Adding a live chat box to your website homepage is a great way to make your site feel more personal and connect with users, particularly if you run a business that needs a high level of customer service, or if you’re selling anything.
Live chat might seem like something complicated that’s only manageable for ecommerce businesses with whole customer service teams, but there are now plenty of user-friendly plugins that are ideal for smaller sites.
Using a live chat plugin allows you to answer questions a lot quicker than via email or a contact form on your website, and it’s a great way to reassure customers and drive conversions if you’re selling products or services.
There are several different live chat plugins available for WordPress. We’re going to use WP Live Chat Support for this tutorial as it’s one of the most popular, it has loads of features, it’s updated regularly, and it’s free!
Installing the WP Live Chat Support Plugin
In your WordPress dashboard, go to Plugins > Add New and search for “wp live chat support”
Click the “Install Now” button to install the plugin, and then click “Activate”
You’ll find you have a new menu item “Live Chat” in your dashboard.
How to Use WP Live Chat Support
If you wish, you can activate the plugin straight away if you don’t want to adjust any of the default settings.
You can do this by clicking on “live chat” in the menu. You’ll be taken to a welcome screen with an overview of the plugin features and a button you can press to start accepting live chats with the plugin.
Once you activate chat, you’ll be taken to a dashboard where you can see how many visitors are online and access chat.
Here’s how it looks on the frontend:
When the user clicks start chat, they’ll be prompted to input their name and email address (there’s a GDPR/cookie disclaimer below this for those who are concerned over the legality of collecting user data. You can also change what data is required in the settings.)
After accepting the conditions, the user can send a chat message:
At the backend, this comes through as an active chat request:
Hit the “Accept Chat” button and you’ll be able to chat with the user in real-time.
From the admin side you can expand the black menu button for more features including emailing a transcript of the chat, leaving or ending the chat, or transferring the chat or directing the user to a page on your site (these last two features are available in the pro version of the plugin only).
You can also see chat history for different users (chats are automatically deleted after 30 days or whatever you’ve set in the GDPR settings.)
If you’re not logged into WordPress when a user attempts to use the live chat, they’ll see a message that you’re currently offline and will be able to leave a message for you to reply to later.
You can then review these messages in the “Offline Messages” section of your dashboard. You’ll also get an email to say you’ve received a message.
Configuring WP Live Chat Support
As you can see, this plugin works pretty well out of the box without any additional setup at all, but you can also customize the settings so it works better for you.
If you go into the settings link in the menu, you’ll see there are quite a lot of things you’re able to change.
Some of the settings you can customize include:
- The user data that is required to chat (name, email, or nothing)
- Greeting text
- Using logged in user details by default
- Playing sounds if a new user joins or when a new message is received
- Disabling chat on mobile devices
- Enabling chat notifications on all admin pages
- Enabling Google analytics integration
- Enabling transcripts
If you update to the pro version of the plugin you can also exclude the chat window on certain pages, posts, or post types.
Apart from the general settings, there are a whole host of customizations you can make to how the chat box looks. You can choose from a “classic” or “modern” theme and pick a color scheme or use your own colors to match with your site.
The styling settings also allow you to change all the text and choose how the chat box pops up when the user clicks to expand it (slide up, slide from the side, or fade in)
In other sections of the settings you can block users by IP and change the GDPR settings including the disclaimer and the number of days that offline messages are kept.
As GDPR states that users must be able to request a copy of any data that you store about them, the plugin also makes this easy for you by providing a search by name, email, or message.
You can also add a survey to your chat box if you wish, which can be used to quiz users on how helpful the chat was to them or why they are visiting your site.
WP Live Chat Support Advanced Functionality
The basic functionality and customization options will be more than enough for most users, but you an also choose to upgrade to the pro version of the plugin and use additional add-ons.
The pro plugin enables additional functionality including:
- Unlimited chat agents
- Initiate chats with visitors
- Customer typing preview
- Message editing
- Event notifications
- Detailed reports
- Custom data triggers
- File sharing
- Browser notifications
- Chat ratings
- And more…
The pro plugin is priced at $39.95 for a 1-site license, $59.95 for a 3-site license, or $99.95 for an unlimited site license.
Is it worth upgrading? For most sites, the free version of the plugin is more than sufficient and it’s definitely worth trying out first before investing in the pro version. However if you run an e-commerce site or other business with a customer service team (i.e. more than one person), the ability to have more than one chat agent is very handy.
There are also a number of add-ons you can use to extend the functionality of the plugin, although some of them seem to be out of date or unavailable (for example the email chat transcripts add-on is now part of the functionality of the pro plugin).
The most useful add-on is mobile and desktop app so you can get instant notifications and chat to site visitors wherever you are ($29.95 for 2 devices)
Go Get Chatting!
So there you have it – this is a super easy plugin to set up and everything works perfectly with the default settings so you could have a fully functioning live chat on your site within just a couple of minutes.
Have you used this plugin? Let us know what you think in the comments!