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If you’re wondering what live chat software is, you probably already know that live chat is essential to delivering a good customer experience.

When 67% of your customers expect a response within 10 minutes for marketing, sales, and customer service inquiries, your live chat solution is a way of servicing that need.

As you scale your business, you’ll also need a large support team to provide quick responses. An intelligent live chat software solution for can help with this by providing automated, AI-generated answers to questions from leads and clients.

What Is Live Chat Software?

Live chat software enables your leads or customers to request solutions, initiate a support ticket, or perform other support-related tasks via chat. A person can go to your website, type in their request into the chat box, and get real-time responses or request a callback.

A modern business utilizes live chat software for several reasons. First, your competitors might provide a chat option, potentially giving them an edge over you. Second, your customers want a quick answer to their queries, and a live chat widget on your website is the perfect way to accomplish that.

Sure, you might already provide support over social media and help customers solve problems via instant messaging apps like Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp. But those tools lack the advanced functionality of live chat software like reporting and analytics.

How Can Live Chat Software Benefit Your Business?

In addition to the fact that customers expect a modern business to offer real-time support, live chat software can also provide several benefits for a business.

Here are the most common benefits of live chat software:

  1. Better customer experience because of faster response times: Live chat offers real-time responses and also allows asynchronous communication. Companies take an average of 12 hours and 10 minutes to respond to customer service requests. Using live chat software can put you among the fastest responding companies with response times of one minute or less.
  2. Cost-effective: Phone calls and emails can be expensive when you factor in the cost of making calls or the human resources required for responding to requests via phone or email. Live chat can resolve many issues without involving a support rep, reducing the traffic on the support desk.
  3. Easier access for people abroad: When a lead is outside your country, they’ll either need to pay for an international call or send an email. If you offer live chat, though, you’ll allow them to get their answers without waiting for a response from someone on the support team.
  4. Improve conversions: Leads often don’t know much about you or your product. Offering live chat can provide them the confidence to try your solution or buy your product. According to Invesp, adding live chat software to your website can improve conversions by up to 20%.
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How Does Live Chat Software Work?

A live chat software solution integrates with your website or customer service portal. It’s usually visible to customers as a tiny chat window at the bottom-right of the webpage.

The customer doesn’t need to install third-party apps to use the chat. They can simply click on the chat icon and start typing their query. Most solutions provide the capability to upload images (for example, if they have a question regarding the invoice or need to show a defect in the product) via chat.

The chat software may provide automated responses whenever possible. If it can’t offer a solution, it will ask for the customer’s details and create a support ticket in the backend. A support rep may look into the matter and contact the customer with an answer later.

Types Of Live Chat Software

Live chat software is usually available in two types. Each type has its benefits, so choose one that fits your needs.

  1. Standalone live chat software: Live chat software solutions are available as standalone apps. They generally offer a more comprehensive feature set, including automation and AI. If you don’t already have a help desk for your business or need a robust chat solution, you might want to consider a standalone chatbot.
  2. Live chat as part of a help desk: If you already use help desk software, you might want to get started using the same help desk’s live chat feature. Using your help desk’s live chat feature (such as HubSpot Live Chat) saves you money. It also enables you to use other tools on your help desk to refine the live chat customer experience.

Features Of Live Chat Software

The exact feature set depends on the live chat software solution you select. Below are the most common functions you’ll find on live chat tools:

  • Customization options: You’ll be able to customize the placement of the chat widget on the webpage, add branding, and add a message encouraging a website visitor to get in touch via chat.
  • Canned responses: The live chat tool will send automated answers to the most frequently asked questions to help customers with common questions faster.
  • Mobile-friendly: A tool must be mobile-friendly since many visitors use their mobile devices when visiting your website.
  • Monitor support team members: You’ll be able to monitor your team’s live chat support conversations with the customers. This can help you track performance and help underperforming team members improve.
  • Chat forms: You’ll want to collect customer information—name, email, and phone number—so you can reach out to help them in case they get disconnected halfway through the chat.
  • Analytics: Live chat is an excellent source of customer data. It can provide insights into the average time spent using live chat, the most common questions among your customers, and more. You can use this data to optimize your customer acquisition and retention strategies.

In addition to these common features, the best live chat software may also offer the following features:

  • File sharing: With file sharing, your customers or website visitors can share pictures or documents to explain their problem more effectively.
  • Automated messages: Advanced live chat solutions can trigger automatic messages based on user behavior, such as the webpage they just visited or the time they spent on a specific webpage.
  • Sharing transcripts: Sharing a chat transcript can be an excellent way to help customers who need to try the solution later rather than right now. You can share a complete chat conversation containing the solution to their question. They can read it whenever they’re ready to try the solution.

How To Choose Live Chat Software?

The number of options out there can make selecting a live chat app confusing. But you can narrow down your choice to a few based on a few parameters.

Here is what you should consider:

1. Do you use a help desk solution?

If you use a help desk solution that offers a built-in live chat feature, that might be a good starting point since you’ll save time on setup and the extra cost of purchasing another app.

2. What type of features do you need?

You might want to use a separate live chat solution if you need more chat-specific features. You can select a high-end, feature-rich live chat tool or aim for a balance of features and cost. Study a tool’s feature portfolio carefully, and if it fulfills your live chat communication needs, shortlist the tool.

3. Is the solution scalable?

Instead of switching to a new solution once you grow, you should select a scalable live chat app right at the beginning. If you expect to grow steadily, choose a live chat solution that integrates with other apps you’ve already invested in. Some live chat apps also offer APIs, making the live chat solution more scalable.

4. Is it within your budget?

You’ve found the perfect tool. It has all the right features and is easily scalable. But should you still buy it if it exceeds your budget? To answer this question, you should compare the cost and the monetary value of the benefits the live chat solution can potentially offer.

For example, if the live chat solution provides AI-based responses, you might end up lowering the support desk’s workload significantly. This will allow them to focus on more productive tasks and save the company money. You should consider investing in the tool if the estimated savings (from all benefits combined) exceed the cost.

Many tools also offer a free plan. If you’re a small business or startup, you might want to try the free plan before moving on to a paid solution.

Modernize Your Business With Live Chat

Live chat is an enormously useful customer support and sales channel in the current business environment. The ability to engage with website visitors and customers in real-time gives your sales and support teams a lot more power.

Your teams can proactively help visitors solve problems, consequently increasing customer satisfaction, loyalty, and confidence.

If you’re looking for more ways to improve customer experience, read our guides on enhancing customer engagement and optimizing the website customer journey.

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Hannah Clark
By Hannah Clark

Hannah Clark is the Editor of The CX Lead. After serving over 12 years working in front-line customer experience for major brands, Hannah pivoted to a career in digital publishing and media production. Having gained a holistic view of the challenges and intricacies of delivering exceptional experiences, Hannah aims to help CX practitioners 'level up' their skills by amplifying the voices of today's thought leaders in the space.