Live chat vs chatbot: here’s how they’re different

Alexander Wijninga

Alexander Wijninga

| 3 min

Live chat and/or chatbot: we’ve realised this can be a tough choice to make. By understanding the technology you can decide what’s best for your business - but it’s not always clear what the differences are. There’s a swirl of terminology, and since it’s an innovative industry, not every explanation is always up-to-date or complete.

This blog provides more clarity around the differences between live chat and a chatbot, and the advantages of using either solution.

What is ‘live chat’?

For the term ‘live chat’, we mean 1:1 communication between people via a digital channel. For example, this happens on the live chat function on a website (we also call this the website widget), but can also be chats that happen on Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Instagram, Telegram, et cetera. There’s a ‘live chat’ going on between, for example, a customer and a service agent, on a given channel.

The advantages of live chat

Research has revealed that 79% of consumers prefer to communicate with businesses via live chat, because they can get immediate questions to their answers. Over 51% of respondents say they choose live chat, because it enables them to multi-task while the chat is going on. 46% believe that live chat is the most efficient way to communicate with a business.

What are the disadvantages?

The biggest advantages of live chat are closely related to the disadvantages. Live chat can be a successful form of customer contact, if it’s implemented well. When a customer can’t get a direct answer to his or her question, because the customer service agent has too many questions to handle, this advantage disappears. Another potential disadvantage - if a customer is doing something else during the live chat, he’ll find the answer somewhere else online and never return to the conversation. Live chat offers those who respond more quickly the upper hand here.

What do we consider a ‘chatbot’?

The meaning of the word chatbot is a portmanteau of ‘chat’ and ‘robot’. It’s an automated conversation partner. Chatbots are used for a variety of goals including lead generation, marketing, sales or HR. You can also differentiate among the types of chatbots: think of a rule-based chatbot or an AI-chatbot. You can have a chatbot built for you (a custom-build chatbot) or use a chatbot platform.

The advantages of a chatbot

A chatbot goes a step further than a customer service agent can. Where a customer service agent can help one customer at a time, the chatbot handles multiple customer questions simultaneously, and far more quickly than is humanly possible. The chatbot can be active on multiple channels, meaning a chatbot can be implemented on websites and on social media channels. The speed with which customer questions can be resolved, the broad channel coverage, and the 24/7 availability are the three strongest advantages of a chatbot.

The disadvantages?

Implementing a chatbot isn’t done in a day - it’s a process. It demands thought and time to ensure the chatbot knows how to match the right answer to the right question. That’s why also in some cases there can be additional costs when the chatbot needs to be entirely custom to the implementation.

What are the biggest differences between live chat and a chatbot?

We created an easy-to-read overview of the biggest differences between live chat and a chatbot, so you can decide which suits your business better. We based our comparison on five main points our clients often share are their deciding factors.

What about personality?

We can’t assume that a chatbot can have as much personality as one of your colleagues. It’s still a piece of technology. Human agents made of flesh and blood will always come across as more personal than a chatbot will.

What we can assume is that artificial intelligence makes a massive difference. The artificially intelligent chatbot can interpret and read the question, save and access data from customer profiles, and thus recognise and greet customers by their first name. Having an AI-chatbot allows you to personalise the conversations the chatbot has with your customers. Showing empathy and understanding, two important aspects to providing customer service, can be interwoven with your chatbots approach to conversations.

What’s better?

The added value of using live chat or a chatbot varies from situation to situation. Every company is different and needs different features. We hope reading this blog has helped you understand the technology that powers live chat and chatbots, and also informed you as to the advantages and disadvantages of each. If you want to get to know more about the advantages of using a chatbot, request a free demo!

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