If your website involves interaction with customers, chat is a wonderful and inexpensive function to include. While not replacement over phone support, chat has many advantages over phone support that make it an important complement:

1.  Visitors who might not be willing to pick up the phone, might be willing to click a chat box and type in a question.

2. A customer service agent can only handle one phone call at a time, but might be able to handle 4 or more simultaneous chats.

3. Chats can be tracked, recorded, and integrated into much easier into your CRM software than calls.

On our other websites, we have experience with two chat programs, LivePerson and Olark.  Here are what we found to be the plusses and minuses of each:

1. Both LivePerson and Olark have the ability to initiate Chats with visitors.  However, LivePerson is more programmable, you can create sophisticated rules for when you would like the software to initiate a chat.

2. Both programs allow you to track visitors as they surf through your site; however, LivePerson provides far more data on the visitors and their sessions.

3. Olark can be setup to stick to the bottom of the viewer’s screen, scrolling with the viewer so that the chat box is always prominent.

Olark Chat Box

Olark Chat Box

4. Olark is a fraction of the price of LivePerson.  When we made the switch, not only did we knock our monthly costs in half, but we went up from 1 to 4 simultaneous agents. There’s even a free option, but it doesn’t give you much.

To sum up the differences, LivePerson is the more powerful program, but Olark is the stickier one.  We found that LivePerson had far more functions than we actually used. Olark was a more attractive chat bar and was better at getting visitors to initiate chats both while we were online as well as to send offline chats (which come in like emails, but have the advantage of telling you exactly which page the visitor chatted from).

Bottom line: Look closely at the features you want from your chat program.  If you don’t think you’ll utilize the advanced features of LivePerson, you’re better off with Olark.