good, no native app :/ , not sure why actually? and would like to see more integrations, harvest etc. Checking out groove hq,, the seem pretty good too, sherpadesk looks pretty sweet too, but zendesk has tooo much bs, freshdesk rose quick and changed pricing model entirely, not worth it imo.

  8. Dragan Nikolic

    Thanks for the review, Tom.

    1. What happens to all the content exchanged (tickets, answers) on Help Scout if one decides to switch to a different support service?

    2. Is your Help Scout database searchable, so you (or customers) can easily find previously asked questions/answers?

    • Tom McFarlin

      1. Honestly, I’m not sure. That’s one bridge I’ll cross if I ever get to it.
      2. This is available for the higher end plans either via integration with third-party services or use of the API, but for the plan I’m using, I’m simply using it as a ticketing system for now.

      I’ll scale up as the need arises :).

      • Dragan Nikolic

        I sometimes try to think ahead, that’s why I asked.

        Thanks again.

        • Tom McFarlin

          I used to do that – that’s not to say I don’t now – but at this early in the game, it’s not something I’m particularly worried about.

          I do have experience with other systems like ZenDesk, for example, but for the purposes that I need for now, Help Scout’s been good.

          ZenDesk has more along the line of what you’re looking for – at least in my experience :).

  9. Chris Howard

    Hey Tom

    How’s life with Help Scout going? I’ve been looking at it and like what I see. Have you found any limitations? e.g. I like custom fields so I can track and filter on extra info, but HS doesn’t have that.

    Currently using ZenDesk, and relatively happy, but really like the HS UI, and the absence of fat.

    The price of all these things, including Help Scout, concerns me. They are all cheap at the bottom but are quite a jump to the first level.

    ZenDesk is a massive jump from $20/yr for their starter plan to $25/user/mth for the next level. Help Scout isn’t much better, at $15/user/mth.

    However, I do find though ZenDesk provides more features for their base plan than Help Scout.

    In fact, Help Scout is almost pointless on the free plan since there’s no reporting and no workflows, which would be mandatory requirements for most people. (Both of these are included with the base ZD). ZD, on the other hand, lacks important things like using your own domain. HelpScout’s Docs addon for knowledge base is very pricey at $25/mth.

    Seems every time I start comparing help systems, I talk myself out of all of them!!

    This is my list of wants, and I’m yet to find anyone who fulfils it at a reasonable cost.

    – Email submission
    – Web form submission
    – Tags
    – Filters/Views
    – Reporting incl on Agents
    – Permanent data access for reporting (I’m looking at you!)
    – 7 day support from vendor

    Highly desirable
    – Custom fields
    – Apps/extensions/intergration, esp Mailchimp, GitHub, ScreenSteps
    – Knowledge base with public portal

    – ZenDesk data import
    – Collision avoidance
    – Custom domain for email and website
    – Pay via PayPal
    – API

    – Customer access
    – Design branding

    The thing that niggles me is I find the pricing structures of these tools encourage me to cut corners.

    Help Scout Docs is a good example, $25/mth makes me want to look for a cheaper alternative – especially when I’m already going to have to fork out $120/yr for ScreenSteps.

    ZenDesk wanting to charge me $25/agent/mth just to get domain mapping is another. I have 3 agents, so that’s $75/mth. Ouch!

    If anyone knows of any system that offers good value between cost and features, without ridiculous leaps in pricing between levels, please let me know!

    • Tom

      For the time being, I’ve actually pulled back from using any particular help desk solution as the majority of anything I’m selling (which is, right now, primarily Mayer has it’s own built-in support forum with

      As I consider options for releasing it to (and as I worked with another project that I’ll discuss later) that’s eventually going to work on, I’m thinking of going with FreshDesk thought I’m still doing research.

      To be honest, finding a good support solution that has everything I want is tough. In addition to having email and RSS feed notifications, I also want to be able to segment users by tag / license type, have a searchable knowledge base (for questions that are asked over and over again — or FAQs, I suppose :), and more.

