[Update 5/5/2016: This post was updated to include product improvements made by Comm100]
Internetretailer.com found that a fifth of consumers said live chat is their preferred way to interact with a merchant, and 29% of consumers said they were more likely to make a purchase if a website had a live chat option.
Userlike aggregated additional stats including that live chat can have a 305% ROI with a payback period of six months for paid chat services.
Gartner predicts that by 2018, more than 100 of the 500 largest global businesses will introduce video chat for customer service.
Ready to start offering live chat to your website visitors? Here is a comparison of some great live chat software options. We used data and analysis from industry expert sources, including Business.com, Crazyegg, and Concedo to find the live chat options which have useful features, are known to be popular in the industry, and serve a wide variety of businesses.
First we have a straight feature comparison, and below it a more in-depth analysis of the different options.
The coolest thing about LiveHelpNow is visitor triggers. As you’re chatting, banners rotate through at the top of the chat box. They can have different background colors and calls to action. This makes it easy and fairly unobtrusive to offer a coupon, or ask people to sign up for your newsletter.
Overall, LiveHelpNow is much more than just live chat. It’s close to a complete help desk software solution, but with a cost comparable to live chat alone.
For example, it offers ticket intake and management. Custom web forms provide one source of tickets, but it will also turn tweets to your company handle and emails into tickets that you can add statuses and due dates and send canned responses to. The tickets can be filtered and searched as well.
LiveHelpNow will host a knowledge base for your customers, and agents. It is full-featured, with the ability to host video, images, and PDFs. Customers can rate and comment on articles in the knowledge base. And the whole thing is searchable, both on site and accessible to search engines as well.
Not only can customers request a call via a custom form, but they’ll receive updates automatically and instantly. Beyond that, LiveHelpNow will record and store customer service calls in a searchable database. They also offer customer service voicemail.
LiveHelpNow also facilitates agent-to-agent conversations. With ‘Whisper,’ it helps agents ask each other questions while they serve customers.
For agents on the go, LiveHelpNow can send alerts via text message or email that a customer has a question. Agents can then open a chat window on their phones.
When I used LiveHelpNow it launched in a separate window. Chatting this way requires either not multitasking, resizing my main window so I can easily click on the chat box, or using headphones to hear the ding and keyboard shortcuts to switch back and forth. None of those options appeal to me, so I prefer in-window chatting.
There’s also no option for customers to log in via Facebook or Twitter instead of handing over their email, which is a feature some competitors have that’s very appealing from both a user and a business perspective. That’s very valuable data if used correctly.
LiveHelpNow seems like a great solution for most businesses just starting out with live chat. The exception might be someone who already has a robust help desk software package and only wants live chat.
Zopim is especially proud of their customer service dashboard.
They describe it as highly customizable, with the ability to set up rules to engage only high-value visitors, or set up departments to group your agents effectively. In the dashboard agents can add notes about individual customers to help future reps.
The Zendesk-powered knowledge base is pretty cool, especially considering how helpful and important knowledge bases are for customer service. Other cool features include:
- Chat widget is responsive, so it automatically resizes to fit every device
- iPhone and Android apps
- Integrates with various CRMs besides Salesforce such as Highrise and SugarCRM. Integrations with a help desk software system such as UserVoice or Zendesk allow you to set up automatic tickets created from chat transcripts
- Facebook-only login is possible when initiating chat
- Users can seamlessly integrate the Zopim chat widget into non-English sites through the Google Translate feature
It’s customizable as far as default greetings and color schemes but not fully brandable.
Potentially problematic aspects of Zopim include the fact that, to get chats you need to have the dashboard up in your browser. Closing your browser makes your widget show that you are “offline.” And any that get through anyway will be missed if you’re not paying attention.
And while Zopim does have mobile apps that make it easy for agents to help customers on their phones, it’s impossible to stay logged in on your phone and desktop. Logging into one logs you out of the other.
If you already use a help desk or CRM software product that integrates with Zopim (like Zendesk or Salesforce), it’s a good choice for live chat functionality.
When I asked the chat representative at LiveChat what the coolest thing about it is, without hesitation he typed “Sneak peak, you can see what the visitor is writing before they send it!”
I quickly backspaced the inappropriate Tweet I’d been composing in the chat box.
Another helpful feature is the survey that appears automatically once a conversation ends.
The chat box has a clean, modern design and is brandable.
LiveChat offers customers a knowledge base, and integrates with SugarCRM in addition to Salesforce.
The other cool things about LiveChat include semi-standard features like Facebook login and an embedded chat box instead of a separate window. It’s also useful that a thumbs up or down is embedded in the design so users can provide feedback on the interaction at any time during the chat.
There’s nothing really wrong with LiveChat.
LiveChat is significantly cheaper than the other four options listed here. It’s a great option for customer service teams experimenting with live chat, or whose budgets are very limited.
They’ve also beefed up their chat routing and allocation functionality, with a chat queue and the ability to assign chats according to who has the lightest workload or to assign them to specific operators. You can also kick a chat back to the agent who was previously working on it.
Their reports are also more advanced, with a dashboard that supports real-time monitoring. Comm100 produces chat overview reports, operator performance reports, and missed chat reports. All reports are exportable.
Custom CSS means you can brand everything, from the chat button to the chat screen.
Each section of your website can have a different invitation to chat. So you could make the call to action in your ‘about’ section “Chat to get to know us” and live on the side until clicked but make a pop-up which reads, “Ask a question about our products” on your product page.
And not only is the chat box brandable, but you can have multiple brands on the same account on an unlimited number of websites.
Teams can also integrate Comm100 with GoToMeeting to quickly turn a chat into a product demo. This is one of several integrations which are possible through plugins, including for content management and ecommerce systems like Shopify, WordPress, and Joomla.
While they did redesign the chat box, it could still benefit from an operator photo.
Comm100 is the best choice for larger companies with a lot of vendors to integrate with and multiple sites they need to use live chat for.
Kayako is a full-service help desk software product, but you can buy live chat functionality separately in a product they call Fusion. It’s a pretty robust system with some features no other provider on this list offers, including video chat and a “call me” button.
The chat window and buttons can be customized to fit in with your brand. When a chat is over, there’s an option to leave a message and take a short survey about this live chat. The survey lets users choose up to five stars and leave a comment.
Like Comm100, you can support a number of websites with one license for chat, and the analytics will tell you which website the visitor is chatting from. Some other good features are:
- Previous chats and client history an agent can pull up as soon as a user starts a chat
- Impressive list of integrations.
- Kayako Desktop can be used for internal chat between agents.
Kayako chat opens in a new window. There’s no option to log in via Facebook. The design doesn’t have a place for an operator photo.
According to CrazyEgg, “Since it is built for larger companies or international businesses, Kayako can seem daunting to beginners. There’s a lot of information, analytics and detailed data worth going through.”
Fusion is an impressive product. If you want to wow your customers with options like video chat and click-to-call, it’s a great choice.
Each option can serve all businesses. For companies who want something straightforward and quick to get started, LiveChat is probably the best bet. For more customization and integrations, LiveHelpNow and Zopim are solid choices. And for the most features, look to Comm100 or Kayako.
Does your customer service team offer live chat? Why or why not? Let us know in the comments!
Looking for Customer Service software? Check out Capterra's list of the best Customer Service software solutions.