The 9 Best Live Chat Apps for Customer Support in 2019

By Chris Hawkins - Last updated July 23, 2019 -

You are reading: Chapter 7 of 12

The person behind that little bubble in the corner of the website you're visiting can assist you with a purchase, schedule a service, and even resolve complex technical issues—all while you, the customer, are simultaneously engaged in other activities. That's why customers love live chat.

Live chat is also one of the fastest ways to improve your company's customer service. With the highest customer satisfaction levels of any channel, live chat (73%) handily beats both email (61%) and phone (44%). And it's easy to set up and relatively inexpensive compared to other business software.

We've tested dozens of live chat apps for customer support, and here we'll present the nine best with our reasoning for each pick.

What Makes a Great Live Chat Customer Support App?

Like an email inbox, live chat interfaces are typically arranged with folders, which include the chat inbox, reports, customers, settings, and other functions. From the inbox, select a chat to respond to, and then either reply or perform another action (e.g., attach and send files, forward the chat to a more experienced teammate, send a post-chat transcript, and other tasks).

We considered over 25 live chat apps—everything from full-service live chat software that's part of more comprehensive customer support software to minimally-equipped options that may satisfy specific feature requirements. From there, we selected the nine best based on a handful of important criteria.

First, the apps needed to be affordable for a small business, taking into consideration things like number of users included and monthly chat limits. They also need to be easy for a relatively non-technical person to set up, deploy, and manage. For reps, the chat app should be intuitive and easy to hop in and out of.

Live chat companies should be using chat on their own site and be responsive and effective in answering questions (we tested them). They should also be listed with mostly positive reviews on peer-to-peer sites—we looked at only companies with an 80% or higher overall customer satisfaction rate.

We were looking for basic features, including real-time monitoring, canned responses, chat history and transcripts, file sharing, trigger-based actions, and reporting. Advanced features like ticket management, multi-channel chatting (e.g., SMS, social, video), chatbots, typing insights (sneak peek), visitor behavior recording, co-browsing, gamification, and others were nice to have, but they tend to come at a cost.

Finally, we made sure that our selected live chat apps integrated natively or with Zapier for popular CRMs, marketing tools, and eCommerce platforms.

The 9 Best Live Chat Apps for Customer Support in 2019

  • LiveChat for overall ease of use and functionality
  • tawk.to for a free, full-featured live chat app
  • Smartsupp for understanding how visitors are engaging with your website
  • LiveHelpNow for tracking customer satisfaction
  • Olark for a la carte pricing options
  • SnapEngage for PCI encryption and HIPAA compliance
  • HubSpot for free live chat integrated with a free CRM
  • Chatlio for Slack power users
  • LiveAgent for agent gamification

LiveChat (Web, Windows, Mac, iOS, Android )

Best live chat app for overall ease of use and functionality

Screenshot of https://my.livechatinc.com/settings/code

There are live chat solutions that do a few specific things really well—then there's LiveChat. This software does live chat like Toyota does automobiles: exceptionally reliable with solid performance. It does have a few features that aren't often found in other products, but its strengths are its no-nonsense functionality and made-for-the-user (both agent and customer) experience.

The first thing you'll notice is how clean the software's interface is. All of the functionality—chats, tickets, reports, settings, and help, among others—are labeled vertically on the left side of the screen. You won't find unlabeled, mysterious icons with dropdowns scattered about. Clicking the settings icon brings up everything you need to customize and install the chat widget, create chat rules, set trigger-based greetings, integrate apps, and take care of other foundational settings.

Once you're up and running, you'll have all the major features you need: chat transfer, message sneak peek (see what a visitor is typing as they type), file sharing, and the ability to send proactive chats to visitors based on the page they're viewing and predetermined filters (e.g., "Do you have any questions about that hemp-scented beard oil?").

For managers, intelligent chat routing distributes chats evenly to available agents, and the Supervision feature lets you train agents during live chats without the customer noticing. To start Supervision, click on the agent conversation you want to interact with, select Supervise chat, then type a message. The agent you're chatting with will see your message in their chat, but it won't be visible to the customer.

The dashboard shows the most important real-time metrics for the day, such as ongoing chats, unassigned tickets, and logged-in agents. Clicking each will take you to the current, detailed view for each category. Reporting lets you track things such as greeting conversions, availability, ticket first response time, and tracked sales from chats for eCommerce businesses.

