There are a large number of AI-based customer support suites available today. The technology is advanced enough in 2021, that potential customers do not realize that a degree of automation is taking place.
The best systems combine AI automation with human customer service representatives, in order to provide the highest quality experience. The software helps to streamline the process so that the relevant support can be offered in real-time.
This all happens seamlessly, providing quality support for your customers and giving you the ability to better meet their needs.
So, with the many software options available today, all with varying packages, prices, and levels of service it can be difficult to decide which is the best for your business.
To this end, today we are going to lift the lid off of LiveChat, a popular and sophisticated AI chat customer support service that can provide a ton of other functions on top.
What follows is an in-depth review of LiveChat, a walk-through on everything they offer, and whether they hold up against other services available in 2021.
Who are LiveChat?
LiveChat is an online multilingual customer service software that bundles a help desk software, web analytics, and online chat program into a single suite that can be used as a single point of contact for managing customer service activities.
This software is developed, deployed, and managed by LiveChat Software, a company that specializes in the customer service software.
LiveChat debuted in 2002 in Wroclaw, Poland, and it has developed into a robust customer service solutions suite that is currently used in more than 150 countries by over 30000 clients, usually companies.
Among its clients are PayPal, Sony, Adobe, LG, CBS, Lexus, Acer, Xerox, Huawei, RyanAir, AllState, Terex, IKEA, Unilever, Capital One, and the British Council. By 2018, LiveChat had been used by its clients to generate 17+ million tickets and 334+ million chats.
LiveChat Software is owned by a public company, LiveChat Incorporated, which has offices in both Wroclaw and Boston in Massachusetts.
Brief Overview of LiveChat’s Services
LiveChat is an AI-powered customer service suite that features two types of software – the online chat and helpdesk software – along with web analytics and advanced reporting tools.
These software work in synchrony to provide a single point of contact for managing and providing customer service. It also supports lead management, especially lead generation.
The online chat software provides dedicated chat support to a business website, which allows web visitors to instantly contact the customer support staff of the business and get assistance.
As expected, this chat support should be geared towards building confidence in the brand, optimizing customer satisfaction, and maximizing the number of closed sales.
Currently, LiveChat is a scalable and highly-developed customer service platform with a robust ecosystem made up of proprietary applications and supporting companies.
The core services offered by LiveChat SaaS are the aforementioned website chat, real-time website traffic monitoring, inbuilt ticketing system, and efficiency analytics of agents (or customer service representatives).
Critical third-party services are provided by reputable service providers such as Postmark, Upscope, Recurly, and SolarWinds-Pingdom AB.
The current LiveChat 3 SaaS allows a single agent to hold conversations with multiple customers, create chat invitations, transfer a chat to another agent, and archive a chat.
Relatedly, the help desk functionality of the SaaS is provided by the ticketing system. This system allows for customer cases to be solved in an easy and orderly way through the helpdesk software.
This HelpDesk is designed to be used as a single point of contact that allows any customer to ask questions about the services and products of the company.
As a cloud-based application, it supports integrations with key online channels and third-party tools including a self-learning ChatBot, Facebook Messenger, Stripe, Chat Translator, Private ToDo, SuperVision, SnapCall smart voice solution, Zoom for LiveChat, File Antivirus, and 2Way SMS solution, as well as Slack for LiveChat, HelpIQ, Google Analytics, and ZenDesk.
Additionally, LiveChat allows the client to integrate the LiveChat SaaS with the email marketing software, CMS, and e-commerce sales platform.
Additionally, LiveChat allows for integration with the following CRM connectors: IRIS CRM, InfusionSoft, Gold-Vision, 1CRM, HubSpot, SugarCRM, PipeDrive, amoCRM, NutShell, HighRise, LeadSquared, and SalesForce Desk, as well as Microsoft Dynamic Cases.
LiveChat sells its services as a package called a service plan, which is sold using the subscription model. There are currently 4 service plans: Starter, Team, Business, and Enterprise plans.
Let’s take a look at them now.
How much is LiveChat?
LiveChat sells its services as a package called a service plan. The client subscribes to a service plan on either a monthly or annual basis.
