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Guide to Live Chat Software

What's the Best Live Chat Software?

I talked to 1,259 users and discovered that live chat is a competitive and saturated space— which is a benefit to users. Prices are low, products are strong and free plans are generous.

My work is supported by affiliate commissions (more info) | Published Feb 14 2017

Company

Description

Customer Satisfaction

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Introduction

Live Chat is a saturated and competitive space: there are plenty of products with high customer satisfaction rates. Take a look at the average customer satisfaction across different software industries to see what we mean:

Most software categories hover around 80% but live chat is 90%.

Because there are so many live chat companies with "good-enough" products, companies tend to be competitive and aggressive with pricing. Prices are generally low (with a few exceptions, such as Intercom) and free plans are quite strong. In fact many of the users we talked to are happy just using a free plan.


Free Plans Are Generous

In most software categories the free plans are lame- designed to get you to upgrade. But the free plans in live chat software actually tend to be enough to meet some users needs:

"Plus the free tier is more than enough for a startup with okay traffic."
“I'm using the "free" plan [of Pure Chat] which is good enough for my needs.”
“We use the free plan and… it's a perfect solution for a small business like us.”

Here's a comparison of free plans between companies with free plans:

Operators Chats / Month
Chatnox 2 30
Olark 1 20
ClickDesk 10 30
Tawk.to Unlimited Unlimited
Drift Unlimited 100
Formilla 1 30
MyLiveChat 1 Unlimited
Freshdesk 3 Unlimited
Smartsupp Unlimited Unlimited
SalesIQ 2 100
Userlike 1 100
Zendesk Chat 1 1 chat at a time

The Upside to Live Chat

There's a reason why you see live chat bubbles on so many websites these days- it's an effective way to offer customer support and nurture leads.

Many users reported that live chat helps them close sales:

“We don't get a ton of people using it, but those who do are often ready to make a purchase (both retail and wholesale).”
"Great for my business needs and I know a couple clients who have seen an increase in sales due to their use of [live chat]."
"I find [live chat] has now taken over as the primary way people connect with me. And since i'm a fairly decent salesperson and have it hooked into slack app on my iphone it's been a great tool for getting more sales."

Most users suggested live chat increased their interaction with visitors:

“It's a great service, highly increases customer interaction.”
"It has allowed us to communicate with customers we likely would not have heard from otherwise."
"It works well because people will message us to ask a question and we have the ability to turn that into a sale. Whereas if people need to pick up the phone and call to ask a question that could potentially turn into a sale, they don't even bother calling."
"It saves on a tonne of emails, and offers a more immediate response to customers for higher customer satisfaction."

Many users even suggested that when live chat was set to 'offline', it was a higher converting contact form than their own contact form. (Typically live chat windows will say something like, “we're away now but fill out this form to send us an email” and present the visitor with a contact form.)

“It also functions as a contact form when I have it scheduled to be offline, which is nice.”
"To be honest I get more inquiries through [live chat] than my comment box in the contact page. "
“We get more form submissions from this widget than from our contact us page.”
"It does a good job. We use it primarily for a contact form."

The Downside of Live Chat

The downside of live chat is kind of the same thing as the upside: live chat increases your interactions with visitors- which means it takes time to run live chat on your website:

"You need someone full-time to manage all the questions."
“I'm thinking about removing it now because I simply don't have time to respond to messages when they arrive.”
“Currently disabled. We have very large websites and just do not have the staff to keep up with the responses. Eventually we hope to turn it back on, if it makes sense financially to hire more staff in order to do so.”
"As a word of caution, any company that is running a live chat app needs a dedicated, knowledgeable customer service person (or team depending on the size of the company) as [live chat] is massively time consuming."
“We ended up canceling our service with them. Everything seemed to work good but we just didn't have a designated person to answer the chats and we found ourselves too busy to keep up with it. I'm pretty sure it would be disappointing for customers to click on our live chat and have no one answer it so we just did away with it.”

Some users also suggested that live chat can be tedious if you only have a small volume of chats (though a good workaround for this is to choose a live chat company with an iPhone app):

“Only a handful of [visitors] choose to use the chat [each week]. That is too few, as too many chats are lost because then operator cannot be dedicated. It is far better to not offer a chat than to not answer the chats.”
"The only downside of the system is that we have to have a browser open all day for monitoring the activities. "

Drift: The Intercom Alternative

Intercom is quite popular- especially among startups. And at 98% customer satisfaction, it's one of the most popular products we've ever found.

However it's worth mentioning that the most consistent complaint we heard about Intercom is that it's too expensive. Which is why many users ended up using Drift. Drift seems to be built as a cheaper Intercom alternative (though they do not explicitly say this).

