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. To help you determine which solution is best for your business, let’s compare chatbots and live chat software and go through the top use cases for each type.
Here's what we'll cover:
- What is live chat software?
- What is chatbot software, and how is it different?
- Live chat vs. chatbots: evaluating their strengths
- Self-service chat: automated help without the bots
- Combine automation and human interaction
- Bring chat to your ecommerce business
What is live chat software?
Live chat support is designed to connect 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.
Reasons why customer support teams use live chat options
- Live chat is better for more complex queries and customer issues that are beyond the scope of what an AI chatbot can resolve.
- Customer satisfaction ratings for live chat are higher than any other support channel, with 73% of customers stating that live chat is the most satisfactory form of communication with a company.
- Live chat solutions enable support agents to assist multiple customers at the same time, whereas phone support requires agents to assist just one customer at a time.
- Compared to chatbots, live chat offers more of a personalized, human touch that can go a long way toward improving your customer experience.
- Support agents can find opportunities to convert visitors or turn support interactions into additional sales.
What is chatbot software and how does it differ from 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.
Reasons why customer support teams use chatbot options
- Chatbots give companies 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.
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 to help you decide.
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.
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. Without chatbots, it would be very difficult for companies to meet these customer expectations.
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 support agents may not always be on the clock.
Of course, 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.
As a result, many companies employ both chatbots and 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 from the customer. If the chatbot determines that the customer's question or issue is too complex to resolve without the help of a real human agent, 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 support 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. A CGS study finds 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.
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. They leverage AI and machine learning to deliver personalized responses, as opposed to only “canned” responses, and can better serve your customers.
However, 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.
Consistency and accuracy
Chatbots and live chat applications have unique advantages when it comes to delivering consistent and accurate responses to customer queries.
On one hand, 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. 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.
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.
Self-service chat: automated help 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.
We partner with best-in-class chatbot providers like Ada, who use natural language processing (NLP) to make sure that your customer’s chatbot experience is as natural and pleasant as possible. 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, as fast as possible.
By dropping the pretense, you manage customers’ expectations of the help being provided. This allows you to bring in other self-service options like help center articles and FAQs, so customers can fully resolve their own tickets without any attention from your support team.
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 tickets that are more important to the business.
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 — from automated segmentation to auto-responses — 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 which tickets can be handled immediately versus which ones need a customized response.
Then, if self-service chat can’t solve the issue, someone from your support team can easily step into the conversation from some human intervention. At this point, you can use Macros, scripts that automatically bring in the customer’s information, to scale the human touch on your support team. This allows live chat agents to respond faster to tickets that may be too complex for auto-reply.
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.
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 Q2 2022
Read more about our chat offerings by clicking here.