Small business’s customer service dilemma: Salesforce or Service Cloud Essentials?

Browsing through Salesforce offerings, small businesses may feel as if they were at a huge, noisy, exotic market somewhere in Asia: there’s so much to see that they don’t know where to look. Not to give out too much of their budgets on such a bright variety of products, small businesses must concentrate hard to find what they need. And this is also the case with Salesforce customer service tools – Service Cloud and Service Cloud has 4 editions, the first of which (Essentials) fits small businesses’ needs and wallets better. So, let’s see what Service Cloud Essentials (SCE) and are capable of to make an informed decision.

Functionality showdown

To juxtapose and Service Cloud Essentials better, let’s look at how they support 4 main aspects of a customer service tool:

  1. Multiple channel support
  2. Case management
  3. Knowledge base
  4. Performance analytics

Here’s the overall functionality in brief. However, its simpler editions may exclude some features (we’ll focus on this peculiarity in the section below).

At a quick glance, everything seems alright. Desk enables all needed case management procedures with some of them being automatic, for instance, case escalation and assignment. This helps customer service work quickly and neatly. Auto-notifications make sure agents don’t miss anything important and macros save their time by automating routine actions. Case record fields are customizable. Desk supports almost all channels small businesses need. Its UI is very friendly. And besides this all, allows creating a self-service customer portal, which takes some load off agents.

Yet, Desk has a couple of weaknesses:

  1. Its reporting and analytics functionality is not strong enough for delivering real in-depth insights that tell more than just, say, the number of cases that came from Twitter.
  2. You can’t track opportunities or see the ‘bigger picture’ of your customers’ history with your company. Such an ability is nice for companies that want to stay on top of their sales matters and see how customer service affects them. However, if you’re only starting to set up your customer service processes, this is not a must.

Service Cloud Essentials

The overall functionality of Salesforce Service Cloud offers a variety of capabilities that means much more for customer service management than what is shown below. Here, we look at Service Cloud Essentials (SCE) specifically.

Again, all looks good. SCE helps resolve cases faster with automatic routing, prioritization, and escalation. Notifications, macros and email templates increase agent productivity. If you feel Service Cloud lacks a tool that agents need, you can create it in App Builder. The channels cover everything a small business may need (apart from phone: there’s no Computer Telephony Integration). Agents access knowledge base articles from case records, which is convenient. Reporting helps managers get department and agent performance insights. And, best of all, you can manage leads and contacts and track opportunities. However, SCE has some weak spots:

  1. You can’t create a self-service customer portal.
  2. There’s only 1 license for Service Console. It means only 1 of your agents will be able to use it, while the rest will have to deal with standard semi-convenient case lists and views.

Pricing battle

You can find more details on and Service Cloud Essentials pricing on their official websites, but here’s the baseline.

Service Cloud Essentials

The Service Cloud Essentials edition costs $25 per user per month. And its biggest limitation is that you can only have 5 users. So, if your call center consists of 5 agents and a manager, you’d have to buy the next edition (Professional) that, although has a bit more extended functionality, costs more – $75.


Salesforce Desk doesn’t come at one price as well. It has 4 editions ($3/$20/$60/$100 per user per month). And, since Service Cloud costs $25, it would be fair to compare it to Desk’s first 2 editions – Starter and Standard. The buzzkill is that they have limitations as to what we saw in the table above:

  • Both lack CTI, which means you can cross “phone” off the list of supported channels.
  • You can’t monitor customer satisfaction rates (but neither can you in SCE).
  • The Starter edition doesn’t enable any reporting and case routing and doesn’t support live chat and community Q&A.

Both editions still have most of the features needed for cases management, building a self-service customer portal and supporting and increasing agent productivity.

The result

Considering the rough overlap of functionalities, the choice really comes down to the number of licenses you need and the features you can give up on.

If you need about 3 users and you don’t want any overly complicated functionality, you can go with Desk Starter. Though with limitations, it should suffice for companies who are in the beginning of their customer service journey.

If you need not more than 5 users but you’d like to taste some of the more elaborate features, you can choose either Desk Standard or Service Cloud Essentials. allows you to create a customer portal and SCE enables you to have access to sales information.

If you have more than 5 users, you should definitely go with Desk. The edition may be Standard or even Pro – they both are still cheaper than Service Cloud Professional.

And if you’d like to use Sales Cloud as well, you should look at the Sales + Service pack that costs $100/user/month (both Professional with no user limit). Or choose Sales Cloud Essentials (for up to 5 users) with Desk Standard or Pro, which would make up $45 or $85/user/month. However, you would need to set some money aside for Sales Cloud + integration.

Happy choosing and may your customers be ever satisfied!

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