Best Live Chat Software 2021

Live Chat for Customer Service

Live chat, a form of instant communication between customers and brands, has revolutionized customer service. If you’re considering installing live chat on your website, here’s some crucial information about what it is, how it works, and how to best utilize it for your customer service efforts.

Live chat, a form of instant communication between customers and brands, has revolutionized customer service. It allows customers to pose their questions to businesses in real-time, therefore eliminating the wait associated with email support and the stress associated with phone support.

If you’re considering installing live chat on your website, here’s some crucial information about what it is, how it works, and how to best utilize it for your customer service efforts.

Table of Contents

The Basics of Live Chat for Customer Service

Having live chat software for customer service on your website allows customers to have an immediate conversation with your support team when they need assistance. This text-based conversation happens in real-time and means that customers can have a conversation with a person in the text window of the live chat box.

Live Chat Widget

Live chat software is about more than providing customer support: it’s about all things customer service. Live chat can facilitate processes such as directing the customer to a knowledge base, increasing sales by resolving any customer problems as they arise, and intervening before customers abandon their carts. It’s also helpful for gathering statistics on how well your customer service is working and identifying areas of improvement.

If you’re looking for an article that goes more into the basics of live chat, check out our What is Live Chat? article.

Why Should You Use Live Chat for Customer Service?

Simply put, customers will often pick a real-time support option over other mediums because they’re attended to much faster. Email and phone customer service options are still great, but they don’t provide the same ease of use and instantaneous results. Because so many customers expect and prefer live chat, it makes sense to include it on your website. Below are the top five reasons we suggest using live chat for customer service.

Customers Expect It

First of all, having live chat on your website simply makes good business sense. Data from Econsultancy has shown that live chat has consistently shown the highest satisfaction level of any customer service channel with a 73% satisfaction rate. Customers expect to have the option of speaking to someone immediately through a live chat service when they have a problem they want to resolve. With so many businesses now using the live chat function, customers are starting to expect to have this as an option on every website they use.

Live Chat Can Help Increase Sales

53% of customers are likely to abandon their online purchases if they can’t find quick answers to their questions. Having live chat on a website can reduce the number of carts abandoned out of frustration. When their product questions or concerns are addressed quickly and fully, customers are more likely to complete their transactions. It also helps them feel valued and appreciated, which can also influence future purchases from your company. Live chat can keep people on your page and, in turn, facilitate more sales.

You Can Identify Common Customer Questions

Having a live chat feature will help you to identify commonly asked questions. By assessing your live chat history and identifying repeat queries from customers, you can understand if something about your company is not clear. From there, you can update your website, user flows, and provide more FAQ responses for customers to refer back to.

Live Chat Is Usually Low-Cost

Many live chat software tools are entirely free, and there are also numerous high-quality platforms that have a very low monthly cost. Most tools hover around $19 per user per month for a basic set of features.

Being Proactive Is Important

A Gartner study showed that proactive customer service increases a company's customer satisfaction score. With live chat software, you can schedule messages to be automatically sent to customers for many different reasons. You can program a message to pop up when a customer first enters your website, when a customer abandons their cart, or when they are on the FAQ page of your website. This type of proactive engagement will reduce the effort your customer needs to put in to find answers to their questions.

What Do You Need In Order to Offer Live Chat?

There are three things you’ll need to offer customer service through live chat:

  • Your website
  • Live chat software
  • Customer service representatives

It’s really that simple.

Once your business website is up and running, you’ll need to select the right software provider for you. There are many live chat tools available, all with different features, target audiences, and price points. You’ll want to find the best balance of useful features and a fair price. A bit later in this article, we’ll provide a list of live chat tools that we personally tested.

You’ll also want to ensure that your team has the time to dedicate to staffing live chat during business hours. It’s a big mistake to offer this seemingly real-time support channel without being available to respond to customers. Whether you have a dedicated member of your customer support team to staff live chat or if you all take turns watching for incoming chats, make sure you have the resources to integrate live chat on your website.

How to Install Live Chat on Your Website

You don’t need to be a developer or programmer to install live chat—all you need to know is how to copy and paste.

When you sign up with your live chat software provider, log into your account. You’ll generally navigate to the “Settings” section of the dashboard. You’ll have the ability to customize the chat widget to your preferences, which will entail choosing the color of the window, inputting your company logo, setting business hours, and choosing the location of the live chat window on your website.

