Chatbot vs Live Chat: Which is Winning the Customer Service Game and Why?

October 1, 2021
12:00 am

Answering customer questions immediately is one of the best things you can do for them. But sometimes, that doesn't happen – even with fast channels like live chat. 

Don't get me wrong – live chat is an awesome technology and one of the most popular features of the Acquire customer engagement platform. When used properly, you can move visitors down the sales funnel much quicker.

According to Econsultancy, 79 percent of consumers say they prefer live chat functions because they don't have to wait on hold and get their questions answered immediately.

But implementation matters. Unless you think carefully about it – and make sure customer service reps are available to respond with reasonable speed – you could leave your customers waiting and unhappy.

What about chatbots?

Chatbots were invented to bridge human limitations. “This will be the next generation of intelligence to be met in daily experience, sooner rather than later,” says Prof Björn Schuller, a computer scientist at Imperial College London.

Although sophisticated chatbots can be very responsive and much faster than human-run live chat, they are still limited themselves.

In fact, most can’t even give answers beyond what they've specifically been taught to say.

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So, the question arises: is live chat beating chatbots in the customer service game?

Before drawing any conclusions, let's compare the two based on a few key factors.

Chatbot vs. live chat: Key comparisons

1) Human involvement

One of the biggest benefits of chatbots is the ability to operate without human help. A chatbot can carry on chatting for several hours without any help from a human – saving you time, money, and energy.

For example, Acquire's chatbots for business can be taught to answer questions or carry on conversations to drive customer engagement – without the need for human intervention.

The time you would have spent answering basic questions, you can now spend taking care of other more strategic or complex tasks, setting up the bot to take care of your customers instead.

And it works, too: a study shows that 80 percent of customer queries have been successfully resolved by chatbots without human supervision.

chat session by chatbot

On the contrary, live chat widgets run by humans simply go offline when no one is there, leaving users frustrated by unattended messages.

2) Multitasking capabilities

Imagine that you need to attend hundreds of customers at once with just one live chat agent to answer questions. By the time the day is through, the vast majority of your customers are still waiting. It's possible they'll give up and switch to your competitors. Or they may talk about their experience: remember that satisfied customers tell nine people about their experience, whereas dissatisfied customers tell 22 people.

customer service experience

With chatbots, there’s no need for more than one. Just install it and you’re done. One chatbot, lots of customers, simultaneously.

3) Response time

There are never too many things for a chatbot to do. Multiple customers get real-time solutions to their queries, and because of that, an improved customer experience. 

You can’t say the same for live chats. An agent could be attending to other customers or tasks, only to leave those waiting on hold for several minutes.

The response time hinges on how many customers are in the queue, and the time it takes to attend to each customer. 

Chatbots win again. Chatbots will power 85 percent of all customer service interactions by the year 2020.

4) Ease of use

Some live chat software often appear complex, with two interfaces: one chat window for the visitor, and another for the admin, usually cluttered with information. To get the most out of the software, you need to invest time and money into training your team members to use it effectively.

With chatbots, it’s a completely different game. There’s a unified interface where customers chat with your bot and you’ve got the power to make your chatbot smarter, training it from the very same interface.

5) Availability

Do you know a customer service agent that can stay on live chat 24/7? If you do, you might want to check them for circuit-boards because that’s not humanly possible. Even working with shifts can sometimes be a lot more costly (both in terms of money and exhaustion for staff) than just having a chatbot available.

A chatbot can stay online for as long as needed — 24/7 and 365 days a year. No matter where they are in the world, customers can have a conversation with your bot and receive instant responses.

Truth is, if your business isn’t available 24/7, you’re going to lose customers, because they expect you to be there whenever they need support.

On the other hand, if you are always available, your customers feel cared about and will reward you with their loyalty. 

It makes a real difference. A recent study shows that 68 percent of customers leave businesses because of poor customer service.

6) Cost Efficiency

Assuming your company receives more than 1,000 web visitors a day, one live chat agent couldn’t hope to handle that many. You’d need a whole load of customer service agents and have to spend a lot of time and money training them.

Chatbots are cheaper and installation is simple. With one chatbot, you can easily serve your 1,000 customers.

Although the evidence is mounting in favor of chatbots, let’s briefly discuss where they are failing and live chat wins through

But, the live chat vs. chatbot debate isn't over

Chatbots answer simple and very specific questions

The downside of chatbots is that they are programs and don't have the ability to think outside the box. Only pre-programmed information can be processed.

In fact, the questions need to be in context, specific, and simple. The ability of chatbots to answer questions is therefore limited.

On the flip side, a live chat agent can answer any question that pertains to their business and prove helpful to customers. This is missing in a chatbot.

Absence of human touch

Truth be told, chatting with a bot can be annoying. Customers can miss the experience of human contact, and the nuances of human conversation.

Here’s an example of a friend of mine who had a bad experience with a chatbot: he purchased a t-shirt online, realizing afterward there were questions about the product he needed to ask. He quickly went back to the website and opened up a chat window. Boom, the chatbot welcomed him and asked him how he was doing.

But that was as useful as it got. It couldn’t answer any more questions because they were personal and required a human agent.

He didn’t know it was a chatbot for the first 15 minutes. After getting nowhere, he left the chat to call a real human being who helped him resolve the issue quickly.

The chatbot just couldn’t understand what he was trying to explain, and the business also did another common faux-pas – trying to pass that bot for a real human, which turned out to be even more annoying.

Spelling B

Chatbots are sensitive to spelling errors. Make a mistake and the bot is left confused about what you're asking them.

Not so with a real human behind live chat. They can interpret your questions, even if the spelling are a bit off or typos occur.

The good news is, sophisticated chatbots with AI capabilities are overcoming the deficiencies of earlier chatbots. Some are able to re-route a user to a live agent to answer a question they can't, for example.

live chat call example

So who wins?

Live chat is great, especially if you have the resources to properly use it. And it seems that it's becoming the bare minimum expected from businesses these days.

But, gazing into the future, it certainly looks bright for AI-powered chatbots.

At any rate, chatbots aren’t here to completely replace humans in customer service (not for the moment at least) but rather to act as a tool to help us save money, time, and energy. A role in which they excel.

And let's not forget, the technology is there for your business to have both live chat and chatbots – and so much more at the same time.


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