Live chat software allows businesses to talk efficiently and directly with online customers and target sales prospects while they’re visiting the company website. We compared more than 20 options and narrowed our list down based on customer satisfaction, ease of use and features to find the top six and the best overall free live chat solution.
Top 6 Best Free Live Chat Software for 2018
|(Best Overall) Organizations that need a robust option with features like chatbots|
|Businesses looking for chat integrated with service, sales and marketing for centralized communications|
|Teams that want real-time visitor website behavior to provide a better chat user experience|
|Businesses with lots of site visitors needing unlimited users and chats|
|Solopreneurs with multiple websites that need offline messaging|
|Organizations that want to use chat with advanced scoring to prioritize sales leads|
How We Evaluated Live Chat Software
Live chat software ensures that customer questions are answered efficiently and gives agents the ability to multitask while chatting, which ultimately produces a better customer experience. It also gives marketing and sales a way to target prospects based on visitor behavior. We reviewed a range of options, taking into account the challenges that most small businesses will encounter when implementing chat as part of their sales and service strategy.
The criteria we used to evaluate the best live chat software include:
- Pricing: Software had to be free, but could also offer add-ons and paid tiers
- Ease of use: We reviewed user interfaces, set-up requirements and user reviews
- Customization: We compared the customizability of each company’s chat software for setting up chat widgets
- Mobile readiness: We reviewed each plan’s mobile options and the functionality
- Integration: We looked at the integration options with other platforms like account management software, content management system (CMS) and analytics as well as how well the software integrated with sites
- Automation: We looked at advanced capabilities canned responses, bots, automated triggers and chat routing
- Analytics and reporting: We compared each service’s ability to capture data like overall chat analytics, conversion tracking, average response time and real-time monitoring
- Customer support: We reviewed the support options to see if support was free, the type of support offered and whether support fees kicked in at any point
- User satisfaction: We looked at user reviews for ease of installation and use, capabilities and overall value
We think Pure Chat is the best free live chat software for 2018 because it provides unlimited chats, reporting, chatbots and excellent support, While it doesn’t have every feature, it offers the most complete set of tools that teams will need to run a service and sales operation that can capture visitors and leads 24/7.
Best Overall Free Live Chat Software for 2018: Pure Chat
Pure Chat offers free chat software with a free chatbot application. It offers unlimited chats for three users, file transfer and can be integrated with a number of web and marketing platforms easily. It’s also very easy to install and operate once up and running. The chatbot add-on makes this the best overall free live chat solution for businesses that need robust software with few restrictions and the ability to be “open” 24/7 with chatbot technology.
Pure Chat Pricing
Pure Chat’s free plan includes features like unlimited chats, canned responses and prechat forms. The Pro plan costs $79 a month. It’s the only other plan offered and is a significant jump in price compared to other plans. However, it allows multiple users, so if you have five or more, it becomes competitively priced.
Pure Chat Tiered Features
|iOS and Android Mobile Apps|
|Lead Capture Bot|
|Trigger-based Actions & Alerts|
The Free plan allows a team of up to three users to field chats quickly by adding website code snippet, setting up mobile use and notifications and customizing settings in the engagement hub. It’s also one of only two solutions in our review to offer a chatbot, which provides automated chat using artificial intelligence to answer basic questions from visitors 24/7.
Pure Chat’s lead capture chatbot, ArtiBot, is downloaded from its sister site, added with additional code, allows you to create your own conversations with “if/then” statements. ArtiBot provides over 25 templates for different industries with the goal of capturing lead information and sending to sales. The Free plan, combined with ArtiBot is good for small teams that want a 24/7 chat solution with features like unlimited chats, chatbots and canned responses.
The Pro plan at $79 per month includes all of the features of the Free plan but also has unlimited users and websites, short message system (SMS)/text notifications, trigger-based actions and alerts and comprehensive reporting. This plan also removes the branding from the chat widget and support emails. Real-time visitor analytics allow managers to see what’s happening on the team during chats, which can help them assess potential agent workload and even who might be prospects.
Compared to other paid tiers, the Pro plan is a good value if you have five or more users to justify the $79 per month price. The Pro plan is best for businesses with a high volume of chat that need unlimited users and automation with triggers and want to capture leads 24/7 with chatbots.
What Pure Chat Is Missing
Pure Chat is designed to be a comprehensive chat solution. However, unlike Tawk.to, the free version does not include unlimited users and automated triggers. Therefore, it’s best for teams with three agents or less who need unlimited chat conversations and the automation ability of a chatbot.
What Users Think About Pure Chat
Users reported that installation was fast and easy and that there were many integration options to connect with web and marketing platforms. Many like the canned responses feature because it saves time for help desk agents. For more user reviews, please visit our Pure Chat review page.
