The last time you were on a live chat, was your question answered immediately, or did you have to leave an email address and wait for them to get back to you?
More than likely, you had to wait.
It’s very annoying when you need a quick answer but you can’t get it. You may leave to find other brands, or perhaps you’ll send an email, expecting a prompt reply — but end up waiting 48 hours. How disappointing.
Live chat is an awesome technology. When used properly, you can move visitors down the sales funnel much quicker — but unless you think carefully about implementation, it could leave your customers unhappy.
According to Econsultancy, 79% of consumers say they prefer live chat functions because they don't have to wait on hold and get their questions answered immediately.
What about chatbots?
According to Chatbots Magazine “A chatbot is a computer program powered by AI that allows you to interact with the customers via a chat interface.”
Check out this whitepaper if you want to know more.
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, they are still limited themselves. In fact, most can’t even give answers beyond what it’s been taught to say.
So, is live chat beating chatbots in the customer service game?
Before drawing any conclusions, we need to compare the two.
1). Chatbots operate without human supervision
One of the biggest benefits of chatbots is the ability to operate without human help.
That’s right, a chatbot can carry on chatting for several hours without any help from a human — saving you time, money, and energy.
For example, Acquire enables businesses to use chatbots on their websites to drive customer engagement — without the need for human intervention.
The time you would have spent answering questions at the computer, you can now spend taking care of other tasks, setting up the bot to take care of your customers instead.
You might get sick and tired of answering the same question over and over again. Chatbots don’t mind. They handle it with ease and never complain.
A recent study shows that 80% of customer’s queries have been resolved by chatbots without human supervision.
Live chat manned by humans simply goes offline when no one is there, leaving users frustrated by unattended messages. This hurts your customer experience.
A chatbot is an amazing piece of software. 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 — frustrated. The likelihood is that they will give up and switch to your competitor.
Remember that satisfied customers tell 9 people about their experience, whereas dissatisfied customers tell 22 people.
With chatbots, there’s no need for more than one. Just install it and you’re done. One chatbot, lots of attended customers.
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 other customers, only to leave you on hold.
The response time is determined by how many customers are in the queue, and the time it takes to attend to each customer.
Chatbots win again. According to Gartner, chatbots will power 85% of all customer service interactions by the year 2020. The average person will have more conversations with bots than with their spouse. Sounds unbelievable, but it looks like it will become a reality.
4). Ease of use
Live chats often appear complex, with two interfaces: one chat window for the visitor, and another for the admin — usually cluttered with information. If you’ve ever worked with live chat software, you’ll be familiar with this.
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 ball 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.
“Customers want to get information as quickly as possible, and a chatbot may be the answer — or it may not.” —Marc Steffen
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.
This is another important aspect where chatbots beat live chat.
A chatbot can stay online for as long as needed — 24/7, 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% 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:
Chatbots answer simple and very specific questions
The downside of chatbots is that they are computerized 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. Plus you need to spend weeks or even months training them.
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.
No human touch
Chatting with a bot can be annoying. Customers can miss the experience of human contact.
Sometimes you need a customer service agent’s help with issues regarding buying decisions.
Here’s a story of a friend of mine who had a bad experience with a chatbot:
He purchased a t-shirt online, realizing afterwards 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.
Spelling errors throw them off balance
Chatbots are sensitive to spelling. Make a mistake and the bot is left confused.
Not so with a real human behind live chat. They can interpret your questions, even if the spellings are a bit off.
Good news is, sophisticated chatbots with AI capabilities are overcoming the deficiencies of earlier chatbots.
Some call a real person to answer a question it doesn’t know about, for example.
The last word
Live chat is great, especially if you have the resources to properly utilize it. 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.
If you want more information about chatbots, check out this whitepaper.