Chatbots vs Live Chat: Which gets the best results?

November 21, 2022
Time:
7
mins
Robot and customer service agents

Live chat and chatbots are two convenient contact channels that have taken the world of digital customer service by storm.

The popularity of both these technologies is only continuing to increase.

But this gives rise to an interesting debate: Should businesses opt for human-powered live chat, or an automated chatbot?

Which channel gets the best results?

Should brands try and combine the two, or should they be kept separate?

Luckily, we’ve put together a comprehensive chatbot vs live chat guide to help you make this significant decision. We'll cover:

  • The benefits of live chat
  • The benefits of chatbots
  • Chatbots vs. live chat: which channel brings the best results?
Contact center agent on a laptop

Live chat

First up in the chatbots vs live chat debate is live chat.

Live chat is a web-based communications feature that allows you to have real-time conversations with customers through a website.

Let's take a look at the benefits of web chat.

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 more personalized service and a humanized digital experience, both of which contribute to greater customer satisfaction.

The human touch of live chat is particularly useful for more intricate or complex queries that require in-depth guidance.

Additionally, human advisors are more likely to answer a customer query accurately, which helps to improve first-time resolution rates.

A customer and contact agent interacting

2. Easily escalate to voice or video

Live chat offers the ability to easily escalate customer conversations to other channels, such as a web call, video chat, or cobrowsing session.

This ties in perfectly with the concept of offering a seamless customer experience.

It also means that the customer doesn’t need to wait in a hold queue if they need support beyond what live chat can offer. 

And, they wont need to repeat their story for each channel change, as the query is managed by the same advisor thoughout.

This is extremely important for the quality of overall customer experience.

Happy customer on smartphone

3. Fast responses

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

This is significant because a fast average response time is crucial to providing a positive customer experience.

For increased speed when customer advisors are responding to simple queries, live chat can offer time-saving features such as canned responses

This combines the benefits of automation with the benefits of the human contact - quick canned responses when appropriate, but with the instant possibility for human input. 

A customer and contact centre agents surrounded by timer icons

Chatbots

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

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

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

1. 24/7 availability

As chatbots don’t require human staff 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 fast responses, 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. 

Cartoon chatbot

2. Immediate responses & multitasking

Provided the chatbot understands the query, customers can get answers immediately.

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. 

A customer and chatbot hand interacting

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'll need to hire more staff in order to respond to the demand, while a chatbot can handle any demand on its own. 

For example, if you receive 20 live chat requests per hour, and each employee can handle five chats per hour, four employees will be required to deal with the demand.

Conversely, one chatbot can easily respond to 20 chat requests at the same time. 

A funnel turning customers into sales

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 so they use a chat solution to easily get it resolved without leaving the webpage they're on.

As a result, their experience and satisfaction with your brand is improved and they're 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 for customers to wait in a queue.

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 complex 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 personalization is a key aspect of providing excellent customer service.

A customer buying a t shirt via live chat

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 the customer experience, which improves their relationship with your brand.

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 digital channels, live chat is faster in resolving more complicated issues. 

A magnet attracting customers

3. Reducing contact centre costs

One of the easiest ways to lower contact centre costs is to reduce the reliance on phone lines.

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.

However, it can work out more cost effective in the long-term as chatbots use less manpower.

As chatbots don’t require human input once deployed, you don’t need to hire more staff and can avoid the costs associated with additional training.

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 businesses than phone calls. Plus, live chat advisors can still multitask, on average being able to deal with three chats at once.

A bullseye target with money and efficiency icons

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 brand, they also give your your customer-facing teams 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 more customers to engage, 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's live chat, we can programme a 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.  

This increased customer engagement through live chat produces more conversions, as well as more opportunities for upsells.

Your customer advisors 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 and live chat are both valuable engagement channels that can bring a lot of benefits for your business and your customers.

Both can improve the digital customer experience, increase leads and conversions, reduce costs, and provide speedy responses. 

To offer customers the best experience, human-to-human connection with live chat is something that simply cannot be replaced.

On the other hand, chatbots’ efficiency in terms of cost and productivity is also a great advantage for businesses.

In this way, we do not think it is a question of either or - we 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 escalate to a web chat 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 and your customers.

A call center agent with a headset on

The takeaway

It's clear that both live chat and chatbots are valuable tools for online sales and customer support.

They both bring their own merits and the combination of the two is the clear path to an optimal chat solution and successful digital customer service.

But in order to truly get the most out of both channels, you need the right platform to facilitate them.

A platform that's specifically designed to connect businesses with the right customers, via the right channels, at the right time.

And that's where Talkative comes in.

Our Consultative Service Platform provides a complete suite of engagement channels that'll empower you to provide superior customer service and next-level, personalized experiences at every digital touchpoint.

You'll be able to manage live chats, chatbot interactions, and all other customer conversations, within a single plane of glass.

As a result, you and your customer advisors will be fully equipped to engage and convert more customers than ever before.

Want to see for yourself? Book a demo with Talkative and start getting the most out of your chat solution, today.

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