Free vs paid live chat – the pros and cons

TLDR: If you’re on a tight budget, there are free software providers out there. Paid live chat can be costly, but it enables you to get the results you want.

When we talk about live chat being a free or paid service, we need to explain just what we mean by that. When it comes to live chat, there are three main options available to you:

  • Install a free live chat software and run things in-house
  • Install a premium paid live chat software and run things in-house
  • Outsource the entire operation and get a fully managed chat service

Each has its pros and cons, so let’s dig a little deeper into each of these and see what could be right for your business.

Free live chat software

Free live chat software typically involves signing up to a provider, copying a small piece of code and putting that on your website. The set up couldn’t be more simple, but it certainly has its limitations.

two women sat at a computer screen


  • Most obviously, the software costs nothing – if you have a very limited budget for live chat, free chat software could be the only option
  • Simple to install 
  • Customisable chat window
  • Can be run by your in-house team 


  • No support in chat best practice, strategy or training chat agents
  • Most offer a very basic free option, but for any more features you will need to pay for e.g. detailed reporting
  • Lack of accountability and reliability if something goes wrong

Paid live chat software

Although some chat software providers are 100% free, most offer different packages, with premium paid options which offer more features and enhance the chat.

person holding dollars


  • Access to additional features 
  • Ability to add multiple users onto chat
  • Accountability and responsibility from the provider to deliver what they promise
  • Enhanced security and safety 


  • Can be costly when adding on premium features
  • Can be confusing to navigate which packages you need
  • No additional strategy benefits: you still need to hire and train a team as well as implement and optimise your chat strategy

Outsourced live chat:

Outsourcing your entire live chat operation can be a scary thought, but if you choose the right team, the results speak for themselves. Outsourcing chat means a live chat team handle every part of the process, from set up to chatting and optimisation.

people sat at a table with laptops


  • Every step of the process is handled for you – implementation, strategy, set up, agents and ongoing improvements
  • Expert advice to assist with queries and keep optimising your strategy
  • A team of dedicated, highly trained and skilled chat agents handle the conversations with best practice, driving faster results
  • 24/7 out of hours support available to handle chats while you sleep
  • Choose whether to outsource the entire operation or receive consultant advice on certain aspects
  • Provides a better return on investment vs running the service in-house


  • A team handling the entire operation to the best of their ability will be an investment
  • Not all providers are the same. It can take time to find the right one for your needs
  • Entrusting the face of your brand to an outsourced team can be daunting

Final thoughts

Which type of chat you go for depends on your business and customer requirements, seeing the results you want will require an investment. It’s well worth having a conversation with us and we’d be happy to advise which route might be best for you.

If you’re not sure where to start and could do with some expert advice to develop your live chat strategy or manage your chat, talk to us.

Looking for experts to develop your live chat strategy or manage your chat? Find out how we can help.

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