Live chat solutions provide small businesses with a new way to interact with customers. Specifically, businesses can use live chat to gather sales leads, provide customer support and better understand user behavior. Instead of filling out forms, customers interact with a dynamic chatbot or company representative. When questions arise, some solutions can send information directly to your sales or support team via email or Slack.
It's important to research the right platform and find the right features for your business. Some services are geared toward enterprises, so you want to work with a service that supports your chat volume. The solutions in this roundup vary in price, but many include a free trial so you can determine whether they're right for your business. [Read related article: Best Practices for Responding to Live Chat]
LiveHelpNow offers several live chat solutions for small businesses. Small business owners can choose their plan and customize exactly what type of service they want. The solution offers chat support, an email ticketing system, an FAQ builder and call management capabilities. With the chat support, you can interact with customers and learn more about them through analytics and reporting software. It also supports SMS chat for customers who prefer to text rather than interact online.
The ticketing system offers customer management and integrates with chat. Other features are included in the FAQ builder and call management software, like fully customizable FAQs and call logs. Prices vary based on what solutions you decide to include but expect to pay $21 per user, per month for each main bundle. LiveHelpNow offers discounts when you sign up for multiple bundles.
Intercom offers support, sales and marketing solutions for small and midsize businesses. It packages its solutions into three main categories: sales, customer engagement and customer support. SMBs can enroll in specific plans that, based on their combination, can be used for all three goals. With the Respond and Educate plans, for example, SMBs can manage customer support by interacting with customers and developing how-to or help articles to answer queries.
Ben Harper, founder of Clarity Stack, said that his business uses Intercom for collecting user information and interacting with customers. "It's just so far ahead of the crowd, and its operation function allows you to set auto-responses and message routing, enabling users to chat to us and get help without often needing an actual human to get involved," he said.
Intercom now has a two-way Slack integration, which allows you to respond to sales leads directly from Slack. While Intercom provides an extensive service, it's on the pricier side for small businesses. It may be better for midsize businesses looking to manage customer support and sales. Plans for customer support are $102 per month, while the Live Chat for Sales package costs $106 per month.
LiveChat's solution for small businesses offers a way for users to review your customer service so you can ensure you're meeting everyone's needs. It allows widget customization and can even color-code customers' circles to denote priority.
In addition to standard live chat solution tech, LiveChat lets customers grade the overall service after the chat. They can also share their chats on social media so your company can receive positive exposure for good customer service. LiveChat integrates with other platforms such as Dropbox, FreshBooks and GoDaddy. LiveChat plans start at $16 per user per month.
Olark provides the ability to customize your chat window, analyze customer behavior and answers, engage in real-time chat, and manage team tools. One of its biggest advantages, however, is its integration with third-party platforms.
If your business relies heavily on other programs – such as HubSpot, MailChimp, Salesforce, Shopify or WordPress – Olark integrates with them so you can extend data and analytics across other platforms. This integration allows Olark to be a quick addition to an already functioning and efficient workflow. Olark plans start at $17 per user, per month.
5. Pure Chat
Pure Chat is a free live chat solution for small businesses that includes a variety of features, such as unlimited chats, mobile response, platform integrations and canned responses. It provides sales and customer service teams the opportunity to engage with users, and SMB owners can customize the chat window specifically for their business and review complete transcripts.
Pure Chat integrates with other platforms, like Google Analytics, so it can be added into a workflow easily. Users can also send canned responses and quickly add a canned response to the overall database mid-conversation. As a free service, Pure Chat provides small businesses with a lot of live chat resources.
SnapEngage is an intuitive chat solution software that, like Olark, integrates easily into common workflows. It comes with all the important features of a live chat solution – visitor information tracking, the option to create or host multiple widgets and proactive chat tools.
SnapEngage's ability to integrate with other software makes it a good option for SMBs. It can slip right into your current workflow, as it integrates with platforms like Basecamp, HubSpot, Jira, Salesforce and Microsoft Dynamics CRM. The integrations aspect is extensive, and for that reason, it's more expensive than Olark. While Olark may be a good resource for very small businesses, SnapEngage is ideal for larger businesses looking to integrate their live chat solution with other platforms. SnapEngage plans start at $60 per month.
Userlike provides full scale chat features and a 14-day trial, so you can determine if it's the right solution for your business. Userlike allows you to group your team into different expert areas. This naturally segments customers based on topic or issue, allowing you to provide focused support.
The platform supports ratings and feedback so you can better understand how representatives are serving your customers. It supports many integrations and has additional features, such as proactive chat and survey-form chat. Userlike is a free service with varying plans for businesses.
WhosOn offers several live chat solutions, like analyzing and tracking customer behavior, that make it a great option for SMBs. In addition to a full-scale chat service, WhosOn provides chat surveys to gather important information about your customers. Using this data, you can learn more about your customers, what they need and how you can provide the right level of support. SMB owners can view customer history to prevent reintroductions.
WhosOn is a good tool for tracking a customer's website journey. Agents can create triggers based on site activity and offer proactive service. If a customer is comparing two products, for example, a customer service rep can be readily available to answer questions the customer may have. What separates WhosOn from other chat services is its ability to track users through their site experience. WhosOn plans start at $33 per user per month.
9. Apple Business Chat
Announced last fall, Apple Business Chat is now in Beta. It allows customers to engage with a company through their smartphone. People can ask for information, schedule appointments and make purchases in Messages. The feature is part of the iOS 11 update and integrates with an iMessage-style option inside Apple Maps and via Safari. You can also start conversations through Siri and Spotlight Search. For those millions with iPhone's, this could be a boon for businesses as it will deliver a frictionless experience for customers. Only customers can start a conversation and once a thread is deleted on their end, companies cannot follow up. So far, only a handful of companies have become partners in Business Chat, including Discover, Hilton, The Home Depot, Lowe's, Marriott, Newegg, T-Mobile, TD Ameritrade, Wells Fargo and 800-Flowers.com. For smaller businesses to get in on this app, you'll need to sign up for a developer account with Apple.