Many Drift users mentioned to me that they use Drift as an alternative to Intercom:

"Even though I personally preferred Intercom's interface, roadmap and user experience, Drift had scheduling/office hours we could set."
"I can only recommend if you are looking a cheaper alternative to intercom."
"I use both Intercom (on different sites) and Drift and whilst Intercom is a much more mature product with many more features, it's also by extension more complex and can be confusing (particularly the product & pricing structure)."

People Like
  • Lots of Features — "Their principals features that we appreciate about it: the adaptability to our web app and the easy to use.", "Filtration tools are great", "I also like the different triggers for messages (based on location, page visited...) - very useful.”, “There are many highly useful ways they power our support and marketing initiatives including helpdesk, nurturing leads and onboarding.”, "has a lot of features”, “It has a lot of capabilities.”, “I don't know of a solution that is as feature complete!”, ”It can cover a lot of topics in the process of building product and company.”, “The only drawback is the continual increase in cost. We originally were paying $49 per month and are now over $100 a month."

  • Ease of Use — "The UX is very good and the website is very easy to use.”, "We’ve been very happy with how user friendly the program is.”, "It is very easy to understand and implement, I would definitely recommend it.”, "The app is perfect for mobile and the usability and interface looks great."

People Don't Like
  • Expensive — "Its expensive but we like it better than anything else we tried.", "The only negative is that it's pricey.", "Its quite expensive (around 50$/month i think) but you can really do great things with it.”, “It is expensive but totally worth it."

Screenshots
Intercom screenshot 1 Intercom screenshot 2 Intercom screenshot 3

People Like
  • Free Plan — "It works great for us. And it's FREE!", , "It's free and it works great.", "Branding is pretty discrete for a free version", "Given its free I can’t complain, would recommend.", "Seems to work OK and there is no cost… which I find strange. Can’t see what’s in it for them. But can't fault it.", "Till today I can’t believe that it is for free. But it’s true!", "We use Tawk and find it exceptionally good for a free product. Needs better analytics and reporting, but for a free service, it is excellent.", "For a free online chat it has a lot of usefull features. " "As a free service it offers some nice functionally compared to other even paid for services", "exceeded my expectations even though it was free. :)"

  • Easy to Use — "It has been easy to use.", "It easy to use and our sales department love it.", "Not only is it free, but the user interface is very easy to use. ", "It`s reliable, user friendly, very informative for operators and managers. ", "It's easy to use", "the system is easy to navigate and very user friendly"

Screenshots
Tawk.to screenshot 1 Tawk.to screenshot 2 Tawk.to screenshot 3

People Like
  • Free Version — "For a free application, it's great and better than most of the paid ones.", "For a free application, it's excellent and I foresee no reason to switch to another website chat app, nor to a paid version.", "Best I found – particularly as its free.”, ”MyLiveChat meets our demands perfectly and it's even free.", "I only have the free version... but that does me nicely.", "I would say it works pretty well for a free live chat system. ", "Plus wonders of wonders it is Free. See no reason to upgrade to the paid version.", "It always works well and I am a free user.", "Yes! I love MyLiveChat. It’s the best FREE Live chat program on the net right now.", "I also like that it has a free option.", "The biggest advantage is that it is ‘free’ for a single user which is the option we use.", "MyLiveChat offers is everything you need in a chat application [with the free package]", "MyLiveChat's free starter package can't be beat.", "The free version more than meets our needs."

Screenshots
MyLiveChat screenshot 1 MyLiveChat screenshot 2 MyLiveChat screenshot 3

People Like
  • Mobile Apps — "App for iOS is great", "Works fantastic on mobile", "It's great, has a mobile app so you can reply from your smart phone."

  • Easy to Use & Setup — "Very easy to set up, use and monitor", "It's super easy to use", "Very easy to install, use and manage.", "installation was really simple and it's easy to use.", "it's much more intuitive and user friendly [than other live chat software].", "It’s easy to use and intuitive."

  • Price — "Based on price it's a no brainer", "Priced right", "Reasonable pricing.", "I found it to be the best one available at a very good price."

Screenshots
Live Chat screenshot 1 Live Chat screenshot 2 Live Chat screenshot 3

People Like
  • Free Version - "Has more free features and fewer restrictions than other chat apps.", "You can get more features for free", "We use the free version and it does its job.", "You have a lot of options (even in free version) and everything works fine.", "It's free, so you can check by yourself (the implementation is fast and easy)."

  • Video Recording of Visitors Clicks — "The ability to see recordings of what each person clicked and how they navigated the site is very cool.", "The best is the video recordings of visitors behaviour on the web site.", "Video recording is useful."

