Chatbots vs. Live Chat – Is 2020 the Year of the Chatbot?

Chatbots are commonly set up to communicate with customers visiting a business’s website. But are there better alternatives out there?

There’s a good reason why you’d want to have chat functionality set up for your website: Chat provides a fast, easier way for consumers to communicate with businesses. However, businesses interested in chat are faced with a choice: Chatbot or live chat? Is 2020 the year of the chatbot?

Consumer Preferences: Live Chat vs. Chatbots

Both live chat and chatbots help interact with customers and move visitors down the sales funnel via your website. But what specifically do consumers like about live chat vs. chatbots?

Chatbots

Upsides

  1. Response times of chatbots are typically faster since the bots follow a defined script.
  2. Chatbots can remain available 24/7.

Downsides

  1. Chatbots only answer basic questions about the business.
  2. They lack human touch & empathy when answering customer’s questions.
  3. Spelling errors or unique phrases from the customer can break the chat conversation since the bot follows a set script.

Analysis

Where chatbots come up short is empathizing with customers on a human level, which actually makes a huge difference. Forty-eight percent of consumers agree “it feels creepy if the chatbot is pretending to be human,” according to Mindshare UK’s “Humanity in the Machine” report.

That’s probably why 71 percent of people would rather interact with a human than a bot if given the choice, according to PwC.

How much a chatbot costs may also vary. The more affordable options on the market won’t be able to have complex conversations.

Adding chatbots to your website frees up your team to do other tasks. However, their scripts take a considerable amount of time to troubleshoot and test. You’ll also probably need a team member to review the chatbot conversations to be sure customers’ needs are being met.

Live Chat

Upsides

  1. Chat agents can answer more complex questions.
  2. Agents can empathize with the customer in real time to improve their experience.
  3. Agents can understand customers’ questions even with spelling errors.

Downsides

  1. If your chat provider doesn’t provide third-party agents you may miss out on 24/7 coverage.
  2. Response times are typically slower than chatbots.
  3. Hiring chat agents can be expensive. If your provider doesn’t offer its own operator live chat will become much more expensive.

Analysis

Live chat covers all the benefits that chatbots bring to your website, but with a human touch.

Agents can field basic questions about your business from customers, qualify leads for the business and free up your team members for other tasks.

While some chatbots are faster and cheaper for businesses, live chat agents are able to empathize and understand customers’ questions better than chatbots following a pre-defined script.

It’s no wonder that 71 percent of Americans would rather interact with a human than a chatbot or other automated process, live chat leads to a good customer experience.

Verdict

When it comes to chat, scripting on an affordable bot may seem like a good idea. But it can easily backfire if the bot’s limits affect customer experience. In fact, more than half of consumers would never do business with a company again after just one bad experience, according to NewVoiceMedia.

This is why the following stat is especially relevant: 53 percent of consumers found chatbots to be “not effective” or merely “somewhat effective,” according to eGain.

This is especially relevant today, customers value a seamless experience when chatting with businesses online. People are fine with bots. But if a human is available, they’re going to choose the human every time.

When to use Live Chat or Chatbots

When deciding between chatbots vs. live chat on your website, you need to evaluate what exactly your business needs to get a good customer experience.

Chatbots

Overall, chatbots are cheaper, faster and easier to employ. However, chatbots aren’t capable of empathizing with customers, usually aren’t equipped to handle complex questions and may break when spelling errors are introduced in the chat. Machine learning and chatbot development time are definitely a factor to consider, as the limitations of chatbots can negatively impact customer experience.

If you have a very simple business model and tend to receive the same customer questions time and time again, then using a chatbot might be the better solution.

Keep in mind, the way you implement your chatbot dictates whether or not customers actually find it useful. While a chatbot can seem like a good idea, it’s a thin line between an effective bot and a bad customer experience. This doesn’t look like it’s changing just yet.

Live Chat

Live chat provides your customers with a more in-depth, helpful experience. However, depending on your provider it can be more expensive than bots – and more time-consuming. The best live chat services will offer affordable, flexible pricing such as pay-per-lead pricing, as well as a team of third-party human agents to handle chats for you.

Live chat costs vary depending on the provider. If you can find a live chat service that provides you with a team of chat operators available 24/7 and an affordable cost structure (such as pay-per-lead) then you’re almost assured a positive return. All without risking bad customer experiences.

If your business has a large catalog of services or products, receives a wide range of support requests or offers a specialized product or service, then live chat might be the best option.

Is this the year of chatbots?

While we believe AI can streamline a chat, it can’t take the place of human intelligence and empathy. Customer expectations are at an all-time high, so why not give them the best customer service as possible?

Both live chat and chatbots are customer-centric tools that help businesses save money, time, and energy. One thing is certain, you shouldn’t alienate your customers by providing ineffective support on your website.