As demand for omnichannel support intensifies, live chat software has fast become a necessity for any business with a website. But with a variety of live chat pricing models out there, it can be difficult to know where to start.
So, we’ve done the legwork and produced a live chat pricing 101 for buyers. Here’s a handy guide to help you weigh up the pros and cons of each chat pricing option. We hope it’ll help you choose the best payment plan – and best provider – for your business.
Free live chat
Free live chat software is increasingly common. With many chat vendors now offering a free edition, live chat is becoming ever more accessible to a broader mix of businesses.
Since free channels cost nothing to download or use, they offer no live chat pricing worries. However, they’re often lightweight and don’t boast as many features as a paid channel.
• It’s free, so you get the benefits of having a live chat option on your site without the added price tag.
• Great for small businesses or start-ups who only need simple chat functionality, without the bells and whistles.
• You can get free chat up and running in minutes. There’s no complex configuration required, no bespoke needs, and no need to set up payment.
• Free live chat channels typically have limited functionality compared to their paid-for counterparts. If you need features such as concurrent chats, translation, and co-browsing (and so on), you want a paid channel.
• If you’re not paying for software, your access to technical support and customer services is likely to be limited too.
• Free live chat services tend to have restrictions on how much you can use them. For example, you may only be able to take one chat (with one agent) at a time, or you may be limited on how many chats you can take per day or per month.
• Heavy branding is another common downside to the use of a free chat channel. Many free solutions come splashed with the provider’s brand. If you need the freeware provider to incorporate your own brand identity into the chat interface, you can usually expect a price bump.
The monthly subscription live chat pricing package is the standard option for most providers. Subscription-based payments mean customers pay a fixed, recurring fee to use the live chat software.
The fee is based on pre-determined packages detailing the extent of your chat use. These guidelines often dictate the number of active agents you can have at any one time, the range of features available to you, and (in some cases,) the number of chats per day/month you can take.
• With a subscription model, you’re also subscribing to support. You’ll have full access to service and technical support, with agreed resolution times should any issues arise.
• You’ll typically get a dedicated account manager to look after your chat service, alongside SLAs to ensure high performance standards.
• Increased live chat pricing also means increased features. Paying for chat means unlocking more of its potential and options, and you’ll benefit from a broader, more flexible solution.
• Under a subscription package, any product updates and maintenance are rolled into your deal. This means your software will be regularly upgraded, with access to all the latest fixes and improvements.
• Subscription-based live chat pricing is often convenient for you. You don’t have to remember to renew your software agreements, as your purchase is automatically renewed.
• Cancellations are easy with a monthly subscription option. You’re not roped into a lengthy contract and can choose to leave at any time.
• Price personalisation is limited. You can choose which bundle to go for, but you might not always be able to fine-tune the options within it.
• The subscription live chat model can be restrictive. For example, you may need more chats or agents than your subscription allows in one month but not the next. Or, you may need a feature that only higher rate subscriptions offer, even though you only want a lower number of agents.
Pay per user
The pay per user package is the most common quantifying factor within a subscription model. You would pay on a rolling monthly subscription basis, with the live chat pricing determined by how many active users you have at any one time.
So, you get all the same pros and cons as the above. However, when determining a monthly subscription price based on users, there are a few specific caveats to consider.
• Pay per user live chat pricing can scale with your business. You can add or take away the number of active users you need to pay for as your business evolves and your service needs grow.
• With pay per user channels, you can spread your agents across more than one website, and create as many user accounts as you want. (Provided only the set number are online at any one time.)
• Paying per user enables your costs to be aligned with your consumption. You’re only paying for the live chat use that you need, rather than a predetermined package that isn’t tailored to you.
• This model may require trial and error to perfect. You need to strike the right balance between the number of agents using the software, and the volume of customers looking for support via chat.
Pay per volume
This live chat pricing package is another way to determine the cost of a monthly subscription. You would still pay on a rolling monthly subscription, but in this instance, the price would be calculated based on volume.
This is a less common option, but it’s still conventional enough for you to come across in your search. Volume is usually determined based on one of three factors: the number of visitors to your site, the number of leads acquired, or the number of conversations powered. Again, your pros and cons are the same as with the subscription model, but there are some additional considerations.
• Paying per volume means you can tailor your live chat pricing to your audience size. This helps you get hyper-specific about your needs, using clear and trackable metrics.
• This option could see you charged overages or issued credits. For example, if you get a rush of website traffic one month that exceeds your set volume, you’ll end up with additional fees on top of what you’ve already paid.
Pay per hired agent
Some live chat vendors charge fees based on agent hire. As part of their live chat service, the provider also offers a team of agents that will chat with your customers on your behalf and staff your new chat channel.