The service plan uses the pay-per-agent pricing model that was introduced in the Autumn of 2019. This means that the service plan is charged per agent, e.g if the client has 4 agents, he purchases 4 subscriptions.
Currently, there are 4 service plans, each priced depending on the set of services it comes bundled with. These service plans are:
What are you getting for your money?
LiveChat is a scalable and highly-developed customer service platform with a robust ecosystem made up of proprietary applications and supporting companies.
The critical services that are not directly related to the core services (offered by LiveChat) are provided by third parties.
LiveChat SaaS needs to be integrated into the website being managed or operated by the client (who has subscribed to use LiveChat services).
As expected, this SaaS needs to be able to be integrated into any website, including an e-commerce website with an integrated shopping cart such as Shopify, or a media-heavy website that uses a content management system (CMS) such as WordPress.
For the average website, this SaaS provides a piece of program code that needs to be added to the source code of the website.
However, for e-commerce and media websites, there exist plugins for integrating LiveChat with the CMS or order webpages generated by the e-shopping cart, and thus one does not need to manually modify the source codes of these websites.
LiveChat SaaS also comes with a knowledge base that helps agents to learn how to optimally use the agent application.
This knowledge base was launched in 2017, two years after LiveChat debuted in the Warsaw Stock Exchange. There is also an internal widget for assessing how well the agents use the LiveChat SaaS.
One of the key benefits of this knowledge base is that it allows the business to create its own knowledge base that can be presented on its (business) website for usage by both its employees and customers.
- Related Content: Virtual Receptionist Services & why you should use one
Help desk functionality is provided by the ticketing system. In fact, this ticketing system is called HelpDesk, and it was launched in May 2019.
This system allows for customer cases to be solved in an easy and orderly way. Like the brick-and-mortar help desk, this helpdesk can be used as the single point of contact that allows any customer to ask questions about the services and products of the company.
As software, HelpDesk is designed to address customer queries. It allows the customer to make a query, which is then assigned a unique reference number (which is an identification [ID] number/value) and priority value by an issue tracking system.
This reference number can be described as the call log, call, or issue number. The query that has been assigned an issue number and priority status, as well as tagged with identifying metadata – such as customer identity and the time that it was made – is called a ticket.
The issue tracking system provides a running report on the status of this ticket, for example (e.g), is the ticket pending, expired, being solved, solved, or closed by the customer support representative.
LiveChat allows HelpDesk to be integrated with the Knowledge Base created by the company, hence allowing customers to be directed to relevant entries in the knowledge base when they make certain queries.
If this automated customer self-help is insufficient, then a ticket can be created and a customer support representative is assigned to respond to the issue raised by the customer.
Subscription, Agent Account, and Agent Console
The client is the business that purchases a subscription. This subscription is based on the number of customer support staff who will use LiveChat to serve customers.
This subscription is packaged well as a service plan, which is described later. Each customer support staff who uses LiveChat for solving customer issues is called an agent, and each agent needs his/her own unique agent account.
The client is given an administrator privilege in the subscription, which allows for agent accounts to be created or closed.
To create an agent account, the client allows his/her agent to fill the required details, along with an email address and password which will serve as the unique pair of username and password.
After the account is created, the agent can log in to his/her account via the agent application. Once the agent logs in, then (s)he can receive chats from customers who are using the chat widget.
Even so, there is a provision that allows the agent to accept or reject chats, and the chosen option is indicated as the operator status.
Usually, it is recommended that the agent chooses to accept chats, and it is for this reason that the Android and iOS apps exist so that one can receive chats even when (s)he is out of office, or when (s)he does not want to use the PC.
There are two ways in which the agent receives a chat:
Passive Communication initiated by the customer/end-user via the chat widget. The customer/end-user on the website sees the chat widget, which can be customized to appear as either a chat button or greetings.
- Related Content: 12 excellent reasons to use a VOIP
This is when an agent sends a chat that (s)he has received to another agent, for instance, because the other agent is well-placed to respond to the queries of the customer.
Normally, it is recommended that the agent informs the end-user that his/her chat is going to be transferred to another agent.
