Finding software can be overwhelming. Software Advice has helped thousands of companies choose the right live chat software to improve customer service and reduce support costs.

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LiveHelpNow

LiveHelpNow multi channel help desk/call center software facilitates real-time customer service communications via the following channels: Live chat, Chat Bot, SMS/Text, Email, Facebook, VoIP(Phone) as well as provides ability to... Read more

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Recent recommendations: 3 recommendations

Platforms: MacWinLinux
Deployments: CloudOn premise
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Velaro

Velaro is a SaaS engagement solution designed for sales, marketing and customer care teams sizes up to Enterprise organizations designed to facilitate personalized customer journey interactions. Key features include live chat, contextual,... Read more

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Recent recommendations: 1 recommendations

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Deployments: CloudOn premise
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HelpCrunch

HelpCrunch is a customer communication platform combining live chat, email marketing automation and a help desk in one solution. The solution helps support, sales and marketing teams to acquire, convert leads and support their customers.... Read more

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DriftFrontRunners 2020

Drift is a cloud-based solution designed to help businesses automate sales processes by adding live chat windows to websites for increased customer experience and loyalty. Key features include chatbots, geo-targeting, offline access,... Read more

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SnapEngage Live ChatFrontRunners 2020

SnapEngage is a HIPAA compliant live chat solution that caters to businesses across various industry verticals such as travel, hospitality, real estate, health care, insurance, education and more. Key features include SMS-to-chat,... Read more

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LiveEngage

LivePerson offers live chat and messaging on a variety of digital channels including messaging directly on your business’s website or mobile app, SMS, Email, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Apple Business Chat, Line, WeChat and Google... Read more

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Smith.ai

Smith.ai offers 24/7, AI-backed live chat services and as well as a free, AI-only Chatbot. Smith.ai has designed their chat products and services to help businesses capture leads and help clients online. Live chat receptionists respond... Read more

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Acquire

Acquire is a real time customer engagement platform that provides all your sales and support in one widget with live chat, email, video calling, SMS, chatbots, cobrowse and screen share. Acquire equips you with the tools to redefine... Read more

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HappyFox

HappyFox is a cloud-based help desk solution that provides artificial intelligence (AI) chatbots to businesses across various industries, including computer and software, education, travel and leisure, media and publishing, energy,... Read more

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Yellow Messenger

Trusted by over 100 enterprises, Yellow Messenger is a conversational AI platform that utilizes cognitive engagement technology to help businesses implement human-like chatbots across voice and text communication channels. With end-to-end... Read more

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Heyday

Heyday is artificial intelligence (AI) powered, all-in-one chat solution for ecommerce, support and marketing teams. With Heyday, ecommerce businesses deliver exceptional customer experience throughout the customer journey—right... Read more

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TABLE

TABLE is an all-in-one customer experience management (CXM) solution that empowers organizations to manage all customer interactions in one single messenger interface. TABLE enhances customer experiences through the use of integrated... Read more

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Markeaze

Markeaze is a support and sales solution that automatically engages, supports and converts customers through an AI-powered algorithm, emails, in-app and social messages. It is designed specifically for eCommerce stores and brands,... Read more

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QuickBlox

QuickBlox provides a set of tools that help to build a brand-new chatting application or to integrate the chatting functionality to the existing software system. The solution will work for the product from any business area - healthcare,... Read more

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Talkative

Talkative is a live chat solution that enables businesses and organizations worldwide to manage communication with customers by embedding audio/video calling, chat and cobrowsing capabilities into business websites. Agents can utilize... Read more

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Pipedrive

Pipedrive is a web-based Sales CRM and pipeline management solution that enables businesses to plan their sales activities and monitor deals. Built using activity-based selling methodology, Pipedrive streamlines every action involved... Read more

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LiveAgentFrontRunners 2020

LiveAgent is an online live chat platform for e-commerce businesses at the small and midsize level. The platform offers live chat application, ticket management, online self-service portals and change and license management, all... Read more

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Intercom

Intercom is a sales, marketing and support solution platform that acquires, engages and supports customers through its bot-based algorithm, targeted emails, push and in-app messages, and an integrated help desk.  It caters to sales... Read more

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UserlikeFrontRunners 2020

Userlike is a cloud-based live chat solution that can be integrated with existing websites, enabling real-time communication between customers, employees and internal team members. It offers various customization options that let companies... Read more

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ChatraFrontRunners 2020

Chatra is a cloud-based live chat platform aimed at small businesses and e-commerce retailers. The solution helps users to increase online sales and conversions. It enables businesses to wait for customer to ask a question or initiate... Read more

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Buyers guide

Live chat software allows companies to have real-time conversations with website visitors. It is by many measures one of the most effective tools for improving customer service, and can help to increase online sales and encourage repeat business by giving customers exactly what they want. It can be used for both pre- and post-sales service and, to top it all off, can help businesses save on the costs of providing support through other channels, such as phone and email.

We’ve prepared the following software guide to answer the most common and important questions that come up when businesses consider implementing a new (or replacement) live chat platform. The guide covers:

Here’s what we’ll cover:

What Is Live Chat Software?
Common Features of Live Chat Software
Strategy Tips for Live Chat Implementation
What Type of Buyer Are You?

What Is Live Chat Software?

Live chat is a communication channel that lets customers and businesses converse in real-time directly on a company’s website. It usually appears as a small box or window on the page; a live chat conversation can be initiated by the customer, the company or both, depending on how it’s configured.

Live chat software can be deployed either on-premise (hosted on the company’s own servers) or from the cloud (hosted on the vendor’s or service provider’s servers), typically under a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) model. On-premise installations are becoming less common, and are generally used when a company needs a high degree of customization or integration with other on-premise software platforms. The SaaS deployment option is growing in popularity, and is the more common choice for companies that want to add live chat to their websites quickly and easily.

