Live Chat Pricing: A Beginner’s Guide

Updated November 30, 2023

Live chat is a valuable engagement tool, but chances are there’s at least one significant barrier preventing your business from investing in it: How much does live chat cost?

Live chat is the overwhelming favorite when it comes to preferred engagement channels: 92 percent of website visitors come away from such conversations satisfied, according to Zendesk. Any chat study will tell you as much. However, live chat pricing can be confusing. If your business hasn’t explored this sort of engagement channel yet, sifting through the various price models can seem overwhelming.

After all, it’s not enough to simply invest in a live chat solution. You have to ensure your business realizes a return on its investment. If you’re paying more for live chat than you’re getting out of it, the service clearly isn’t worth the money. However, the right live chat services can result in significant ROI.

Live chat pricing plans vary substantially. Understanding how these various engagement channels are priced can help you choose the best solution for your business’ needs.

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

There are some live chat solutions that provide their services for free. These packages can be relatively bare-boned. However, they’re enough to get the job done for businesses looking for a no-frills engagement channel. For example, Olark offers a “Free Forever” plan that provides clients with a limited number of chats per month.

The catch? Businesses that subscribe to this plan are assigned only one agent and can engage in just 20 chats per month. Additionally, they miss out on features such as:

Performance-based live chat pricing charges per lead per month.
Performance-based live chat pricing charges per lead per month.

Pay per agent

Many live chat services charge their clients per agent. Zendesk, LiveChat and Olark all bill their clients monthly based on the number of agents used. Per-agent live chat pricing can vary significantly depending on the live chat provider businesses go with and the features they need.

Zendesk live chat pricing offers tiered per agent per month packages. Zendesk’s support-based chat is primarily focused on customer service, rather than lead generation. As you move up each tier the service comes with additional features. For example, one of the pricier tiers offers roles and permissions, widget unbranding and 24/7 support, in addition to features provided through the less expensive plans.

LiveChat has similar pricing tiers, in addition to a $149 per agent tier that is billed exclusively on an annual basis. This tier includes branding, chat histories, an account manager and security features. You can expect a lower-tier package to provide benefits such as chat history up to 60 days as well as some basic customization. Olark’s chat pricing is more affordable, but the service doesn’t include valuable add-ons such as Facebook Messenger integration, SMS Text-to-Chat or Call Connect.

Zoho’s live chat pricing is also based on the number of agents your business will require. However, Zoho limits the number of agents available even with the top tier plans. That means your business won’t have access to more than 10 operators at the $116 per month price plan. If your business receives heavy traffic, or will soon enough, the limited chat operators might not cut it.

But the monthly bill isn’t the only expense that will factor into cost per lead if you go with pay-per-agent chat. Typically, the “agent” will be one of your employees. So the number of agents you need will depend on factors such as monthly traffic and when people are chatting. So how many agents will you need?

We can quickly do the math here. Let’s say 1,000 unique visitors arrive at your website each month. If 15 percent of those individuals start chats, you’re looking at 150 chats per month. A month with 21 workdays means 7 chats per day. Can your employees devote their full attention to 7 chats each day on top of their core responsibilities?

But, that hypothetical isn’t realistic. That’s because 42% of leads come in the off hours – outside the 9-to-5 workday or on the weekend. This brings us to about 5 chats per day. However, each month around 60 of those chats are going to come in at night or on the weekend. Meaning you need to staff chat 24/7 to reap the full benefits of chat and ensure a lower cost per lead.

You should always have at least two active agents to ensure chats get the full attention of the employee. But you’ll probably need more than 2 agents to ensure 24-hour availability. And that’s where the costs really start adding up.

Volume-based pricing

Volume-based live chat pricing models are similar to pay-per-agent plans. However, cost structures based on volume look at your website’s traffic to determine what your flat rate will be. Volume-based pricing can be as high as $600 per month or as low as $40 monthly.

If paying per agent makes the most sense for your business, keep in mind that some providers offer discounts to clients that pay annually rather than monthly. The issue with this model is the way costs add up as your business draws more traffic to the website. Paying per agent can get expensive when you need five or 10 chat operators to take visitors’ chats. And if these agents aren’t effective, you’re paying more for fewer leads.

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Instead of charging a flat monthly or annual fee some live chat providers bill their clients based on performance. If five leads in a month are attributed to live chat, that client will pay only for those five leads. If there are only two in the following month the client will be charged for just those two leads.

The price per lead can vary depending on which live chat solution you go with, though. Prices can range anywhere from $18 per lead to $35 per lead. Both Ngage Live Chat and Blazeo (formerly ApexChat) charge their clients using the pay-per-lead model. In addition, some live chat providers qualify which leads you’re billed for.

For example, if someone provides just an email address, but does not indicate whether he or she is interested in your services, you won’t get charged for the prospect information. Performance-based pricing often includes many of the features that are covered in higher-priced monthly plans such as full chat invitation customization, data reporting, chat agents available 24/7 and delivery of all chat transcripts.

Additional features

Some live chat companies offer add-on features covered by additional charges. For example, SMS integration requires the chat provider to create a new phone number. In order to cover the cost of maintaining that number they monthly charge in the bill. However, there is enormous value in reaching people on their mobile devices via their native SMS application. In addition, setting up chat for Spanish-speaking agents could require an added cost as well. Live chat pricing can depend on the features you choose in addition to the cost structure. It’s also important to consider some live chat providers are flexible with pricing, and many offer special promotions.

Ultimately it’s up to you to identify the live chat service that fits your business best. Will your business require 24/7 agent availability or data reporting from your live chat provider? Or how about chat widget customization? While live chat pricing varies considerably there’s one thing to keep in mind: Chances are you’ll capture more leads because of it. 

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 (formerly ApexChat) 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.[/caption]

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.

Is Live Chat Worth the Price? Quantifying ROI

Live chat is an opportunity to engage your customer base and achieve the golden egg of customer retention, which involves customer satisfaction. This translates into increased entrenchment with customers and can boost your lead generation. A recent case study reveals one Blazeo (formerly ApexChat) customer saw a 20-times increase in leads when using live chat, which translated to a 450% increase in contracts, a 40% increase in live chat leads and an 800% increase in live chat prospects. 

Live chat pricing includes an entire chat model that’s more than just a communication tool. It includes chat features, such as chat history, advanced reporting and a chat interface. The intuitive model helps businesses scale, and the result is an increased ROI. Another Blazeo (former ApexChat) case study reveals a client managed to boost their gross revenue by 24% simply by adding the live chat feature. 

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