Chatbots vs Live Chat: Which gets the best results?

Patsy Nearkhou
October 12, 2021
Read time:
7
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Live Chat and Chatbots
Patsy Nearkhou

When incorporating a chat solution into your website, you have two options: Should you opt for human-powered live chat, or an automated chatbot? Should you try to use them both together, or should they be kept separate?

We’ve put together this helpful chabots vs live chat guide to help you understand the differences between the technologies, the pros and cons of each, and which is going to get the best results for your business.

Live chat

First up in the chatbots vs live chat debate is live chat. Live chat is a web-based communications feature that allows agents to have real-time conversations with customers through a website. What are its pros? 

1. Human-powered

Live chat is designed to enable human to human conversation, so your customers actually know there is another person on the other end of the chat. 

This is ideal for offering a more personalised service and giving customers actual human contact, which can help to make their experience with your company more enjoyable and memorable. 

The human side of live chat is also great for offering support for more intricate or complicated queries that require some out of the box thinking. Additionally, human agents are more likely to answer a customer query accurately, which helps to improve higher first time resolution rates. 

Escalate to video and cobrowse

2. Easily escalate to voice or video

Live chat offers the ability to escalate conversations to other contact channels, such as voice, video or cobrowsing sessions, quickly and easily, tying in perfectly with the concept of offering a seamless omnichannel customer experience.

Crucially, because live chat is already taking place between two people, the customer doesn’t need to wait in a hold queue if they need support beyond what live chat can offer. 

They also don’t need to repeat their story from the beginning with a new agent for each contact channel change, as the query is managed by the same agent throughout. This is extremely important for the quality of overall customer experience.

3. Fast responses

Live chat offers customers fast, considered, and helpful responses, allowing them to quickly move onto the next stage of the marketing/sales funnel.

For increased speed when agents are responding to common questions and queries, live chat can offer canned responses. 

This brings the benefits of a chatbot together with the benefits of the human contact offered by live chat; quick canned responses when appropriate, but with the instant possibility for human input. 

Chatbots

Chatbots are automated systems that have been built to answer questions on a website. 

There are many types of chatbots. Some use AI to respond to queries, but most chatbots are based on decision trees and are therefore limited to answering simple, specific and common questions. 

How do chatbots weigh up in the chatbot vs live chat battle? Let’s look at what benefits chatbots can bring. 

1. 24/7 availability

As chatbots don’t require contact centre agents to function, they can operate all day, seven days a week. This means customers can get their questions answered outside of your operating hours, such as in the evening and on weekends. 


Customers like immediate answers, so 24/7 chatbots are great for supplying real-time answers to FAQs any time of the day or night. However, remember that chatbots can only respond to simple and common questions. If a customer needs further support, they cannot access this outside of operating hours. 

2. Immediate responses and multitasking

Provided the chatbot understands the query, customers can get answers immediately because chatbots are built with programmed responses. Naturally, they will be faster than humans as they don’t require time to think, type or spell check.

What’s more, chatbots can multitask much more effectively than humans, meaning they can deal with a larger number of customer queries at once. 

3. Price

Chatbots can be cheaper to manage and run than live chat as they require less manpower. 

If your live chat is popular, you will need to hire more agents in order to respond to the demand, while a chatbot can handle this demand on its own. 

For example, if you receive 20 live chat requests per hour, and each agent can handle five chats per hour, four agents will be required to deal with the demand. Conversely, one chatbot can easily respond to 20 chat requests at the same time. 


chatbots vs live chat pros and cons


Which will bring you the best results?

Here comes the crux of the argument: is it better for your business to have a chatbot or live chat? Let’s weigh up each option against some of the key benefits a chat solution can bring your business. 

1. Improving customer satisfaction and loyalty

Chat solutions are commonly implemented to boost customer satisfaction with a brand. A customer has a problem, they use a chat solution to easily get it resolved without leaving the webpage they are on, their experience and satisfaction with your business is improved and they are more likely to return. 

Chatbot vs live chat

Chatbots improve customer satisfaction by offering 24/7 support, so a customer knows that whenever they have a question, they can get it answered promptly. As expert multitaskers, chatbots can also deal with many customers at the same time, eliminating the need to wait in line, and long waiting times are a notoriously big turn off for customers. 


However, the limited responses of a chatbot can cause frustration for customers with uncommon questions. Chatbots are also easily confused with spelling errors. If a customer spells something wrong, the chatbot might respond with an unrelated answer, causing frustration for the customer. 


The human touch of a live chat avoids the issues of spelling accuracy and responding to more complicated queries. Humans can guess what a customer means when a spelling mistake occurs, and can think outside the box when it comes to complex problem-solving. 


Talking to a human also makes the interaction much more personal, and personalisation is a key aspect of providing excellent customer service.


