Are you planning to use live chat or chatbots for your business? Confused about which option would be better – chatbots vs live chat?
FACT: Customers prefer to get in touch with businesses in real-time. They have no time to wait for an email from you, or the patience to stay on the line until you pick up.
As a result, live chat and chatbots have emerged as one of the strongest channels for customer service. No wonder then, that by 2022, about 85% of businesses are going to opt for live chat support.
But which option is better – chatbots or a live chat? Which one should you use? This is exactly what we are going to answer for you today.
So, let’s jump right in and start with the basics.
What is Live Chat and How it Works
As the name suggests, live chat gives your customers an opportunity to interact with your business in real-time. The communication:
- Can happen across your media properties, including your website, app, and even social media channels.
- Can be for customer support, sales, feedback, etc.
- Happens through a small pop-up window called the chat widget.
The fundamental difference between live chat and a chatbot is that in live chat, you are talking to a real human being. A chatbot, however, is a machine learning system that uses pre-defined scenarios to process your inquiry.
Gone are the days when you had to install live chat software to implement it. Today, service providers offer live chat as SaaS, and is typically implemented through code inserted on selected pages of a website or other choice of media.
Sometimes you can set up live chat with a few clicks by integrating a live chat app with the apps you are using already. For example, Social Intents allows you to connect live chat with MS Teams or Slack using just one button! And in three simple steps, you are good to go.
What is a Chatbot and How it Works
Chatbots also enable you to interact with your website visitors in real-time, so technically this chat is live too. But instead of human interaction, a bot/ machine is responding and hence the terminology, ‘Chatbot’.
The steps to create a chat widget on your website remain the same, but before you can activate a chatbot, you need to create a conversation.
Without any coding experience, you can:
- Integrate Dialogflow agent with your live chat solution app and have a bot ready to respond to generic welcome messages.
- As you get more familiar with Dialogflow, you can create multiple intents and contexts to answer questions, gather answer data, and respond with cards, images, and buttons.
- Create complex conversations for different scenarios, with a drag and drop conversation builder provided by your live chat provider directly.
A lot of companies provide live chat functionality along with the option of deploying chatbots. But there are also some that are only chatbot solution providers.
Now that we have understood the basics of chatbots and live chat, let us get down to the details about their benefits and limitations in different verticals.
Chatbot vs Live Chat – Benefits, and Limitations
#1. Ease of use
Once you install the live chat, your agents can start communicating with your customers. With good training and experience, your agents can answer any possible question your customers may have.
You can keep speeding up their responses by giving access to a knowledge base, FAQs, and even customer data.
However, most chatbots are not plug-and-play like human beings.
And unless you are investing in a state-of-the-art AI bot (and sometimes even then for some scenarios), you need to create your bot.
This means, that for a chatbot to start communicating beyond generic welcome messages, you need to create a dialogue flow. You may not need coding experience, but the process is not simple for sure. Some typical steps that go into creating your bot are:
- Identify the purpose of your bot for every particular conversation (intent, context, etc.). This of course needs a lot of research too.
- Design the chatbot conversation flow in a chatbot editor. Keep in mind that different customers can ask one question in many different ways, so take these variations in account.
- Test the chatbot
- Train the bot (optional depending on what level of complexity you are trying to achieve)
- Monitor chatbot analytics to see how it is going and keep improving upon it.
However, chatbots have some unique advantages that make this process worth going through. Let’s see what are they.
#2. 24/7 support
Research says that 8 to 9 pm on Mondays and Thursdays are consistently the most popular times for online shopping. Because when you are working, your customers are working too.
So if you were thinking that your online business could thrive by working within business hours, think again.
Because 68% of customers switch to a competitor if they don’t think you care about them. And the easiest way to let them think you don’t is by leaving their messages unanswered.
Ensuring 24×7 support reassures your customers that you do care about them and are eager to fulfill their needs. Plus if you are selling internationally, it becomes a necessity to take the time differences into account.
Conclusion? Only a business that is available 24/7 is a true winner today.
Hiring agents to work 24/7 can be expensive and unrealistic. Even if you can afford it, it is a pretty tedious job to do for a human being. So why not use the technology intelligently? Chatbots help you be present for customer interactions 24×7.
Also, chatbots ensure that you do not lose any leads during out-of-office hours. In case a query is complex for them to reply to, they can either tell the customer to come back when the team is available or leave alternate contact information. Here’s an example:
#3. Faster response time
Answer this, what would you prefer? Chating and multitasking your way through a query, or staying glued to your phone, waiting for a support agent to answer? Chatting right!
In today’s fast-paced world, everyone is looking for instant gratification, and your customers are no exception.
