For quite some time now, live chat has been helping businesses increase conversion and retention rates while improving overall customer experience.
At the dawn of customer service, live chats were just a simple window where you could exchange messages with your customers and assist them with their issues.
Now, it’s a powerful channel for attracting leads through proactive messages, onboarding them with the help of chat messages, converting, upselling, measuring customer satisfaction and virtually consolidating all your customer communication in one tool.
If you get yourself a powerful and feature-rich tool, that is.
So, how exactly can one choose the best live chat software solution? What features should you pay attention to? And how to not overspend?
We’ve selected 6 best live chat software, so all that is left to do is to choose the one for you.
HelpCrunch — live chat + knowledge base software
Broadly speaking, HelpCrunch is an all-in-one customer service tool, which offers a live chat functionality as part of its toolset. And it is one of the coolest things about this software.
Even on the standard subscription plan, you get the Knowledge Base included in your toolset. This means that you can not only install live chat on your website but also create a self-help portal for customers to find answers to common questions 24/7.
Even though HelpCrunch offers this wide range of customer service tools and features, live chat is at the core of this software. They invest lots of resources in maintaining and improving it constantly.
Here are just a few of their live chat features:
- The most customization options. You can customize everything in the HelpCrunch live chat widget — from colors and sizes to wallpapers and custom CSS.
- Auto messages. Send chat messages to your visitors and customers proactively based on their actions and personal data.
- Chat manual messages. You can install the HelpCrunch live chat software on your app and send chat messages to your customers with its help. Chat manual messages are just like email newsletters, but much more granular and, well, better targeted.
- Saved responses. You can save replies to all the most common questions in advance and send them instantly to customers.
- Knowledge base integration. If an issue demands more detailed instructions, you can insert a knowledge base article into your answer. You won’t even have to switch between browser tabs to find it as the HelpCrunch Knowledge Base is integrated into its agent chat.
- Pre-chat and offline forms. Capture your leads’ email addresses even if you’re offline. Set up a pre-chat or offline form so that customers can give their email addresses and leave the chat to do their things — and you can reach them later via email.
- Typing insight and message sneak peek. On top of a traditional typing insight feature which shows your support reps when a customer’s typing their message, HelpCrunch also shows you a real-time message sneak peek. Your team will be able to see customers’ messages before they’re sent.
- Live chat reports. HelpCrunch offers two kinds of live chat reports — on customer satisfaction, which is based on post-chat surveys, and on your support team’s performance.
- Mobile SDKs. If you’re looking for the best live chat software to install on your mobile app, HelpCrunch has nice iOS and Android SDKs.
A nice additional touch to everything above-mentioned is the fact that HelpCrunch offers its iOS and Android apps, which are available for download. You can provide stellar customer support with just your phone.
HelpCrunch has two tiers to their pricing plans — ‘Live Chat’ and ‘Live Chat + Emails’.
The Standard ‘Live Chat’ plan costs only $15/mo for each team member you want to add to your dashboard. It includes unlimited chat manual chats and chat history, a full-fledged knowledge base, 3 concurrent auto messages and popups.
For the $25/mo/team member, you can get 5 different chat widgets, unlimited auto messages, popups and remove the HelpCrunch branding from your live chat widget.
If you’re interested in adding email functionality to your live chat, HelpCrunch’s ‘Live chat + Emails’ subscriptions start at $29/mo/team member
HelpCrunch is a great fit for small and mid-size businesses looking for a live chat software solution that will allow you to consolidate all customer service in one simple dashboard.
Not only does it offer one of the richest live chat functionalities out there, it also allows companies to capture more leads, nurture them and convert faster into paying customers.
Olark — mature live chat software
Olark is a mono-solution offering only live chat functionality. On the plus side, it’s an old and mature solution that has perfected each of its live chat features and knows what they’re doing.
- Real-time visitor list. Olark shows you the list of people who are browsing your website at the moment so that you can use your chat widget to reach out to them.
- Some customization options like a dark theme, chat box position, and button style.
