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IM-based live chat vs. dedicated chat software

by Jacob Firuta

This article will give you a good idea about the use of instant messenger based live chat solutions. During the course of the article, we will cover all the basic aspects related to a typical IM based live chat solution: installation, available features, how agents service clients using the solution and its security.

Read on to see if IM based live chat solutions answer your needs and make a more informed choice when selecting a provider.


Widely advertised as easy to start with, IM based live chat solutions require no installation of new software. During the setup, agents have to create a new account and enter the credentials into their instant messenger. Next, chat bots are added as friends to the account, making it possible to answer chats from visitors.

Even though there is no installation of new files, the set-up can be quite tricky at times. You are left with a number of instructions that look complicated, especially for the less tech savvy users.

Instant messenger based live chats are hard to set-up

There is a lot of configuration required to install an instant messenger based live chat.

It takes about the same amount of time, if not more, as in the case of dedicated agent apps. However, the setup requires more of agent’s attention than installing a dedicated app.

When compared to web applications, the difference in time used for setup is even greater. Using a web application, you can start chatting with visitors immediately after logging in, which makes it the easiest to deploy customer service tool available for live chat agents.

User interface

One of the biggest differences between IM based chat solutions and dedicated apps is the user interface. All the buttons and controls available in dedicated apps are replaced by a clunky text interface. Instead of an easily controllable chat environment, you get a long list of text commands.

As an example, let’s consider a situation where we need to transfer a chat to another agent. In a dedicated application, we can do this by pressing a specific button. In the case of IM based solutions, you have to type the transfer command, along with the name of the operator that should receive the chat.

What’s even worse, you have to type in the same commands every time you want to, for example, create a ticket, send a chat transcript or get information about your visitor.

Response time takes a big hit whenever text interface is involved. There is no fluency in the way chats are handled and it gets progressively worse with every additional chat.

Available features

IM based live chat users have to be prepared that not all features will be available on the IM client. Even though the web version of a solution may offer features like on-the-fly translation or message sneak-peek, some of them might be missing when using the IM counterpart.

Instant messenger based live chats may not have all the features

Some features might be missing in the instant messenger based live chats.

This is due to the limitations imposed by the way IMs are built. Since they are created for a different purpose, some of the features are impossible to implement.

In short, if you decide to use the IM version of a live chat solution, you have to be prepared to make some concessions in terms of the available features.

Providing customer support

When compared to the dedicated applications, IM based solutions can be a bit less flexible at times. They usually don’t offer multi-application support. This is especially important for one man army agents, i.e. those who have to handle other tasks while servicing clients.

Coordinating your team can also be quite tough when using the IM based solutions. Their limitations make it hard to communicate with other agents and work as a team. As your team grows larger, these problems will too.


The security of IM based solutions is closely related to their price. Although they are cheap, it often comes at the expense of employed security measures. Even if some acceptable security standards are available, you will most likely have to pay extra to get them.

This presents business owners with a tough choice: choosing a cheaper version or paying extra for the security.

Extra security costs with instant messenger based live chat

You may get charged an additional fee for security when using instant messenger live chat.


IM based chat solutions can be successfully used as customer service tools, however, this usually is associated with a couple of downsides.

Scaling is the biggest problem of these type of solutions. When your company starts to grow and you receive more and more chats, IM based live chat solution won’t be enough to deal with the increased traffic. Missing features or lack of a real interface are also very troublesome.

Their pricing is definitely easier to handle for small and developing companies. However, the added security cost will even this out.

If you start to experience that your live chat is not able to handle all the enquiries, you should consider switching to a dedicated live chat application.

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