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The Best Chat Software of 2019

By
Lori Fairbanks
,
business.com writer
|
Dec 14, 2017
Home
> Marketing
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Live Chat Software Comparisons

Adding chat software to your website creates a new communication channel for you to assist customers. Many chat software companies offer this technology to both small and large businesses, and have multiple plans to choose from, each with more sophisticated features and reporting capabilities than the last.  

If your website visitors are primarily potential customers searching for information about your products, consider chat software with co-browsing tools so your agents can guide your customers directly to the products they're looking for. If your customers come to your site for complex technical assistance, chat software that allows them to grant your agents remote desktop access can make it easier and faster to fix problems. Or, if they use your website to consult advisors on sensitive matters such as health, legal or financial issues, look for software that has robust security protocols and allows your customer to switch from text chat to audio or video chat.  

Whether you need a basic or advanced solution, we want to help you choose the best live chat software for your business. LiveHelpNow, LiveChat, Live Guide and Velaro are our top recommendations for different types of chat software. Read more about them below, along with pricing information and tips, plus our advice for additional features you should look for as you evaluate chat software.

Best Picks

State of the Industry

Chat software makes it easy for businesses of all sizes to provide fast, high-quality customer service. Although many customers still prefer to call a company when they need customer service, live online chat is becoming more popular. It's expected to grow from an estimated 6 percent of a company's customer interactions in 2017 to 16 percent by 2019, according to Deloitte's 2017 Global Contact Center Survey. Companies with a target audience of millennials and younger may find that a higher percentage of their customers prefer to chat online rather than call customer service.

Customers who use live chat are also happier with their experience than customers who call, email or connect with company representatives on social media. A recent report by Zendesk states that 92 percent of live chat customers were satisfied with the service they received, compared to 88 percent of customers who called, 85 percent of customers who emailed and 84 percent of customers who contacted the company via Facebook.

In addition to facilitating online communication with your customers, many chat solutions give you valuable insight into your website visitors and their behavior, which can help you market your products and services more effectively or better tailor your business's offerings to your customer base. Most chat software includes the following features:

  • Real-time visitor monitoring. You can see which pages your website visitors access and how long they spend on them. This information can be used with other features, such as routing that directs chat requests to agents in departments corresponding to the page the visitor is on when they initiate chat, like sales or tech support.
  • Visitor tracking. Chat software shows where your website visitors are coming from, and which search engines and terms they used to find you. You can also see whether visitors are new to your site or returning guests. This information gives you a better understanding of who your customers are and what they're looking for on your website.

Depending on the industry your business is in and how you intend to use chat software, these are some other features to look for:

  • Strong security protocols. If your business is related to healthcare, look for chat software that has HIPAA-compliant security. If your agents accept credit card information, you need financial-grade security to keep your business compliant with PCI data security standards.
  • Video chat. Of the world's largest companies, 1 in 5 are expected to implement video chat by 2018, according to a Gartner report. Chat software allows small businesses to get in on this trend as well.
  • Integrations with the other business programs you use. Many chat solutions allow you to connect the software to Google Analytics, as well as your ecommerce platform, email marketing service and CRM.

 

Reviews

Below are all of our reviews for chat software and related categories. Our coverage includes reviews of both the best live chat support software and enterprise chat software. See all of our reviews below.

Pricing

Although some chat software companies require you to call or fill out an online form to receive a pricing quote, most post their pricing on their websites and charge a monthly subscription fee based on the number of people who will be using the program. On average, a single license on a basic plan costs $20 to $40 per month. High tiers can be much more expensive – we saw costs up to $150 per user per month. A few companies offer a free basic plan, but most don't.  

Additional fees for setup and installation are rare, though some companies charge for training and customer support. Besides providing different service tiers, some offer additional services for an extra cost. For example, some charge extra for audio and visual chat capabilities, email or ticket customer support, or a chatbot. In addition to chat software, one of the companies we evaluated offers the option of managed chat service, meaning it supplies the chat agents. This type of service is much more expensive, costing $400 per month.

Negotiation Tips

Even though pricing is straightforward for most chat solutions, it's still important to shop around to make sure you're getting a good value. You need to know how many employees will be using the software so you can get an accurate quote, and you need to decide which features are must-haves and which ones would be nice to have if the price is right.  