Screenshots
Smartsupp screenshot 1 Smartsupp screenshot 2 Smartsupp screenshot 3

We were unable to find likes & dislikes for Formilla.

Screenshots
Formilla screenshot 1 Formilla screenshot 2 Formilla screenshot 3

We were unable to find likes & dislikes for HelpOnClick.

Screenshots
HelpOnClick screenshot 1 HelpOnClick screenshot 2 HelpOnClick screenshot 3

People Like
  • Phone App — "I can handle customer service on our website from anywhere via the phone app.", "It's great, for its price with mobile apps", "I especially like that there is a corresponding app that can be downloaded to your cellphone. The cell app allows for monitoring of the chat when I need to be away from the computer.", "Reliable phone app (never miss a chat).", "The fact it plugs into an app on my cell helps me continue to answer questions until I sleep, then it can just switch to the e-mail function."

  • Easy to Use — "It is very user friendly", "Simplicity – as the name implies, Pure Chat does chat well and does not try to be all things to all people.", "The interface is easy to work with", "It is very simple and easy.", "the interface is easy to navigate.", "It's free and easy to use and install."

Screenshots
Purechat screenshot 1 Purechat screenshot 2 Purechat screenshot 3

People Like
  • Interface — "If I were to chose only one thing that differentiates Crisp from others - it will definitely be its interface. It's very friendly and easy to operate.", "UI/UX is one of its key strengths.", "The software is really easy to handle.", "Simple, Intercom-like UI.", "The interface is slick.", "The design of the live chat is very modern.", "It has a nice interface on the website."

Screenshots
Crisp screenshot 1 Crisp screenshot 2 Crisp screenshot 3

People Like
  • Customer Support — "They’re very good with support also.", "Their support is wonderful.", "I would definitely recommend reaching out to their team directly with specific questions, too! They offer great support. ", "Support is great, and they have always been very accommodating when we had a request.", "Their customer service is impeccable. They are super responsive and helpful if you have any issues. "

  • Easy to Use — "It is a very easy interface.", "System is easy to use.", "The user interface is pretty intuitive.", "It is a very good chat client and easy to understand.", "It's very user friendly and has settings to make things easier for the people that will be handling the chat service.", "I would recommend it from the standpoint of ease of set-up and ease-of-use"

Screenshots
SnapEngage screenshot 1 SnapEngage screenshot 2 SnapEngage screenshot 3

We were unable to find likes & dislikes for Zendesk Chat.

Screenshots
Zendesk Chat screenshot 1 Zendesk Chat screenshot 2 Zendesk Chat screenshot 3

People Like
  • Slack Integration — "I really like it's slack integration.", "Drift is amazing, it's integration with Slack has never failed me.", "Big plus, it works with Slack.", "I use it across multiple websites, and integrate it with slack - it just works - its great, and does what it says it should.", "I'm a big fan of the slack integration.", "The best part is the Slack integration.", "The integration with Slack is THE feature that made us stick around.", "I like the integration with Slack.", "We love the integration with Slack."

  • Alternative to Intercom — "It's also more user-friendly since they allowed me to demo their software to a minimum of 100 contacts for free, while Intercom didn't have a trial I could comfortably take my time with.", "Even through I personally preferred Intercom's interface, roadmap and user experience, Drift had scheduling/office hours we could set.", "The only good thing about drift, it is a cheaper alternative to intercom. ", "I can only recommend if you are looking a cheaper alternative to intercom.", "It's the best alternative to Intercom.io", "Definitely worth the switch (intercom used to invoice us 60 bucks for the same traffic).", "Previously we used Intercom, but Drift is much easier and affordable.", "I use both Intercom (on different sites) and Drift and whilst Intercom is a much more mature product with many more features, it's also by extension more complex and can be confusing (particularly the product & pricing structure)."

People Like
  • Customizable — "Allowed a good amount of customization to the look of the chat window.", "It is easily customized to fit in with any website design.", "Easy to customize and make it look like our own."

  • Easy to Use — "It is very user friendly", "Its very efficient and easy to use.", "Was easy to integrate", "Very easy to install and use.", "The interface is very easy to use for both our customer and us.", "Very easy to install on the webpage.", "Easy to use and... also very easy to integrate. We just popped their code/script on our website and voila it was working.", "Very easy to use.", "It is very user friendly.", "Super easy to use."

People Don't Like
  • No official app — "We switched to Intercom because of Olark's lack of a mobile app.", "The only con is they do not have a mobile app available but a 3rd party app can be integrated.", "The only down fall for me personally is that they don't offer a mobile application.", "I wish they had a mobile app to download."

