What is live chat? What are some of the top live chat tools?

Last updated on June 13th, 2023

Pardeep Kullar
Pardeep Kullar

This is the simple overview of live chat with a jargon free interpretation of its advantages.


The short description

“It’s instant messenger for your website. The customer can send you a message and go drink coffee. You can reply and then go drink coffee.

Just like normal text messages between friends, you can either instantly chat or answer in your own time.”

The different types of live chat software systems vary greatly

Some live chat systems are simply ‘live chat’ but others can be like an iceberg and below the surface is an entire customer relationship management system to send automated messages and emails, supply educational articles, allow team management of customers and overall provide a smooth process for a customer through an entire service.

In fact, they intentionally still call themselves ‘live chat’ because it’s easy to understand rather than ‘CRM Marketing Sales Interactive Live Chat Support blaaa blaaa blaaa’ that would actually be a more accurate description.


Explaining the jargon that live chat software companies use to describe benefits

Real time convenience to customers‘ means that phoning people sucks and we’re used to sending text messages so live chat means more people will chat with you.

Stand-out amidst competitors means that some people want to make money without much effort and that’s just not how things work these days. People want to know that you’re making the effort when they buy and because there is more competition, you want to be there to answer that question.

img From 150 to 5,000 marketing startups in 6 years. Customer service matters more.

**‘Develop deeper customer relationships‘ **means that if you’re nice to me, I will remember you. I buy from people I like even if I have to pay a bit more.

Transcripts offer data to improve customer service means that I will tell you that your product sucks and you will learn from this rather than hiding behind your software and praying it all works out.

Increase conversions and average order value means that I will buy from you because you answered my question. It turns out that quite a lot of people have questions and want to trust you to buy from you. In fact it means in some cases that 60% of sales can result from live chat, especially as larger buyers really need know you’re responsive.

In short, if we give a damn, we will get better. Live chat is one great way to give a damn by directly chatting to real people who use your site.

What are the top live chat tools?

There are older and newer live chat systems and they’ve all taken a slightly different path. The common element is a front-end messaging box but the rest, behind the scenes, can be completely different. Here is a brief list:

Intercom — Iceberg type software. Chat on the front, fully automated messaging, email and educational system behind. Growing at a billion dollar pace. What’s interesting is that their chat system is like a simple security guard at the door who answers questions and then lets you in through a door to a huge operation. It’s a full email marketing, sales lead management, educational system but that’s harder to explain so they initially just called it ‘live chat’. You can’t fully understand it until you use it so see these case studies. Pricing is done according to modules and the number of customers rather than per agent. See this as a pricing use case.

Livechatinc — Chat and ticketing system. They focus on live chat rather than the CRM part so it’s not as big as Intercom but they have quite a large database of customers. We’ve used Livechatinc in the past and it does a good job. We’d have stuck with it but we tried Intercom and it solved the automated email campaign problem for us and more, so we stuck with it.

Zendesk chat — aka Zopim. So, Zendesk buys Zopim and integrates it. Zendesk had a big giant ticketing system and is an entire platform, their zendesk chat is merely one part of the beast. The interface is not as cool as Intercom though we have heard that it will have some features newer companies have not thought of and that plays out in the details. We’ve played with it but cannot give you a good enough opinion to compare it because we get a bit lost in the range of zendesk products and how they integrate. Their pricing for chat functionality is a lot less than Intercom and Drift and more than Olark.

Drift — The new cool kid on the block. They’ve got a really loyal user base who love Drift, they’re growing quickly and they’ve got advanced chat bots. The guys who built it, like David Cancel, are experienced and often quoted entrepreneurs. They don’t have the whole sequential emailing drip campaign thing that we needed but it can be done through integrations. Their chat bot part is certainly interesting as it does encourage people to leave more details without having to ask each one manually. Their pricing depends on a combination of per seat and total contacts meaning they’re in the Intercom pricing rage.

Olark – One of the early movers in the live chat world. Very nice people, even their slogan is ‘make your business human’. They’ve been around for a while and they don’t charge much compared to other companies. It does the job if you’re looking for chat functionality at a good price.

Re:amaze — It’s not one of the big ones though maybe that’s an advantage as it has 5 star ratings from its customers with a specific focus on e-commerce and SaaS companies which you can see from it’s list of integrations.

Want more statistical proof? See 101 reasons for embracing live chat.

This infographic is pretty damn awesome.

It includes stats like:

29% of consumers are more likely to purchase with the option of live chat even if they don’t use it.

51% of customers are more likely to purchase.

48% of customers are more likely to return to the website.

51% of customers prefer it as it allows easy multitasking while waiting

How do I get started it? Is it complicated?

Most live chat systems are ‘copy and paste the javascript code on your site’ and you are ready to go. Yes, that’s true, that’s the basics and you can be chatting to customers in around 5 minutes. Of course, some live chat systems are a lot more than just chat and can be full on CRM systems in the background. You can run deep integrations. See a good case study here.

Pardeep Kullar
Pardeep Kullar

Pardeep overlooks growth at Upscope and loves writing about SaaS companies, customer success and customer experience.