The latest candidate in my customer portal software search is Zendesk, and I must say, I like what I'm seeing. Essentially, Zendesk is a pretty straightforward customer support ticketing system with support for web, email, phone, chat, Twitter, and Facebook. It has self-service help, community help, forum, ideas, and knowledgebase functionality. It's cloud-based. It already has some pre-built integrations with Salesforce.com. But here's the best part -- instead of charging you for the number of customers that you have accessing your portal, Zendesk just charges you by the customer service agent seat.
Salesforce.com's closest offering is desk.com which provides similar (but appears to be more limited) functionality. However, desk.com caps your monthly customer page views. They also offer a flex agent seat, enabling you to allocate temporary agent status on a billable hour basis. And, while I like the potential flexibility that this offers, it's still difficult to shake the feeling that, rather than flexibility, this is a calculated move enabling them to keep one hand on my wallet.
So if you're looking for a customer portal solution, I still don't have a definitive suggestion for you. I can safely say that Salesforce.com's customer portal has priced itself out of the market in my book. Perhaps the only thing funnier was when I got pricing from Jive. With Jive, it seems like they dove into the madness pricing pool that Salesforce was swimming in and enjoyed it so much that they decided to jump back in.
Like CRM and many other enterprise software applications, many solutions claim to offer the same features, so realistically, it's best to work with your potential users to understand their requirements and then compare products with some hands-on time. That being said, I'm pretty impressed with my initial evaluation of Zendesk as a potential solution for my customer portal application.