Best Free Live Chat Software for Centralized Communications: HubSpot
HubSpot offers a live chat solution that integrates with its free marketing, sales and service tools to provide businesses with a powerful all-in-one communication suite. Live chat lives in the CRM providing basic chat features and also advanced tools such as bots that can schedule meetings and create tickets. This is best for businesses wanting to integrate chat into all areas of their business in a central communications hub for more targeted conversations.
HubSpot integrates its live chat tool with its forever free CRM, which forms the database that powers the free versions of the marketing, sales and service hubs. Upgrades to the three hubs can be purchased together as a Growth Suite and start at $150 per month (1 user) or individually starting at $50 per month.
Live chat lives in the free CRM, which includes contact management and activity, ticketing, canned snippets, conversational bots and a conversations inbox. It also comes with a sales, marketing and service hub. These three hubs give additional features such as forms, email templates and email scheduling.
HubSpot’s chat features include CRM, integration and ticketing.
“Implementing a live chat feature on your website allows visitors to begin a conversation when it’s convenient for them. This affords a more personal interaction with your organization and reduces friction for prospects, speeding up the buying cycle. With so many great free options on the market, it’s hard to come up with any legitimate reasons to delay implementation.”
– Eric Pratt, Managing Partner, Revenue River
Customer Relationship Management
CRM is the engine that powers the service, sales and marketing hubs and is where live chat lives. It includes features like company records, contact management, deals, tasks, email integration and documents. All conversations get stored in a universal inbox where you can take notes, send emails, schedule follow-ups, create support tickets and make calls.
With the free CRM and live chat, you also have access to some of the features of the sales, service and marketing hubs. These include things such as website forms, email tracking, email templates, meeting scheduling and email scheduling. Email tracking connects your inbox — Gmail and Outlook platforms — to the CRM to automatically record emails and track when the recipient opens the email.
Support tickets can be created from the dashboard, contact records, conversations inbox and with a ticket support form. In the tickets dashboard, you can customize ticket stages and properties and use drag and drop to move them to the different stages. Within each ticket, you can add notes, email, call, create tasks and schedule meetings.
The chatbot is accessed from the main dashboard from the conversations tab. The bot can be customized to collect visitor information, offer an email subscription, book a meeting and create a new ticket. There’s also the option to hand off to an agent. Contacts with emails are added to the CRM Premium features like workflow enrollment and if/then branching logic are only included in paid plans.
What Is HubSpot Missing
Although everything is initially free in the suite, adding paid versions of the sales, marketing and service hubs together increases the cost to $150 per month. The Professional version jumps up to $1,600 per month, although this is for companies that need a fully automated inbound marketing solution.
What Users Think About HubSpot
As HubSpot is a suite of tools that includes live chat, we couldn’t find reviews for the chat solution or the free hubs specifically. There are, however, many positive reviews for the general platform. For that, users like having an all-in-one platform with all of their sales, service and marketing functions under one roof with the ability to integrate with several hundred other platforms.
Best Live Chat Software for Real-time Visitor Behavior: Smartsupp
Smartsupp is a live chat tool with free and paid options that all include the ability to record real-time website visitor behavior, which makes it unique as none of the other options we researched had this feature. Recording can help businesses improve the website experience helping to capture more leads and reducing visitor bounce. Therefore, it’s best for businesses such as e-commerce sites that want to combine chat with website behavioral insights.
Smartsupp offers its Free plan with recordings and heatmaps to see how users are interacting with a site including mouse movements and where clicks were made. Its Starter plan is $8 per agent a month and the Pro plan is $79 per agent a month, which make both affordable compared to other, similarly featured plans.
Smartsupp Tiered Features
|Number of Recordings|
In addition to basic chat functionality, the Free plan allows for visitor recording, which lets you see mouse movement of your visitors, where they clicked and why they left your site. None of the other chat platforms we researched had this feature. It also allows for unlimited agents, another feature that makes this product stand out from most other free versions reviewed here.
If you want to understand user behavior better and where visitors are leaving your site, the Free plan is a great place to start. For a minimal amount, upgrading to the next tier or tiers provides more recordings, more chat automation and statistics to drill down into where improvements can be made with service.
The $8 per month Standard plan includes automatic messages that allow sending personalized messages based on rules you set. These conversions can then be measured with the plan’s Google Analytics connection, an uncommon feature in free plans.
The Standard plan shares most of the Pro’s premiums but does lack detailed statistics by agent and the creation of advanced routing by groups like sales and tech support. However, the automated features mentioned above make it a smart choice for account management teams with a higher volume of visitors looking to be more efficient.
At $19 per agent, the top-tiered Pro plan provides detailed statistics of agent performance measuring response time, average rating, number of missed chats and other indicators. The groups of agents feature lets you route conversations based on groups you create like tech support.