Screenshots
Olark screenshot 1 Olark screenshot 2 Olark screenshot 3

People Like
  • Zoho Integration — "Since it is integrated with Zoho which we use, I would say it works great for us.", "It came with Zoho CRM Plus, so we did not feel a need to try other software.", "the greatness comes from the integration capabilities with CRM and bulk emailing products of Zoho", "Yes, we really recommend SalesIQ, especially if you integrate it with Zoho CRM.", "It functions pretty well and integrates with the Zoho platforms nicely.", "the integration with ZOHO CRM is really nice", "Yes, I do use it along with several other Zoho products", "Integrates with Zoho CRM which I use as well.", "I do recommend to clients who use Zoho CRM as it offers good integration", "Main reason we use it is because we have zoho crm and it integrates of course perfect with that.", "It has a good integration with Zoho CRM.", "in my opinion the chat is very useful and is perfect in combination with Zoho CRM"

People Don't Like
  • Not necessarily worth using if you're not already a Zoho customer — "Ir you use a Zoho as CRM its fine. Without it you can see a little info as urls visited, country, if is a recurrent visit... its no bad to see statistics ", "I wouldn't recommend using SalesIQ if you're just looking for a website chat. It works fine, but the options are rather limited. The cool thing about SalesIQ is that it can also integrate with ZoHo CRM"

Screenshots
SalesIQ screenshot 1 SalesIQ screenshot 2 SalesIQ screenshot 3

We were unable to find likes & dislikes for LiveAgent.

Screenshots
LiveAgent screenshot 1 LiveAgent screenshot 2 LiveAgent screenshot 3

We were unable to find likes & dislikes for Chatrify.

Screenshots
Chatrify screenshot 1 Chatrify screenshot 2 Chatrify screenshot 3

People Don't Like
  • Poor UX — "The interface isn't very intuitive. Things are in the wrong places and you have to log out or open a 2nd browser to review chat histories.", "Other chat software was easier for us to use.", "You need to be logged in on a desktop machine to appear online. This is pretty terrible actually, but we go out of our way to stay logged on on a spare machine to ensure we are online.", "When logged in at a physical machine you *can* receive notifications via Slack. However, if you then login via mobile device it logs out the desktop machine and can cause messages to go missing (sometimes even disconnecting the customer). ", "We could do with half the functions and a better and more logical interface.", "My only criticism would be that it could step up somewhat in [UI/UX].", "To be honest, there are plenty things that need an improvement. Eg. The usability", "When you log out on windows, the chat operator is still online and need to be logged off manually."

Screenshots
Userlike screenshot 1 Userlike screenshot 2 Userlike screenshot 3

We were unable to find likes & dislikes for Casengo.

Screenshots
Casengo screenshot 1 Casengo screenshot 2 Casengo screenshot 3

We were unable to find likes & dislikes for HappyFox.

Screenshots
HappyFox screenshot 1

People Don't Like
  • Trouble setting chat online/offline — "One of the most irritating things... is they have no automatic hours you can set to be offline/online.", "We like it but we can't really figure out how to turn the chat off when we are not available to receive.", "No ability to say when we are available vs. away", "We constantly struggle with the chat feature showing as offline when it's not."

Screenshots
ClickDesk screenshot 1 ClickDesk screenshot 2 ClickDesk screenshot 3

People Like
  • Limited Features — "Found it it to be a useful system, while very limited in features", "It does also lack some basic features that you would expect from a chat app. ", "It's currently lacking some core features, like Single-Sign On, mobile notifications, mobile app, multiple website support, and more."

  • No Mobile App (Yet) — "Freshchat is still in its infancy and does not yet have a phone app which was a deal breaker for me.", "Now it will be almost perfect if they release the mobile apps.", "The major drawback I see currently is that there is no mobile client for our agents... The company has promised that they will soon release their mobile solution.", "It doesn't have... a mobile app... Depends on what's important to you."

Screenshots
FreshChat screenshot 1 FreshChat screenshot 2 FreshChat screenshot 3

We were unable to find likes & dislikes for Chatnox.

Screenshots
Chatnox screenshot 1 Chatnox screenshot 2 Chatnox screenshot 3

We were unable to find likes & dislikes for Liveperson.

Screenshots
Liveperson screenshot 1 Liveperson screenshot 2 Liveperson screenshot 3

About this Guide

Customer satisfaction is the percentage of users that I surveyed that recommended the product. I talk to a minimum of 30 users / company in order to calculate the customer satisfaction. (If I'm not able to find 30 users, I don't include the company in our guide.)

I'm always trying to find ways to improve these guides so if you have any comments or suggestions please email me.

This guide was published Feb 14 2017.