Best Live Chat Software 2021

Live chat software is software that lets your business engage with customers on your website through real-time messaging. Think about all the times you've browsed a web page and noticed a chat box pop up on the bottom right-hand corner, offering a welcome message. This is live chat software.

While there are many use cases for live chat software, the two most common are customer engagement and customer support. Both are key for encouraging your customers to convert while answering all their questions. Read our full introduction to live chat software.

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Highest Rated Live Chat Software

Live chat software is used by all types of organizations to provide customer support to website visitors. Live chat software can be used for lead generation, customer support, and customer engagement. Different software vendors offer a variety of features including chatbots, ticketing systems, and email campaign capabilities.

Intercom
Rating: 93
Starting Price: $39 per month

Intercom is a customer messaging software with over 30,000 customers. It offers features like cross-channel messaging, A/B testing, and chatbots. Intercom is ideal for large and technology-forward companies looking to improve customer engagement.

Pros:
  • Powerful for cross-channel messaging and data tracking
  • Unique marketing features like product tours and A/B testing
  • Ability to create custom-built apps for Intercom Messenger using API
Cons:
  • Missing some basic live chat features like message sneak peek
  • One of the most expensive solutions on the market
  • Lacking in customer support availability
HelpCrunch
Rating: 93
Starting Price: $15 per month

HelpCrunch is a modern and powerful customer communication platform. With features that help streamline customer support and marketing, it’s a solution that will benefit most teams, ecommerce organizations in particular.

Pros:
  • One of the most powerful and intuitive tools we tested
  • Includes website pop-ups, which few live chat solutions offer
  • Helpful and detailed metrics regarding campaigns and knowledge base
Cons:
  • The Chat + Email plan can get expensive if you have a large team
  • The chat widget was somewhat slow to load during our testing
  • Slightly limited integrations list and doesn't integrate with Zapier
Birdeye
Rating: 92
Starting Price: $299 per month

BirdEye is a popular reputation management platform used by thousands of businesses to improve their online presences and attract new customers. The platform includes several tools that help you reach and engage customers including business listing management, online review generation, two-way text messaging, customer surveys and a mobile application.

Pros:
  • Listing management tool ensures your business information is accurate & consistent across online directories
  • Online reviews tool allows you to generate hundreds of customer reviews that improve your online presence
  • Unified inbox tool streamlines two-way text message conversations with customers
Cons:
  • Platform does not include tool for payment processing
  • Does not include team chat feature for your team to communicate inside BirdEye
  • Surveys, insights, benchmarking & ticketing applications are not included in the $399 Professional Plan
LiveChat
Rating: 91
Starting Price: $19 per agent per month

LiveChat is a live chat and ticketing software with over 30,000 customers worldwide. LiveChat's main features include advanced reports, a ticketing system, and a broad integrations list. Overall, we found LiveChat to be one of the most feature-rich live chat solutions, but also one of the most expensive.

Pros:
  • One of the most powerful live chat tools on the market
  • More advanced reporting section than found in alternatives
  • Unique features like interactive reports and direct canned response creation
Cons:
  • Lacks built-in email marketing capabilities
  • Expensive compared with other platforms, especially for smaller teams
  • No free plan
Podium Starter
Rating: 91
Starting Price: Free

Podium Starter is a free reputation management tool with features like webchat, review management, and payment processing. While there are limits to how many messages and review invitations can be utilized per month, the tool has fantastic value for a free product. We highly recommend Podium Starter for small businesses and to anyone looking to try a reputation management software.

Pros:
  • Significant value for a free product
  • Reliable choice for smaller businesses
  • Easy-to-navigate interface for an easy learning curve
Cons:
  • Limit of 10 customer review invitations per month
  • Limit of 100 outbound messages sent per month
  • Customer can only text and cannot chat on desktop
Drift
Rating: 90
Starting Price: $50 per agent per month

Drift is a powerful messaging and marketing software with over 50,000 customers. With features like live chat, chatbots, and messaging campaigns, it is a great solution for sales and marketing teams.

Pros:
  • Very powerful segmentation capabilities for marketing and sales teams
  • Segmentation enables rich targeting for one-off and drip marketing campaigns
  • Integrates with key sales and marketing solutions like Marketo and Salesforce
Cons:
  • Steep learning curve due to product's complexity
  • Chat inbox is not always accurate with information
  • Lack of pricing transparency
Podium
Rating: 90
Starting Price: $399 per month

Podium is an Interaction Management™ Platform used to generate and manage online reviews, streamline customer interactions through messaging, and monitor customer sentiment. The company has over 45,000 customers in healthcare, home services, retail, auto services, professional services, and hospitality.

