How to Choose the Best Live Chat Software for Your Business (2023)
The market for live chat software is predicted to increase to $1.7 billion in 2030. Couple this with LiveChat’s own studies that show that “customers expect to chat online with businesses,” and the takeaway is clear: failing to provide this service can put you behind your competitors.
So, if you’ve yet to offer customers live chat support, you’ll be pleased to hear plenty of affordable, easy-to-use live chat software is available.
Hopefully, by the end of this article, you’ll be better able to choose the right software for your business. So, stick with us as we aim to answer the question: how to choose the best live chat software?
Let’s dive in!
Why Should You Invest in Live Chat Software?
This stat speaks for itself: As many as 41% of customers prefer live chat over phone or email support.
The reason for this is simple: The waiting times for live chat are much lower. In fact, The Generation Z communication Trends report shows that the average first response time for live chats in 2022 was below 40 seconds! Pretty quick, right?
Also, like phone support, there’s a real person on the other side of the chat. So, customers still feel they’re getting helpful answers from someone who knows what they’re talking about.
Plus, as mentioned in the intro, many hate talking to strangers on the phone – it fills them with nerves! As such, live chat presents a more comfortable option. Not to mention, unlike telephone support, you can hop on live chat regardless of how noisy your environment is.
It’s also worth noting that 51% of customers like multitasking while using live chat. Even a short wait time isn’t so bad when you can watch a Youtube video while you wait or go about your workday.
On top of that, live chat software usually makes it easy for customer support agents to send links to help articles or product recommendations. Some platforms also have chatbot functionality, automated ticket routing, and/or the option to answer FAQs automatically with pre-written responses. All these features better enable you to provide quick but effective customer support while freeing up your agent’s time to focus on more complex customer support queries.
Usually, customers can also upload pictures of faulty products/whatever their problem is to better illustrate what they need help with. Finally, some live chat tools even allow customers and agents to jump onto a voice call. This multi-media approach often leads to faster and more efficient problem resolution.
What to Consider When Choosing Live Chat Software
Before diving into some of our top live chat software recommendations, it’s wise to consider which features are indispensable to your business. With this list of must-haves at the forefront of your mind, it will be easier to assess whether a particular solution is right for you.
So with that said, here are some things you might want to keep in mind while shopping for live chat software:
Remember, your live chat widget will be another element on your website. So, it’s important it ties in as well as it can with your overall brand.
At the bare minimum, it’s worth ensuring the software you’re considering allows you to pick your live chat widget’s dominant colors. However, some tools allow for even more customization than that. For example, you can use color gradients, iconography, fonts, and more.
If this is important to you, look toward tools like Tidio, PureChat, or Chaport.
Customers are increasingly interacting with businesses on their mobiles. In fact, as many as 62% of customers expect to be able to use live chat from their mobile devices.
So, keep in mind whether the live chat tool will operate as well on mobile devices as on desktops. Fortunately, every software we mention below has its own dedicated mobile app and provides an excellent service for your mobile users.
Any live chat software worth its salt aims to free up your agent’s time by answering simple customer questions without input. To achieve this, you can usually instruct a chatbot on how to handle specific messages/questions.
Don’t underestimate the power of automation. In 2019 alone, organizations using chatbots saved $300,000 on average because chatbots can handle nearly 70% of chats from start to finish, meaning no one gets dragged away from their work. Instead, chatbots can respond immediately and automate simple tasks. For instance, booking reservations, searching your knowledge base and linking customers to relevant resources, and referring customers to your returns and refunds policy, all within seconds.
The bottom line: When chatbots are appropriately utilized, you can offer effective customer support 24/7. However, suppose a shopper prefers human interaction. In that case, they often merely need to click a button to be wired through to an agent.
It’s also worth highlighting that some live chat tools boast the following automation capabilities:
- Abandoned cart chatbots can boost eCommerce revenue by 7-25%. Here, the chatbot automatically tracks a customer’s behavior on-site. Then, if they add an item to the cart and abandon it, the chat automatically sends them a message to prompt them back to complete their purchase. This could include a discount to sweeten the deal!