- Attention grabbers. You can display an additional image above your chat box to attract visitors’ attention. Olark offers a gallery of default attention grabbers including those dedicated to specific holidays, but you can upload your custom image.
- Third-party integrations. You can integrate virtually any software solutions with Olark – e.g. HubSpot, MailChimp, Zendesk, etc.
- Rich real-time reports. Olark provides reports on customer satisfaction, team’s overall performance, agents’ activity, busiest hours that update in real time.
- Chat forms like pre-chat or offline surveys which help you collect customers’ data.
- Saved responses. You can save any chat response and make it accessible either for yourself or for the whole team.
- Auto messages. You can send behavior-based automated messages via the Olark chat and reach your customers proactively.
There’s another cool feature to Olark. It’s called ‘co-browsing’ and it allows your support reps co-control customers’ screens and help them even more effectively. However, you’ll have to pay additional $99/mo to get access to this feature.
Olark has only one subscription plan which opens all their live chat features. It costs $17/mo per each support agent if you decide to pay month-by-month. There are discounts available for one- and two-year subscriptions.
Be aware that the removal of the Olark branding from your chat widget costs $59/mo. If you want to provide multilingual support, it will cost another $29/mo. Want to get the advantage of the co-browsing feature? Be prepared to pay another $99/mo.
All in all, Olark is super simple to use and get a solid grasp of. An elegant dashboard with an informative yet powerful dashboard will allow you to easily manage incoming chats and even initiate them on your own.
Their rich live chat reports are probably one of the best things about this live chat software. Especially, the whole real-time update thing.
However, Olark lacks some widget customization options, especially since the unbranding will cost you as much as $59/mo.
Moreover, it seems like just a live chat is not nearly enough these days. Sure, you can cover some needs like a knowledge base or CRM with the third-party integrations, but they will never feel as natural and seamless as if they were parts of an all-in-one solution from the start.
LiveChat — live chat software with some out-of-the-box features
LiveChat Inc is yet another mono-solution offering just a live chat functionality. And it’s one of the original solutions in this field that was first launched back in 2002.
However, unlike Olark, they’ve been actively building separate tools for help desk, knowledge base, and chatbot. They present them as third-party solutions, though. So, not only will you have to pay for each of them separately, but there’s no way to say how well they actually integrate.
- Standard live chat features like saved responses, chat transcripts, customer data, etc.
- Message sneak peek. LiveChat shows you what your customers are typing as they’re typing. As customer support reps see the message before it’s sent, they can prepare their answer way faster.
- Eye-catchers. You can add a graphic eye-catcher (e.g. animation) that will appear above your chat widget and draw some additional attention to it.
- Rich messages. You can send additional kinds of chat messages with LiveChat – e.g. a card with images and buttons or a carousel of cards. They’re great if you want share some item from your store with a quick preview in a chat window.
- Auto messages. You can send automated chat messages based on time spent on a page, customer location, and visited pages.
- Chat reports. LiveChat provides customer support supervisors with rich reports on customer satisfaction and team performance. The metrics you’ll be able to see include average chat duration, response time, each agent’s activity, etc.
- 170+ integrations. You can integrate LiveChat with LiveChat’s solutions and third-party tools like Messenger, HubSpot, SalesForce, etc.
LiveChat offers three pricing plans if we don’t count in the ‘Enterprise’ one which is only available by request.
The most basic ‘Starter’ plan costs $19/mo per seat and doesn’t allow you to share files in chat or set your team’s working hours to automate switching between online and offline modes. You won’t get access to those rich reports, too.
The $39/mo plan offers full widget customization and basic reports, while the ‘Business’ plan for $59/mo gives access to all the features without any limits.
If you’re looking for a simple yet complete live chat software without any complications, LiveChat can be a great choice. Their friendly pricing plans and overall stability add to the overall nice impression.
I’d say that the only downside to this software is that it’s still just a live chat. For one thing, it’s really difficult to imagine customer service without a decent knowledge base these days. And with LiveChat, you’ll have to look for some other integrations, which is not always the best idea.
