Lead image for Live Customer Chat Tools for Startups

Live Customer Chat Tools for Startups

If you want to engage your customers at the moment they’re considering buying your product or signing up for your service, there’s no better way than live chat. You’re probably familiar with Intercom or Autopilot because they’ve become so ubiquitous now, but there are many other options out there.

Live chat demo using Autopilot

Should You Use Live Chat?

To be honest, live chat widgets aren’t for everyone. You’ll notice that I don’t have one on the Draft.dev website because it’s rarely critical that we address customers’ concerns immediately.

That said, software-as-a-service vendors should consider adding live chat. Users expect a seamless, self-service experience, so being able to respond immediately is really important.

Many live chat widgets also allow you to proactively reach out to customers based on their past interactions with your site. This is really helpful if you know it takes several touch-points to close the deal with your target market.

The downside to live chat is that it gives customers the impression that you’re available all the time. When you don’t respond quickly, you might discourage potential buyers, so it’s important to have someone monitoring your live chat widget frequently.

Customer Chat Tools for Startups

To help you get started, I compiled this comprehensive list of customer chat tools that are a good fit for early to mid-stage startups. Each of these tools gives you a workable low-cost plan and most of them will scale up to meet your needs as you grow.

Intercom ($49) - Intercom is probably the most well-known player in this space. Their offerings now border on complete customer and sales solutions, but you can just use them for chat as well.

Altocloud ($49) - In addition to chat, Altocloud gives you customer journeys, predictive analytics and more.

Autopilot ($20) - Autopilot covers more than just in-app chat; you can use it to build complex customer journeys as well.

Chatra ($0) - You can either wait for visitors to ask you questions or proactively engage them on your sales pages.

Crisp.chat ($0) - Crisp offers a free tier for small businesses with just one or two customer service reps, so this could be perfect for a side project just getting started.

Chat.io ($10) - Has a Facebook integration that lets you handle Messenger conversations along with chats from your website in one app.

Drift ($0) - Drift seeks to replace your traditional interest forms with a smart chat AI, and they offer a free plan for fewer than 100 contacts.

Freshchat ($0) - Also offers a free tier plus personalized and targeted messages.

Gitter Sidecar ($0) - Gitter is a developer community chat platform, but they also have a javascript widget that you can use as on-site chat.

HelpCrunch ($12) - Messaging integrates into their complete customer-service solution.

Instream ($6) - Chat can be great for gathering leads who aren’t ready to commit their email address. Instream lets you start gathering this data right away.

JetLink - Supplement your customer service with smart chatbots that can cut down on the amount of time you spend answering common questions.

JivoSite ($0) - Includes a free tier for up to five agents. It integrates with Facebook messenger if your customers happen to be there as well.

Landbot ($20) - Turn a landing page into a chatbot. Create beautiful conversational interfaces in minutes and boost your conversion rate. It’s easy to use, fully customizable, and made for lead capturing.

LiveChat ($16) - Contact your online visitors in real-time through LiveChat! Chat with your visitors and convert them into customers using the web, desktop, and mobile applications. Start your free 60-day LiveChat trial today.

LivePerson - LivePerson is more geared towards enterprise customers, but it’s worth looking at. Their plans currently start at $40/month.

Reamaze ($20) - Reamaze brings all your customer conversations from social media into one place.

Rocketbots ($19) - Rocketbots uses AI to learn from customer chats, suggests replies, and automates conversations across live chat or messaging apps.

Smallchat ($0) - Smallchat hooks into your existing Slack channel to allow you to talk with customers on your site, and they offer a free plan.

Subiz ($9.59) - Analytics for your visitors is included in their chat platform.

Tawk ($0) - Lets you chat with people on your website or mobile app. Best of all for small projects, it’s 100% free.

Tidio ($0) - Create outbound and inbound responses as well as automated triggers for your messages.

UserDeck ($10) - Provides in-app chat as well as an FAQ service for your customers.

LiveAdmins ($20) - LiveAdmins supports your live chat with real humans that are always available. Their platform is easy to set-up, fully customizable, and available round-the-clock - catering to over 10 industries across 8 time zones.

Zendesk ($5) - You may be familiar with Zendesk for customer support, but they also have a full-service chat feature for your site.


Did I miss a tool that you love? Shoot me an email to suggest an update.

Karl Hughes

By Karl Hughes

Karl is a former startup CTO and the founder of Draft.dev. He writes about technical blogging and content management.