For a business with different departments, chat transfer is quite helpful as the customer representative can transfer the customer to a specialist department that is well-placed to handle the customer issue.
LiveChat also allows the agent to sign into his/her agent account using his/her existing Gmail account via the Google Sign-on feature.
This feature requires the agent to enter his/her email and password, along with a code sent by Google to authenticate that (s)he owns the Google mail account. This form of 2-step verification provides an extra layer of account security.
LiveChat also supports SSO Login. Here, LiveChat allows the agent to log into his/her account using one of the following apps: Okta, Auth0, OneLogin, and Azure Activite Directory.
Logging in using any of these apps only requires a single sign-on (SSO), which means that the agent can create an account by simply requesting LiveChat to fetch user details from any of the existing apps, and then creating an agent account that (s)he can log in via the app used to create the account.
After signing into the agent account, the agent is presented with the agent interface which can be described as the agent console.
This console is presented as a series of well-designed webpages that seamlessly transition from one webpage to the next.
The key webpage in this console is the messaging portal whose theme is similar to that of Facebook Messenger. This portal divides the screen into 3 columns arranged as follows.
- The left column has current and queued chats.
- The Center column is the chat that the agent is having at the moment.
- The Right column shows details of the end-user who is currently chatting with the agent. This includes end-user identity, webpages visited in the business website, and the information on whether the end-user is using the chat widget or Facebook messenger, or any other supported communication channel.
This chat agent console allows the agent to schedule meeting with the customer, as well as send web addresses. Likewise, it allows the agent to see all website visitors, and initiate a chat with any visitor if the agent deems it fit.
Relatedly, this console features predefined tags that allow the agent to access unique features of LiveChat such as canned responses.
A canned response is a pre-made answer to a specific set of closely-related questions that can be conveyed to the end-user by the agent.
To convey this canned response, the agent uses a shortcut key to bring up the response, and then send it. Other functionalities that the agent can access through his/her console are:
This feature is provided by the ban functionality that allows an agent to ban specific end-users who engage in spam chats or are disruptive.
This feature is called visitor banning because the banned entity is a visitor to the website who has been disallowed from initiating passive communication via LiveChat.
The agent can share a file with the end-user using the paired agent application and chat widget.
The end-user/customer is invited to take this survey after a chat has been completed so that (s)he can rate his/her experience of the customer service provided. The business can use a pre-made LiveChat survey, or create its own survey.
This is the help provided by LiveChat to agents using its service. This assistance is provided 24/7.
A transcript of the chat can be requested, and be delivered via email.
Regarding security, all chats are encrypted using the 256-bit encryption standard. Relatedly, if the client has subscribed to either Team or Business plan, then the agent accounts can be secured using two-factor authentication.
Likewise, the range and number of IP (internet protocol) addresses that can access the agent consoles can be limited to minimizes the chances of unauthorized access.
For the administrator, (s)he has access to reporting tools. Some of these reporting tools allow the business to determine the average time its agents take to respond to new chat requests, as well as determine whether the chats directly impact the conversion rate.
After purchasing a subscription, the client is allowed to theme and modify both the chat widget and agent application to suit the needs of the business.
For instance, the chat widget can be converted into a contact form, or be customized to have a branded theme that comes with an automatic greeting message.
As explained, the LiveChat 3 backend allows the client to expand the functionality of LiveChat SaaS beyond the core services offered by using add-on features and communication channels.
The add-on tool that expands the SaaS functionality is called integration. LiveChat provides some integration by default, while others are optional.
This also shows that LiveChat 3 SaaS supports a myriad of integrations. Among the key integrations are the following:
This is a free integration provided by LiveChat so that the client can deploy a customer service chatbot on the website. ChatBot was launched in 2018, though it was developed from an earlier tool called the BotEngine.
The current ChatBot is designed as a self-learning solution for automating business communication, and the client can customize this ChatBot so as to tailor it to the needs of the business. This ChatBot can also be designed to integrate with Facebook Messenger.
Facebook Messenger: LiveChat SaaS can be connected directly to Facebook Messenger, hence allowing one to receive Facebook messages sent by customers who have visited the Facebook Page associated with the website.