      As the WordPress Plugin Bioilerplate ramps up, we’ll also be likely looking for a forum or some ideas for how to manage user requests on it, though we haven’t discussed that too much.

      Anyway, all that to say that I’m no longer using HelpDesk and am still on the lookout for the ideal solution for my needs. I know this isn’t much help, but helpfully it’s better than nothing ;).

      • Chris Howard

        Thanks, Tom. I’d kinda dismissed FreshDesk as a ZenDesk clone bloated with heaps more stuff than I’d need. I did used to use FD a couple of years ago and did like it, but had forgotten why it is good. And it’s even better now.

        So I’d only given FD a cursory look until your response prompted me to look a bit more closely.

        And within a couple of hours I’d decided it was the one the most closely matched my needs.

        Key reasons for choosing it:

        Allows submission by email
        Excellent knowledge base integration

        The last two really killed Help Scout’s chances, especially cost. The bare minimum I could get away with HS was $30/month (2 users). And I would have to forgo their knowledge base system, as that was another $25/mth.

        The cost of FreshDesk with 3 users, integrated knowledge base, basic reporting, custom domain, email submission, web form submission, api, third party integration etc… $0! Yeah, zero!

        That absolutely killed any chance HS had. I’d put up with all the bloat for that! And the icing was the knowledge integration in the submission form – that’s the best thing ever.

        I liked HS and would recommend them if you are happy with their free plan, but once you have to pay, then others are much better value in a feature-for-feature comparison.

        So, thanks for the nudge to look at FreshDesk properly!

        • Tom

          Of course! I think a lot of us are all in the same boat with this stuff, so why not share our experiences, right? :)

          • Chris Howard

            Too right! That’s exactly why I’ve posted here. Your post helped me, even though it’s 12 mths old. (It’s nice to put value back into an older post by reinvigorating and updating the discussion.)
            And if I pull my finger out, am hoping to write a full piece on my experiences.

            Thanks, again.

  10. Chris Howard

    Thanks, Tom

    I must revisit FreshDesk. I was using it a couple of years ago.

    One thing I’ve learned just today, find a system that works by receiving email thru your support email. That way when you change systems, it’s seamless for the users. Help Scout does it, FreshDesk does it, ZenDesk doesn’t. So now I’ve got a unfortunate pain and hassle of changing from ZD – will probably have to keep monitoring it for a while longer.

  11. Vitaliy Verbenko

    I think what HelpScout is trying to address is a valid point in the helpdesk sphere, as simplicity in helpdesks will always be a top virtue. Freshdesk is offering a higher level of features and more top-heavy tools. Helprace is another contender that adds an feedback community and widget to its helpdesk.

    Nevertheless, helpdesk selection shouldn’t be taken lightly – simply because every company is different! What’s good for the goose isn’t going to be good for the horse (as I like to say :))

    These are the questions you can ask yourself:

    -Do you want to offer phone or chat support? Or maybe just chat and cut out the phone altogether?

    -How much do you want to pay? Helprace offers assignment and customized views in its free plan but not automation. Then again, the feature-packed plan will run you only $18 a month per agent.

    -Will you be rolling out an additional set of products? Some vendors offer unlimited categories in the support portal.

    -What kind of support do you want to provide? A help desk is a given. If you invest in a self-service portal, your tickets will be deflected but support still has to be quality.

    -What about a community on your website, that allows users to leave feedback, suggest idea, give praise. Your agents and other fellow users can all engage out in the open. Again, SEO isn’t important to everyone, but maybe to some it is.

    I hope I could shed some light on the issue. Disclaimer: I do work for Helprace but I do believe it’s a powerful tool, especially when it comes to features available in the free plan.

  12. Daniele

    Hi Tom and all,

    Thanks for the article!

    Did you find a way to work around the unavailability of custom fields in HelpScout?

    It seems like the users can only use Subject/Message forms.


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