Chatbots and live chats are a staple of the online experience. As businesses seek to take more of their communications online, text-based communications can be leveraged to facilitate rapid customer service and customer support. Brands can save money, get more bang for their buck, take the strain off their contact centers, and boost sales. Yet chatbots and live chat systems run very differently and it’s important to understand the pros and cons of each.
Both solutions are stealing the limelight from traditional channels like email or phone. But should you go for human-powered live chat or automated chatbot software?
In this post, we lay out 7 key differences between chatbots and live chat, before discussing which might be ideal for your business.
Live chat is the touchstone of customer support. When the customer has a query, a member of the live chat team will reply through chat interfaces. The inherently conversational nature of live chat delivers direct experiences with a human touch – a win for customers who get their problems resolved without leaving the page they are on. Plus, it’s much easier to reroute more complex problem solving to the right team on a video call.
And that’s not all. Live chat allows for customization, so brands can strike up memorable conversations while getting to the heart of their customer needs.
Chatbots have come a long way since way back when. With new strides in machine learning and natural language technology, today’s bots are smarter, better at having conversations, and lightyears more helpful. Businesses can automate customer interactions via a chat interface; AI-driven software does the rest.
On the flip side, chatbots can get thrown off because of their limited capabilities. For a successful chatbot experience, deploy them to process and answer simple, repetitive questions.
To be clear, bots are having a moment. 40% of worldwide internet users would rather interact with chatbots than virtual agents. And a Juniper Research study found that the total number of chatbot messaging apps used worldwide will grow 169% from 3.5 billion in 2022 to 9.5 billion come 2026. As technology matures, chatbots will only get more sophisticated and are en route to transforming our digital experience.
So, which option is right for your business? Before you throw your eggs in one basket, let’s go over seven key differences with respect to the benefits chat solutions bring.
Customers are increasingly partial to exceptional experiences, and response times are becoming vital. Implementing either chat option on your website can deliver rapid responses.
Live chat enables human-to-human contact so that customers know they’re talking to another person. Agents provide real-time support and faster resolution than waiting on an email or jumping on a call. Fast and helpful responses drive increased customer satisfaction and retention downstream. Live chat also empowers agents to deal with several conversations at once.
Chatbots are efficient at providing answers to simple queries, which means customers won’t need to wait on hold (we’ve all been there!). Provided the chatbot can comprehend the question, that is. Human intervention, by definition, can never be as fast and efficient as bots issuing pre-programmed responses.
Chatbots should therefore be the go-to option for straightforward and common queries.
Live chat delivers unbeatable service, but many support requests still go ignored. Delayed response times frustrate customers and cost you dearly. Should enough of them decide to never patronize your business again? It could be existential. Complementing them with a chatbot guarantees some online support is always-on when customers reach out, if you can’t operate live channels comprehensively.
Considering customers will only wait 45 seconds to speak to an agent and are more likely to recommend highly responsive businesses to friends, chatbots offer impeccable response rates anytime, anywhere, regardless of demand or peak times.
They can collect details of the problem before the human agent takes over, making progress towards a satisfying resolution. Extend your coverage outside of regular hours and relieve agents to reallocate their time more productively. It’s important to note, though, if the customer needs support with more demanding queries, they cannot access this out of hours.
It might surprise you to learn that live chat brings to bear the benefits of both chatbots and human contact. Here’s why. Live chat can supply canned responses to common queries before passing requests to live agents. In this way, live chat can respond just as quickly as chatbots, albeit handling fewer simultaneously.
That having been said, your team’s availability will make or break your response rates.
The bottom line is, chatbots reduce costs. It makes sense for businesses that handle large volumes of service tickets to use chatbots. Bots can deflect high call volumes to prevent resources from being stretched and service levels suffering during peak hours.
While implementing a chatbot requires an initial spend, it’s a cost-effective solution in the long run. Think of the salary, training, and infrastructure costs of hiring living support agents. The cost savings you’ll see will usually far outweigh your upfront investment.
Chatbots can be an attractive option for start-ups for whom every penny seems to count. The good news is, new no-code tools means that chatbot maintenance is an accessible and financially sound option for even small or medium-sized businesses.
Chatbots excel at answering routine questions without human reps needing to lift a finger. When you need to walk customers through more complex queries, setting up a bot-to-human handoff on most chatbot builders is easy as pie.
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Live chat is a lot more efficient than jumping on the phone and is a little less painful. Phone calls can be more expensive than chat interactions, and customers appreciate having a quicker, alternative contact method. According to Forrester Research, live chat can be 17% to 33% cheaper than phone calls when the live chat agent is dealing with three people.
Multi-tasking chat agents optimize ROI. Here’s why. Businesses will need fewer agents to interact with more people, guard against sales funnel drop-off, and convert prospects into paying customers. Chatbots take that a step further. Handling questions through more channels is no small undertaking. Chatbots can handle thousands of interactions at once and lighten that load.
To err is human. So it’s no surprise chatbots outperform agents at first-level support – answering routine questions that follow a script. Yet for complicated queries, where capturing deep context and thinking on your feet is critical, live chat wins the day. Agents can discuss and more accurately resolve issues. The result? Higher first-time resolution rates.