In both deployment models and in most cases, the live chat function is added to a Web page simply by inserting a line or two of code, provided by the live chat vendor, into the page’s HTML. This code tells a visitor’s Web browser to display the live chat box or window whenever a certain page is visited or certain conditions are met.

Live chat is a highly flexible service channel, which is part of what has made it so successful. One-size-fits-all solutions are rarely ideal in the world of customer service, as there are simply too many changing variables that need to be considered in order to deliver the best outcomes.

For example, one company may find that visitors to its website have lots of questions and really appreciate the chat option, so wants the live chat window to feature prominently for all visitors. Another company might find that live chat is best used selectively, not wanting it to become a distraction to visitors, and might only have the live chat option display after certain conditions are met.

For example, live chat can be set to only display to:

  • People who have spent over a specific amount of time on one particular page, as this could suggest they’re having difficulty understanding it.
  • Customers who’ve been searching for topics on the company’s frequently asked questions (FAQ) or help pages, but seemingly not finding the answers they need.
  • Visitors who go back and forth several times between two different product pages, as this suggests they might need help deciding which of the two to purchase.

Once a company decides exactly how and for which visitors it wants to offer live chat, the live chat platform can be set to automatically follow these rules.

Common Features of Live Chat Software

Live chat is one of the most feature-rich communication channels available, and platforms are offered by a great variety of vendors. Some platforms are intended for general use, while others are tailored to specific business models and/or industries. All vary somewhat in the breadth and depth of the features and functionality provided.

One functionality common to nearly all live chat platforms is the “dashboard” or “control panel.” This is used by the business owner or supervisor to monitor current and past live chat interactions. In the following example dashboard, we see a variety of key indicators showing how well a particular agent is performing. Some of these indicators include: the number of chats queued up for this agent, the number of currently active chats and the longest amount of time any customer has had to wait for a chat session to begin.

Example of supervisor dashboard

 

Example, from Help.com, of a supervisor’s dashboard used to monitor chat usage and agent performance

The following table lists and explains a variety of other live chat functionalities. Not all of these are offered by all vendors, so buyers are advised to consider their live chat purchase carefully.

Functionality Description
Ticketing Lets agents create new tickets for customer support issues directly from the live chat with the customer.
File-sharing Allows agents and customers to send files (documents, images) to each other from within the chat window, often aiding in troubleshooting.
Co-browsing Lets an agent take control (with permission) of the visitor’s Web browser to lead them to specific pages on the website.
Surveys and feedback Allows for automatic surveys, such as those to determine customer satisfaction, to be given at the end of the chat.
Email transcripts Gives customers the option of having a transcript of their live chat session emailed to them when it concludes.
Mobile support Makes it easier to offer live chat to visitors using mobile devices: something many consumers have a preference for.
SMS (text message) Allows customers to use their phones to send a text message to a company and the company to respond from its live chat platform.
API (application programming interface) Some live chat platforms come with an API that allows for more granular customization.
Social media integration Some platforms can be integrated directly onto a third-party social media site (for example, a company’s Facebook page).

Strategy Tips for Live Chat Implementation

Since live chat is a Web-based technology, a company’s decision to implement it should begin with an examination of its existing website. Buyers can start by asking themselves two broad questions:

  1. What are the goals of our website? Companies should determine whether the site is mainly selling products, providing information, giving customers technical support or some combination of these (or other) goals. This will lead to a clearer understanding of how live chat implementation will fit into the company’s larger online strategy.
  2. How are customers actually using the website? Customers’ real-life usage should compare to the company’s stated goals. Website-visitor metrics can reveal which pages are most viewed, which pages customers spend the most time on and a variety of other browsing behaviors. The discrepancy between what a company wants customers to do on the website and what customers are actually doing is where live chat implementation should focus.

These questions are important because live chat is not an automatic ticket to online success: It should be implemented with specific goals in mind. Most of these boil down to encouraging customers to do what the company hopes they’ll do when they visit the website.

What Type of Buyer Are You?

Different companies have different goals for implementing live chat—and most have more than one. To help buyers understand the variety of goals live chat can help meet, here is a short list of the most common. Most live chat software buyers’ goals include:

Reducing support costs. Providing customer support over the phone is expensive, as each support agent can only handle one phone call at a time. But live-chat agents can handle multiple conversations simultaneously. Because of this, live chat allows companies to serve the same number of customers with fewer agents.

Increasing online sales. Most online retailers know how customers interact with their website: Records of sales along with basic engagement metrics reveal which pages (or products) are viewed most often, which products customers have questions about and which products are often bought together. Live chat can be implemented to help direct visitors to less trafficked product pages, proactively answer questions they are likely to have and make suggestions (using co-browsing) about products visitors might like to purchase.

Improving customer service. Surveys repeatedly show customers prefer finding the answers to their own questions. Catering to this preference, many companies have invested in detailed online self-service resources, such as searchable knowledge bases and FAQ pages—yet customers may not use these effectively. Offering live chat assistance alongside self-service resources can help customers make better use of them, increasing satisfaction while reducing the company’s costs on phone service.

Converting more traffic. In some industries, websites are used mainly to get the company’s foot in a prospective customer’s door, advertising services or products and hoping visitors will get in touch. However, customers may be hesitant to contact some types of businesses (such as car dealerships, insurance agencies or law firms) until they know what they’re looking for. Live chat is a low-barrier, commitment-free way to help with the easy questions that might be keeping customers from officially getting in touch.

FrontRunners

Your Guide to Top Live Chat Software, April 2020

Software Advice uses reviews from real software users to highlight the top-rated Live Chat Software products in North America.

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