What is live chat?

Live chat is a medium that allows your business to engage with your website visitors in real-time, via messaging. The software that enables live chat is commonly referred to as live chat software or customer messaging software. You can use live chat software to initiate conversations with first-time website visitors, interact with returning customers, and support your existing users. It is a modern, continuous, and contextual way to drive more engagement, delight customers, and retain customers for the long haul.

Live chat offers a personalized customer experience, better brand interactions, a competitive edge, and a way to feel your customers’ pulse. Implementing a live chat solution for your business can be used by your marketing, sales, and customer support teams and be beneficial across your customer’s journey.

Why do you need live chat software?

Customers need a live chat to get quick and convenient answers to their questions on a website. Helpdesk teams need a live chat to solve customer problems faster, support them better, and engage them better. 

Live chat is incredibly valuable for online businesses to capture visitor information, reduce bounce rate, and bring down the number of shopping cart abandonment. Similarly, live chat software can help B2B businesses to launch campaigns based on user behavior, deploy interactive chatbots to engage with them, or offer proactive support.

Benefits of live chat software

Get answers instantly

Live chat reduces the overall first response time to under 3 minutes for most businesses across all industries. Live chat is faster because it’s always-on yet asynchronous.

Have continuous conversations

Unlike phone or email conversations, live chat preserves past chat history and context in threads that are accessible to agents and customers as soon as they get on a chat.

Give context to customers

Unlike calls, you can share rich media files like images, videos, or GIFs with live chat. And although you can do similar things over email, it’s more contextual over live chat.

Personalize every conversation

Just like instant messaging apps, live chat conversations are friendlier in nature. It breaks down the wall between businesses and customers.

Affordable real-time communication

A live chat software is affordable for businesses of all sizes. Setting up live chat for your website is as easy as a using a plug-and-play software that doesn’t require heavy IT work.

Cohesive customer experience

Live chat offers a singular experience to customers across their acquisition, onboarding, and support journey. It offers a cohesive customer experience regardless of which stage of purchase they are in.

Live Chat Use Cases

Buying factors of live chat software

The marketplace for consumer engagement is saturated with live chat software of all shapes and sizes. If you google “live chat software” in Google Search, you will get over one billion thirty million results!

But you don’t have to parse through the entire cosmos of Google Search results to pick the right tool for your business. The most effective way to identify the right chat solution for you is to define your requirements and map them back to the tools that match them. There are a few must-have, non-negotiable things that you should look in a live chat software when you are evaluating to purchase one:

Deployment model

Don’t pick a live chat vendor that host their solution on-premise, unless you have strict operational and regulatory requirements that require you to do so. A cloud-based live chat software is faster to deploy, easier to set up, and integrates well with most modern tools.

Omni-channel capabilities

Pick up a live chat software that offers cross-channel capabilities such as mobile-readiness and integration with the top marketing and customer support software. Live chat shouldn’t be a siloed system; hence, it is necessary it works well with other players in your software stack to improve customer experience.


When it comes to picking up a good live chat software, it’s very important to judge the book by its cover. Be very picky about the user interface, both on the end-user side and the agent side. Also, evaluate the level of customization the tool offers. E.g., changing the chat widget color, adding your brand logo, disabling features that you don’t want, etc.


Most businesses struggle to find the right chat tool mostly because of the confusion around pricing. Avoid live chat vendors whose pricing are vague and confusing, or at least get on a call to understand the plans clearly. Our advice, go for a SaaS-based live chat tool that has clear agent-based pricing.


This depends hugely on your use cases. If you are going to use the live chat software for your engagement team, you might want to have features such as automated campaigns, chatbots, and event-based messaging. If your use case is support-heavy, you want to look for intelligent chat routing options, co-browsing and screen-sharing, and priority inbox.

Analytics and reporting

Although most live chat tools come with some level of reporting features by default, not all vendors do a great job at it. Make sure to demo the reporting feature of a live chat tool to understand what advanced insights (e.g, CSAT rating) it offers that could help you improve your existing processes.

