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What good live chat/live help solutions are available (preferably for use on a site hosted on a LAMP stack and free)? I'm looking for a way to allow our sales and customer service reps to talk directly with visitors to our site.

I've looked at phpopenchat, but it looks very unpolished. The only other free live chat app I've come across looked egregious. The aesthetics and UI design alone made me shudder to think what the underlying code might look like.

This isn't a critical feature, and it wouldn't be hard to code up myself, so I'm not really looking for commercial software or paid services (unless there's a really compelling reason to use them). I'm just wondering if any other webmasters have come across a satisfactory free/open source solution for providing live customer support on their website.

As a side note, live voice chat would also be an option, but it has to be be designed (or customizable) for customer support rather than a public chatroom.

Edit:

Looking at the responses, it looks like there probably aren't going to be many free solutions for this type of business-oriented chat solution, so feel free to post answers even if they are commercial solutions as long as they're a good value.

Also feel free to post any alternate live support solutions (such as the Skype recommendation) that could be in someway integrated with a website.

This will give me a good lay of the land for what people are actually using for live support, and I think will be more helpful to others reading this question.

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9 Answers

up vote 4 down vote accepted

Olark is gaining some momentum in the startups / smaller more dynamic sites space. AFAIK the high-level picture of Olark is:

  • Javascript-only on the website
  • with a hosted backend (SaaS monthly subscription)
  • and browser- and mobile clients based on common Instant Messaging protocols.
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This looks the most promising. Their free edition sounds like exactly what I need. –  Lèse majesté Sep 24 '10 at 17:14
    
Thanks Jesper. I'm a latecomer to this question. –  Steve Oct 30 '12 at 3:42
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You can show your Skype status on your website. Skype has so many add-ons, including chat rooms, that you can pretty much do anything with it. If you're wanting other options, take a look at this list of 10 Chat Widgets. CoverItLive is pretty popular as well, but it might not be quite what you're looking for.

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Interesting suggestions. CoverItLive is good to know about even if it's not a live support solution. –  Lèse majesté Sep 24 '10 at 17:11
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Seems like a ridiculous name, but we've used Cute Chat in an Asp.Net environment.

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Not for me, but good info for those running IIS. –  Lèse majesté Sep 24 '10 at 17:13
    
@Lèse majesté - I don't recall the LAMP requirement when I first read the question, but maybe I read it too fast. I'll leave this up as an answer (even though it isn't one you're looking for) just in case someone bumps into it. –  Joel Etherton Sep 24 '10 at 17:15
    
Good idea since there aren't any other questions covering live chat solutions. –  Lèse majesté Sep 24 '10 at 17:23
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Edit: just realized you wanted a free solution. Sorry, the following is not free, but paying gets you a whole package with no build time.

I've used LivePerson extensively at two different companies and their support is excellent, the customization capability is excellent, and it's got a good pricing structure that doesn't limit how many operators you have, just how many operators can login at once. And all their customizations generate the javascript you need to plop it right onto your site. It also includes reporting and the user interface for operators is great at handling multiple chats at once, or multiple operators at once.

They have an interesting consumer answer service at www.liveperson.com, but you'll want to go to solutions.liveperson.com instead for using it as a business service.

I wouldn't consider this for sites with small traffic, though, due to the monthly pricing model.

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LivePerson does not show PRICES. I think it's a ridicoluos marketing idea in nowdays. Anyway do you know how much it cost? Thanks! –  Marco Demaio Sep 24 '10 at 19:42
    
they wan't you to chat with them to ask the price so you input your email so they can have it in salesforce. It's not that ridiculous from a business perspective. You want to be able to follow up on leads. I think often website teams are told, "converting visitors to emails" is their objective. –  robertpateii Sep 24 '10 at 21:20
    
Anyway, it's $99 a month for their basic (pro) subscription, for 1 concurrent login. the next step adds a bunch of neat stuff like salesforce integration and really deep analytics and tracking that's probably unnecessary for smaller teams. –  robertpateii Sep 24 '10 at 21:21
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Here they are some more:

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I've got experience with Livezilla - it's quite good, but a real hassle to get running on IIS6 (we installed a Linux VM because that was easier than getting it working) –  Mark Henderson Sep 26 '10 at 21:24
    
+1 for livezilla. I just recently implemented this at our company. So far it is going really good. It has some paid upgrades if you feel them useful but in no way is it hindering you if you don't upgrade. –  Ryan Matthews Sep 19 '11 at 13:24
    
Unfortunately, Livezilla is no longer free as of this date. I would suggest this post is edited to reflect this change. –  Karl Cassar Jul 17 '12 at 14:25
    
@KarlCassar: thanks, I edited it. –  Marco Demaio Jul 25 '12 at 17:57
    
Livezilla used to be pretty nice too bad they went commercial –  Anagio Jul 26 '12 at 11:17
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Neither LAMP stack nor free, but I thought I'd throw this out there for posterity. WhosOn is a decent piece of monitoring software that also has chat functionality.

They have both a hosted solution or a one-time fee version. I currently use an older version strictly for monitoring, but if I implement live chat then this is what I'll use.

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LiveZilla is a free and open source customer-service chat application.

PHP Free Chat is a LGPL licensed open source chat-room chat application.

Both of these are mature, full featured programs with a large user base and strong community support.

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Unfortunately, Livezilla is no longer free as of this date. I would suggest this post is edited to reflect this change. –  Karl Cassar Jul 17 '12 at 14:26
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I've used this site in the past: http://www.chatbutton.com/. It works pretty well, and is usable.

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Take a look at Bold Chat it has a nice feature which lets you setup triggers to open custom chat windows based on keywords in the URL, time on page, referring URL and more.

http://boldchat.com/live-chat-features-chart.asp

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