Chatbot Vs Live Chat: Differences, Pros And Cons, And Alternatives

chatbot-vs-live-chat:-differences,-pros-and-cons,-and-alternatives

Compare the strengths and weaknesses of live chat and chatbots and determine whether one (or both) is right for your customer service needs.

Imagine leaving your angriest customers to spar with an automated script in your website’s chat window. Now picture your support team reading “Where is my order?” for the hundredth time and glancing at the clock, only to find six hours left in the workday. 

Who do you think is more frustrated?

Luckily, you won’t have to answer that, because these are completely avoidable problems. Once you learn the important distinctions between chatbot software and live chat software, you’ll understand how to use them both more effectively and lower blood pressures across the board.

Chatbots rely completely on automation and artificial intelligence (AI) while live chat software connects customers with human agents via a real-time chatbox. A third option, self-service chat, is an appealing alternative.

To determine which solution(s) is best for your business, let’s compare chatbots and live chat software and go through the top use cases for each.

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What is live chat software?

Live chat support connects customers with human support agents who can answer their questions and assist them with any issues. When a customer opens the chat box on a live chat support solution, they are connected with a real person from the company's customer support department. 

Support agents then use live chat messaging to address customer inquiries and walk customers through the solution to their problem. 

Live chat support software.

Interested in getting live chat software? Check out one of these lists for tailored recommendations:

Pros and cons of live chat

Pros:

  • Live agents have the knowledge base to answer complex queries and customer issues 
  • 73% of customers state that live chat is the most satisfactory form of customer communication with a company
  • Enables multitasking for support agents so they can assist multiple customers at the same time
  • The personalized touch of a real human can go a long way toward improving your customer satisfaction
  • Support agents can find opportunities to convert visitors or turn support interactions into additional sales 

Cons:

  • Not available after-hours when your customer team is off the clock
  • More expensive to employ agents to respond to chats
  • Responses will be slowed down by high volume which impacts resolution times
  • Much of your agents’ time will be spent answering the same simple questions over and over

What is the difference between chatbots vs. live chat?

Unlike live chat software, chatbot software doesn’t connect customers with human agents. Instead, chatbot software connects customers with a chatbot that utilizes AI and machine learning to provide natural language answers to common questions. 

Automation assists customers with less complex issues and provides quick answers. Chatbot technology enables companies to reduce their average response time, and frees up support agents to focus on more complex queries.  

Gorgias and Ada chatbot.

Pros and cons of chat bots

Pros:

  • The ability to answer questions 24/7 without paying for agents to work around the clock. According to a survey by Drift, 64% of customers say that 24/7 service is the best feature of chatbots. 
  • Chatbots offer instant responses to common questions like pricing inquiries, improving customer experience with quick resolutions to common issues
  • Chatbot solutions are a highly cost-effective option, as they allow companies to resolve more customer issues without having to hire new customer support reps
  • By answering commonly asked questions and resolving simple issues, chatbot solutions can free up support agents to focus on more complex questions

Cons:

  • Chatbots can’t handle complex inquiries requiring human intervention
  • Automated responses are a colder, less human form of communication, which can impact customer satisfaction
  • No opportunity for agents to elevate an inquiry into an exemplary customer experience, such as offering personalized live chat offers
  • Customers will become frustrated if the chatbot can’t properly answer their questions or solve an issue

Live chat vs. chatbots: Evaluating their strengths to help you choose the right one (or both)

When comparing chatbots with live chat solutions, it's important to recognize that each category offers its own unique advantages. Many companies choose to employ both live chat and chatbot apps on their ecommerce websites. 

With that in mind, let's explore the strengths of each solution.

Response times and customer expectations 

One of the biggest advantages of chatbot solutions is the fact that they allow for immediate responses to customer inquiries. Live chat solutions can also help companies reduce their wait times, though not to the same degree. 

Chatbot advantage: Answers are immediate

According to data from HubSpot, 90% of customers rate an “immediate” response as important or very important when contacting customer service, with 60% of customers defining “immediate” as 10 minutes or less. 

With a chatbot app, offering immediate response times to customer queries is a much more attainable goal. Best of all, these immediate response times are a 24/7 offering for customers, whereas live chat agents may not always be on the clock. 

