[UPDATE: This post was updated 9/29/2016 to include Drift]
Your customers need help…help with your website, anyway. They don’t know how to fix their problems and they’re growing frustrated. Your goal is simple: get in touch with them before they bail and cease being “customers” altogether.
If you don’t have the time or inclination for call center software, then Live Chat is the only way for you to go. True: a “Live Chat” platform sounds expensive. But if you peruse the list below, you’ll see that there are plenty of free and freemium options for running live chat software on your website:
Free and Freemium Options
Drift is a messaging app with a focus on helping companies grow. Geared more toward marketing and customer success teams than support, Drift was created by two former HubSpot product leaders: David Cancel and Elias Torres. Drift’s mission is to “help businesses have one to one conversations at scale.”
- Slack integration lets you receive notifications, as well as talk to your customers and prospects, within Slack.
- Drift displays real names and faces prominently in every message.
- Other integrations include WordPress, HubSpot, Zapier, and Segment
- Drift has a chatbot to help route conversations to the right team member at the right time with less manual work.
- No direct integration with Salesforce yet (other than through Zapier).
Sales and customer success are both predicated on authentic, human connection. Making it easier for a sales rep to proactively message a lead looking at your pricing page for the third time helps foster that kind of connection.
Despite a name that will have Google trying to suggest you click elsewhere, we’d recommend against doing that. Proonto might look like a typo, but it’s actually a fast and efficient service for setting up live sales and support on your site for reasonable rates. Any entrepreneur building a sales/support section of their website should consider Proonto as their provider. Here’s why:
- Ideal for online shopping sites: Proonto hooks you up with sales agents and support professionals, allowing you to use them in a “pay as you go” setup. You only pay for the staffing, not the software.
- This means you can use its Live Chat function for free. You can avoid long-term pricing commitments if your sales don’t increase with Proonto, as well.
- A simple dashboard allows you to review transcripts, monitor your data, and easily view which problems your customers are having most frequently.
- Easy integration with customer service software like Desk and Zendesk as well as eCommerce platforms.
- Without sales associates working for you, it becomes a standalone Live Chat feature.
We had to look long and hard to come up with that exhaustive list of “cons.” The truth is, Proonto is one of the best platforms we’ve found for Live Chat, because it offers a simple interface without forcing any particular pricing plan on you. If you want to handle Live Chat and customer support yourself, then you’re free to do that; you don’t even have to pay. If you do decide to pay, $10 an hour is the flat fee, which is more than reasonable if these specialists really are going to help you get more sales.
FreshDesk is a great “all in one” customer service solution for anyone who needs more than live chat software–but we like the live chat on FreshDesk because it’s particularly easy to turn chat sessions into customer service tickets. You can easily transfer those tickets to someone else, which is beneficial for effective communication between team members and nice if you have the sudden need for a vacation.
Perhaps best, however, is the 24 x 7 support (24 x 7 for email support, 24 x 5 for phone support), which is perfect for new entrepreneurs who’ve never used Live Chat or any kind of help desk on their website before.
- Did we mention the 24 x 7 customer support? It’s one of the best things FreshDesk has going for it, and it’s included even in the free version.
- Reviewing chat transcripts is a cinch on email and mobile devices, which makes it easy to find out which customers need what.
- Plenty of documentation and “Webinars” for figuring out how to use Live Chat along with all of FreshDesk’s features.
- No adding custom views for customer tickets.
- No customization for “Customer Status” field values.
Capterra users’ complaints about FreshDesk are few and far between, which is why it’s a frequent top choice when it comes to free and freemium customer support software. Because their Live Chat features integrate so nicely with the overall package, FreshDesk is a great way for aspiring customer helpers to get–and stay–organized..
As software dedicated solely to the proposition of live chatting with customers, IM Supporting has the myriad features and specialized tools one would expect: real time visitor monitoring, user queueing, an offline messaging system, and more. The baseline packages are all paid services, but you can get a free trial.
- Is “comprehensive” a feature? SSL encryption, canned replies, a star rating system–IM Supporting has it all.
- Running multiple chats is easy and intuitive, and with the aforementioned canned replies in tow, it works efficiently.
- A “sneak peak” feature allows you to see what your customer is typing, allowing for quick responses.
- It’s IM Supporting software, but that’s all it is. It would be nice if these features came with a total customer support suite.
- The pricing system, listed in British Pounds, allows only a little bit of flexibility with the free trial. If you like what you use, expect to start paying.
If you want effective live chat software and nothing else, IM Supporting has everything you could want. It does its best work when there are only a few customer support service staff working against a lot of live chat sessions: the “sneak peak” feature and the efficient running of multiple chats keeps your response to each customer as fast as possible. We don’t like the pricing system, but even in the world of free live chat software, you often get what you pay for.
Open Source Options
LiveZilla is about more than Live Chat. But considering that the word “live” is part of their name, we hold them to a high standard when it comes to customer sales and support chatting. Luckily there are plenty of features here to justify giving LiveZilla’s free version–which has plenty of capability for anyone who wants to run live chat–the old college try.
- Easy chat forwarding makes communication far more efficient; emailing transcripts doesn’t hurt, either.
- The ability to choose from different chat invitation styles.
- Answer suggestions and a quick search window make “self-help” – not the Tony Robbins kind–more intuitive for your audience.
- Lots of functionality in the free version..
- If you want the amount of features you get with IM Supporting, you’re better off opting for exactly that.
LiveZilla Live Chat is a great stepping stone for anyone who wants to incorporate live chat on their website without spending a dime. But if you have a website that’s more sophisticated or a support staff that’s ready to go, it’s probably better to opt for a comprehensive customer support and live chat suite.
It’s hard to resist the enthusiasm that an exclamation point in the software title suggests. PHP Live! And why not be enthusiastic? PHP Live! offers simple, straightforward live chat for eCommerce solutions with plenty of free functionality; if you’re looking for something to get you started today, PHP Live! might just be worthy of its exclamation.
- Plenty of basic choices, including adding an embedded vs. a popup chat window.
- Enough customization capabilities to effectively “brand” your live chat, including uploading your logo, changing the window themes, and uploading chat icons.
- Lack of an effective ticketing solution. FreshDesk, by comparison, makes comprehensive ticketing a priority; here, you won’t find it addressed.
- Limited reporting tools. You’ll find basic access to numbers like a website traffic monitor, but little else.
If you want your live chat up and running with minimal issues and minimal investment, then PHP Live! is a worthy option with plenty of customization. If you have more advanced customer service needs, however, we find little reason to justify getting as excited about this open source program as the name suggests. It might be better to go with an option higher on our list.
Choosing the Live Chat Software For You
Which live chat software solution is best for you? Reading through our list, you’ll find that it largely depends on your goals. Some solutions are better fitted for sales and support. Others are better for large companies with lots of products and lots of customers. Other affordable options work perfectly well for anyone who wants something up and running now.
We suggest you take advantage of the free trials and freemium live chat options here to experiment with a few of the top contenders and find out which your customers like best. After all, it’s really their opinion that counts.
Looking for Customer Service software? Check out Capterra's list of the best Customer Service software solutions.