Pros:
  • Customers can leave Google reviews in two clicks
  • Highly-rated mobile app allows you to manage customer conversations on-the-go
  • Includes a team chat tool for individual and group conversations
  • Each account gets a client success manager
Cons:
  • Does not include a business directory listings tool
  • Customer survey feature is more limited than some competitors
  • Conversations that start with webchat must be handled via text message
tawk.to
Rating: 90
Starting Price: Free

Tawk.to is a free live chat solution with over 3 million users. It focuses solely on live chat, with features like ticketing and screen sharing, and tawk.to also allows customers to directly hire virtual assistants and chat agents. Tawk.to is the best free live chat software and would benefit any company searching for a free option.

Pros:
  • Entirely free
  • More robust than competitors' free plans
  • Tawk.to customers can directly hire chat agents and virtual assistants
Cons:
  • Not quite as user-friendly as paid competitors
  • No chatbot or email marketing features
  • Must pay to remove "Powered by tawk.to" branding
Gist
Rating: 88
Starting Price: $29 per month

Gist is a customer messaging software with over 10,000 customers. Its notable features include event tracking and cross-channel campaigns. It is ideal for anyone looking for an affordable mid-tier customer messaging solution.

Pros:
  • Free plans are more robust than competitors' free plans
  • Advanced cross-channel messaging capabilities
  • Buildable forms and popups to capture and convert leads
Cons:
  • Chat history feature is not designed practically
  • Customer support wait times can be long
  • Limited integrations list
Crisp
Rating: 88
Starting Price: $25 per month

Crisp is a live chat and email marketing software with over 200,000 customers. Its notable features include chatbots, which are very intuitive to build, and unlimited seats in the most advanced plan. Crisp is a reliable software at a relatively low price, especially for for startups and small businesses.

Pros:
  • Prompt and reliable mobile application notifications
  • Chatbots are more intuitive to configure than competitors' bots
  • Good value for the price, particularly with the Unlimited plan
Cons:
  • MagicBrowse tool requires a strong Internet connection to function properly
  • Agent-specific reports must be custom-built with API
  • Email editor is slightly more complicated than in competitors' tools
Tidio
Rating: 85
Starting Price: $18 per month

Tidio is a live chat and email marketing software that’s used by over 300,000 websites. It offers features like chatbots and email marketing templates. Given its ease of use, Tidio is ideal for those searching for a hassle-free live chat solution.

Pros:
  • Advanced and varied chatbot workflows
  • Interface is user-friendly
  • Flexible pricing options
Cons:
  • Chat notifications can be unreliable
  • Included reports are fairly basic
  • Somewhat limited integrations list
Zendesk Chat
Rating: 84
Starting Price: $19 per agent per month

Zendesk Chat is a live chat software offered by Zendesk, a software company with a wide variety of products. The chat tool works efficiently with only minor drawbacks. With features like live visitor monitoring, proactive chat functionality, and conversion tracking, it will benefit companies that want to engage website visitors.

Pros:
  • Live visitor monitor allows you to monitor website visitors and proactively chat with them
  • Exceptionally intuitive to install and use
  • Will easily integrate with other products from Zendesk
Cons:
  • Free plan is lacking compared to competitors
  • Lack of marketing features like email campaigns
  • No customer support available for free plans
Freshchat
Rating: 84
Starting Price: $19 per agent per month

Freshchat is a messaging software offered by Freshworks, a company with a wide variety of products. Its main features include live chat and email campaigns; Freshchat also includes advanced in-house reports. Overall, Freshchat is a solid yet slightly expensive live chat solution.

Pros:
  • Advanced in-house reporting metrics
  • Free plan comes with 100 seats - more than most competitors offer for free
  • Effective and user-friendly
Cons:
  • Chatbot is expensive and only included in most expensive plan
  • Lacks integrations found in similar tools
  • Comes at a higher cost than similar competitors
Smith.ai
Rating: 83
Starting Price: $140 per month

Smith.ai is a virtual receptionist and chat agent service that is used by companies across industries like finance, legal, and real estate. With features like a smart chatbot and customizable playbooks that gather visitor information, Smith.ai is ideal for small companies looking to outsource customer support services.