Once you've narrowed your options to your top two or three picks, you should take them for a test drive. Every company we looked at offers a free trial, usually 14 days, though some are 30 days. Often, companies provide their highest-tier service for these trials, allowing you to try out advanced features and see which ones you'd actually use, which can be helpful as you determine which software at which tier is the best fit for your business.  

Most chat software companies don't require you to sign a lengthy contract, instead providing their services on a month-to-month basis. However, if you're willing to pay in advance annually, you can usually get a price break. Discounts of 10 to 15 percent are common, though the best discounts are equal to two months of subscription fees. If you're confident that you'll be happy with the chat software, this can be a good deal.  

If your business is a nonprofit, you should call the company to see if special pricing is available. You also want to call the company for a quote if you need a large number of licenses, as a sales rep will be able to tell you if the company offers volume-based discounts or runs any promotions that may help you get better rates or additional services.

Enterprise Chat Software: What to Look For

Having customers on hold for long periods or having them talk with an agent who cannot answer their questions is a recipe for business disaster. Such scenarios produce customers who never buy from your company again. Chat software allows customers to use familiar text messaging and gives them prompt, well-informed help. Not only can your agents answer customer questions in a more modern, timely and personal way, they can also interface with several customers at the same time. This is a more productive business model than one-on-one phone calls or emails. It also provides your business with a variety of tools to mine and analyze the derived data. Enterprise chat services give you the tools you need to build your business and the loyalty that turns visitors into lifelong customers. We used the following criteria in our live chat software review to rank these benefits and services:

Host Environment
In our enterprise chat comparisons, we looked for software that integrated with the applications your business already uses. Customer relationship management (CRM) tools were on the top of our list with integration to social media sites not far behind. We also considered whether you could route your chats to the appropriate expert or department and if you could administer your live chat application remotely. We looked at whether the enterprise chat software contained a customizable application interface (API) that could allow your IT department to connect to less popular or internally built applications. And, with the rising popularity of tablets and smart phones, we noted whether mobile platforms are enabled for such devices.

Operator & Customer Chat
In the best enterprise chat software, you can see the websites your customers come from, the browsers they use, their geographical locations, their past purchases, their chat histories and other tracking metrics. Hiring operators that speak languages other than English can also be important, so we also noted if the chat software contains real-time language translation. If your enterprise operates in other countries, our comparisons can also tell you if the enterprise chat software can be wholly implemented in a different language. And while audio chat is not a time saver, if you need it occasionally, we also let you know if it s available.

Enterprise Security
Larger enterprises are always concerned with the security of their information. In our side-by-side comparisons, we made special note of considerations like secure connections and the ability to block IP addresses that are spamming or being inappropriate with operators. You can also find out from our reviews which companies have support departments that are available 24 hours a day.

Enterprise Reports
One of the most significant metrics an eCommerce site needs is a chat-to-sales conversion report, which allows you to see if a chat was instrumental in helping a customer complete a shopping cart transaction. Other useful reports include general satisfaction with the chat experience, how individual operators are rated, how many chat opportunities are missed and the needs of the staffing department based on previous chat history.

 

Live Chat Software: What We Looked For, What We Found

To provide a fair comparison, we evaluated the basic package from each customer chat service software. These packages include basic live chat services that are best for small and medium businesses. We did not review the larger plans that work better for larger, enterprise-level companies. We reviewed the live chat software independent of influence from any of the companies on our lineup, and we did not provide them any advance notice of our testing prior to publication.

Administrator Toolset
The tools that you have access to as an agent or account administrator make a big difference in how you interact with your customers, influence your ability to reach out to them and control how you can use the data collected by the software.

In our evaluation, we looked for a solid, customizable platform. Custom features that we looked for included customizable chat windows and buttons, which allow you to choose the look and feel of the chat window that appears on your website, and offline messaging, which allows customers to fill out a form and submit an email when your operators are not online. And, with the rising popularity of tablets and smart phones, we also noted whether or not the live chat is mobile-enabled.

While these features are valuable, they are not unique and can be found in the majority of live chat software as industry standards. One stand-out feature we found in the administrator toolset is IP address blocking. This feature allows you to block IP addresses from chat when someone is trolling your site and using chat to harass your agents. Though Kayako falls near the middle of the lineup, it provides this useful feature.