Zendesk Chat — live chat software with rich reports
Zendesk is the ultimate expression of an all-in-one customer service tool and it’s one of the oldest, most known and reliable tools on the market. However, the company started off as a ticketing system back in 2007 and it’s still their main focus and point of pride.
The chat feature was added much later when they purchased the Zopim software and tried to integrate the third-party solution into their system. Well, I guess they did the best they could, but the whole toolset can still feel disconnected at times.
All of the Zendesk tools are available in the ‘All-in-one’ package as well as separately. This means that you can buy the whole package of help desk, live chat, knowledge base, call center features. Or you can choose just the Zendesk Chat.
- Saved responses. As in any other live chat tool, Zendesk offers the same set of standard features including saved responses, tags, chat ratings, etc. They are just the same as in any other tool in this list, but they’re important nevertheless.
- Chat forms. You can use Zendesk’s pre-chat and offline forms to collect customers’ personal data
- Trigger-based auto messages. You can send trigger-based automated messages that will be based on specific actions. Be aware that triggers aren’t available on all subscription plans.
- The richest chat and agent reports. Zendesk offers a wide variety of reports on customer satisfaction, agent performance, site analytics. On the ‘Enterprise’ subscription, you can even see Zendesk’s reports in real time.
- The most integrations. Since Zendesk is one of the most mature customer service tools on the market, its integration list just goes on and on. And almost all of them are free.
- Visitor list. You can see all the visitors that are browsing your website at this moment along with their country of origin, browser, operating system, and referrer.
You can get a basic limited version of the Zendesk Chat for FREE. It’s crafted for 1 agent seat and allows you to manage 1 concurrent chat at a time. If your support is a one-person job, this free version can be a great way to save yourself some money.
The paid subscriptions’ prices vary from $19/mo/agent to $70/mo/agent. As rich as those chat and agent reports are, they’re only available starting from the ‘Professional’ plan that costs $35/mo/agent.
To sum up, I wouldn’t say that the Zendesk Chat is the best live chat software you can get. Its limited chat widget customization on top of outdated default design is already bad enough. But there are also those reports that aren’t available on half of their subscriptions – as well as such fundamental features as operating hours and widget unbranding.
My perception was that the Zendesk Chat is just the weakest part of the otherwise powerful customer service software.
Help Scout — live chat + knowledge base software #2
Help Scout is yet another all-in-one solution with pleasant prices and nice packages of features. Just like in HelpCrunch, their basic subscription plans include not only live chat, but also knowledge base and ticketing functionality.
It is a nice solution for small businesses that look for something simple and solid.
- All the core live chat features like saved responses, tags, private notes, etc.
- Chat reports on your overall chat volume as well as the first response time, chat duration and wait time.
- Knowledge base integration. The Help Scout knowledge base is well integrated into both Help Scout’s agent chat interface and their chat widget. Support reps can easily share knowledge base articles via chat, while customers can switch between the ‘Ask’ (live chat) and ‘Answer’ (knowledge base) tabs right in a chat window.
- Chat manual messages. You can use the Help Scout chat as an in-app messenger to send targeted messages to your customers.
- The Help Bot that does some basic lead pre-qualifying job like asking for email addresses. It’s super basic and barely different from traditional chat forms but looks a little bit more natural in a chat thread.
Help Scout offers three subscription plans. Alternatively, you can chat with them about the third custom option. All of the subscriptions include all the key features, except for targeted messages which cost $50/mo.
The ‘Basic’ plan for $15/mo/user includes the Beacon with live chat functionality, 1 email address that you forward emails from, and 1 knowledge base site.
On the $25/mo/user subscription, you get 5 email addresses instead of one and full reports.
If you choose the ‘Plus’ subscription for $40/mo, you will get more docs and email addresses, but also some additional security options like HIPAA compliance and integrations with SalesForce, Jira, and HubSpot.