Pros:
  • Ideal for companies looking for external agents to handle customer support
  • Chatbots are "smart" and can be trained to learn correct answers over time
  • Smith.ai's customer service was exceptionally helpful and proactive
Cons:
  • We ran into a significant software issue while testing the product
  • Because there are call and chat limits, it can become costly if you have a high-traffic site
  • Outsourcing your live chat is convenient, but means you'll have less control over your customer experience
Olark
Rating: 80
Starting Price: $19 per agent per month

Olark is a basic live chat software with features like chat transcripts, canned responses, and reports. It is ideal for small companies searching for a no-hassle live chat solution.

Pros:
  • Searchable chat transcripts are robust and detailed
  • All plans come with the same features
  • More detailed chat rating system than most competitors offer
Cons:
  • Lacks marketing features like email campaigns and pop-ups
  • Fairly limited integrations list
  • Best for small teams, so larger teams may not benefit from the product
Pure Chat
Rating: 73
Starting Price: $49 per month

Pure Chat is a basic live chat software with features to facilitate customer support like a chat widget, file sharing, and conversation transcripts. It would work best for teams that are ultimately focused on having a no-hassle solution. However, it likely will not support advanced customer support goals.

Pros:
  • User interface is clean
  • Proactive chat functionality is helpful
  • Installation and setup are quick and easy
Cons:
  • Limited reports, details, and integrations
  • Users have stated that mobile notifications are fickle
  • Lacks advanced information capture forms and chatbot functionality

Live Chat Software Prices

Live chat software can range from free to upwards of $500 per month. Here are some details that will help you compare prices for the most popular live chat tools.

Software VendorStarting Monthly PriceFree TrialAdditional Information
Intercom$59Yes
  • Certain plans are $119 for 5 seats
DriftFreeNo
  • Monthly pricing is roughly $600 per month
  • Additional seats are roughly $80 per month
HelpCrunch$15No
  • Annual plan comes to a 20% discount off monthly pricing
Tawk.toFreeYes
  • Chat agents for hire from $1 per hour
  • Virtual assistant for hire from $7 per hour
  • Remove branding for $12 per month
  • Video, Voice, & Screen Sharing from $29 per month
LiveChat$19Yes
  • Yearly subscription comes at a 15% discount from monthly pricing
CrispFreeYes
  • Pro Plan is $25 month for four seats
  • Unlimited Plan is $95 for unlimited seats
TidioFreeYes
  • Chatbots starting at $18 per month
  • Email Marketing starting at $10 per month
  • Additional visitor insights starting at $18 per month

Live Chat Software FAQs

Live chat software is technology that allows companies to engage with their website visitors in real-time, via messaging. It is often utilized as an alternative to phone and email support, providing superior convenience and speed.

There are numerous benefits that live chat softwares offer. These include:

  • Instant messaging with customers
  • Building trust and familiarity with clients
  • Proactively engaging visitors to your website
  • Capturing customer contact information

The cost of live software depends on the features you need. Plans with advanced features are typically more expensive. In general, here's the price you can expect to spend per user per month for live chat software:

  • Entry plans: $0 to $19 per month per agent
  • Standard plans: $20 to $49 per month per agent
  • Business and Pro plans: $50 to $99 per month per agent
  • Enterprise plans: Contact the vendor for pricing

The best live chat software for you depends on your budget and the features you need. The best options for large companies that want an advanced system are LiveChat, Intercom, and Drift. Tawk.to is an ideal tool for companies who want live chat capabilities for free.

The most popular free live chat software is tawk.to. Drift is another popular option, with over 150,000 businesses using the software.

The most common live chat software features are:

  • Live Chat
  • Chat Widgets
  • Chatbots
  • Automated and Canned Messages
  • Helpdesk
  • Integrations
  • Email Campaigns
  • Issue Tracking Systems
  • Reporting

Live Chat Software Research & Advice

Live Chat Comparison

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Live Chat for Customer Service

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What is Live Chat?

