5 Best Live Chat Software for Small Business Compared (2022)

On the hunt for the best live chat software for your website?

Whether you’re using WordPress or a different website builder, you can find a ton of useful live chat tools to help you interact with your customers.

To help you find the right option for your site, we’ve curated a list of the top five options for all budgets and feature needs (including some forever-free live chat software).

For each tool, we’ll share the following:

  • A quick summary table
  • General introduction to the tool
  • How you can chat with visitors
  • Pricing information
  • Pros and cons

Let’s dig in!

💨Summary: Best Live Chat Software

Here’s a quick summary of the best live chat software – keep reading for a detailed look at each tool:

Tool Free Plan? WordPress Plugin? Starting Price for Pro
LiveChat ✔️ $16/agent/month
tawk.to ✔️ ✔️ 100% free for all features
Tidio ✔️ ✔️ $16/agent/month
Support Board ✔️ $59 one-time
3CX Live Chat ✔️ ✔️ $12.50/month for 10 agents

☝️ How to Choose the Best Live Chat Software

Before getting into our list of the best live chat software and plugins, let’s quickly run down a few tips on how to make sure you pick the right plugin for your situation:

  • SaaS vs self-hosted – most live chat tools are actually hosted SaaS tools that you can integrate with your website via code snippets or WordPress plugins. That means your data lives on the service’s server instead of your website’s server. The advantage of this approach is that you’re able to have a more reliable, always-on chat. However, if you really value the self-hosted approach, you can find self-hosted live chat software (but again, most are SaaS tools).
  • Number of agents – if you’re the only chat operator, this one doesn’t matter. But if you plan to have a lot of agents responding to chats, the plugin’s billing model is an important consideration. Some plugins bill you based on each individual agent, while others are a little more generous if you have lots of agents.
  • Branding on the live chat – do you care if there’s a small logo from the service on your live chat widget? If you don’t, you can find some great free options. But if you don’t want a third-party logo on your chat box, you’ll typically need to pay (with one exception).
  • Chatbot support – if you want to set up automated chatbots in addition to live human agents, some live chat tools are stronger than others in that respect.
  • Omnichannel support – will you only chat via your website? Or do you also want a tool to help you respond to chats from other platforms such as FB Messenger or WhatsApp?
  • General productivity features – if you’ll be chatting a lot, you’ll likely want to look for productivity-boosting features such as canned responses, agent transfer, and more.

🏆 Five Best Live Chat Software Providers Compared In Detail

  1. LiveChat
  2. tawk.to
  3. Tidio
  4. Support Board
  5. 3CX Live Chat

1. LiveChat – Best Live Chat Software for Powerful Features

Works With: Any website software, including a WordPress integration plugin
Self-Hosted or SaaS? SaaS
Forever Free Plan?
Starting Price for Pro $16 per agent per month
Chatbots ✔️

LiveChat is one of the most well-known SaaS live chat services. It offers well-designed interfaces in all aspects, as well as a lengthy feature list that’s packed full of features to help you with productivity, optimization, and more.

Purely looking at functionality and user experience, LiveChat is one of the best live chat tools that you’ll find. The only downside is that it’s also one of the pricier options (especially if you have a lot of agents), so people on a budget might want to look at different live chat software.

Overall, I would recommend LiveChat as the top option for serious businesses with serious live chat needs.

But if you just want a simple chat tool for your site, you can find free/cheaper options that get the job done fine.

💬 How to Chat

To respond to customers, you can use the LiveChat web interface or dedicated apps for the following platforms:

You can also add other integrations, such as a Slack integration to receive and send chat messages via Slack.

💰 Pricing

LiveChat’s plans start at $16 per agent per month for basic features and go up to $50 per agent per month.

This “per-agent” pricing model means that it can get pricey for large teams.

If you want chatbot support, you also need to pay for the separate ChatBot service, which starts at $42 per month.

👍👎 Pros and Cons

👍 Pros:

  • Packed with features. You get a ton of useful features for productivity, optimization, and so on.
  • All of the frontend and backend interfaces and apps are well-designed.
  • The ChatBot service is very nice and easy to use (though it costs extra).
  • There’s an app marketplace with 200+ apps. This gives you unparalleled flexibility compared to other live chat plugins when it comes to features and integrations.
  • Multichannel chat support for WhatsApp, FB Messenger, and more.
  • If you have an eCommerce store, LiveChat offers special eCommerce features.

👎 Cons:

  • There’s no free version, though you can try it with a 14-day free trial.
  • It can be expensive if you have a lot of agents because it uses per-agent pricing.

Visit LiveChat

2. tawk.to – Best Forever Free Live Chat Software

tawk.to Live Chat software
Works With: Any website software, including a WordPress integration plugin
Self-Hosted or SaaS? SaaS
Forever Free Plan? ✔️
Starting Price for Pro All features are free
Chatbots

Tawk.to is one of the most popular live chat plugins/tools in existence because of one very compelling value proposition – it gives you access to all of the live chat features for free (forever!).