Live chat advantage: Solve complex issues

The problem with relying solely on chatbots to reduce customer wait times is the fact that even the best and most intelligent chatbots are often unable to resolve complex issues. Chatbots are excellent at pulling information from internal databases to answer common questions, such as providing the status of a customer's order or editing it.

But for uncommon questions or complex issues, a chatbot alone may not be sufficient. Because they can only handle one thing at a time, it can take forever before you get all of your questions resolved.

Solution: Use both chatbots and live chat

Many companies use chatbots alongside live chat support. This allows businesses to offer both immediate responses, as well as more in-depth support for complex issues. 

For example, a customer may first be connected with a chatbot that provides instant responses to their query and assists with gathering initial information. If the chatbot determines the customer's question or issue is too complex to resolve, the customer is then connected to a support agent via live chat. 

This combination is an ideal solution for many companies, allowing them to quickly resolve common issues without the need for a live chat agent. At the same time, customers have the option to speak with a real person in cases where assistance from a chatbot alone isn’t sufficient. 

Human touch and personalization needs 

While chatbot apps can help reduce customer service wait times and the number of customer service reps needed, many customers prefer speaking with a person. 

Live chat advantage: The human touch

A CGS study found that 86% of customers would rather interact with a human agent than a chatbot. Further, 71% of customers say that they would be less likely to purchase from a brand that did not have real customer service representatives available. 

Chatbot advantage: AI learning

Chatbots have come a long way toward replicating natural language and determining customer intent for better customer engagement. Today, the best chatbot applications can come quite close to sounding like actual human beings. 

Chatbots leverage AI and machine learning to deliver personalized responses, as opposed to only “canned” responses, and can better serve your customers. 

Solution: Use both chatbots and live chat

Even the most advanced chatbots still fall short of a live representative when it comes to delivering a personalized, human touch. They’re also lacking when it comes to handling more complex questions or customer issues. 

Once again, a combination of automation and live chat support is typically the best approach. 

Live chat conversion and sales.

Consistency and accuracy

Chatbots and live chat applications have unique advantages when it comes to delivering consistent and accurate responses to customer queries. 

Chatbot advantage: Consistency

Chatbots are excellent at delivering consistent, on-brand messaging. They can be programmed to systematically follow templates or scripts to provide a consistent customer service experience. 

When working with human customer support agents, this high degree of consistency can be a little more difficult to achieve. 

Live chat advantage: Accuracy

While live chat support may not offer the same consistency as chatbots, human support agents do tend to be more accurate when determining the intent of the customer they are assisting. 

For example, a simple spelling error can sometimes confuse chatbots, whereas a human customer support agent would be much more likely to look past the error and correctly figure out what the customer needs. 

A human agent is also much more likely than a chatbot to accurately interpret questions that are worded strangely. 

Solution: Use both chatbots and live chat

For companies that are choosing between chatbots and live chat support, it’s a question of whether they’d like to prioritize consistency or accuracy. This is yet another reason why a combination of chatbots and live chat support is often the best solution.

More chat features to provide self-service support without the bots

Many of the issues your website visitors have with bad chatbots involve their mimicry of support from real people. It’s easy to tell when you’re chatting with a robot, but it’s not always made clear to you by the chat widget.

But there’s a third chat option that you should consider in addition to live chat and chatbot software.

Self-service chat options make it clear to your customers that they are receiving automated help. By presenting menus instead of imitating a human conversation, self-service customer support empowers customers to find the answers they need on their own.

It’s a win-win, because the customers get the answers they need in real time, at any hour. And your team can focus on support tickets that are more important to the business.

Here are a few ways self-service chat options can work.

Self-service order management

Up to 30% of incoming customer service tickets are shipping status requests. With self-service order management in the chat widget, customers are empowered to make these queries on their own — providing fast answers and reducing your support tickets.

These automated options are easy to add with Gorgias. This self-service adds buttons to the chat widget to automatically:

  • Track an order
  • Return an order
  • Cancel an order

Quick service with chat automation provides quick, responsive customer service, which means better customer experience and a positive impact on revenue.

Barcelona-based shoe brand ALOHAS added self-service order management flows with Gorgias after experiencing a high chat volume. This allowed customers to find information on their own without a human needing to respond.

Here’s how a “track order” request looks in action:

Order management in live chat.

