Everything You Need to Know About Live Chat Outsourcing

Updated November 29, 2023

Live chat support is a must for any small business with an online presence. Studies have shown that live chat improves website UX, customer experience and conversion rate. When prospects visit your site, you need to be ready to provide the answers they seek—in the moment, around the clock, 365 days a year. If you don’t want to hire trained chat agents, live chat outsourcing is an option.

But is live chat outsourcing right for you? Let’s take a look at the facts.

What Is Live Chat Outsourcing? 

Some companies put live chat support teams in place to answer prospect questions or provide customer support. When people have a question or a problem, they want it answered immediately. Live chat allows a business to respond in real time—no waiting on hold, no pressing number four for tech support. And when you use live chat you experience more conversions from prospect to sales lead. The major perceived benefit of hiring chat agents is subject matter expertise.

Some companies choose to outsource live chat. There are many reasons to do so. Let’s say you’re located in California but many of your customers live in Europe. If you need to provide support in different timezones, outsourcing live chat could be more economical then staffing employees 24 hours per day. Even businesses operating in a single timezone can get mileage out of a 24-hour chat solution. Consumers often do their online shopping after hours.

Outsourced live chat also takes the strain off of current employees—nobody has to start answering web chats on top of their regular job duties, and nobody has to take on the management of new live chat employees.

Cost of Hiring a Live Chat Agent vs. Live Chat Outsourcing 

A live chat agent earns about $12 per hour, according to Glassdoor. In estimating how much you’d spend to bring one on board full-time, remember that you’re not hiring an 8-hour-a-day job. You need agents available to answer customer questions 24/7. (That’s a total of 8,760 hours per year.)

Next, take a look at how much traffic your website sees. If you get 500 website visitors per day, assume that 10 percent of them will interact with your chat box. That’s 50 daily chats. An agent should be able to handle six chats an hour, so you only need one chat agent per shift. Even so, when you multiply $12 by 8,760, hiring your own live chat agents costs $105,000 annually. And then you need to pay someone to manage them.

The cost of live chat outsourcing varies greatly depending on which live chat software or live chat service you select.

There are four types of outsourced live chat pricing:

Let’s take a look at each.

There's plenty of variety among chat vendors. So, if you're loking at live chat outsourcing, which is right for your business?
There’s plenty of variety among chat vendors. So, if you’re looking at live chat outsourcing, which is right for your business?

Free Live Chat

Some companies, like Olark, offer free live chat. These deals always have limitations—for example, you’d be limited to 20 chats per month. Also, these deals don’t offer features like live chat transcripts, targeted chat or Instagram integrations. With some free options, you monitor chats yourself. That doesn’t work for all businesses because if you’re not there to reply within 30 seconds you lose the lead. Free live chat is better than no live chat, but it’s a no-frills option.

Pay Per Agent

Live chat providers with a pay-per-agent structure bill their customers monthly based on how many agents were used. Zendesk, LiveChat, Zoho and Olark all offer pay per agent pricing. Actual costs vary based on provider and number of agents but you can expect to pay between $15-$60 per month per agent. Lower price plans usually have entry-level features like basic chat customization and 60-day chat history. Premium plans offer benefits like full chat customization and unlimited chat history. Some offer discounted rates for paying annually rather than monthly.

Volume-Based Pricing 

Costs are based on how much traffic your website gets. It’s similar to pay per agent as the more traffic you get, the more agents you need. Expect to pay a flat monthly rate between $40-$600. There’s some risk associated with these plans depending on how strong your website conversion rate is. If your website gets significant traffic volume, but relatively few leads, you could end up significantly overpaying for chat.


Pay-per-lead chat providers don’t bill you a fixed monthly rate based on number of agents or volume of website traffic. Instead, they charge you only on the number of leads generated. If an agent answers 50 chats but only five sales leads are attributed to chat, you’ll only be charged for those five leads. This reduces the risk of paying for a service you’ll get no benefit from. Providers that offer pay-per-lead pricing include Blazeo (formerly ApexChat) and Ngage. A billable lead costs anywhere from $15-$35 depending on your vendor, and there can also be a one time set up fee.

Benefits of Live Chat Outsourcing

Increase Conversions

Often, customers have questions about products or services before making a purchase. While having a frequently answered questions section can be beneficial, it likely won’t cover all questions. Companies that invest in chat support agents can increase conversions by quickly responding to customer questions, which helps build trust. These chats can turn lead generation funnels into customers by providing them with the right information when they need it.

Lower Customer Service Costs

In-house teams can sometimes be expensive, but chat outsourcing services can help reduce these operational costs without sacrificing service quality. Many of these services also have integrated AI features that can effectively analyze previous chat conversations and provide appropriate suggestions to help improve customer interactions. They can also increase response times by scanning a data set of documentation and information about your company to help the chat team provide relevant context and responses to customers.

Does Live Chat Outsourcing Drive Real Business Results?

The best proof of ROI is speaking to actual customers—and resellers like Evan Lamont of TLG Marketing. Here’s what he had to say about pay-per-lead provider Blazeo (formerly ApexChat):

“As an agency, it’s our job to help generate leads and new contacts for our clients, and Blazeo (formerly ApexChat) is just another way to facilitate that … If you’re an advertising agency or a marketing agency—or your ability to work with clients is dependent on you creating leads—then Blazeo live chat is a no-brainer.”

Which Industries Benefit Most From Outsourcing Live Chats?

Every industry can benefit from live chat outsourcing. Doctor’s offices can use chat support agents to obtain patient information, prescreen issues and make appointments. Law firms can use these to help answer specific queries and provide some immediate advice to potential leads.

Travel services are another great example of an industry that can use live chat to better serve customers. Chat support agents can answer questions about reservations, bookings, recommendations, previous purchases and more.

To turn lead generation into sales, it’s more important than ever to have a robust customer service strategy. Customer service starts before purchase, and one of the best ways for modern businesses to keep up with this trend in consumer behavior is to have a dedicated team to answer questions, comments and concerns. Chat outsourcing services that also leverage emerging technologies, such as artificial intelligence, can increase response times and efficiency.

E-commerce businesses can use live chat to build a relationship with customers, which helps increase trust in your brand. When people shop, they have additional questions that, if answered correctly, can help mitigate the need for future refunds.

As more and more businesses utilize chat support agents, consumers will notice the difference in customer service, response times and the accuracy of information provided. To stay competitive, businesses need to come up with strategies that allow them to effectively capture these inbound leads.

Read more: When to Use Live Chat vs Chatbots