Chatbots for Business vs Live Chat Agents: Which Is the Better Option?

If you want to capture more leads and increase sales, you’re not alone. Chatbots for business and live chat agents both allow you to answer your site visitors’ questions in real time while recording their personal information so you can nurture prospects down the funnel.

According to We Are Social, more than 4 billion people use the internet. As consumers do more and more research and shopping online, business owners need to be available around the clock to provide more information about their products and services. And to offer the best user experience possible, you need to allow people to contact you in their preferred way: live chat.

Econsultancy noted that live chat has the highest satisfaction ratings (73 percent) for any customer service channel. This is because consumers can get the help and answers they need without waiting on hold (phone)—or waiting indefinitely to get a reply (social media and email).

But, if not implemented correctly, live chat could hurt your business. Customers care about speed of response, of course, but they also care about accuracy. A quick answer that’s unhelpful or inaccurate will only make your site visitors angry.

When deciding between chatbots vs. live chat agents, you need to weigh the pros and cons. Your goal is to find a solution that’s both fast and accurate. If you can’t strike that right balance, you’re going to lose out to your competitor who can.

So which option is better—chatbot or chat operator? Let’s take a closer look both.

The Pros and Cons of Chatbot Platforms

Artificial intelligence has enhanced our lives in countless ways. With a Ring doorbell, you can see who’s at your front door without getting up off the couch. Hate junk emails? No problem: Spam filters funnel them away from your inbox so you don’t waste any time on opening them.

Chatbots are just another example of our ability to channel machine learning to save time and make things easier for ourselves. And AI is only getting more ubiquitous: Chatbots, by 2020, will handle 85 percent of all customer service interactions, according to a prediction by Gartner.

Here are some pros of using a chatbot:

Pro: Chatbots Provide Lightning Fast Response Time

Have you ever stared at a chatbox impatiently as the live human person on the other end of the chat took what seemed like forever to type a reply? With AI, that’s not a problem. In fact, chatbots can even return an answer before you finish typing your question. How’s that for fast?

Sure, some live chat operators type 90 words per minute, but many others don’t. And human response time can be slowed down if an operator is juggling multiple chats in his or her queue. If you’re looking at a provider with human chat agents, make sure the operators take typing tests to ensure speed and accuracy. 

Verdict: When it comes to fast response time, chatbots for business usually have the edge.

Pro: Chatbots Have Excellent Multitasking Abilities

Even the most efficient and determined human can’t compete with a chatbot’s ability to multitask. Believe it or not, a bot can handle an unlimited number of chats simultaneously! Even if 100 prospects interact with your chat window at the very same time, your bot has got you covered.

How well do you think human agents could handle 100 simultaneous chats? Probably not so well.

Verdict: In terms of multitasking, bots win.

Pro: Chatbots Are Cost-Efficient

Hiring a 40-hour per week employee is expensive. Imagine hiring live chat agents to cover incoming chats seven days per week and 24 hours per day? At a salary of $15 an hour, that packs a pricy punch of $2,520 per week—and that’s before employer taxes and insurance. Not to mention the costs you incur hiring and onboarding those employees, and if one quits, you have to start over from scratch. The only ways to avoid these costs are chatbots or chat providers with human agents who are available 24/7. 

When you run a small business you need to stick to a budget, and chatbots are cheaper than hiring live chat agents. There’s no hiring or onboarding, for one. And if you get a high number of incoming chats, you don’t need to employ more chatbots as they have the ability to handle unlimited simultaneous chats. However, businesses should be careful with affordable chatbots. Cheaper options run the risk of bad interactions with web visitors. 

Verdict: For cost-efficiency, most chatbots will save you. Up until this point, it might seem like chatbots are the next best thing since sliced bread. But there’s a dark side to AI-led live chat, too. Here’s a look at the cons of utilizing chatbots.

cons of chatbot platofrms
Chatbots aren’t perfect. If you’re not willing to spend big bucks, you could get a subpar bot.

Con: Chatbots Can’t Handle Complex Questions

Humans have the ability to think outside the box. Chatbots do not. Chatbots only have the ability to apply the logic you’ve pre-programmed it to know.

While most of your site visitors will ask a question that’s in context with your business (meaning your chatbot can easily answer it), some of them will not. And your bot will get super confused. It then has to end the chat and a human will need to contact the prospect at a later date. These are sort of issues you’ll run into more frequently with free or low-cost chatbots. 

This defeats the whole purpose of offering live chat to begin with.

Verdict: Human chat agents win when it comes to answering complex questions.

Con: Chatbots Get Confused by Spelling Errors

In the same vein, when a site visitor has awful spelling, it can really throw the chatbot for a loop. Unless you sell only to English teachers, you can expect your site visitors to misspell words. And you’re going to need to give them the answers they seek regardless.

Humans can understand the site visitor’s intent in spite of spelling and grammar mistakes.

Verdict: Humans are much better at working with spelling errors.

Con: Chatbots Can’t Give the Human Touch Many Consumers Desire

When it comes to getting their questions answered, HubSpot found that 57 percent of consumers would rather interact with a live human being than AI.

Sure, you can give a chatbot a cute name like Rob (Rob-ot), and you can even add a picture of one of your actual employees to the chat window. But when it comes to giving the human touch—injecting personality into the conversation or engaging in conversation that steps outside of business context—bots can’t beat humans.

And it won’t take very long for your site visitors to figure out they’re interacting with a bot and not a human. Those awkward canned answers are impossible to ignore.

Verdict: Humans come out on top.

The Best of Both Worlds: Chatbots to Answer Incoming Chats and Live Chat Agents to Continue the Conversation

As you can see, chatbots and live chat agents both have advantages and disadvantages. Fortunately, you don’t have to choose between one or the other. Some live chat vendors offer the best of both worlds: a hybrid chat solution. This means you can capitalize on the advantages of each.

These chat providers blend the speed and convenience of AI with the touch and intelligence of a human. For example, a chatbot may greet the visitor before seamlessly handing the conversation off to a human agent to handle the request. Or, the chat software may leverage natural language processing to predict web visitors’ potential answers and provide them as options in a multiple choice format. The chats weave in and out of these modes impeccably to provide web visitors with the best of both worlds. The human operators aren’t your own employees but outsourced live chat agents who are trained on the ins and outs of your industry and your specific business. They can answer all the complex aspects of the chat.

When you’re deciding between chatbots or chat agents, it’s nice to know you can get the best of both worlds and give your site visitors the excellent user experience they deserve.