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Zendesk Chat vs. Freshchat

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Is Zendesk Chat or Freshchat the better solution for you? This in-depth, feature-by-feature breakdown will help you select the best live...Read More >

Zendesk Chat vs. LiveChat

By Katelyn Anderson |

Is Zendesk Chat or LiveChat the better solution for you? This in-depth, feature-by-feature breakdown will help you select the best live...Read More >

HelpCrunch vs. Intercom

By Katelyn Anderson |

Is HelpCrunch or Intercom the better solution for you? This in-depth, feature-by-feature breakdown will help you select the best live chat...Read More >

Olark vs. tawk.to

By Katelyn Anderson |

Is Olark or tawk.to the better live chat solution for you? This in-depth, feature-by-feature breakdown will help you select the best live...Read More >

Freshchat vs. Intercom

By Katelyn Anderson |

Is Freshchat or Intercom the better solution for you? This in-depth, feature-by-feature breakdown will help you select the best live chat...Read More >

tawk.to vs. Tidio

By Katelyn Anderson |

Is tawk.to or Tidio the better solution for you? This in-depth, feature-by-feature breakdown will help you select the best live chat tool...Read More >

Why You Should Trust Our Recommendations

The team at SoftwarePundit has been testing software since 2017. We’ve hand-tested over 250 software products in that time, including 16 in the live chat category. We applied the same rigorous process to each piece of live chat software that we analyzed. The specifics of our live chat category research process are outlined below.

Katelyn led our analysis of live chat software. She has spent more than 300 hours evaluating leading live chat software systems. To test the live chat tools, she set up a Weebly page and installed each live chat tool on that page. She sent messages back and forth to website visitors, tested key features, and analyzed differences between the software products.

In addition, all research and content was overseen by Bruce Hogan, SoftwarePundit’s Co-founder & CEO. Bruce has more than a decade of experience researching, building, and reviewing the world’s best software products. His technology advice has been featured on a wide range of media sites such as AngelList, CMSWire, Dental Economics, iPhone Life, Reader’s Digest, Thrive Global, U.S. News, and the Zapier Blog.

How We Selected the Best Live Chat Software

We selected the best live chat software based upon a number of criteria. The most important criteria were each software tool’s features, usability, price, and customer support. The details of our analyses are captured in the in-depth reviews we publish about each software tool.

There are a handful of critical features that you should look for in live chat software. We prioritized the following features in our analysis:

  • Website Widget: The widget is the window that allows customers to interact with your business. It’s important that widgets load quickly on a page, can be customized to fit your company’s branding, and support file sending.
  • Automated and canned responses: Automated and canned responses are pre-saved responses that you can send out with quick shortcuts. These tools will save your company time and effort.
  • Chatbots: Chatbots are software programs that are designed to converse with visitors and capture visitor information while your company is offline. It’s imperative that chatbots can be customized to handle complex routing rules, which will direct the visitor to the correct department.
  • Chat and Email Campaigns: Chat and email campaigns are crucial marketing tools for any company. These campaigns should be easy to configure, have the ability to be sent to different segments of users, and report metrics about campaign effectiveness.

How We Evaluated Live Chat Software

We used the same rigorous process to evaluate live chat software as all other software categories. For the live chat category, Katelyn invested several weeks researching, testing, and writing about the tools.

We interviewed the teams at the software companies listed above. Our conversations with the companies included questions about each company’s product, customer base, pricing, customer support, and business strength. After a general interview, Katelyn spent additional time participating in a product demo led by each company. This provided Katelyn with the opportunity to ask detailed questions about the features and functionality of the live chat software.

Katelyn also obtained a free trial of each software tool listed above. She spent several hours testing the key user journeys in each software product. This allowed us to validate the features offered by each product, and to gain an understanding of the software’s usability. To better understand the implementation process and customer experience, Katelyn installed live chat software on a test website that we host.

In addition to conducting conversations with the software companies and hand-testing every piece of software, Katelyn also spent dozens of hours interviewing real customers of the software tools listed above. Customers that provided insights that were included in our analysis and reviews were:

  • David Plumridge: David Plumridge is the founder of ActionBuddy and has been a customer of LiveChat, tawk.to, Intercom, and other live chat tools.
  • James Graham: James Graham is the CEO and founder of Community Phone. He uses Drift for his customer support efforts.
  • Jeff Moriarty: Jeff Moriarty is the founder of JMoriarty Marketing. He uses Drift for his customer support efforts.
  • Jesse Spencer: Jesse Spencer works with BIS | Grooper. The company currently uses Drift.
  • Mony Georgiev: Mony Georgiev is the founder of Maidily. He uses HubSpot live chat to provide frontend support for his customers.
  • Nastya Kholodova: Nastya Kholodova is the founder and software developer at Voopty. Her company uses Pure Chat.
  • Tamika Scriven: Tamika Scriven is the owner of Allure Wigs. Allure Wigs currently uses Pure Chat to support customers with live chat.