On the downside, Facebook is the only social media channel supported by LiveChat, as other channels such as Instagram, WhatsApp, and Twitter cannot be connected directly to the SaaS.
This is a novel smart voice solution in LiveChat that allows the agent to initiate a direct call to the end user (customer) during the chat.
This means that the agent initiates the digital call through the agent application, and the customer receives it through the chat widget, and once the communication link has been established, both of them can converse.
Zoom for Livechat
This solution allows for video calls to make as an alternative to SnapCall. It also supports screen-sharing where the agent and end-user can use the same screen when discussing a problem or existing issue.
It also allows for call scheduling so that the end-user can schedule a call with the agent so that they can discuss a pending issue.
The agent can also initiate the video call by creating a link, which is then sent to the end-user as an invitation to join a video call.
This is a short messaging service (SMS) solution that allows the agent to receive and reply to text messages via LiveChat. The text messages can be sent by end-users using different channels such as the chat widget, SMS, or Facebook Messenger.
This is a translation solution that is integrated into LiveChat. It allows the agent and end-user to communicate even if they write and speak different languages.
This integration provides real-time translation of the chat so that both parties can understand what the other person is saying or writing. This integration allows for optimization of the multilingual functionality of LiveChat.
If one chooses to use Lingmo Translate, then this attracts a separate monthly charge, which at the time of this writing was priced at USD32.
- Related Content: Why You Should Use Live Chat on Your eCommerce Store
This integration allows the agent to check the payment details of the customer right in LiveChat’s agent application.
This also allows the agent to help process payments made by the customer via stripe. This integration only applies to client websites that use Stripe as their payment processor.
This allows the administrator of LiveChat SaaS to monitor ongoing chats by agents, and see how they interact and respond to end-users (customers). It allows one to monitor up to 8 simultaneous chats.
This is a data security solution that is deployed to secure chats from cyber threats. The antivirus engine is continuously updated, with its antivirus engine containing an updated database of existing malware that can compromise LiveChat communications.
This is paid for separately, with the monthly rate at the time of writing being USD30.
This allows the agent to create a ToDo list, and effectively manage it. Also, it allows for the direct initiation of a chat with a specific customer based on the schedule noted in the ToDo list.
Other integrations available include Slack for LiveChat, HelpIQ, Google Analytics, and ZenDesk. Additionally, LiveChat allows the client to integrate the LiveChat SaaS with the email marketing software, CMS, and e-commerce sales platform.
Additionally, LiveChat allows for integration with customer relationship management (CRM) tools which allow for analysis and management of how the client interacts with potential, past, and existing customers.
Currently, LiveChat provides free integration with the following CRM connectors: IRIS CRM, InfusionSoft, Gold-Vision, 1CRM, HubSpot, SugarCRM, PipeDrive, amoCRM, NutShell, HighRise, LeadSquared, and SalesForce Desk.
At the time of this writing, LiveChat integration with Microsoft Dynamic Cases, a CRM connector, was priced at USD9 per month.
The Pros and Cons of LiveChat
Overall, LiveChat is a high-quality AI-based customer service suite that will help you manage customer support in an efficient way.
The simplicity of the admin user experience makes it one of the easiest chatbot services to use right now. Streamlining the customer service response process with features such as tracking data and archives on all chats, there is a lot to like here.
On the downside, glitches in the system mean sporadic crashing of the software does occur. Integration with more social media platforms would be good too. That being said, with the flexible packages available, companies of all sizes can use LiveChat in order to better meet their customer’s needs. And that can only be a good thing.
For the Techies: Under the hood of LiveChat
This is a web-based applet (small application) that is embedded in a website so that it can display an on-demand chat window that allows the end-user (typically the web visitor) to chat with the customer service of the business that runs and manages the website. This widget is embedded in the website of the client, where it serves as the chat application.
This is the SaaS module used by the business that manages the website to receive information (usual queries) sent by end-users via the chat widget and then respond to these queries with the response being relayed to the end-user via the chat widget interface.
This agent application requires authorization and authentication of its users, who are usually employees assigned customer service roles.