LiveChat Price: From $16/month for one user

Automate LiveChat with LiveChat's Zapier integrations.

tawk.to (Windows, Mac, iOS, Android)

Best free, full-featured live chat app

Screenshot of https://dashboard.tawk.to/#/admin

tawk.to is free forever live chat software that includes many features usually found only in paid plans: chat history, support ticket creation from chats, automated triggers, and sneak peek, which allows agents to see what their customers are typing before they hit send. It also includes dozens of native integrations, with a focus on eCommerce platforms such as BigCommerce, Shopify, Zen Cart, and Squarespace. You can also have unlimited users and deploy chat on unlimited websites, all managed from a single dashboard.

tawk.to's chat widget is completely customizable, allowing you to set when and where it's visible on your site and how notifications are delivered, with options for sound notification, message preview, and estimated wait time. There's also a consent form option and a scheduler to enable and disable the chat widget online automatically.

Messages queue in the chat inbox from newest to oldest, showing both closed and open messages. Each message shows the visitor's IP address, location, email, operating system, and when/if they last visited. From here, the agent can attach files, tag the chat, email a transcript, and convert the chat to a ticket.

One feature unique from other software on this list is the ability to hire live, native-speaking agents to answer your chats 24x7. This tawk.to-provided service starts at $1/hour for one month's service, going up as your required hours go down.

tawk.to Price: Free for unlimited users; paid add-ons (e.g., remove branding, screen share, audio/video calling) available

Smartsupp (Web, iOS, Android)

Best live chat app for understanding how visitors are engaging with your website

Screenshot of Smartsupp

While recording website visitor behavior is not new, it is a feature usually accomplished by specific software, like Lucky Orange and Hotjar, and not live chat. Enter Smartsupp. This live chat solution boasts behavior video recording built in to provide you with a deeper understanding of how chat visitors are engaging—or not engaging—with your website.

Visitor recordings show a visitor's mouse movement and where they clicked, and can be filtered by webpage, email, and name. If, for example, you're often receiving chat requests from the same product page of your site, review those chats and the behavior of each to see where visitors are getting stuck. Maybe it's as simple as a broken link on the page you were unaware of—unable to access that link, the visitor starts a chat to get a question answered. You can also see where visitors/customers are clicking the most on a page, how customers interact with pages before they convert (or abandon their cart), and more.

Integrations with Google Analytics and a number of platforms such as BigCommerce, Shopify, and Magento make Smartsupp a good fit for eCommerce shops. You can use their Google Analytics native integration to track the behavior of chat visitors, comparing their actions to all your site's visitors for metrics like eCommerce conversion rates. In other words, how did the chat conversation affect sales?

Smartsupp Price: Free for three users; starting at $15/user/month for premium plans with more features

LiveHelpNow (Web, Mac, Windows, iOS, Android)

Best live chat app for tracking customer satisfaction

Screenshot of LiveHelpNow

It's not always easy to get customer feedback: You have to ask for it at the right time and place, making sure it's both convenient and relevant. LiveHelpNow chat software makes this crucial process easy with its customizable surveys. The company also features sentiment analysis to track chat conversations that are considered both negative and positive.

You can create unlimited surveys, adding custom colors and fonts, and using either a 5-star format or the 10-point Net Promoter Score (NPS), making it easy for the customer to answer quickly. You design the questions asked and deploy them post-chat in the chat window or via link in text, social media, or email. Then track the survey results in analytics by agent or company overall.

Sentiment analysis uses artificial intelligence to identify words and phrases from a chat, determining whether the conversation was negative or positive. If it detects a negative chat, it will automatically send an email to the admin so they can reach out to the agent, customer, or both to resolve a potentially poor experience. All chats are rated by sentiment analysis using a 10-point scale (10 being the highest) and then reported in the analytics section.

LiveHelpNow does more than sentiment analysis, though. Its Advertising Billboards feature lets you create up to 10 rotating messages within the chat window as either text messages or images with clickable links to send customers to your landing page. These messages are broadcast in the window during a chat for the customer to see. Advertise upcoming events, special operating hours, or anything else that may be of interest.

And the Chat Whisper feature lets managers monitor and coach their agents during chats. The manager selects an active chat session from their dashboard, then types a message into their own chat window in real-time. The manager's name and message will appear in the agent's window as a thread with the customer's, but only the agent will see it. In turn, the agent can respond to the manager by clicking Respond.