- Product recommendations based on your visitor’s data. For example, suppose a user has shown interest in a particular product. Then, the chatbot can link them to similar products and even offer a discount per your specification.
- Determine the type of inquiry to link the customer to the support agent most qualified to deal with the ticket.
Many such automation features are only available with more advanced chatbot tools. For instance, HubSpot’s full marketing suite or Zendesk’s chatbot automation.
It’s also worth considering how the prospective live chat software will integrate with your other support channels.
Ideally, your incoming live chat messages will sync with a shared inbox that also displays your social media messages and emails.
If you’re a small business just getting started, you might be able to handle each channel separately. However, if you’re planning on expanding your operations, ensure the live chat software you’re considering has the potential to fit seamlessly with your omnichannel support strategy.
On top of integrating with your socials and email provider, the right live chat software should also integrate with your other business tools. For instance, your CRM, preferred messaging apps (like Slack), and your chosen eCommerce/website platform.
You’ll often find the most advanced shared inboxes provided by solutions that focus on omnichannel customer service beyond just live chat. However, to help kickstart your research, we reckon Hubspot, Zendesk, and Freshchat offer pretty decent shared inbox functionality.
Needless to say, as your customer support team expands, quality assurance becomes all the more critical. Fortunately, many live chat tools allow managers to monitor chats and take over at any point. This provides excellent training opportunities to support new agents and helps you see how effective agents are in their interactions.
Just as a heads up, Zendesk, Freshdesk, and ZohoDesk all offer operator monitoring capabilities.
Chat rating functionality isn’t something all businesses will require. However, it’s valuable for specific use cases.
As you’ve probably already guessed, a chat rating feature allows you to request customer feedback once the chat’s closed. This can help you understand how well live chat is working for you, whether your agents are doing a good job, and what could be improved.
Customer feedback is helpful in all areas of your business, so the ability to design a simple customer survey that appears at the end of a chat could help you garner valuable insights.
If this is a vital feature for your business, consider live chat tools like LiveChat or LiveAgent.
Finally, ensure you choose a reputable software provider. Often live chat invites customers to share personal and sometimes sensitive information. As such, hackers might see it as an opportunity to obtain valuable data. So, the best live chat software should provide security features to ensure complete privacy for your customers.
On top of that, check how the vendor keeps customer data safe. You don’t want them to have access to that data themselves nor allow them to transfer it to third parties. There should also be a system to filter spam and malware, especially if the chat enables users to upload attachments.
The Best Live Chat Software: My Recommendations
So, now that we’ve covered the basics let’s take a gander at some of my favorite live chat tools:
LiveChat is one of the most popular live chat tools for ecommerce websites. It’s used by over 37,000 companies and supports over 75 million chats each month. In addition, you can use LiveChat to connect with customers through Facebook Messenger, Instagram, via the chat widget on your site, or even through SMS.
Some of its most notable features include the following:
- You can create and save canned messages to use at a later date, which you can then edit for future use.
- Chat tags: Agents can better organize chats by status, urgency, or anything else important to them.
- Rich messages: Combine text, images, buttons, and quick replies to create more engaging messages.
- File sharing during live chat
- The ability to create chat archives
- Inactivity messages: It’s easy to inform a customer if an agent is unavailable. In the same message, you can also ask the customer for their email address to get back in touch with a response as soon as possible.
- Receive notifications when there’s a ticket to handle, new visitors on your site, incoming chats, etc.
- You can transfer chats to other agents.
- Chat rating functionality
LiveChat also comes with chat widget customization. You can pick your color theme and choose the shape of your chat window when it’s minimized. You can even check your chat’s contrast for accessibility. On top of that, you can set up individual agent profiles and offer multi-lingual support with a fully translated chat widget.
In addition, you’ll receive reports and analytics on your tickets, agents, chats, and more. For instance, the number of missed chats, total chats, chat engagements, greetings conversions, tickets concluded per agent, and more.
