Live Chat Software Overview
What is Live Chat Software?
Live Chat Software allows website operators to interact directly with visitors on their websites in real-time, typically through some combination of instant messaging/chat, video, and survey forms. With live chat software maintaining the spotlight, many live chat vendors are also branching into “webchat” which can take live chat conversations into other modes of communication, namely SMS/text messaging. This is a great development for organizations looking to work with only one vendor to manage both website chat and text-based chat.
The two major use cases for these tools are sales qualification and customer support. The majority of leading live chat software functions both as live chat for lead generation and live chat support software.
Live Chat Software Features & CapabilitiesAt minimum, live chat software should include the following capabilities:
- Real-time messaging
- Canned responses and greetings
Chat history and transcripts
Customization tools for branding, agent profiles, languages, etc.
- Pre-built AI bots to handle conversations without a human agent
Customized AI bots for the same purpose
Integrations with scheduling and client management applications like Freshdesk, Google Calendar, Zapier, etc.
iOS and Android versions
Live Chat Software Key Use Cases: Sales & Support
Using live chat software, salespeople can answer prospects' questions or initiate a consultative conversation--at a key point in the buyer's journey, when the prospect is already engaged with the website or free trial (for online software products). They can also collect the prospect's contact information to follow up based on the prospect's readiness/likelihood to buy, for example trying to set up a call vs. entering them into a marketing nurture drip sequence.
Used by support or customer success teams, live chat software allows customers who have questions or problems to connect with an individual agent and receive a response in real-time, without having to call in and navigate an automated phone tree or submit a support ticket. (Although sometimes the agent on the other end of the live chat will end up submitting a support ticket for them.)
Like social customer service tools, proponents of live chat support consider it to be a better customer service experience, because recognition is immediate, there's a personal connection, and help can be delivered in context of the website or application. Also, issues addressed via IM are kept more informal than filing a help desk ticket, and more discreet than a social support case.
Live chat point solutions for the support use case are lighter-weight and easier to implement than a full help desk, but using an integrated live chat/help desk solution has its advantages, since the customer interaction history can be stored in one unified record, and tickets can be created/routed directly from the chat interface.
Live Chat Software Comparison
To compare different live chat tools, consider these factors for each product offering:
Automation: This will not be applicable for all use cases, but you should determine whether the live chat software you are considering supports automated messages or not, should you choose to utilize them. Automated messaging can save your agents time and route people to the appropriate resources to keep your support team and sales agents from handling requests that do not need human assistance.
Integrations: Choose live chat software that integrates with your existing sales engagement and CRM tools. Do not assume that any given live chat platform supports the other tools you'd like to import data into. This is likely one of the most important factors to consider. If a tool doesn't already have an integration designed for the tools you'd like, it should at least give you the option to set one up.
Security: Users often share personal information via live chat programs, so invest in tools that are transparent about the security features of their software. You also want to make sure that it complies with both your local and international cybersecurity regulations.
Unlike a lot of SaaS tools, live chat software options do not proliferate free versions. However, a few tools like Gist and Freshchat feature totally free starter options. You can expect pricing tiers to be differentiated by the size of your contact list and the number of account managers. Paid plans can start as low as $16/mo with enterprise plans starting at $79/mo on the lower end. Enterprises looking into live chat software should keep in mind that many live chat vendors do not offer pre-designed plans for larger organizations and require that you reach out to them for a quote and estimate of what your account may actually cost.
Frequently Asked Questions
While most live chat software is only available as paid plans, Gist and Freshchat have free versions available. Enterprises will get the most out of paid plans, as free plans do not typically support advanced features that the nature of their operations require.
Paid plans can start as low as $16/mo to as high as $100/mo. This pricing is usually by number of "seats", or agents you would like to have utilizing the software at any given time. So be mindful of your team size when budgeting for live chat software.