Source: ALOHAS

Quick answer flows

When using a chat widget, you’ll notice the same questions come up again and again. You can satisfy those FAQs by adding quick answer flows into the chat widget.

These automations can be set up in the widget for questions like:

  • What is your shipping policy?
  • Are there any discounts available?
  • Do you have any new products?
  • What materials do you use?

These automations can be customized for whatever FAQs are most relevant to your ecommerce store.

Here’s how it looks, for example, when an ALOHAS customer wants to find out more about the brand’s shipping policy.

Quick Response Flows in chat widget.

Luxury jewelry brand Jaxxon has used these self-service quick responses with great success. The customer service team found themselves overwhelmed with customer questions and unable to respond as quickly as desired.

Jaxxon upgraded their live chat widget with the Automation Add-On with quick answer flows for customers. The result, combined with using Gorgias’ helpdesk, reduced live chat volume by 17% and lifted the on-site conversion rate by 6%.

Self-service in chat.

Source: Jaxxon

Autoresponders

Even when a customer chooses to type out a question, automation can be used to provide quick, customized service through the chat widget.

Gorgias can detect questions that come in through chat and provide automatic answers using Rules and Macros.

Here’s how the flow works:

  1. Intact detection scans the incoming message.
  2. Rules is triggered when a relevant message is found (such as some asking about where their order us) is responds to the customer.
  3. Macros is where you create the templated response sent to the customer. The Macro can be set up to pull in a customer’s unique information like order number, their name, and their tracking code.

This is how it looks in Gorgias:

Order tracking in chat.

The best part is this can not only be used for chat, but for responses to tickets coming in through other communication channels like email, social media, and SMS.

Keep customer service running 24/7

With Gorgias, you can make sure your chat widget isn’t missing a single ticket, even if your customer support team is offline.

First, you can set up your business hours to correspond with when you have live chat available. This will show up on your site’s chat widget by either showing the current status as online or offline.

Business hours with live chat.

Source: Absolute Collagen

From there, you can create automated responses for whether you’re offline or online. During business hours, this message can tell customers you’ve received their request and give a time by which they can expect a response.

After business hours, the responder can tell customers that although you’re offline, they can expect a response during the next day’s business hours via email.

Offline mode in live chat for follow-ups.

Source: Absolute Collagen

You can also use a contact form which turns a chat into an emailed ticket. This is great to use after-hours and to make sure chat requests don’t get lost overnight. 

Contact form in live chat.

Source: Absolute Collagen

Combine automation and human interaction for the strongest customer experience

The use of automation within customer service is multifaceted. As we discussed earlier, a human touch is critical for many customers, and speaking with an automated chatbot can be a turn-off. However, automation certainly has its place in the customer service process.

On the customer’s side, starting with self-service chat helps them receive quicker customer support at scale — a more satisfying experience. On your team’s side, automation allows for sorting, segmenting, and prioritizing tickets.

When self-service chat can’t solve an issue, someone from your support team can easily step into the conversation. You can use Macros — scripts that automatically bring in the customer’s information — to scale the human touch on your support team.

So in reality, it’s not automation vs human support. These are two complementary tools that work better together. And the result is a stronger and faster customer experience for your website visitors, which can increase your conversion rate by as much as 12%.

Still not convinced? In 2021, brands using the Gorgias chat widget generated an average of $38,702 from conversations involving chat. We have a whole post on live chat statistics that can help illustrate the impact our chat widget can have on your business.

Use live chat and self-service together.

Gorgias brings intuitive live chat to your ecommerce business, alongside your other channels

If you’re an ecommerce business looking for an all-in-one customer support solution that includes live chat support and AI-powered chatbots, Gorgias is your one-stop shop. 

Our algorithms are trained on hundreds of millions of ecommerce tickets, so you can be sure your customers are getting the right responses every time. 

Plus, you can manage both live chat and chatbot conversations in the same dashboard that you use for all your other channels, including phone, email and major social media platforms. Bring in chat from other channels, including Facebook Messenger. We’ll even be supporting Whatsapp in early 2023.

Our customer support platform is available for Magento, Shopify, and BigCommerce users.

Read more about our chat offerings by clicking here.

Special thanks to our friends at Gorgias for their insights on this topic.
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