Being able to easily jump to a different contact channel to aid the interaction, such as video or cobrowse, is also a great bonus offered by live chat in delivering a good customer experience.

2. Speedy real-time responses to customer questions

A key reason for implementing a chat solution on your website is the ability to offer customers fast responses to questions and issues. 


Fast response times improve customer experience, which improves their relationship with your organisation. In a recent survey carried out by Ifbyphone, it was found that 73% of customers were more likely to recommend a business to friends and family if it was highly responsive. 

Chatbot vs live chat

As we have discussed, both chatbots and live chat can offer fast response times. 


Chatbots can offer instant responses no matter what time of the day it is, so customers can get fast responses 24/7. Peak-times and high demand also do not affect them. They can deal with multiple chats at once and still provide immediate answers to each. However, this only rings true for questions they are programmed to answer. If a customer’s query is not an FAQ, chatbots are not much use. 


Your initial reaction might be that live chat must have slower response times as it requires  human input, but with the use of canned responses, live chat can respond just as fast as chatbots to simple questions (albeit to less queries at the same time). 

Moreover, as live chat already requires a human and is therefore easier to escalate to different contact channels, live chat is faster in resolving more complicated and less common issues. 

3. Reducing contact centre costs

One of the easiest ways to lower contact centre costs is to reduce the reliance on phone lines. Less traditional phone calls means fewer agents and lower toll charges. Both chatbots and live chat can help by offering an alternative contact method that is cheaper to run.

Chatbots vs live chat

Chatbot technology is typically a greater upfront investment than live chat technology, but it can workout more cost effective in the long term as chatbots use less manpower. As chatbots don’t require contact centre agents, you don’t need to hire more agents and can avoid the costs associated with training existing agents to use a new contact channel. 


Their ability to multitask also means they can deal with more customers at once, which immediately makes them more cost effective. In fact, Jupiter Research reported that, by 2022, chatbots will help businesses save $8 billion dollars a year!


While live chat might not be quite as cost effective as chatbots, it can still help you save money. Forrester Research found that live chat is 17% to 30% cheaper for organisations than phone calls. Plus, live chat agents can still multitask, on average being able to deal with three chats at once, so again allow for fewer agents to deal with more customers. 

4. Proactive outreach to increase leads/sales 

Chat solutions are a great way to increase inbound leads and conversions through your website. Not only do they encourage customers to get in touch with your contact centre agents, they also give your agents more opportunities to convert website visitors into paying customers. 

Chatbots vs live chat

Chatbots can be a very proactive form of outreach. You’ve probably experienced it yourself when visiting websites - you’re scrolling down a page and suddenly a chat box pops up asking if there is anything they can help you with. These chatbots have been programmed to engage with customers after they’ve spent a set amount of time on a page. 


This proactive approach can encourage greater interaction with customers, providing more chances for a conversion. However, you need to be careful not to overdo it. When a chatbot fires up as soon as a customer opens a page, and does so on every page they visit, it can annoy customers and drive them away. 


Live chat is traditionally more reactive than proactive, meaning the customer typically initiates the conversation, but this doesn’t have to be the case. Live chat software can be set up with triggers and nudges that encourage contact in the same way chatbots do. 


For example, with Talkative live chat, we can programme a live chat widget to pop up after a customer has been on the same webpage for 30 seconds, encouraging contact and therefore generating more leads.


For example, after implementing Talkative live chat on their website, Healthspan saw a 500% increase in their chat interactions.  


Moreover, this encouraged interaction through live chat can produce more conversions as agents can react to whatever signals the customer is sending, dealing better with hard sells and upselling. Agents are trained to sell your products, so they will naturally be better at it than a chatbot. In fact, one study found that live chat can drive up to five times more conversions for businesses.

Chatbots vs live chat: Which wins?

Chatbots vs Live Chat

Chatbots and live chat are both great chat solutions that can bring a lot of benefits to your organisation, contact centre and website. Both can improve customer experience, increase leads and conversions, reduce costs, and provide speedy response. 


To offer customers the best experience, human-to-human connection with live chat is something that simply cannot be replaced, while chatbots’ efficiency in terms of cost and productivity bring great advantages to a business. 


In this way, we do not think it is a question of either or (chatbots vs live chat), but recommend taking a hybrid approach. This means using chatbots to deal with basic questions and FAQs, but having a live chat system in place so chatbots can easily hand off to a live agent if they can’t answer the question. 


With this hybrid approach, you get the best of both worlds. You benefit from the pros of each chat solution and mitigate the cons, guaranteeing the best possible results for your business. 


Download the ‘Inner Circle Guide to Video & Next-Generation Customer Contact’

Discover use cases, implementation tips, and ROI for video chat as a contact channel

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