Once the initial changes have been made, you’ll navigate to the area of the software that directs you to install the widget. Different providers will have different instructions, but most will provide a few lines of code, often JavaScript. You’ll copy the code and paste it onto the back end of your website.

How to Install Live Chat

Once this has been done, the window will automatically pop up on your website, and you’re ready to start having conversations.

If you do run into any problems when you are either installing or using the software on your website, make sure you take advantage of support articles provided by the live chat company. There are often videos and articles that will walk you through the process.

Questions to Ask Before Getting Started With Live Chat for Customer Service

Before you embark on your journey with live chat, there are some questions that you need to ask yourself. First of all, make sure you’re ready to implement a new software, because it will take time and resources to both implement and maintain. You’ll need to maintain the appropriate staffing levels to keep the live chat monitored. Without near-instantaneous responses, live chat could actually damage customers’ perception of your customer service.

Do We Have The Resources We Need?

As mentioned above, you’ll only reap the benefits of live chat software if you have the internal resources to use it properly. You’ll need to have customer service representatives who are trained to use live chat and are available to answer questions during business hours. Don’t assume that your team knows how to give great service using live chat because they’re skilled at doing so over the phone or by email. Live chat is a completely different medium and should be treated as such to make sure you get the most out of it.

Where Should the Live Chat Widget Go?

Deciding where to house your live chat is key. You’ll want it to be readily available and easily located, but you don’t want it to block anything important on your website. Most websites have the live chat widget in the bottom right corner of the window. Most customers will expect it to be there, so it’s a great idea to place the widget in that bottom right corner. If you’re unable to place it there because it interferes with other things on your website, just make sure the widget is placed in one of the corners on high-value pages.

How Will Live Chat Work Alongside Other Customer Support Mediums?

It’s likely that live chat won’t be your only customer support medium. It’s a good idea to continue offering a support email, and you might want to have a telephone number for customers to call.

It may take a while to get the balance between live chat, email, and phone support, but once you see how your customers prefer to interact, you can decide how to split your time. If your customers are primarily utilizing live chat, you’ll know to dedicate more time and perhaps expand chat hours. If customers continue to use email, you can scale the live chat back a bit.

Best Practices for Live Chat Customer Support

Now that you’ve got live chat installed on your website, you’ll need to use it effectively to achieve optimal results. As with customer service of any type, there are some best practices that will ensure live chat works well for your customers while being effective for your business.

Install Live Chat On The Correct Pages

44% of online customers say that having questions answered by a live representative during an online purchase is one of the most important features a company can offer. Make sure you’re using the live chat feature on your high-value pages, which are the ones where customers are close to buying. Think of pricing pages or the checkout page. When people are on these pages, they’re at the point where they’re considering making a purchase. Offering live chat on these pages means you can give customized support for questions, and also give people a nudge to engage in conversation if there is an indication they’re hesitant about buying.

Offer Self-Help Options

Customers will want 24/7 support during their purchase process. This is where self-help options come in handy, as your team can’t realistically be online at all hours. Many live chat software tools offer a hosted knowledge base or FAQ page, where customers can read through information and get answers to their questions on their own. Having this option readily available will benefit both customers and your team, as customers will still feel supported while your team members are saved the time it would take to facilitate a live conversation.

Below is an image of a hosted knowledge base that you can configure to your company’s preferences:

HelpCrunch Knowledge Base

Offer Support in Multiple Languages

Customers will want to connect with you in their own language and will feel particularly supported if you’re able to facilitate that. Live chat tools often offer multiple languages and can translate messages in real-time, which can encourage your customers to feel confident to reach out when they need assistance.

Use Canned Responses

A canned response is a pre-saved message that your customer service team can send at the click of a button. For example, a common customer question might be, “What is your return policy?” If this response is saved as a canned message, your team members won’t have to type out the whole message— rather, they can just send the pre-written policy.

The use of canned responses on your website live chat can be extremely effective to reduce support wait times. It is important to use canned responses wisely, however, because an inappropriate canned response can quickly cause a breakdown in the relationship with a customer. 29% of customers report feeling frustrated when they’re sent a scripted and impersonal message. Be selective when you use canned responses to make sure they feel natural.