With the Google Analytics connector, you can track actions as events such as “visitor replied to auto message” and see which auto messages are most replied to. You can also measure things like conversion rate of chatting visitors vs. overall conversion rate. This plan is best for organizations that want detailed insights into their visitor behavior in order to improve the site experience and turn more visitors into leads and ultimately buyers.
What Smartsupp Is Missing
There are no reports to evaluate agents based on things like first response time and average rating in the free plan. This feature is only found in the $19 per month Pro plan. Pre-chat form and automated messages are also not part of the Free plan.
What Users Think About Smartsupp
Users of Smartsupp like the mobile recording feature with one saying that this allowed their company to redesign their mobile layout based on user behavior. Generally, users found it very easy to set up and begin using immediately. Check out our Smartsupp review page for more information about the software.
Best Live Chat Software for Businesses Needing Unlimited Users & Chats: Tawk.to
Tawk.to is rare in this space in that there is no paid version of its chat service, which includes features in such as automated triggers, real-time monitoring, file transfer, unlimited agents and detailed reporting on visitor details, engagement and agent ratings. These five features combined are not found in any other software in this review and make it an ideal solution for businesses that have a high volume of chat requests and don’t want to be limited in users.
Tawk.to only offers a free version, but you can purchase the branding removal add-on to remove branding from the widget and from the support emails. This feature costs $12 per month billed annually. Other add-ons include hiring 24/7 chat agents for $1 per hour and video/voice/screen sharing at $29 per month.
Tawk.to provides businesses most of the tools they’ll need to run an efficient chat department without running into restrictions for chat conversation and agents, which are unlimited. Automated triggers is a feature seen in few free products. It can help engage visitors with a chat window that automatically opens with the following trigger types: chat rescuer, page notification, site notification and advanced. You can set these based on certain time criteria.
Customer Relationship Management
Tawk.to does not have a CRM nor does it currently integrate with other CRMs, which puts it at a disadvantage compared to other all-in-one free chat services like HubSpot. However, its detailed reporting features can provide businesses with helpful insights as to how customers are engaging using the tool as well as how agents are performing.
Tawk.to integrates with a number of CMS like WordPress, Joomla and Drupal and with e-commerce software BigCommerce, Shopify and Magento, among others. The Google AdWords integration lets you track ad clicks if they lead to chat conversations and how effective those conversations are.
Tickets can be created from the messaging inbox or while in the chat conversation window. You can add customer information or message, assign it to an agent, add an attachment and assign a priority with five options from lowest to highest. In order to create a ticket, you must have the customer’s email. The reporting section tracks tickets by volume, source, solved and other options that can be download into an Excel report.
Tawk.to does not currently have a chatbot feature. Therefore, businesses utilizing Tawk.to for customer service, technical support or sales would only be able to offer assistance during regular business hours.
What Tawk.to Is Missing
One feature missing is chatbots. Pure Chat and HubSpot are the only other free versions that have this feature, but it does make these two companies stand out for a feature typically only found in paid versions.
What Users Think About Tawk.to
Two things stand out from user reviews. First, it’s great free chat software with no restrictions like unlimited agents, history, monitoring and reporting. Secondly, the interface feels clunky and difficult to understand. Even those reviews mentioning its outdated look and feel still give the software high marks for its many features packed into a free solution. For more user reviews, head over to our Tawk.to review page.
Best Live Chat Software for Multiple Websites & Offline Messaging: Chatra
Chatra is a simple to use chat solution that provides a busy solopreneur with the tools for both online and offline communication. Features like unlimited websites, offline messaging, forwarding messages to email and concurring chats allow a business of one to chat no matter where they are or what website the chat request is coming from. Therefore, it’s best for solopreneurs who are on the go and need to always stay in contact with their website visitors.
Chatra’s free plan includes having one agent online at a time, but unlimited agent accounts so your significant other can cover chats when needed. Its second and only other tier is $15 per month per agent and includes automation features like intelligent prechat forms, typing insights and screen sharing.
Chatra Tiered Features
|Multilingual Chat Widget|
|Complete Conversation History|
|Forward Messages to Email|
|Email Chat Transcripts|
|Google Analytics Integration|
|Intelligent Prechat Form|
|Real-time Visitor List|
The free plan includes features like an offline messenger that lets you create customized, specific “away” messages to tell visitors exactly when you’ll be in touch. You can also forward chat messages to email. If you already have a chat history with the visitor, it will show up in your widget and that of your visitor. Lastly, if you are running multiple websites, you can install on each one and funnel all chats to you.
The free plan is ideal for solopreneurs who aren’t always in the office to respond to chats and need a way to answer chats while on the go. It’s also good for those that need one central place to manage conversations from multiple websites.
