Beginner’s Guide to Live Chat Pricing Pt. 2: Compare the Best Vendors


You’ve done your research and you’ve decided to add live chat to your website. But you have a few questions. Should you cut corners and go with a free live chat plan? Will an enterprise plan provide a hefty return on your investment? Is there a happy middle ground between the two?

Before you hand over your credit card and hope for the best, read our live chat pricing comparison, which is a continuation of our beginner’s guide to live chat pricing. Our hope is that with this information, you can more confidently choose a vendor.

The Four Types of Outsourced Live Chat Pricing

As you can imagine, live chat pricing varies greatly depending on the software or live chat service you select. Outsourced live chat pricing falls into four buckets:

Free Live Chat

Some chat solutions offer free live chat. It’s a basic solution that works for businesses that get very little site traffic and/or don’t mind answering incoming chats. For example, some providers offer an option where you can monitor chats yourself. However, if you’re not there to reply within 30 seconds, you lose the lead—and anger the consumer. Olark has a “free forever” program that allows a few free chats per month. However, if you receive more incoming chats than your allotted monthly number, you’ll miss out on opportunities to capture leads.

Pay-per-Agent 

As the name implies, a pay-per-agent structure means businesses pay according to how many live chat agents were used in a given month. Providers who offer this pay structure include Zendesk, LiveChat, Zoho and Olark. Expect to pay between $15-$60 per agent per month. Actual costs vary depending on the number of agents used and also whether you have a basic plan (basic chat customization and a 60-day chat history) or a premium plan (fully custom chat and an unlimited chat history). It’s important to remember that keeping fewer agents on hand can negatively affect customer experience.

Volume-Based Pricing 

Under this live chat pricing structure, the more traffic your site gets, the more money you’ll fork over to your live chat provider. On the low side you could pay $40 a month, but on the high side you could pay up to $600 a month. If you have a high conversion rate, you could make out okay in terms of ROI. However, if you see high site traffic numbers but a low conversion rate, you might end up overspending.

Pay-per-Lead

Instead of paying the same rate each month, when you partner with a pay-per-lead provider you pay based on performance—i.e. the number of leads captured. Providers with a pay-per-lead model include Blazeo (formerly ApexChat) and Ngage Live Chat. Prices range from $18-$35 per lead. This pricing model typically comes with full features of a premium plan such as unlimited chat customization and unlimited history and chat transcripts.

When choosing which type of outsourced live chat pricing works best for you, consider your site traffic, your conversion rate, your availability to answer chats and value-added features.

Here’s a look at pricing for five top live chat software solutions, grouped by pricing structure:

Blazeo (formerly ApexChat) Pricing and Ngage Live Chat Pricing (Pay-per-Lead)

Blazeo (formerly ApexChat) and Ngage both offer a pay-per-lead pricing structure.

The price per lead varies based on the provider you choose, and both Blazeo’s per-lead cost and Ngage’s per-lead cost fall right within the industry average of $15-$35 per lead. Expect to pay a one-time set-up fee as well. These can be up to a couple hundred dollars, depending on the add-on features you choose.

The majority of pay-per-lead vendors offer varying degrees of value-added services such as:

Olark Chat Pricing, LiveChat Inc. Pricing and Zendesk Pricing (Pay-per-Agent)

Olark, LiveChat and Zendesk all offer a pay-per-agent pricing structure.

On the low side, prices start at $12 per agent per month (if you are willing to pay for two years up front). Costs go all the way up to $150 per agent per month for an enterprise plan. Fortunately, as a small business, an enterprise plan is unnecessary. Depending on your individual needs, you can go with a basic/lite plan or a business/team plan.

For example, LiveChat’s starter package comes with unlimited agent accounts. However, the features are basic (basic chat customization, 60-day chat history). With Zendesk you also get unlimited chats but limited customization.

Meatier plans range from $33-$59 per seat per month.

Olark Chat Pricing, Ngage Chat Pricing and Zendesk Pricing (Free Live Chat)

Olark and Zendesk offer free live chat in addition to their other options.

With Olark’s free option, you get one agent who will answer up to 20 chats per month. This comes with basic (limited) features. Just remember, if you get more than 20 incoming chats in a one month period, you’re missing out on capturing that visitor information. And you might force web visitors into bad customer experiences.

Zendesk has a free “lite” plan that includes 1 concurrent chat and a 14-day chat history. Again, if you expect to get some amount of traffic, this might not be a fit.

Outsourced Live Chat Cost vs. the Cost of Hiring Live Chat Agents

One alternative to outsourcing live chat to a vendor is hiring live chat agents as your full-time or part-time employees. Even though this customer support role typically pays a low wage, it costs a lot to hire an employee, as you already know. You spend money and valuable time each time you recruit, interview and onboard an employee, and then there’s the added tax implications and benefits to consider.

While it could make sense for an enterprise company with high traffic and a strong conversion rate to handle live chats in-house, small-and-medium-sized businesses are usually better off outsourcing live chat. After all, most businesses don’t have the resources to keep a sizable in-house chat team on hand 24/7.

live-chat-for-small-businesses
Small business owners can make life easier by having someone handle chat for them.

Live Chat is an Ideal Solution for Small Businesses

Generally speaking, offering live support via chatbots or live chat agents offers a slew of benefits. Here are three:

Better Lead Generation

Live chat boosts lead generation so you can get more prospects into the sales funnel. Marketing expert Neil Patel said that “live chat can transform your conversions” and boost your conversion rate by 45 percent—or even more.

A Competitive Advantage

A live chat solution allows you to communicate with consumers around the clock, answering their questions in real time. And if you’re not there to answer a question, your competitor will be.

Seamless Customer Experience

When you add live chat to your site, you show your website visitors that you care about providing them a seamless experience. According to Econsultancy, live chat has higher customer satisfaction levels than all other customer service channels including phone and email.

Some businesses will benefit more from adding a chatting widget to its website than others. This is because, as Alex Birkett of ConversionXL said, “every website is specific and contextual.”

Small businesses are typically great candidates for live chat—and have a good chance of seeing the massive boosts in conversion rates Patel talked about. This is because small businesses tend to have lower starting conversion rates than midsize and enterprise companies who have bigger pockets.

The general rule of thumb is this: the lower the conversion rate, the more return you’ll see from implementing live chat.

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