Recently we advised one of our small business clients, a furniture company, about finding the best live chat solution for their website.

This furniture maker does a great job of routing the right customers to self-service tools — for shipping or warranty status — via a chatbot. However, their visitors who needed a live conversation were far less satisfied.

Our client was already using a live chat tool, but their customer service leaders were frustrated that the live chat backend didn’t support team tasks like managing tickets in bulk. What’s worse, their vendor rarely contributed upgrades. Basic reliability had become an issue.

And once a ticket becomes worthy of escalation to an agent, that’s the worst time for a live chat tool to fail.

So, our client’s main priority was finding a live chat tool that excelled at handoff from a chatbot to live agents.

There are plenty of live chat solutions out there, and they aren’t created equal. We’ve worked with dozens of them over the years. Fortunately, we’ve found plenty of live chat tools that a small business could be happy with.

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Here are 5 live chat tools we recommend:

Zendesk Chat is a reliable standby, especially if you’re already using part of the Zendesk suite. It has a built-in chatbot called Answerbot, and it’s compatible with the 3rd party bots that our client used previously (Kore AI and bold360). It has a strong universal Inbox where users can configure different email addresses.

Most importantly, Zendesk Chat doesn’t require much work to get up and running. Benefitting from a huge development team, it seems to fulfill a range of common requirements for different businesses.

HERO is a new company that has a lot of brick and mortar companies buzzing. With live chat from HERO, you can leverage in-store associates to chat with customers on the web. HERO gives your remote customers an on-brand experience. It lets your experienced associates spend more time with customers as well.

In-store chat is a great way to put your existing assets to work if you’re in a position to do so.

Powerfront is a good option for premium brands who are committed to driving sales via web chat. Powerfront provides sales representatives with an astounding amount of history and emotional data about potential customers. Some of Powerfront’s innovative features include live visualization of customers and an integrated buyer’s history, both of which help agents empathize and close sales.

inside by Powerfront relies on animated avatars to communicate customer info.

Powerfront was recently covered in the New York Times, which noted the level of detail that was available to customer service staff.

Manychat is a compelling option for companies that rely on Facebook Messenger campaigns to generate leads. It includes a quiz designed to qualify the customer before handoff to a live agent.

They’ve pioneered “chat marketing” and have significant training and integration resources.

Google AdLingo has joined the live chat space, not to be outdone by smaller competitors. This new tool launches visitors right into a conversation with a bot or agent, from a familiar display ad. AdLingo effectively removes one or two clicks from the traditional sales process, where many customers drop off.

This isn’t a proactive chat tool — meaning that users will have to choose to engage, instead of receiving a popup — but it could widen the top of your sales funnel.

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Live chat is generally text-based, but video chat with guest services agents can be enabled too. Vendors like Glia and Vergic are leading in that space.

As a small business, our client chose to optimize their chatbot before paying attention to their live chat handoff. This worked out well, as it’s easy to transition to a great live chat experience once a chatbot is in place. Now this furniture company is sitting pretty with a new live chat tool.