The paid plan starts at $15 per month per agent and includes features like file sharing, chat ratings and typing insights that let you see what your visitors are typing as they type. It also includes chat reports that track agent responsiveness, how many visitors you have and overall customer satisfaction.
This plan is best for businesses that have a larger volume of inquiries and want to give their agents tools to communicate faster. The reporting and ratings tools give a business with multiple agents data to compare, grade and improve service levels. Businesses with multiple departments will like group chats, which allows several agents to be in the same conversation simultaneously.
What Chatra Is Missing
Missing from both plans is chat bot functionality, which can help answer basic questions and collect visitor info during nonbusiness hours or times of unavailability. The free plan is missing the ability to attach files and doesn’t provide any chat reporting unlike Pure Chat and Tawk.to.
What Users Think About Chatra
Users of Chatra like its easy setup and the ability to have multiple chats simultaneously in the free plan. Group chat was another feature that users really liked. A few noted that adding more than one online agent can get costly.
Best Live Chat Software for Sales-focused Lead Scoring: Zoho SalesIQ
Zoho SalesIQ is a live chat platform with several features that make it unique from the rest of the software we reviewed: lead scoring and email genie. Lead scoring evaluates each visitor’s probability of turning into a customer. Email genie sends important details about a prospect in an email to sales. Therefore, it’s best for service, sales and marketing teams wanting to improve how they identify and connecting with visitors and prospects using chat insights.
The Free plan with Zoho SalesIQ includes two users, 100 monthly chat conversations and 5,000 trackable monthly visitors. The Basic plan includes three operators, 50,000 monthly visitor tracking and 1,000 chat conversations for $17 per month. The Professional costs $53 per month and includes five users, 100,000 monthly tracked visitors and unlimited conversations.
Zoho Tiered Features
|Visitors Tracked per Month|
|Chat Volume per Month|
|Monitor Live Chats|
The Free plan records visitor insights like pages visited and referral source, such as social media, AdWords and email campaigns, and displays a rules-based score built on specific actions taken by the visitor. The higher the score, the higher the probability of closing the sale. In addition, email genie sends a summary of this same information to the sales team, providing better context for follow up, which combined, are features not found in any other live chat software.
The Free plan gives sales and marketing the tools needed to help identify and engage the right visitors and prospects. Lead scoring, opportunity percentage and the detailed behavior give sales more context before starting a conversation with a visitor. This plan is a great place to start for sales, marketing and service people who want more insight into the visitors that will make good prospects.
The $17 per month Basic plan adds a number of functions not found in the Free plan including file uploads, canned messages and anonymous visitor ID. It also has advanced features including email campaign tracking, intelligent triggers and an analytics integration. The $17 per month option includes three operators, 50,0000 monthly visitors tracked and 1,000 chat conversations.
The Basic adds to the Free plan’s sales features, making the role of the agents a bit more automated with triggers and canned messages and provides deeper analytics for assessing the value of chat conversions vs. conversions from other sources. Businesses with a little higher chat volume — see chat and visitor restrictions in Free — wanting an analysis of their chat program will benefit most from this plan.
The Professional plan lifts the restrictions on monthly chat conversations and increases the number of operators to five. Audio call, an uncommon feature, allows an agent to call right from the chat window. Live chat monitoring to see how customer service and sales needs are being met in real time. The plan costs $53 per month and also allows for visitor routing for up to 10 operators, which is an uncommon feature.
The Professional plan is businesses that have higher volumes of visitors and chats and that want options for setting up more departments to initiate and route chats. For sales teams, the audio call feature to make and receive calls right from chat window makes it easier to speak quickly with valuable leads.
What Zoho SalesIQ Is Missing
Zoho SalesIQ Free does not include statistics by agent and does not allow for integration with platforms like Google Analytics. To get more robust reporting and integration capability, you will need to upgrade to a paid plan. Finally, the Free plan is limited to 100 monthly chat conversations.
What Users Think About Zoho SalesIQ
Users like the features of visitor history such as what pages they last visited, which gave the agent good context for the conversation. Some did complain that the paid tiers could get expensive, particularly given that there are some limitations on the number of monthly chats and visitors tracked. For more user reviews, visit our Zoho SalesIQ user review page.
The Bottom Line
Live chat software has the highest level of customer satisfaction of any channel at 73 percent compared to email at 61 percent and 44 percent for phone. These facts highlight the fact that businesses should consider the software to build better relationships and close more sales. Fortunately, there are many free options to test drive.
We found Pure Chat offered the best value based on its many features, ease of set up and use and support. It also offers unlimited chats, which is a feature not offered by many free live chat services. You can sign up for the free version or test ride the Pro with its 30-day money back guarantee.