Best Live Chat Software 2021

Best Live Chat Software for Small Businesses

Are you a small business looking to provide a better customer experience? We’ve tested dozens of the most popular live chat solutions and have listed the five best tools for SMBs below.

Live chat software is designed to help organizations of all types connect with their website visitors in real time. Companies that want to go the extra mile to engage customers will benefit from having this type of software.

However, it’s important to find the live chat product that offers the most value for your money. Throughout this article, we’ll provide you with our top five live chat picks for small businesses.

All of our recommendations are based on research, product demos with the software companies, and dozens of hours spent hand-testing these live chat solutions. More details regarding our research process can be found on our live chat category page.

Table of Contents

What is Live Chat Software?

Before getting started, it's important to understand exactly what live chat is and what it's used for. Live chat software allows company representatives to converse with website visitors. This happens through an inbox or dashboard on the company side, and through a chat window, called a “widget”, on the visitor’s end. Live chat is rapidly becoming a staple website feature due to the ease of use and quick response times.

Many live chat solutions will combine live chat and other support tools, like ticketing and a knowledge base, with marketing features. These include email marketing, website pop-ups, and other interactive elements for your website. Such solutions are particularly beneficial for small businesses that want to handle all support and marketing features from within one platform, rather than having multiple systems at once.

What Features are Found in Live Chat Software?

Live chat software ranges from fairly rudimentary to full-featured and complex. For example, some solutions might only offer live chat capabilities. Others are equipped with the more advanced features mentioned above. Below is a table that describes features found across live chat software.

FeatureDescription
Chat Inbox & WidgetThe inbox and widget facilitate messaging between your company and visitors. Within these two options, it would be helpful to look for features like file sharing, live typing previews, and quick responses (predetermined chat shortcuts that save typing time). You should also be able to customize the widget to fit with your website’s design
Visitor InformationEvery solution will collect some basic information about your website visitors, like their name and location. Other tools will go a step further and provide a live visitor view so you can see where visitors are located and proactively chat with them.
ChatbotsSome solutions are equipped with chatbots, which are designed to interact with your customers while your team is offline. Chatbots can be programmed to collect visitor information, route visitors to the correct department, and answer questions.
Email CampaignsEmail campaigns are particularly effective for engaging customers and boosting sales. The solutions that have this feature included are helpful so that you won’t have to utilize another external solution, like Mailchimp.
Website Pop-upsWebsite pop-ups notify visitors of promotions or company updates and often collect contact information. This isn’t found in many solutions, so be thoughtful when choosing a solution if this is a must-have.
AnalyticsAlmost every tool provides analytics so your team can understand performance. Live chat software options are not created equal in this regard, as many have fairly basic analytics. However, all tools will have this included, so you won’t have to integrate with other tools like Google Analytics if you don’t want to.

Best Live Chat for Small Businesses

Below is a list of our top five live chat solutions for small businesses. We’ll note the price of each, any standout features, and describe why each pick made the list. If you see one that interests you, we’ll attach our full reviews that you can decide if the tool will effectively support your business.

1: HelpCrunch: If You’re Looking for an All-in-One Solution

We chose HelpCrunch as our #1 live chat solution for small businesses due to its ease of use and wide range of features. Rather than needing to handle multiple tools for marketing and messaging, you can use HelpCrunch for live chat, email marketing, website pop-ups, and more.

HelpCrunch is a bit expensive for the combined Chat + Marketing plan, which costs $49 per team member per month. However, this price point allows you to host a help desk and knowledge base, whitelabel the chat widget, and send unlimited chat and email messages. In spite of a few minor drawbacks, this is our top pick. We highly recommend signing up for a 14-day free trial to test the software.

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

2: Crisp: If You Want Unlimited Seats Without Breaking the Bank

Crisp is high on this list because for just $95 per month, you’ll get unlimited seats. Having unlimited seats is particularly beneficial for small businesses where many team members across various departments are contributing to customer support and marketing efforts.

Features include but are not limited to:

  • Chat inbox and widget
  • Easy-to-build chatbots
  • Live visitor information
  • Email campaigns
  • Help desk & status page
  • Analytics

The main drawback we noticed while testing the software is that the MagicBrowse tool, which lets you see your visitors’ screens, often did not function properly. However, this was one small fault in an otherwise helpful product. To read more about Crisp, check out the full review below.

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

3: Gist: If You’re Looking for Marketing and Support Combined

Gist is built specifically for small teams and offers a wide range of features from chatbots to email templates. When testing the tool, we found that it has a robust free plan along with a variety of paid plans. This tool is beneficial for small teams since it’s easy to use and implement.

At a current discounted price of $128 per month, you’ll get unlimited seats for combined support and marketing features. We have it ranked third on this list due to limited integrations and long customer support wait times, but these drawbacks don’t outweigh the value the tool offers.

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

4: Tidio: If You Want Flexible Pricing Options

Tidio’s flexible pricing options will benefit SMBs that want to be strategic with money allocation. It’s the only live chat plan with email marketing, chatbots, and visitor information priced separately, meaning that you can choose which features you want and only pay for those. The pricing information is as follows:

  • Live chat: Free
  • Email Marketing: $10 per month
  • Chatbots: $18 per month
  • Visitor information: $18 per month

This choice isn’t without some drawbacks. Tidio has limited integrations and we found that chat notifications were unreliable, meaning that we sometimes missed incoming messages. If these drawbacks aren’t a deal-breaker, however, then it’s certainly worth considering.

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 that are still easy to build
  • Interface is user-friendly
  • Flexible pricing options give customers the chance to pay for only the features they want
Cons:
  • Chat notifications can be unreliable, so you may not always get notified when you have a message
  • Included reports are fairly basic
  • Somewhat limited integrations list, especially compared with competitors

5: LiveChat: If You’re Looking for Something Advanced

We recommend LiveChat for those who want a modern live chat tool with a streamlined appearance. It should be noted that this tool lacks built-in email marketing capabilities, so the previous four choices should be considered first if that’s a requirement of yours. LiveChat is solely for live chat and ticketing purposes. We recommend the Team plan, priced at $39 per agent per month, for capabilities like file sharing, chat routing, and reports.

Features like chatbots and a knowledge base cost extra, which makes this tool far more expensive compared with its competitors that include such features in the monthly price. However, it’s still one of the best options out there. Small teams with a higher budget for support tools will want to check this one out.

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
Katelyn Anderson

Katelyn is a Junior Research Analyst at SoftwarePundit, where she conducts in-depth analyses of technology markets & products and writes software-related content. She graduated summa cum laude with degrees in English and Psychology. Her main areas of interest are content creation, user experience, and search engine optimization. You can connect with Katelyn on LinkedIn.

Katelyn is an expert in several software categories including:

  • Accounting software
  • Live chat software
  • Vacation rental software

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