There’s also a myriad of customer engagement features. For example, you can invite visitors to chat using eye-catching animated icons. You can source animations for LiveChat’s library or create your own. These pop up in the corner of the customer’s screen to draw attention to the LiveChat widget.
I also like that when chatting live with a customer, you can switch to ‘messaging mode’ at any time. This closely resembles social messaging apps like Whatsapp, where you can chat with customers offline and online. I.e., neither you nor your customers have to respond right away to keep the chat going – either party can get back whenever they’re free (and have an internet connection) to respond.
You’ll also get access to the respondent’s chat history, so you’ll never forget what’s previously been discussed with the customer.
LiveChat integrates with Shopify, Squarespace, Mailchimp, Hubspot, Whatsapp, and Facebook. But these are only a few of its over 200 integrations. Through these integrations, LiveChat supports a smooth multi-channel approach.
LiveChat’s pricing ranges from $20 to $69 (per agent per month). Although the Starter plan offers a great set of features, you’ll have to upgrade to unlock SMS messaging, create custom customer segments, chat takeover and tagging, file sharing, and most of LiveChat’s analytics features.
Further reading 📚
LiveChat Review: Clean Live Chat and Lead Generation with an Excellent Price Tag
LiveChat Pricing: The Complete Guide for 2023
HubSpot is an advanced digital marketing suite that offers tools across various user cases, like marketing, sales, operations, and customer service. While it’s pricing often steers higher, the platform also provides a range of free tools, including free live chat software.
HubSpot’s chat tool allows you to route customer inquiries to the right agents. You can also customize the chat’s accent color and placement to match your brand’s aesthetic. However, on the free plan, this comes with HubSpot’s branding on it.
To boost engagement, you can trigger targeted messages on different web pages. For example, offering to answer refund-related questions when customers visit your terms and conditions. You can also segment your audience based on their demographic and behavior to send more personalized messages and reward loyal visitors with discounts.
All conversations are saved and stored automatically and are added to the customer’s interaction timeline, enabling your service team to keep tabs on relevant customer information.
HubSpot also comes with a chatbot that can do the following on the limited free plan:
- Qualify leads: Use the chatbot to gather information about a visitor and their reason for being on-site.
- Book meetings
- Answer frequently asked questions with up to five canned responses
All conversations sync with a universal inbox. You can take notes, send emails, make calls, schedule follow-up conversations, create tasks, and tag support tickets. HubSpot also comes with a free Slack integration.
The great advantage of HubSpot is that aside from its free live chat tool, you’ll find a wide range of other free ‘hubs’ available. Then, when you’re ready to expand further, you can unlock more features with the paid-for Service Hub. The Starter plan costs $45 per month, which includes two users. Additional users are priced at $23 per month. A step up from this is the Professional plan, which also includes comprehensive help desk software and a flurry of more advanced features, starting at $450 per month (including five users, additional users cost extra.).
Zendesk offers live chat and messaging capabilities across two products:
- Zendesk for sales
- Zendesk for service
The Zendesk Service suite includes the majority of features covered below. However, those interested in selling can additionally purchase Zendesk for Sales to unlock a range of tools dedicated to managing and closing sales.
On the company’s website, you can check out a neat demo of its live chat tool from both the customer’s and seller’s side.
Zendesk allows you to offer support via your customers’ favorite channels, including Whatsapp, Facebook Messenger, and Instagram, as well as email and even voice (with its cloud-based call center software built into Zendesk).
You can build an integrated help center and community forum. Then, when customers use your live chat widget, they can define the topics they’re interested in, and Zendesk will propose helpful articles and resources.
In addition, you can use AI to provide instant answers to customers. There’s also an advanced shared inbox where you’ll benefit from agent routing capabilities, collaboration tools (like side conversations with agents to discuss a current live chat, private comments, Slack and Microsoft Teams integrations, and more), and access to the respondent’s chat history. Also, through Zendesk’s Shopify integration, you can track customers’ previous interactions with your Shopify store.