LiveHelpNow Price: From $21/month for one user; add-ons also available (Support Ticket, FAQ/Self Service, Call Management)

Olark (Web, iOS, Android)

Best live chat app for a la carte pricing options

Screenshot of https://www.olark.com/powerups

If your chat support team is relatively small and you're looking for pricing flexibility, Olark is worth exploring. It's inexpensive live chat software offering add-on options for specialty service and sales needs. Called Powerups, these add-ons include visitor cobrowsing, visitor insights, translation, and a non-branded chat widget.

Olark has one base price ($15/user/month, billed annually) that includes features such as unlimited chats, transcripts, automated messages, pre-chat forms, and reports. If you want to add a Powerup for live chat translation, for example, activate it in your account. Whether you have two or 10 users, you'll only pay an additional $29/month. If you decide it's not worth the investment, you can cancel the Powerup at any time.

Visitor cobrowsing lets you see your visitor's screen and take full control to help them locate items or complete tasks. It's also the most expensive Powerup ($99/month), but it's a feature that, if offered at all by other chat vendors, is only found in more expensive plans. Chat translation ($29/month) detects a visitor's language from more than 100 languages and then translates agent and visitor chats in real-time.

Visitor insights ($59 and $99/month) provide data about a visitor—social profile links, company, job title, interests, and others—as long as you have an email, which you can acquire from a pre-chat survey. And if you'd like to remove "Powered by Olark" on the chatbox, $59/month will let do that and add your own brand.

As for the product itself, the user interface is intuitively laid out with the main dashboard showing team metrics, transcripts, agent activity, and chat volume. Click Launch chat from here to open up the chat window, then click on the settings icon to adjust individual settings, such as chat alert sounds, showing commands and shortcuts as you type, and editing your display name and avatar.

Testing the Olark waters is easy with their two-week free trial; you can also try a free plan with basic features and one user but capped at 20 chats/month.

Olark Price: From $15/user/month; add-ons available a la carte

Automate Olark with Olark's Zapier integrations.

SnapEngage (Web, iOS, Android)

Best live chat app for PCI encryption and HIPAA compliance

SnapEngage screenshot

SnapEngage provides secure chatting and patient data sharing with its HIPAA, PHI, and PCI compliance features. These cover healthcare providers, insurers, and other medical-related companies that require a Business Associate Agreement (BAA) stating that the company and the vendor abide by the same procedures to protect data.

During a chat, agents can securely collect social security numbers, take credit card payments, or gather secure notes from the customer with just a few clicks within the chat window. This will prompt the visitor with a form. Once the customer provides the requested info and submits, they'll be sent a chat receipt notification. The agent is the only one who can see the information. There are also pre-chat and offline chat consent forms for GDPR compliance, and the software complies with the EU-US Privacy Shield Framework.

To help you get set up, SnapEngage offers group onboarding assistance with all their plans, plus optional paid training for your specific teams. Enterprise plans get a dedicated client success manager. To allow your team to connect on your customers' terms, there are other chat conversation channels, such as Facebook Messenger, Tweet-to-Chat (via Hootsuite), WeChat, Zalo and SMS-to-chat. For example, if you integrate Facebook Messenger to chat, messages from visitors to your Facebook Page will be sent to your chat queue and handled like a normal chat.

Another handy chat feature is proactive chat for starting conversations with visitors based on predetermined rules. For example, an automated chat message can pop up if a visitor has been on the pricing page for over 45 seconds: "Thanks for visiting us. Do you have any pricing questions?" You determine the delay, the page URL, and the message.

The Capacity Report shows admins if their team is near or at max capacity for the number of chats in progress. Customizable time ranges display past chat volume and can be used to identify times when more agents may be needed.

SnapEngage Price: From $16/month with a three-user minimum

HubSpot (Web, iOS, Android)

Best free live chat app integrated with a free CRM

Screenshot of HubSpot live chat

While HubSpot is best known for its marketing automation platform, its CRM and live chat are now an integral part of its product. You can start with the free CRM, which includes live chat, chatbot, ticketing, and several other features, with the option of adding on tiered marketing, service, and sales "hubs" to significantly boost functionality. This makes it ideal for small businesses looking for free basic live chat and CRM with an ability to upgrade as needed.

Of all the software reviewed here, HubSpot's live chat is the most basic, but that doesn't mean a small team won't find it valuable. The chat widget can be customized with your company colors, agents' pictures, greetings, and away messages. And because it's integrated with the CRM, contacts are automatically created from a chat as long as an email address is provided.