At the same time, though, it includes a solid feature list that rivals paid SaaS tools when it comes to features such as productivity and optimization. For example, you’ll still get all the must-have features such as canned responses, agent transfers, and so on.

Overall, if you’re specifically looking for a free live chat tool, tawk.to is definitely one of the best options.

💬 How to Chat

You can respond to visitors from the tawk.to website, as well as dedicated apps for the following platforms:

💰 Pricing

In terms of live chat features, tawk.to is 100% free forever for access to all features, which is definitely the most unique thing about this tool (and why it’s become the most popular live chat tool).

You’ll only need to pay in the following situations:

  • Remove small tawk.to branding from chat box – $19 per month.
  • Video + Voice + Screen Sharing – $29 per month if you want to go beyond live chat with video/audio support.

You can also hire real human chat agents to respond to customers for just $1/hour.

👍👎 Pros and Cons

👍 Pros:

  • Access to all live chat features for free forever.
  • Despite being free, tawk.to offers just as many advanced features as paid tools.
  • Add unlimited agents for free.

👎 Cons:

  • No chatbot support, so it’s not a good option if you want to create chatbots. Tawk.to does have automation on its roadmap, though.
  • No multichannel chat support for other platforms like FB Messenger.

Visit tawk.to

3. Tidio – Best Live Chat User Experience

Tidio
Works With: Any website software, including a WordPress integration plugin
Self-Hosted or SaaS? SaaS
Forever Free Plan? ✔️
Starting Price for Pro $16 per agent per month
Chatbots ✔️

Tidio is another popular SaaS live chat tool that works with any type of website, including WordPress.

One of Tidio’s standout features is a very modern chat interface on the frontend (as well as the backend). While design is subjective, I personally think that Tidio has one of the nicest chat experiences.

It also has strong chatbot functionality, in a similar vein to LiveChat. However, one of the key differences between it and LiveChat is that Tidio has a functional forever-free plan.

💬 How to Chat

You can chat with customers from a well-designed web interface as well as dedicated apps for the following platforms:

  • iOS
  • Android
  • Windows
  • macOS
  • Linux

💰 Pricing

Tidio has a forever-free plan that supports limited features and up to three agents.

You can also create basic chatbots with the free version, though your chatbots can only chat with up to 100 unique visitors per month. The free plan allows unlimited human chats – it’s only chatbots that are limited.

After that, there are two paid plans:

  • Communicator – adds useful features for human chat operators. From ~$16 per agent per month.
  • Chatbots – adds more chatbot features and support for unlimited conversations. From ~$41 per month.

👍👎 Pros and Cons

👍 Pros:

  • Has a pretty solid forever-free plan.
  • The interface is very well-designed and creates a good experience for your customers.
  • While you need to pay extra for the chatbot plans, they allow unlimited chatbot interactions, which is pretty unique. For example, LiveChat’s similarly priced chatbot plan only supports 1,000 chats per month.
  • Multichannel chat including support for Messenger and Instagram.

👎 Cons:

  • The paid plans are a bit expensive with the new per-agent pricing. It now works out to be about the same as LiveChat.
  • Despite costing the same as LiveChat, you don’t get quite as many features, nor do you get access to the app marketplace.

👉 Use our exclusive Tidio Coupon to get 20% OFF

Visit Tidio Live Chat

4. Support Board – Best Self-Hosted Live Chat for WordPress

Support Board
Works With: Any website where you can self-host software, including a 100% native WordPress plugin
Self-Hosted or SaaS? Self-hosted (PHP app or WordPress plugin) OR hosted SaaS
Forever Free Plan?
Starting Price for Pro $59 one-time
Chatbots ✔️

Support Board is one of the few WordPress live chat plugins that offers a truly native, self-hosted WordPress chat solution where everything stays on your site’s server. 

Or, if you’re not using WordPress, there’s also a PHP app version that lets you self-host your chat system for other types of sites.

If that self-hosted approach is important to you, I think this is one of the best options that you’ll find because it still offers a lot of the features that you’d expect from a SaaS tool.

Note – the developer also recently launched a cloud-hosted version, which might be another option for people who are ok with the SaaS approach.

💬 How to Chat

To respond to users, you can work directly from your WordPress dashboard (or the PHP app’s dashboard for different website platforms).

The plugin also lets you use your dashboard as a progressive web app, which means you can create an almost native app experience on Android and iOS (as well as your desktop computer). It’s not quite as slick as a dedicated app, but it’s functional enough for responding to chats on the go.

💰 Pricing

The core Support Board plugin costs $59 for lifetime updates on a single site.

There are also optional “apps” to add more features and integrations, which range from $9 to $39 depending on the app. For example, if you want to add WhatsApp support, that will be an extra $29.

The apps only come with one year of updates unless you renew your license – you only get lifetime updates with the core tool.

If you’re interested in the cloud-hosted version, those plans start at $5 per month.