Top 10 live chat software & apps

#1. Freshchat

Freshchat is a powerful messaging software that allows consumers to have smarter conversations with businesses in real-time. Using Freshchat, businesses can connect with customers across live chat, their favorite messaging channels, provide intuitive deflection with AI-powered chatbots, and enable personalized and proactive self-service 24/7.

Freshchat offers:

Pricing plans: 21 days free trial and 3 paid plans billed per agent.

#2. Zendesk

Zendesk Chat is a chat software that claims to make messaging better for customers.

Zendesk offers:

Pricing plans: 30 days free trial and offers 3 other paid plans based on agent count and company size.

#3. LiveChat

LiveChat is a live chat and helpdesk software built specifically for customer service.

LiveChat offers:

Pricing plans: 14 days free trial and 4 different plans billed per agent.

#4. Intercom

Intercom is a support software that charges companies on the number of interactions and users.

Intercom offers:

Pricing plans: 14 days free trial and 3 other paid plans with an on-demand quote.

#5. Drift

Drift is a live chat system that focuses mainly on real-time interactions with customers.

Drift offers:

Pricing plan: Free plan with 100 contacts and 3 other paid plans based on your company size.

#6. Tidio

Tidio is a live chat software that offers all the basic features required by smaller teams.

Tidio offers:

Pricing plans: 7-day free trial and offers three other plans based on company size and the number of agents.

#7. Zoho Desk

Zoho Desk helps customers connect with the support team instantly with their chat widget.

Zoho Desk offers:

Pricing plans: 15-day free plan and 3 other paid plans billed per agent.

#8. Podium

Podium is an interaction management system that focuses specifically on local businesses to make support easier for their customers and agents.

Podium offers:

Pricing plans: 14 days free trial and 3 paid plans based on your team size.

#9. Acquire

Acquire is a customer support platform that offers co browsing, live chat, chatbot, and video calling features.

Acquire offers:

Pricing plans: Acquire offers 3 different plans based on your company size and teams and the quote is offered upon request.

#10. Birdeye

Birdeye is a live web chat software that caters to local businesses to help them grow.

They offer:

Pricing plan: Birdeye offers 3 different pricing plans which will be available upon filling in your contact information.

How to choose the right pricing plan for your business?

Live chat pricing can be confusing. It can be tricky to pick a live chat software that checks all the boxes when you have to choose among a sea of vendors selling the same set of features. Since live chat is a returns-driven investment, you should pay good attention to the pricing of the live chat tools you have shortlisted for your business.

Here are a few pointers to consider before you subscribe to a live chat tool:

Free plans

Most of the live chat vendors out there nowadays offer a free trial or freemium plan. Furthermore, many offer a ‘free forever’ plan that lets small business teams use its basic plan for an unlimited time. While the ‘free forever’ plan is not for everyone since you are most likely to outgrow the number of seats or contacts the plan offers, it’s always a good idea to trial a product with a freemium plan to see how it actually fulfills your everyday requirements.

Per agent pricing

Many live chat vendors charge their clients per agent per month, which means they bill their clients monthly based on the number of chat agents that will use the software. It’s a great plan for ambitious businesses on a steep growth trajectory. But if you are deciding on this kind of pricing, be mindful about certain features that might change when you scale up or downsize your agent seats.

Pricing based on volume

This is similar to per agent pricing, but the cost here depends on your website traffic. It might not work great for e-commerce websites that expect and encourage a spike in traffic during holiday seasons and special sales. However, this type of pricing is great for niche businesses that have steady traffic and want predictability in their live chat spending.

Pay-per-lead pricing

This pricing model works great for marketing teams who want to use a live chat tool to generate leads. It’s a variable pricing model where you don’t have to pay a flat fee every month or year. Instead, you have to pay only for the number of leads that you generate over a month or a year. The lead pricing can vary anywhere from $18 to $40 per lead, depending on the vendor.

Why should you choose Freshchat for your business? 

A fool-proof information collection mechanism

A live chat widget should be non-intrusive on the website, all the while being there to welcome visitors when they need help or support. Live chat software should be able to do so by capturing information and automating it to your support team to act on requests and queries.