Time Messages Well

Sending targeted messages at the right times can boost engagement and sales. If a customer has spent some time on the FAQ page, schedule a message to pop up asking if they need help. If they’ve lingered on a page for more than 10 minutes, send a message asking if they’re still there. Timing messages well will let customers know that you’re being attentive to their actions on your site.

Make the Most of Analytics

Analytics are your opportunity to drill down into some numbers to really quantify your performance and your customers’ satisfaction levels. Most live chat software tools will offer basic analytics that you can use to assess whether you’re providing top-notch customer service. Key data points include average wait times, which demonstrates the average number of seconds—or minutes—it takes your team members to join a chat where a customer is waiting. You can also program your live chat software to prompt a rating from the customer after the chat has ended, and you’ll be able to see these ratings to determine whether customers are happy with your service.

Many tools will also break analytics down by individual operator ratings and response times, so you’ll know if a team member needs a bit more training to offer the best customer experience possible.

Integrate Live Chat With Your CRM

While some live chat tools offer a basic CRM that will collect customer information, you’ll likely need to integrate with your existing CRM to have a more sophisticated database. Make sure the tool you choose integrates with your existing CRM, and all your existing systems, for that matter. That will ensure that you can export data from the live chat software into other systems and vice versa.

Be Friendly Yet Efficient

As mentioned above, live chat is entirely different than handling customer service over email. Your team won’t have the luxury of time to put helpful, friendly answers together when the person is waiting live on the other end of your chat. You’ll want to start a chat by greeting customers in a friendly manner, asking how their day is doing, and what you can do to help.

To help move things along, keep your answers as short and sweet as possible by using friendly language, bite-sized questions, and, perhaps most importantly, adjusting the conversation as necessary. Don’t forget to properly end the conversation once you have finished the chat. Make sure your customer has what they need and is happy with the advice they’ve received, and once their initial issue has been resolved, ask, “Is there anything else I can help you with?”

Best Live Chat Software for Customer Service

Below are the best live chat tools for customer service. We’ve researched and tested all of these tools firsthand, so we know their best features and ideal use cases.

Tawk.to

Tawk.to offers live chat and ticketing for free, which will greatly enhance your customer service efforts at no cost. For an extra charge, you can pay to co-browse with website visitors, which can help for technical support. Tawk.to also offers chat agents for hire, which can be great for those who don’t have a dedicated customer service team.

To learn more about tawk.to, read our full review.

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

Crisp

Crisp offers live chat and co-browsing, which, again, is great for customer support. They also have a unique feature called the MagicMap, which lets you understand where your customers are browsing from. The Ultimate Plan offers a more full-featured customer service tool with a chatbot and integrations with Salesforce, Zapier, and Hubspot, among many other things.

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

Freshchat

Freshchat is another reliable choice that offers live chat and ticketing, two of the most crucial customer service features. If you use any other systems offered by Freshworks like Freshdesk or Freshcaller, Freshchat will be a great choice as all the systems were designed to work well with each other.

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

Gist

Gist is a marketing and messaging software with a robust free plan. It’s particularly useful for those who want a proactive customer service tool, as you’ll be able to utilize outbound messages, website pop-ups, and chatbots to engage and support your customers.

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

HelpCrunch

HelpCrunch is a great tool for those who want to combine support with marketing. The features include outbound messages, a hosted knowledge base, and website pop-ups alongside the standard live chat. It can get expensive but is great for smaller teams.

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

Live Chat Features to Look Out For

There are three key features to look out for when you’re considering live chat for customer service: a hosted knowledge base, chatbots, and analytics.

Hosted Knowledge Base

Many live chat options will offer what’s called a “hosted knowledge base,” which is a landing page where you can write help articles and FAQs. Most hosted knowledge base pages will come with the live chat widget automatically installed, so that customers can chat with your team if they still need assistance.

Chatbots

Chatbots are AI tools that are programmed to carry out basic conversations with customers while a human isn’t online to talk with them. Chatbots are a great way to offer round-the-clock customer service without needing to schedule employees 24 hours a day. Some tools, like Crisp and Tidio, have basic chatbots that won’t break the bank and can perform basic functions like routing customers to the right team, answering FAQs, and offering resources.

Analytics

As mentioned before, analytics are absolutely essential for understanding whether your customer service efforts are resulting in happy customers. Shown below are reports from Intercom, which include graphs and statistics about responsiveness, team performance, and more.

Intercom Reports
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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