👍👎 Pros and Cons

👍 Pros:

  • It’s 100% self-hosted and all your data stays on your server. This is surprisingly hard to find and it’s the biggest advantage of choosing this plugin.
  • If you’re using WordPress, you can respond to chats directly from your WordPress dashboard.
  • It’s cost-effective since there are no per-agent fees and you get lifetime updates. Basically, it’s pay once and done.
  • Special WordPress integrations, such as automatically syncing user accounts.
  • Multichannel chat support for WhatsApp, FB Messenger, Twitter, Telegram, and more.

👎 Cons:

  • There’s no free option.
  • You don’t get dedicated mobile or desktop apps, though the plugin does offer a progressive web app version so that you can respond to people while on the go.

Visit Support Board

5. 3CX Live Chat – Best Budget Live Chat Software for Lots of Agents

3CX Live Chat software
Works With: Any website software, including WordPress integration plugin
Self-Hosted or SaaS? SaaS OR self-hosted on your own cloud instance
Forever Free Plan? ✔️
Starting Price for Pro $12.50 per month for up to 10 agents
Chatbots

3CX Live Chat does not have as nice of an interface or as many features as some of the other live chat software on this list.

However, what it does have is flexible setup options and very affordable pricing, especially for large teams. This can make it a great option for people on a budget who don’t need the absolute best interface and features.

You can either use 3CX’s cloud-hosted version called StartUp (like a SaaS). Or, you can create your own dedicated instance on AWS or other cloud hosting to keep everything on your own server.

💬 How to Chat

You can respond to customers from your 3CX Live Chat instance or the dedicated mobile apps for iOS and Android.

3CX Live Chat also offers progressive web app support, which gives you another option for desktop or mobile chatting.

💰 Pricing

3CX Live Chat has one of the most generous free plans of any plugin on this list. You can use the cloud-hosted version (StartUp) for free forever with support for up to 10 agents and zero branding.

I’m not aware of any other live chat software that offers a forever-free plan without branding, so that’s pretty unique.

The paid plans add some extra features (such as Facebook Messenger integration) and support for more agents. They’re still very affordable, starting at just $12.50 per month for all features and up to 10 agents.

If you’d prefer the self-managed approach, there’s also a free plan that lets you create your own instance hosted on your private cloud server from providers such as AWS, Google, and Azure.

👍👎 Pros and Cons

👍 Pros:

  • The free version doesn’t have any branding, which isn’t the case for almost all other plugins. For example, while tawk.to is free, it still adds its own branding. 3CX Live Chat doesn’t do that.
  • The free plan is very generous – you can have up to 10 agents without paying.
  • Even if you need the paid plan, it’s still cheaper than most other tools and doesn’t have per-agent pricing.
  • Also supports FB Messenger chat (though not other platforms).

👎 Cons:

  • The backend user experience isn’t as nice as other tools. It definitely doesn’t feel as polished as something like LiveChat.
  • It lacks some basic productivity features such as canned responses. This might be an issue if your chat channels are very busy.

Visit 3CX Live Chat

🤔 Which Is the Best Live Chat Software?

Now for the important question – which is the best live chat software provider for your specific site?

Well, I never think there’s a single answer in these types of posts. Instead, it’s more about finding the right tool for your specific situation.

So – let’s run through a few different scenarios to help you decide.

💪 Best Live Chat Software for Powerful Features

If you’re willing to pay, I think that LiveChat has the overall best features and user experience when it comes to live chat software.

It’s packed with advanced features and also has an app marketplace if you need to extend it further. The user experience across the frontend and backend is also excellent, and you get chat apps for all of the major platforms.

Really, the only downside is that it can be a bit expensive, especially if you have a lot of agents.

Tidio is also worth considering if you want to create chatbots, as it has a nice visual editor.

🆓 Best Free Live Chat Software

If you’re looking for a free live chat tool, I would start your search in two spots:

  • tawk.to – this is the best option in terms of features and user experience. However, the caveat is that the free version includes a small tawk.to branding on the live chat box. It’s not a huge deal, but you’d need to pay if you want to remove it.
  • 3CX Live Chat – the user experience and features aren’t quite at the same level as tawk.to, but it doesn’t add any branding to the free plan, which makes it excellent value if that’s important to you.

Tidio is also another solid free live chat solution. I think the reason that you might choose Tidio over tawk.to is that Tidio’s user experience is really slick. However, Tidio’s free plan is not as generous as the previous two plugins as it only supports limited features and up to three agents.

🖥️ Best Self-Hosted Live Chat Software

If you want self-hosted live chat software and/or a native WordPress chat plugin (rather than a SaaS tool with an integration plugin), your best option is the Support Board plugin.

It still offers advanced features and a nice user experience, but in a package where everything stays on your server.

You also might consider the self-managed version of 3CX Live Chat, though I think that Support Board is a better option for most WordPress users.

Do you still have any questions about how to pick the best live chat software for your site? Let us know in the comments!

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