My personal impression was that Help Scout is a very decent all-in-one solution that keeps up with the latest customer service trends and offers a live chat widget that looks and feels like a modern solution it is.
All the features are in place, and the whole knowledge base integration is one of the best I saw. Customers can find everything they need right in a chat window, which makes customer support faster and more effective.
However, many Help Scout’s reviews mention that the platform has poor outdated design and too many bugs users have to deal with while their customer support is not always helpful.
Intercom — live chat software with numerous integrations
Even though Intercom is the most ‘all-in-one’ customer service software, their Business Messenger is where everything started.
I sincerely think that the tool is powerful, rich with features and add-ons, and… quite expensive, which makes it quite unaffordable for small businesses. But if money is not an issue for you, then let’s talk.
- Chat manual messages. You can integrate Intercom’s live chat with your app and send chat manual messages to your users based on various criteria.
- Automated messages based on certain behavior criteria that allow you to target your website visitors with timely relevant auto messages.
- Standard live chat features like typing insight, saved responses, internal notes and a not-so-standard feature like the ability to send gifs.
- Reports on team performance, conversation volume, response times. Intercom went the extra mile with their analytics adding the customer acquisition ROI report, which shows how Intercom influences your pipeline and closed deals.
- Numerous app integrations. Intercom’s live chat can be much more than just a tool for chatting as you can integrate different apps into it. They will allow you to share a screen, start a voice or video call, book a meeting — right in a chat window.
- Bots (from $99/mo). Intercom invests a lot of resources into their chatbot and really tries to make it the best on the market. Their Answer bot is able to identify typical questions and send automated answers to them. The Chatbot is “trained” to prequalify new leads and gather additional information by asking corresponding questions with a few answer options to choose from. However, you’ll have to pay additional fees in order to use Intercom’s bots.
- Knowledge base integration (from $49/mo). You can add your knowledge base to the Business Messenger so that customers can find answers right away. Be aware that Intercom also charges additional fees for their knowledge base functionality.
Intercom’s pricing is extremely complicated and unpredictable.
Most of the tools on this list charge for additional agent seats. Intercom does this, too.
But Inercom’s customers are also paying additional fees for their active users. Basically, if someone left you at least one message during the past 90 days, they’re considered your active contacts and you’ll have to pay for them.
So, there’s no way to say how much you’ll end up paying. As to the prices for the platform itself, there are several options that include live chat, but it’s difficult to wrap your head around which features will be included in your subscriptions and which will not.
The cheapest ‘Customer support’ subscription plan costs from $38/mo and offers just a standard live chat software solution with such reports as volume, response times, and team performance.
If you want to be able to send trigger-based auto messages via chat, you’ll have to pay at least $49/mo for the Essential subscription of the ‘Customer engagement’ package.
And if you want to enjoy Intercom’s knowledge base or bots, you’ll have to pay extra $49/mo or $99/mo correspondingly.
There’s nothing more to say about Intercom except that it’s a very good yet complicated software that costs way too much. If you’re a huge enterprise, why not. But if you’re a small business, you won’t need one-half of the features and won’t be able to pay for the other half.
There are several standard live chat features that you absolutely should pay attention to. Things like saved responses, file attachments, typing insight and rich widget customization options are a must. But this is just the tip of it.
In order to be the best live chat solution, it should have such features as auto messages for capturing more leads and chat manual messages for better communication with existing users.
Also, even though it’s not really a live chat feature, you can’t really imagine five-star customer support without a decent knowledge base site. Which means it would be nice to have it included into your live chat software as well.
All in all, choose a solution that will allow you to grow your business, increase revenue and make you and your customers happier.
A happy customer is a loyal customer. Implement these 10 tips to increase your customer loyalty and improve business metrics.
Proactive chats are great for increasing customer engagement, but they require preciser chat triggers. Look at these 7 chat trigger examples that will make any automated message more enticing and effective.
Looking for some customer retention inspiration? We've got 5 companies that got their retention strategies just right.