The addition of a website chat system to your website can be a very effective tool for helping you to engage with visitors, but there are are many options available, making it difficult to differentiate and select the best solution.
A quick Google search will provide an overwhelming number of options, which all claim to be the perfect solution, citing some very happy clients and telling you how easy it will be to revolutionise your online presence.
Whilst in principle most of these solutions will do the job, there are subtle differences which could make all the difference:
Pricing models (monthly fees, cost per operator of operators, number of supported chats, Licensing etc).
Ease of integration and installation (SaaS or an self-installed solution)
Customisable look & feel, allowing you to make sure the chat window fits within your website’s design perfectly
Widget positioning, allowing you to place the chat widget / window in different locations (left, right, bottom etc)
Automatic messages, proactively enticing visitors to speak to you depending on location in your website
Departments, routing to different operator teams depending on where they are in your website (product, support etc)
Agent avatars allowing you to personalise with photos, icons etc
Sophistication of back office allowing you to transfer chats, rank advisors etc
Chat transfer, allowing chats to be passed between agents
After hours & Timed deployment switching on-off depending on opening hours
Delivery of email transcripts
Social media integration (facebook, twitter etc)
Multi-lingual support enabling you to engage with an international audience
Analytics, allowing you to better understand results delivered and rate advisors performance
Integration into your CRM (Salesforce, Dynamics, etc)
There is no such thing as a best website chat system, as this will really depend on your needs and the features / function you prioritise, so you will need to explore the different options.
9 Great Chat Systems
LivePerson is a very complete solution offering a full suite of tools. Of interest is LivePerson’s campaign based approach for engagement and the visitor analysis helping you to understand who visitors are and what their needs may be.
Engagement based pricing make it a bit like pay per click advertising - just over a dollar per engagement (depending on volumes), which could add up quickly if you have a very busy website… certainly not an ideal pricing model if you are offering non-monetised client support.
A free open source chat platform that will require installation on your server. Feature wise Mibew Messenger is fully featured, however it is not quite as slick as the commercial services but still very impressive considering it is free.
Zero cost is attractive however this will require a higher implementation cost which could push your total ownership cost above the commercial offerings.
Designed very much for small business operators, WebsiteAlive allows the site owner to manage chats anywhere using desktop, web and mobile interfaces. The call me function adds another engagement tool as does screen-sharing for support. The chat system is however a little less refined that other offerings, flaking out on a number of tests.
Costs - $30 to $100 per month for 2 operators plus extra $10-30 per month for additional operators.
eStreamchat (no longer active)
eStreamchat is quite different from the other solutions as this not only provides one-on-one chat between your operators and visitors, but also allows you to create chat rooms as well as audio and video chats. The addition of photo/document uploads as well as private rooms mean this solution could be used in quite a few less corporate ways!
Cost wise offering both a free open source options as well as commercial licences (€290-€870)
A very fully featured service, offering a relatively slick solution. Management console is relatively powerful compared to some simpler less capable solutions. Velaro make a big sales pitch about the analytics and CRM integration helping to improve intelligence and tracking. Click to call and remote desktop functionality (enterprise only) makes this a very interesting option for some requirements.
Cost $30-100 per agent per month which could become quite expensive if you have large teams.
Click desk is a very complete solution and is focuses on providing much more than just a chat service, also wrapping up a help desk ticketing system, however the browser based calling and video chat really make this a compelling solution for customer support and service delivery.
Cost - $17 to $22 per operator per month (although you are limited to 5 simulations chats per operator)
A very complete solution with a powerful and intuitive management console and an elegant chat system. CRM integration is set up for their own system ZenDesk, but there is a 3rd Party API for integration. Unfortunately Zopin does not offer screensharing or voice/video, but is a very impressive chat platform.
Cost effective solution at $11 to $20 per agent per month.
Livechat is one of the most complete solutions not only providing all the basic chat function you require but also including additional features and functions such as chat transfers, agent evaluations and rating as well as features such as credit card number masking. Does not offer screensharing or voice, but is a very complete solution.
Cost wise Livechat start relatively cheaply at $16 per agent per month, but you are likely to need to upgrade to one of the higher level packages ($33-$50 rising upto $150 per agent per month).
Not the most powerful or complete solution as doesn’t offer multi-lingual support, chat transfer etc, but still offers the core functionality most websites owners require. Niceties are personal chat pages, helping visitors engage and connect.
Cost is $5 per operating making this one of the lowest cost options to run per operator.
Really nice modern web chat platform, with nice front end interface implementation. Lots of integration and plug-ins into other platforms. Starts with 10 free operators on basic option and scales up.
Cost - Free option scaling up to $99 per month.
Looking at the different options, you really need to think about your requirements so you can work out which option works best for you.
If it’s purely for sales support and you can you place a fiscal value on each engagement then maybe a per engagement offering will work for you. However if this it’s to be used to support a large number of tech support conversations then a lower cost operator model might work better.
Functionality wise there area number of questions - will you need multi-lingual support, will you need to transfer chats between advisors or would voice or screen-sharing be useful…what type of analytics do you need? Start simple here as it is tempting to have everything and then work out what are the added benefits so you can choose the most appropriate solution.
The final decision from a technical perspective is are you happy to use a SaaS solution or are you set on owning / installing this on your servers.
Whilst selecting and integrating a website chat system into your website is one part of the challenge, the more important challenge is to work out , as well as integrating web based chat into your internal processes, training your teams to efficiently and effectively communicate with your visitors.
We have reviewed a number of differing solutions (SaaS, Installable, Commercial, Open Source, Simple, Fully featured etc) highlighting some of the best solutions in the marketplace, however we would love to hear about your thoughts and experiences.
Finn is a founding director of Liquid Light, and he still (after 22 years of web design) likes to get involved in projects. When he is not worrying about the clients, he is studying Chinese medicine, working with young criminals and doing spartan challenges.