In these cases, the live chat pricing model varies from vendor to vendor. You might be charged per external agent, by the hours operative, or by the number of conversations taken. Either way, the cost is inclusive of both the chat channel and the operators to support it.
• Paying per hired agent gives you the opportunity to provide 24/7 fully human support. This can be particularly useful for global businesses due to time differences.
• Your team doesn’t need training to use the software. The agents that monitor your chats will be specifically trained in using chat and in offering customer support, and will have brushed up on your company and its messaging guidelines.
• You get two services in one: a live chat solution plus its coverage. This gives you value for money, and helps you get up and running quickly.
• Using external agents for your chat channel reduces support flexibility. Because they’re restricted on the offers they can give and the knowledge they can provide, external agents are less able to go that extra mile for a customer.
• Using external agents is like hiring external, offshore telesales agents in call centres. It can reduce the brand personality in your chat support, and compromise the quality of service offered. Simply, you lose control when you outsource your customer support.
• The agents you hire will be answering several chats for several different companies at the same time. Rather than being dedicated to your brand, you are sharing the live chat agent with other companies and competitors.
A perpetual licence is a one-time payment option. In this live chat pricing method, you pay a single (higher) upfront fee to buy a license.
This allows you to use the live chat software indefinitely, without ongoing payments. However, you’ll need to purchase an annual maintenance package alongside the perpetual licence if you want access to support and updates.
• No recurring costs. Once you’ve bought the licence the software is yours to use.
• You own the right to use that software indefinitely. You’re not forced to pay more later down the line to continue using the service.
• If you don’t pay for annual maintenance of the software, you’ll be stuck using one version of the software forever. Older editions can rapidly become outdated, and you won’t benefit from new features, security patches and performance improvements.
• Again, unless you incorporate maintenance as part of an annual live chat pricing extra, you’ll only have limited access to technical support and customer service.
• Live chat channels sold via one-time payments often lack flexibility. You’ve purchased a licence outright, and this one-off payment may not later fit the changing needs of your business.
• Your live chat service could end up unsupported. With perpetual live chat licences, it can be hard for the vendor to ensure profitability. Future costs and resource needs are uncertain, and there may be unforeseeable hurdles ahead.
• The price you pay for the channel won’t be adjusted to your usage needs, and can’t be refunded later down the line if circumstances change.
Pay per module
The pay per module live chat pricing method is (literally) somewhat outside of the box. It can be something you add on to an initially free solution, something you pay extra for within a subscription package, or even something additional you bundle into a custom perpetual licence.
When you pay per module, you’re charged for each extension you add to your core live chat solution. This is typically used for large-scale live chat solutions that offer a number of enterprise features and add-ons.
• With a more customised live chat pricing package, you’re also getting a more customised chat channel. The solution feels bespoke to you as you built it based on your needs. This enables you to get use out of every feature you have.
• Paying per module allows you to offer a first-rate customer experience via live chat, as you’re not limited to a rudimentary feature-set.
• Paying per module can become expensive if you need a series of enterprise live chat features for your business.
• This option also requires knowledge of exactly what features you need or want in your live chat solution. This means a live chat implementation might not be a simple download and deploy, but could require greater preparation and planning.
Bespoke live chat pricing
Now that we’re in more out of the box territory, it’s also worth mentioning bespoke live chat pricing. Sometimes, a vendor might not offer prices upfront. Instead, they’ll create a custom quote based on your requirements.
This option is usually reserved for live chat providers who work exclusively with enterprise or highly regulated customers. Tailored live chat pricing isn’t for everyone, and only works if your needs are complex.
• You get a pricing plan fully fitted to your business. The vendor will have taken the time to scope out your requirements and calculate a custom-made quote exclusive to you.
• You’re likely to get a personalised customer experience from the start, with an employee reaching out to get to know you and offer you dedicated assistance.
• You must submit your details and needs just to enquire about live chat pricing. This creates pressure to proceed, and ropes you into subsequent sales calls and demos that you may not yet be invested in.
• You don’t know ballpark figures upfront. This means you could end up wasting your time explaining requirements at length, only to find out the cost is beyond your budget.
• A lack of transparency on pricing can indicate a high cost. For passive customers shopping around for a chat vendor, it is highly inconvenient not being able to access a tiered live chat pricing structure while live onsite.
Weighing up all these different live chat pricing models, and the payment factors to consider, can be overwhelming. We hope this guide makes navigating and understanding the various live chat pricing options out there less daunting.
So, what are you waiting for? Put your new knowledge of live chat pricing pros and cons to work and explore the packages available within WhosOn.