How to Find the Best Live Chat Software

So, you’ve made the decision to install live chat software on your website. Great, you won’t regret it. After all, live chat software is the most cost effective, proactive way to interact with visitors of your website. But, you already know this or you wouldn’t be reading this blog post. Still, deciding that you need live chat software on your website is just the first step. Actually deciding which vendor provides the best live chat software for your business, though, is a completely different matter. Therefore, we have put together a few ideas that can help you determine the best live chat software implementation for you and your business.

What Do You Need?

It might seem obvious, but many people fail to consider why they actually need a live chat system before attempting to select a vendor or service. If you run a small online shop or niche service, you may need a live chat service that allows you to interact proactively with visitors to help convert browsers into buyers. On the other hand, if your company is a large enterprise, you may be looking for advanced features such as scheduling and reporting capabilities. While virtually all live-chat software enables you to interact with visitors with basic chat and message functions, there are a ton of other features and needs that you may, or may not, need to consider.

Before you do anything else, jot down the features you must have in a live chat system. Besides the obvious (the ability to chat with website visitors,) make a list of other features that you will require absolutely. Need the ability to track and monitor visitors on your website? Jot it down. Want to be able to send chat invitations automatically based on pre-defined rules? Add it to the list.

After you make a list of all the features you must have, start considering some that will make life easier by improving efficiency and productivity. In the end, choosing the best live chat software for your organization and website will mean finding the product that makes it easiest to communicate with your visitors and convert more of them to buyers.

For instance, would a feature that routes chat requests automatically based on pre-defined rules or visitor selections be useful to your company? Do you want to be able to customize the chat window and graphics to promote your brand and create a more professional chat environment? Do you need live chat apps for mobile or integrations with other platforms? The best live chat software implementations offer these kinds of advanced features and many more. While your company may not need some advanced features right now, it’s reassuring to know that they’re available if you need them later.

Reviews and Comparing

While searching for the best live chat software for your website, you’ll probably read a few reviews on various vendors and platforms, and — generally speaking — that’s wise and prudent. However, before you start depending too much on reviews, you should consider that reviews may or may not be as objective as you might hope.

Reviews can be an excellent source of valuable information for live chat systems, but make sure the reviews are objective and that they compare apples to apples and oranges to oranges – or, in short, compare like features accurately and don’t just recommend (or not) based on a list.

For an in-depth look at the pros and cons of live chat reviews, check out my blog post on live chat review traps and how you can avoid them.

When reading reviews on live chat software, pay close attention to how the platforms were compared. Did the reviewer actually install the various applications on his/her website and test them? Or, did the writer base the review on inflated feature lists?

If the reviewer mentions a couple of platforms that provide auto-invitation capabilities, did he/she describe how the feature worked in the program and if it was east to use and effective? Or, did the author just give credit for the feature being available. Remember, just because a live chat application reportedly has a feature doesn’t mean that it works the way you need it to.

Questions and Trials

Virtually all of the best live chat software vendors offer free trials of their applications. Free trials are the best way to evaluate the live chat platforms that may interest you. Better live chat platforms are usually easy to install on your website and don’t require any coding or complex programming. Therefore, testing a few live chat applications on your website shouldn’t take very long. In fact, testing some platforms may not take very long at all – especially if they don’t provide the features, customizations or ease of use you need or want.

Using free trials of live chat software can help you develop a shortlist of applications that may be suitable for your company and website. However, extended testing or evaluation of three or four applications can take a considerable amount of time and may not be feasible in some cases. Consequently, you shouldn’t shy away from asking potential live chat vendors about specific tools or features your organization may need or want.

Even if your business is relatively small, a live chat vendor should provide quick and focused support – even during the free trial period. When considering live chat vendors on your shortlist, send them all a Request for Proposal (RFP) and make sure to ask as many questions as may be required to address your needs and concerns.

If you need a template for an RFP, you can find one here. If you need some ideas on the types of questions to ask, check out my post on the Top 8 Questions to Ask potential live chat vendors.

Different Folks, Different Strokes

After all is said and done, you’ll discover that there is probably not just one live chat application that is hands down better than all others. After all, what works well for one company may not work so well for yours – and vice versa. That does not mean, though, that you cannot find the best live chat software for your particular company and purpose; quite to the contrary.

With some research, due diligence and testing, you can nail down your shortlist of live chat applications and select one that gives you broader access to your website visitors and clients and helps improve your bottom line. In the end, those are the two most important features of all.