As for now, bots fall short at conversing in the way customer reps usually interact with customers. And the system may not recognize what someone wants if they make a spelling mistake or write in their own dialect.
Bots, moreover, can’t empathize – crucial for turning situations around and shoring up your brand. Without an option for human intervention, your brand may come over as impersonal and unfeeling. Until they can pass the Turing test, their chops as conversational assistants will remain limited..
5. Proactive sales
Chat solutions are also one of the best strategies to increase inbound leads and conversions on your site.
You can leverage chatbots in a very proactive approach. Let’s say a prospect conducts a search for the best affiliate programs for bloggers. A chat widget is programmed to fire up after they spend a set amount of time on a page, offering help. There’s a ‘birds of a feather’ aspect to the visitors to your website. They are most likely interested in your offerings. Chatbots can save time by helping them find the relevant content and the right products. Your hottest leads get passed on to human reps to get them started with the sale. View these esign pricing models to find a solution that helps you close the deal faster.
Chatbots help you pre-qualify and nurture leads in real-time, but they can also personalize the online experience. For instance, by highlighting promotions and discount codes that would have skirted their notice, or upselling and cross-selling through recommendations. Chatbots can start proactive interactions on pages customers seem stuck on. Or make a different use of them on your website check-out page to close sales and reduce cart abandonment.
While this approach can encourage more engagement and generate more leads, make sure you give it sufficient thought. Chatbots popping up intrusively on every page potential customers visit can create a really frustrating experience.
Chatbots can crunch the data in a fraction of the time it takes your team on a good day, so they’re ideal for lead generation and scoring.
Live chat is an excellent way to make the most of leads. But it’s more reactive than proactive, since agents might get bogged down handling too many leads. That could be counterproductive. Still, you can deploy live chat software to encourage proactive contact too. This can pay off if you have well-trained support agents. After all, they’re much better at selling your products. But leave hot leads killing time with chatbots too long, and you’ll lose precious customers.
Live chat allows businesses to scale and reach more of their target customers with better solutions with fewer resources. Because live chat requires the labor of real human beings, however, scalability runs up against limits. Businesses looking to grow faster will need to hire, onboard, and train more people.
Mobilizing a chatbot saves companies time, money, and resources and makes it less urgent to scale up your support team.
Since they drive down your human capital costs, chatbots can remove a potential stumbling block for fledgling businesses. Another cool thing is that they allow small businesses to provide customer support which feels like the support provided by leading brands.
7. Customer satisfaction
Consumer trust is earned, not purchased. Every interaction that a customer has with a business can contribute to or detract from its brand.
Both live chat and chatbot solutions are keyed into the convenience that modern customers expect. Both are great options to avoid consumer disappointment and improve the online experience for customers.
The usefulness of the conversations customers have with your agents and bots matters. By adopting the right tools that help create a frictionless customer experience, businesses can stand behind their products and services and stand out in today’s customer-driven marketplace.
Live chat is hands’ down a better communication channel for addressing complex queries. You can take a more personalized approach to customer engagements, nurturing relationships from the outset.
Chatbots can complement human agents, increase customer engagement, and reduce churn. But they aren’t without limitations. Though the technology simplifies communication between people and businesses, AI chatbots may not be for everyone. You can integrate your chatbot with your CRM system to access customer data and personalize conversations. And give it a fun persona with a panoply of interactive UI elements. The fact is though, some customers would prefer to talk with an actual person. So ensure it’s a quick and seamless escalation from self-service to a call.
Keep an eye on your customer satisfaction metrics to gauge chatbot performance. In time, let these insights inform your implementation of live chat versus chatbot.
Chatbots and live chats: which is best for your business?
It turns out the prevailing wisdom is: cover your bases with a bit of both.
As with so much in life, it’s not a neat binary. And it’s probably not a plot spoiler to say that it depends on your business requirements. But by using them in tandem, you can’t go wrong. Chatbot features draw on the truth and wisdom of data science to provide speedy customer support. Employ them in the trenches of your communication strategy as an intelligent filter that lets your team bring the human touch to the interactions that matter.
Whatever is lost in personalization through chatbot usage is reimbursed via live chats with chirpy agents.
It’s about striking the right balance between each channel to maintain service levels and quality with growing demand.
In order to offer customers an exceptional experience, businesses need to meet and exceed their expectations in a way that distinguishes them from competitors.
Messaging is the new normal. Pull on both levers in your efforts to forge strong relationships and foster consideration for your brand.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Severine Hierso, EMEA Senior Product Marketing Manager, RingCentral Office
Severine Hierso is EMEA Senior Product Marketing Manager for RingCentral Office, the leader in cloud hosting communications solutions, and is passionate about creating value, differentiation and messaging, ensuring a better experience for customers and partners.
She has gained extensive international Product Marketing, Market Research, Sales Enablement and Business development experience across SaaS, Telecommunications, Video Conferencing and Technology sectors within companies such as Sony, Cisco, Cogeco Peer 1 and Dimension Data/NTT. Severine Hierso also published articles for domains such as Recruiterflow and DuoCircle.