Does live chat cost money?

FAQ: Does live chat cost money?

Short answer: Yes.

Long answer: See below.

Customer service requires an investment in technology. The modern contact centre comprises an intricate tech stack comprising multiple moving parts, particularly when it comes to communication channels. And one such integral communication technology is live chat software.

Live chat obviously costs agent attention and supervisor analysis time to use effectively. But does the software itself cost money too?

Here’s a breakdown of the different live chat charges.

Some live chat solutions are free (with caveats)

You can always find free versions of live chat software out there. These solutions are ‘freeware’ or, more specifically, ‘freemium’ products.

Freeware: Software that is completely free to use as intended by the vendor. (It doesn’t let you change or adapt its source code, but you do get use of the product.)

Freemium: A type of freeware that has limited functionality and exists to promote a paid or premium product.

But does this mean live chat doesn’t cost money at all? Not quite. When the answer to ‘does live chat cost money?’ appears to be no, it means one thing:

There are extra limitations on the software in question. And these limitations then go on to compel you to spend money.

The limitations of ‘free’ solutions

In reality, even ‘free’ live chat solutions will end up costing you money. This is due to at least one (but usually a combination of many) of the below factors.

Limited functionality

Typically, freeware or freemium software has limited functionality compared to a full, paid-for option. In the case of live chat software, this means less functionality to help customers with. So, you’ll typically get only a basic chat program without the sophisticated features required for the modern contact centre.  (Unless, that is, the solution lets you pay for access to ‘premium’ features.)

Usage caps

Free live chat software services typically have usage restrictions too. For example, you may be restricted to one agent using the software at a time. Or you might only be able to take a few chats within a set period, such as per day or per month.

Lack of focus

A common ‘free’ live chat offering is a free chat add-on within a broader solution. Think a chat package bundled into a CRM or help desk suite. However, this isn’t really free – you’re already paying for the broader solution. (And usually, for a bumped-up package with access to more add-ons.) 

In turn, the chat add-on you’re getting is only a side-line for that vendor. So, you’re left with basic chat features that still aren’t truly ‘free’.

Lack of support

Additionally, free software tends to have no technical support to go with it. (Or, if it does, this comes at a separate cost.) So, if you need help setting up or using the free chat channel, you could be out of luck.


To further add to all this, ‘free’ software tends to come with heavy branding from the provider. This waters down your brand identity and looks like an advert to your customers, rather than a helpful communication channel.

Most live chat solutions cost money

To get the most value out of your live chat, the answer to ‘does live chat money?’ is yes. The paid versions of live chat software are far superior to the free options available.

The way that live chat costs money can vary, however. Live chat vendors have several ways to calculate the cost of their software and services.

Here’s a breakdown:

Monthly subscription

Live chat costs money monthly. With a monthly subscription, you pay a fixed amount every month in order to use the software for your business.

The price of this depends on the pre-determined package you choose to buy — meaning that the more you pay, the more functionality or agent seats or chats per month you’ll get. This means that the live chat cost covers the package most aligned with what you use and need.

Cost per…

The positive about using a ‘cost per’ system is that you’re only paying for what you use.  There are several different ‘cost per’ systems that can apply to live chat software.

  1.  1. User

Like the monthly subscription, cost per user comes in the form of a monthly payment. However, rather than a pre-determined package, the live chat cost is calculated based on how many users (agents) of the software you’ll have at once.

  1. 2. Volume

Another way that price is calculated for live chat software is to base it on the volume of chats the company takes. This cost can get calculated considering three criteria:

  • – Number of site visitors
  • – Number of leads acquired
  • – Number of conversations/chats

This means that the amount of money live chat costs will vary from month to month based on the usage of the channel.

  1. 3. Supplied agents

Sometimes, a live chat service includes outsourced agents to handle your conversations. This kind of live chat will determine the monetary cost, then, based on the number of live chat agents you wish to hire to answer your customer chats.

  1. 4. Module

Finally, some chat vendors let you pay for extensions on a core chat software. In other words, you choose which features and functionality you want enough that you’re willing to pay money for them.

One-time costs

The final way that live chat costs money is through a one-time payment for a perpetual licence. This is where you pay a single (typically higher) amount up front, and can then use the live chat software indefinitely, with no further costs. (Although you may need to pay separately for support or updates.)

See more about live chat pricing here: Live chat pricing: the 101 for buyers

Does live chat cost money?

Does live chat cost money? Yes.

But for that money, you get so much in return. You get a popular contact channel with a high rate of customer satisfaction. You get chat analytics tools to help keep customer experiences great. And you provide a way to talk to your customers in real-time, without relying on time-consuming phone lines.

In short, yes, live chat costs money, but it’s worth it.

Useful links

Embracing the omnichannel contact centre

The problem with using help desk software for enterprise live chat projects

Live chat pricing: the 101 for buyers