A modern live chat tool does all this by launching triggered messages based on user and event properties, deploying interactive chatbots at the right time, and sending in-app contextual campaigns. Your customer engagement teams can follow up the interactions to close more deals and make more sales.

Chatbot UI Screenshot Chatbot UI Screenshot

A convenient, familiar experience

Your live chat tool should come with a zero learning curve for your consumers to use. It should offer the continuous, contextual, and instant messaging-like conversations that consumers are familiar with using in their everyday lives. Furthermore, it should offer the convenience of time and speed to map their queries to the right team through the right Topics.

On the business side, it should allow your support teams to have a comprehensive view of all conversations in one dashboard so that they can prioritize responses and work more efficiently. Having a great product interface is equally important on the agent side for your teams to offer engaging conversations that feel natural and friendly.

Chatbot UI Screenshot Chatbot UI Screenshot

A fulfilling self-service experience

A live chat tool shouldn’t be just about agent-to-customer chat experience, but also a customer journey of exploring information at their own pace. A modern live chat tool should include self-service offerings such as chatbots, self-help guides, tutorials, and help videos for customers to find quick and easy answers to their concerns.

Freshchat offers AI-powered chatbots that understand intent and can offer precise answers while keeping the conversation engaging. The bot pre-learns from existing resources and ongoing conversations to give better answers during every interaction. For businesses, chatbots are a tool to go beyond customer service. Today, they are popular for marketing and sales as well.  The chatbots can constantly work to give additional information to the website visitor to help them go through with a sale.

ML Integration Screenshot ML Integration Screenshot

Unbridled team collaboration

While live chat is a doorway for your customers to talk to your brand from closer proximity, it should also be a tool to make your team more productive and collaborative in their everyday tasks. It should allow your sales and support teams to categorize conversations, prioritize threads, tag team members, attach private notes (visible only to the team), and do much more.

Freshchat's live chat tool takes team collaboration to the next level by offering IntelliAssign, a rule-based, automated task routing feature that allows you to load balance chat conversations among agents or teams based on their workload or expertise. This allows teams to perform at their optimum level while making sure that customers get the best experience they deserve when engaging with your brand.

Intelligent assigning screenshot Intelligent assigning screenshot

Go beyond website chat

While live chat is popularly used on websites, it’s capabilities can be replicated to other platforms that can help businesses and customers alike to get in touch with each other easier. When picking a live chat software, make sure it offers integrations with messaging apps like WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Apple Business Chat, and Line. 

These apps enable businesses to be where the customers are. Using live chat software grants businesses the opportunity to connect with the billions of users that are connected to these apps. The software gives access to clear the clutter with high volumes of conversations that happen over messaging apps. 

Whatsapp Integration Screenshot Whatsapp Integration Screenshot

Reports and analytics

A live chat software is essentially a business-enabling tool that should be able to produce measurable metrics for improvement and optimization. It should provide useful data points for decision-makers to analyze and identify the best practices and anomalies in their live chat operations.

It should enable live chat teams to look back at their performance such as their first response time, customer satisfaction rating, and visual insight into their processes. A live chat software should be able to produce data on the real-time chat volume, conversation trends, and historical metrics for business teams to learn from and calibrate their performance.

Analytics Screenshot Analytics Screenshot

Seamless integration

A live chat tool should fit into your all-star business toolkit and connect with all software that is pivotal to your daily operations. It should integrate with your existing CRM software to manage customers and nurture them, your helpdesk software to offer great customer support, and other business-critical apps.

A live chat tool should come with the best of all worlds to help your business pull and push data seamlessly and help you make data-driven decisions. It should function as one of the spokes in the wheels of your business instead of a standalone, siloed product that is hard to work with.