The easier and faster you make it possible for customers to get in touch with you, the better your chances are to get their business. In fact, leads are 8x more likely to convert when businesses follow up within 5 minutes.
This also means that if they have to leave your page to email or call you, they are likely to give up.
Live chat and chatbots are the fastest online communication channel, with a customer satisfaction rate of 73%, and with a 24×7 availability, chatbots take it to another level.
#4. Query handling
Whether it is through live chat or chatbots, you are dealing with real people. And their queries can be as varied as human emotions themselves.
However, as we discussed earlier unless you are using cutting-edge AI chatbot technology, bot responses are limited to the script you have created for them. Here’s an example:
Also, how many of us have made the mistake of misunderstanding the tone of an email or a message sent your way? Pretty much everyone! Simply because unlike a face-to-face or phone conversation, you have no tone to judge the text.
When it comes to messaging, it can be hard for even real people to understand another person’s emotional state and complex expressions such as sarcasm, and so most robots certainly can’t.
Also, with a multilanguage chat, the software may be translating a foreign language and so that renders it even more difficult to understand certain expressions.
Spelling mistakes is another variant that is not a bot’s forte and can get a customer into a dead-end and frustrating conversation.
So, it can be a wise choice to use chatbots as an agent-assist:
- Maintaining an instant response time
- Replying FAQs
- Sending welcome messages
- Handling data-based questions, etc.
And handing over the conversation to their human counterparts as and when required.
In the long run, however, you can train your bots to learn from customer-advisor interactions, to make them more human-like. Using AI bots can also minimize these difficulties.
According to a 2019 study, chatbots were able to handle 68.9% of chats from start to finish. This means that chatbots are getting more and more advanced with time, and organizations are getting more skilled at creating bot conversation flows.
It also means that bots can deflect the majority of customer queries involving FAQs and simple questions and boost your agent productivity.
Working with chatbots, your live chat team can focus on more complex queries.
Also, it makes sense to deploy a chatbot to increase productivity when it comes to high query volume. Even if you use the best query filtration methods like pre-chat survey, segmentation, and routing, scaling up can become extremely difficult with human agents.
On the other hand, you can scale up bots easily and efficiently, as one chatbot can handle multiple queries at a time.
#6. Customer engagement and satisfaction
Bots have the highest satisfaction level when it comes to replying to queries quickly, and they are #1 in terms of 24×7 support. Some other areas where bots work wonders in customer engagement are pro-active messaging, especially with welcome messages, shopping cart abandonment, onboarding, etc.
But 86% of customers still prefer to interact with a human agent. In fact, 71% are less likely to use a brand if it doesn’t have a human customer service representative available.
There are multiple reasons why people look for a human touch, including but not limited to:
- Empathy – Customer service and support are all about how you make the customer feel, resulting in true engagement. And that is what differentiates a human from a machine – we feel, and can deliver experiences that can make other people feel good or bad.
- Respect – Respect is about treating your customers with appreciation and showing them they’re important to you. Politeness, showing manners, and courtesy, are some ways human agents can surpass customer satisfaction.
- Flexibility – Live chat agents can be flexible considering the customer’s feelings and sensibilities, something that chatbots are simply not built for. Chatbots cannot take actions on their own, or make decisions on their own.
So, it makes sense to use a mix of both live chat and chatbot to maximize customer engagement and satisfaction.
As per a recent report, 41.3% of consumers use conversational marketing tools for purchases, including chatbots. According to data from a live chat customer support team survey:
- An added live chat channel causes an 8%-20% increase in conversions.
- Chatters (customers who chat), are almost three times more likely to convert than the non-chatters (you get it).
- And the big one:
Well-trained live chat agents can gauge what a customer needs better in real-time. They can then offer better deals for faster conversion and even increase revenue by upselling.
In fact, chatbots can also sell like a pro, in more ways than one.
How do you feel when you get personalized recommendations from your favorite shopping platforms? Especially when they are in line with your taste and past purchases?
I am guessing awesome because it is like receiving a recommendation from a personal shopping assistant. Plus it simplifies your decision process by saving you the time scrolling through a dozen product pages.
Chatbots increase sales by providing personalized product recommendations. Here’s an example:
Lego’s bot ‘Ralph’ asks people a few questions and gives them perfect recommendations for faster conversion. From asking questions about age, and price category, to offering a free shipping code, ‘Ralph’ is making quite an impression.
Chatbots can also boost the conversion process by answering pricing queries faster when you place them on the pricing pages.
To sum it up, both live chat and chatbots have their own pros and cons.
A wise choice seems to be a mix of both for maximum advantage, rather than one vs the other.
Don’t you agree?