This module can be web-based or a thin client running on a PC or mobile device. As expected, the bulk of the LiveChat functionality is in the agent application, and this module comes with a user interface (UI) tools that optimize point-to-multipoint (P2MP) communication.
P2MP is a one-to-many communication type that allows one agent application to simultaneously receive queries from different end-users, with each end-user using a chat widget.
The UI tools used include the tags system for classification of end-user queries, keyboard shortcuts, geolocation (of end-users), canned responses, and a typing indicator that allows for sneak-peek of the customer message (as (s)he types his/her message in the chat widget).
The employee authorized to use this agent application is simply described as the agent.
The agent application allows the agent to have an online chat with the end-user using the chat widget. This online chat can be initiated in one of 2 ways:
- Passive Communication: The end-user initiates the conversation through the chat widget.
- Active Communication: The agent manually initiates the conversation. Relatedly, the LiveChat software features artificial intelligence (AI) that can initiate a conversation with the end-user, if the interactions of the end-user with the website meet a set of predefined criteria such as duration of time spent on a webpage, searched keyword, and error in retrieving results of searched keyword.
This AI can instruct the chat widget to display a chat invitation that features an automatic greeting message or a customized message.
For the agent, active communication is important in engagements with qualified leads as it can lead to the closing of a sale, which increases the conversion rate of the website.
In the Agent Application UI, there is a statistics section that indicates the conversions made through active communication initiated by the AI and agent.
It also calculates the conversion of chat invitations to chat sessions separately from conversion from chat invitations to closed sales.
This means that the client can see the rate of conversions of invitation-to-sessions and invitation-to-sales, and this helps the business optimize its customer service so as to increase the invitation-to-sales conversion rate.
The Evolution of LiveChat
LiveChat version 3
An advantage of SaaS is that the company can migrate its clients from an old software version to a new updated software version, without the client needing to do any updating, apart from updating the thin client apps.
For LiveChat, this means that the client only needs to update the LiveChat apps for Android and iOS.
Currently, most of its clients have been migrated to use the most up-to-date LiveChat software, which is LiveChat 3 that has an optimized backend.
This backend has the compiled source codes of the node.js application, chat server, web server, and representational state transfer (REST) application programming interface (API), as well as the agent app and chat widget (both discussed later).
Moreover, this backend supports the creation of new widgets that can be deployed through the SaaS software. Likewise, it allows for new widgets and tools to be connected to it via the API.
This shows that the current backend is designed to allow for the implementation of new features that are needed by clients.
This is important because a client can need a new feature/tool, and instead of LiveChat building that tool, the client can engage external developers to program the tool and then append it to the LiveChat SaaS as an add-on feature via the API.
The ability to allow for the addition of third-party add-on features greatly expands the functionality of LiveChat.
Relatedly, unlike LiveChat 2 which had limited functionality, LiveChat 3 allows for a single agent to hold conversations with multiple customers and create chat invitations, as well as provides integrations with various third-party tools, supports chat transfer, and provides chat history.
- Related Content: Best virtual phone system in 2021
LiveChat for Developers
As mentioned earlier, LiveChat allows any programmer to develop applications that can be integrated with the software as an add-on.
To be able to do this, the programmer needs a development platform that allows for the building of applications that are compatible with the LiveChat ecosystem.
This platform is called LiveChat for Developers, and it allows external programmers to build applications that can be connected to the LiveChat software, sometimes as a subscription-based integration tool that extends the functionality of LiveChat SaaS.
Evidently, this platform is innovator-friendly because it allows external programmers to build compatible applications that can be distributed through LiveChat.
As expected, LiveChat for Developers comes with API documentation on how a programmer can use the available multiple points of integrations to establish a communication protocol between the application and an element of LiveChat software.
This has also enabled these developers to form a professional and open community that creates tools that allow LiveChat to work with third-party services.
Therefore, LiveChat for Developers serves as a partner program that establishes a marketplace where external programmers can build and sell third-party services that support LiveChat operation.
The existence of a community of external programmers who build third-party applications that can be distributed and sold in the LiveChat marketplace creates the LiveChat ecosystem.