The chatflows feature lets you build chat messages to engage different types of visitors. For each chatflow you create, you can designate the sender, determine who will see the message (e.g., all visitors, tracked contacts, segmented lists), and where on your site a visitor will see it. For example, you may want to send a proactive chat for a segment of customers who recently purchased and are visiting your help page.

If you want to assist visitors 24x7, the included chatbot can help perform some basic tasks while you're away. Using if/then branching logic, you can create bots to collect visitor information, book meetings, create support tickets, and offer email subscriptions. Like live chat messages, bots can be configured using chatflows to engage visitors with different needs from different segments.

The live chat and chatbot setup are included in the CRM under the Conversations header. Also accessed here is the team inbox showing all chat, connected team user email accounts, and Facebook Messenger (if integrated) conversations. This is your central customer support inbox for communicating with visitors and customers. It's also where an agent will select and engage in a chat conversation.

Once a chat visitor is created as a contact with an email, this contact record will be associated with them, whether they come back for another chat, fill out a website form, or send an email. All of these interactions will be recorded in their CRM record.

HubSpot Price: Free for unlimited users and a free forever CRM; marketing, sales, and service hubs start at $50/month per user.

Automate HubSpot CRM with HubSpot CRM's Zapier integrations.

Chatlio (Web, Slack)

Best live chat app for Slack power users

Screenshot of Chatlio functionality within Slack

If you're a Slack power user, the more you can do directly from Slack, the more efficient you can be. Most live chat integrations will send a link to Slack for agents to click on, taking them out of Slack and into their chat app to engage in a conversation. This works, but it isn't terribly efficient. Chatlio lets agents chat directly from Slack.

The connection from Chatlio to Slack takes just a few clicks. You create a Slack channel for chats from the Chatlio interface, customize the appearance of your chat widget, and then install the widget on your site. From there, you can fine tune chat behavior with Slack. You can determine what should happen when Chatlio is off, when there are no active Slack users in #livechat, or when all operators are busy. You can set which kind of chat notifications you want in Slack. And you can decide what kind of customer data you want displayed in the Slack message.

In Slack, agents can see chat visitor information for country, city, IP address, or personal details if it's a returning customer. You can also attach images and files, and if you want to perform commands for Chatlio while in Slack, there are several dozen slash commands to control the behavior and configuration of Chatlio.

For example, if you wanted to require visitors to provide an email address before starting to chat, rather than go into the Chatlio interface to set this up, you could simply enter /chatlio require-info in your Slack chat channel. Should you forget a command, just type /chatlio help and all available commands will appear on screen. While you can't control every Chatlio task in Slack, you can control over two dozen common functions without having to go into the Chatlio dashboard.

In addition to the Slack integration, Chatlio also offers auto-triggered messages, pre-chat surveys, chat transcripts, and the ability to deploy chat on multiple domains. Reporting is relatively basic with chat activity summaries by team and agent, chat history, and average chat availability.

Chatlio Price: From $29/month for two users

LiveAgent (Web, iOS, Android)

Best live chat app for agent gamification

LiveAgent screenshot

If you want to improve customer support and make your reps' jobs more fun and competitive, LiveAgent's gamification might be your answer. This feature lets agents monitor key support stats, earn badges, and progress through 12 support levels from Novice to King. You can customize each support level based on conditions such as chats per hour, answers per hour, missed chats, and more. Award daily badges to your reps for achievements like the fastest chat response time ("Speedy Gonzales") and making the most weekly pauses ("Coffee").

Gamification is just one of the many features to help support teams improve the customer experience—LiveAgent is a full customer support suite. Other standout features include a Twitter and Facebook integration for managing your company social channels, where agents can monitor mentions, respond to Tweets, and create support tickets right from the chat interface. There's also a self-service customer support portal for managing forum posts, articles, and customer feedback.

LiveAgent Price: $39/user/month

Automate LiveAgent with LiveAgent's Zapier integrations.


The right live chat app can help improve your company's customer support, giving both customers and potential customers the preferred channel to communicate. It's also relatively inexpensive, easy to set up, and as simple to operate as an email inbox.

Now that you've found the perfect apps to support your users, it's time to learn how to use them well. In the next chapter, we'll look at the best tips and tricks to support your customers better and faster using automations, keyboard shortcuts, macros, and much more.

Go to Chapter 8!

Originally written by Sean Kennedy, with contribution from Matthew Guay, this article was most recently updated on July 23, 2019.

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