CRM Integration Screenshot CRM Integration Screenshot

Freshchat pricing plans tailored to suit your business


For getting started

$ 0

up to 100 agents, billed annually


up to 100 agents, billed monthly


up to 100 agents, billed annually


up to 100 agents, billed monthly

£ 0

up to 100 agents, billed annually


up to 100 agents, billed monthly

A$ 0

up to 100 agents, billed annually


up to 100 agents, billed monthly


up to 100 agents, billed annually


up to 100 agents, billed monthly

  • No FREE sessions
  • 100 Campaign Contacts Engage with these contacts via campaigns.
  • Chatbots Build your own chatbots to answer questions and guide customers through troubleshooting steps for quicker resolution. Freddy
  • Chatbot Analytics Freddy
  • Inbox Views Pre-defined views to help you stay on top of conversations
  • Topics Conversation threads, like IVR for chat that connects users with the right teams
  • Groups
  • Conversation Labels
  • Bulk Actions Bulk assign chats, resolve, reply and convert to ticket
  • User Properties
  • Mobile SDK
  • Wordpress
  • Shopify
  • 10K MUV/account

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For fast growth

$ 15

/agent/month, billed annually


/agent/month, billed monthly


/agent/month, billed annually


/agent/month, billed monthly

£ 12

/agent/month, billed annually


/agent/month, billed monthly

A$ 25

/agent/month, billed annually


/agent/month, billed monthly


/agent/month, billed annually


/agent/month, billed monthly

Everything in Free and...

  • Up to 2000 bot sessions/month FREE
  • 500 Campaign Contacts Engage with these contacts via campaigns.
  • Assignment Rules Auto-assign chats based on pre-defined rules
  • Priority Inbox
  • Canned Responses
  • Private Notes
  • User Events & Timeline
  • User Segmentation
  • Business Hours (Global) Setup working hours and let customers know your team's availability
  • Offline experience Let your users know you're away and prompt them to leave a message
  • Basic Dashboard Real-time visual summary of conversation trends, speed of response, and CSAT
  • FAQs
  • Conversations Overview Report
  • Facebook Messenger
  • Files Store files frequently shared with customers on Freshchat for quick access
  • Marketplace (App Store) Apps like Hubspot CRM, Salesforce, Pipedrive, Stripe, Freshsales, and more
  • 100K MUV/agent
  • SMS
  • WhatsApp Business
  • Apple Messages for Business
  • Freshdesk integration
  • Instagram DM
  • Google Business Messages
  • LINE

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For high performance

$ 39

/agent/month, billed annually


/agent/month, billed monthly


/agent/month, billed annually


/agent/month, billed monthly

£ 29

/agent/month, billed annually


/agent/month, billed monthly

A$ 55

/agent/month, billed annually


/agent/month, billed monthly


/agent/month, billed annually


/agent/month, billed monthly

Everything in Growth and...

  • Up to 3000 bot sessions/month FREE
  • 500 Campaign Contacts Engage with these contacts via campaigns.
  • Auto-resolve
  • IntelliAssign Load-balanced auto-assignment based on team member skills
  • Business Hours (by Groups) Setup working hours for individual teams working across different geos or time zones and let customers know your team’s availability
  • Live Translate Translate messages in real-time and respond in customers language
  • Advanced Dashboard Real-time visual summary of conversations trends, speed of response, CSAT, and team performance
  • Advanced Automations Automate all your chat workflows - first responses, assign/unassign/reassign flows, escalation notifications from one place (Automations App) Popular
  • Team Performance Report
  • Agent Availability Report Track your team’s availability and the duration for which they were online and active
  • Roles and Permissions
  • CSAT Survey and Report
  • Conversation APIs
  • 200K MUV/agent

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For enterprise-grade support

$ 69

/agent/month, billed annually


/agent/month, billed monthly


/agent/month, billed annually


/agent/month, billed monthly

£ 55

/agent/month, billed annually


/agent/month, billed monthly

A$ 99

/agent/month, billed annually


/agent/month, billed monthly


/agent/month, billed annually


/agent/month, billed monthly

Everything in Pro and...

  • Up to 5000 bot sessions/month FREE
  • 500 Campaign Contacts Engage with these contacts via campaigns.
  • Allowed IPs
  • Allowed Domains
  • User Authentication(JWT)
  • 400K MUV/agent

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Chatbots consume bot sessions on usage. The free bot sessions provided are at an account level.