Alternatively, if you purchase Zendesk Sales, you’ll benefit from a CRM that handles the following:
- Activity tracking: Set tasks and track their completion
- Lead generation: Compile targeted lead lists with access to data from over 44 million businesses
- Contact and deal management: Get notifications whenever action is needed to complete a deal, see when you might need to reach out to a lead to keep them warm, etc.
Zendesk Sell works seamlessly with Zendesk Support and Chat.
In addition, you can:
- Set triggers to automate tasks: For example, when a customer closes a deal, you can automatically send an invoice or set a reminder to follow up.
- Review critical customer information: Including previous interactions, contact information, timezone, language, etc.
- Enjoy complete pipeline visibility. Add and delete pipeline stages, set up custom fields, customize the layout of deal cards in each pipeline, and more.
Zendesk for Service plans start from $49 per agent per month and go up to $99 per agent per month. The most expensive plan unlocks advanced voice capabilities, integrated community forums, a customizable dashboard, and much more.
If you don’t need all of Zendesk’s Service suite features, there’s a cheaper foundational support plan for only $19 per month. This comes with an integrated ticketing system, agent routing, business rules (these are automations applied to tickets based on simple if-x-do-y conditions, like routing customers from a specific geographic zone to an agent who speaks the relevant language), interaction history, and some reporting and analytics features.
Zendesk for Sales starts at $19 per user per month (billed annually). This grants you two customizable pipelines, the ability to set tasks and appointments, email and calendar integration, and 2GB of document storage. There’s also a Growth plan for $49 per month and a Professional plan for $99 per month.
Tidio is a live chat tool for small and medium-sized businesses hoping to improve their reach through excellent customer service.
It comes with a range of useful live chat features. For example, you can preview what customers are typing, enabling you to prepare a response quicker. You can also offer automatic discounts based on customer data, review visitor information, automate chat with AI, monitor ticket volume, customer satisfaction score, net promoter score, customer churn rate, etc., and more.
Tidio’s chatbot can also make product recommendations and message customers that have abandoned their cart. Customers can even place orders directly via the chat widget, and you can offer free shipping on orders above a certain amount.
You can also use Tidio’s chatbot to generate leads by prompting users to supply their email addresses and/or phone numbers. On top of this, the chatbot can measure customer satisfaction with a survey, automatically reply to missed conversations, and send a message to visitors if an operator has been inactive for some time.
Operators will also receive notifications when a customer wants to leave the site, closes the chat window, or wants to set up a chat with a human agent. Tidio also comes with user segmentation.
The platform integrates with eCommerce solutions and several email and analytics apps. In total, there are 30 integrations available.
Tidio’s pricing reflects its target audience. There’s a free plan if you’re just getting started. This allows live chat with 50 unique customers per month and chatbot use for 100 customers per month. It also comes with a ticketing system and access to visitor info.
Paid plans start at $15.83 per agent per month and unlock unlimited conversations. However, if you want to add more advanced chatbot features, you might be looking at the Chatbots plan for $32.50 per month. This is an add-on, so it isn’t priced per operator.
Are You Ready to Use the Best Live Chat Software for Your Business?
Overall, I think it’s plain to see that using the right live chat software presents an immense opportunity to level up your customer service game. Also, eCommerce-focused chatbots offer new ways to improve your revenue. For instance, you can recover abandoned carts and propose attractive deals to your customers.
Best of all, feature-rich live chat software doesn’t have to be expensive. If you’re looking for an easy-to-use option on a budget, we recommend checking out Tidio for your basic needs. Alternatively, check out HubSpot if you’re after a more advanced live chat solution. In contrast, I think LiveChat offers the best value for money. It’s an affordable live chat tool, but you can upgrade when you’re ready to invest more in your customer service and sales strategy.
That’s all from us; let us know in the comments below which live chat software you chose and how you reached your choice!