Another great feature is agent monitoring, which allows you to see how your agents are handling conversations without peering over their shoulders. This information is valuable for training and creating precise strategies.

Customer Chat
Another important consideration when looking for live chat support is what services are available to the customer. When you chat with customers, you need to be able to do more than just instant message back and forth. Many chat service providers allow you to share documents with customers. The best software offers co-web browsing, a feature that allows an operator to take a customer directly to a web page rather than sending a link.

Another unique tool available from the best live chat services provides translation services so that your communications are not limited by language barriers. Only about half the software on the lineup offer translation options, including Comm100.

Integrations
With the right tools, you can see the websites your customers come from. Many customer relationship management (CRM) applications can take the data you gather from your live chat and use it to synchronize sales and marketing with customer service. You can see the browsers they use, their geographical locations, their past purchases and chat histories, and much more. This data is invaluable to your marketing department and helps you build a more targeted business.

Integrations help you get the most out of your chat service by making it fit with the rest of your workflow. All of the software we reviewed integrate with Google Analytics. Google Analytics takes your live chat data and helps you use it for your marketing and keyword tracking campaigns. Another popular integration for helpdesk includes Salesforce, this integration allows you to track leads and integrate chat data with your sales data.

About half of the live chat software on our lineup integrate with Salesforce for a small fee, but the best software we reviewed, including Casengo, provide this service for no extra charge.

Help & Support
The last area we carefully evaluated in our research was help and support options available to you with each software. While you are providing help and support for your customer base, it is important that you have the support you need to ensure the software is working how you need it to. Each software on our lineup offers live chat and phone support, but the best companies provide this support 24/7, so you know you can reach something whenever there are issues.

Live Chat Support Software: Our Verdict & Recommendations

As a customer, there is nothing more frustrating than bad support. Providing inconsistent or poor support is one of the quickest way to lose customers. Live chat software is the fastest way to connect with your customer base and those visiting your site. In our research and evaluations, LiveHelpNow, Zopim and Live Chat stood out from the competition for their impressive administrator toolkits and customer chat options.

Other notable companies on our lineup Velaro for its comprehensive help center, which is complete with downloadable PDFs and a regularly updated blog. Another noteworthy software is WhosOn, which stands out for its monitoring and training capabilities.

The best live chat software enables your company and your customer to text in real time by computer, smart phone and tablet. Your staff can answer questions, suggest appropriate purchases and build stronger brand loyalty. Your company can also retrieve statistical data that benefits your corporate marketing strategies. Few endeavors provide a both a vastly improved customer experience and a business data goldmine. Live chat software does both.

Common Chat Software Questions & Answers

Have a chat software question of your own?
Ask an Expert

What is the best live chat software for my website?

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Hi Mia, I would have to agree with most of the comments that said LiveChat. However, if all you need is a simple way to respond to your visitors in real time and you will be handling the chats, you can use ClickDesk (https://www.clickdesk.com/). Their free trial does not expire while LiveChat's free trial is only for 30 days. Click Desk has support ticket options, live chat, and can be easily integrated. The chat box itself has great customization options for being free! You of course have...

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I like ClickDesk, and another good option is Zopim, but both start at 10/mo if you want to really get any use out of them. I'm currently using https://livehelperchat.com/ - which is self-hosted, and it's as easy to install as wordpress. There's no free mobile app, but they do have desktop clients for it, a chrome extension, and a really full-featured mobile app is available for $19. Which is a little steep as mobile apps go, but still cheaper than $10/mo.

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Hello Thomas. Striving to give you customers a better service is great. But I think you can't give a better service by making it automated. I would advice to solve this by opening a FAQ (frequently asked questions) section on the site, and filling it with more and more common question and answers. You can also implement a tool such as UserVoice (https://www.uservoice.com/) which enables site users to view help topics and raise one themselves. in time, you will add more and more content to...

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Hi Bryan, there are some great strategies in addition to the recommendations below. I would start by determining your criteria. Are you trying to measure interaction time, efficiency, accuracy in providing answers, etc? Internally, you could generate a survey delivered to the customer's email after an interaction. Monitor interaction internally. Direct engagement can be done after an interaction by placing a call to your customers asking for feedback. Offer a coupon or discount for feedback....

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List of the The Best Chat Software of 2019