Live chat and chatbots are gaining popularity.
And there is a good reason for that: modern businesses continue to look for innovative way to improve their customers’ experience while they search for answers to their queries in real time.
While some have opted for live chat, others prefer a chatbot. But the intent remains the same: improving customer service.
Which of these options is better suited for your business? Both have their distinct pros and cons.
Although a human-powered, live support software is a common element on most websites these days, there has a been a lot of noise about chatbots. According to a report by to Gartner, chatbots softwares will help with 85 percent of all customer engagements by the year 2020.
So is it the end of road for live chat? Not quite. Although chatbots will make a big impact in the customer service space, live chat is still here to stay.
To quote Tal Shnall, Customer Service Trainer & Speaker:
AI Chatbots are change-makers in how customers connect to a brand and organizations today. More and more companies are already using the technology with their valued customers. While technology is advancing and part of every business success, we must not lose the human touch of creating emotional connections with our customers. Can chatbots generate human emotions? Can chatbots build relationships of trust? Will machines exceed customer expectations? All of these questions create opportunities for entrepreneurs to innovate and wow the customer expectation to deliver excellence.
Let’s start with a brief look at both applications.
Live Chat Benefits
A live chat software allows prospects, customers and other visitors to chat with a human agent in real time on the company’s website. It is an excellent tool that can improve customer service while lowering support costs.
A good live chat system comes with various features, such as proactive chat invitations, the ability to see what the customers are typing in real time (before they send the chat), the ability to animate the chat button (for better visibility) and so on.
When it comes to offering support to your website visitors, nothing beats a live chat. If implemented properly, a live chat system can help you move your visitors further down the sales funnel much more quickly.
According to a study conducted by Econsultancy, 73 percent of customers prefer live chat, compared to 61 percent for email and 44 percent for phone. Of those who prefer live chat, 79 percent said it was because they get the answers to their questions more quickly.
If it’s just a matter of an immediate answer to a question, does it matter whether a customer is helped by a live person or a chatbot? Maybe yes and maybe no.
A chatbot is an app that engages with customers via a chat interface and runs according to pre-programmed rules.
According to a recent report from Acquire.io, 80 percent of customers’ queries were resolved by their chatbots without human intervention.
At present, there are two different kinds of chatbots: normal chatbots and intelligent chatbots that are powered by machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI).
Most of these chatbots can integrate seamlessly with other popular messaging applications like Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Slack, Telegram or any website interface.
“Chatbots represent a new trend in how people access information, make decisions and communicate,”says Christie Pitts, Manager, Ventures Development of Verizon Ventures.
“We think that chatbots are the beginning of a new form of digital access, which centers on messaging. Messaging has become a huge component of how we interact with our devices, and how we stay connected with the people, businesses and the day-to-day activities of life. Chatbots bring commerce into this part of our lives, and will open up new opportunities.”
Although the latest intelligent chatbots can be very sophisticated and responsive, their functionality is still limited.
In fact, most can’t provide answers to questions beyond what has been programmed in them.
Does that mean live chat will continue to win out over chatbots? To answer that question, we need to consider the needs of the customer and the ease of satisfying those needs.
The Case for Chatbots Softwares: Areas Where a Chatbot Scores Over Live Chat
There are certain areas where chatbots have a distinct advantage over human beings. Let’s look at a few.
Most businesses want to offer support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. That means they must hire support agents that can work in shifts, or renege on the promise and resort to offering offline support via email when no agents are available.
This is where a chatbot beats live chat.
A chatbot can stay online 24/7, 365 days a year. Customers from around the globe can have a conversation with the chatbots anytime and get an instant response.
The sad truth is that if your business is not available at all conceivable hours, then chances are you will lose at least a part of your customers to your competition.
On the other hand, having your support available to your customers at all times lets customers know you care about them.
That will motivate them to stick with your business. According to Kapow, 68 percent of customers switch to a competitor if they don’t think you care about them.
2. No Human Intervention Required
When your chatbot can chat for any length of time, at any hour of the day without help from a human agent, businesses cut down on support costs.
The time and money saved allows you to use your support agents to tend to other support channels like phone and email.
Besides, humans tire of having to answer the same questions over and over again, unlike the bots that are happy to handle the same queries.
3. The Ability to Multitask
As opposed to their human counterparts, chatbots can handle an unlimited number of chats simultaneously.
Imagine you need to attend to 50 customers at the same time and you’ve got just one live chat operator on hand.
At the end of the day, you’ll have scores of disgruntled customers who are tired of being on hold and are probably contemplating a switch to your competitor.
Remember that a satisfied customer will talk about their experience to nine other people, on average, while a dissatisfied customer will share their bad experiences with 22 other people, according to Kapow.
4. A Faster Response Time
It’s simple, chatbots respond much more quickly to incoming chat request compared to live chat agents. An agent could be busy handling other chats and may end up delaying their response. Chatbots don’t have that problem.
As customers get real-time attention and answers to their queries, chatbots help improve customer experience.
5. The Ability to Speak Multiple Languages
What if you’re a global business? It may be difficult (or expensive) to hire chat agents for every language your customers speak.
Chatbots, however, can be programmed to speak with your customers in several languages.
6. Cost Effective
Autodesk, the multinational software corporation that makes software for the 3D architecture, engineering, construction and manufacturing, employs a customer service chatbot called AVA (Autodesk Virtual Assistant).
AVA responds to customer queries around the clock. Any customer can get help with Level 1 (routine) queries like change of address, issues with logins or payments and other commonly asked questions.
AVA, an IBM Watson Conversation platform-enabled tool, allowed Autodesk to build a virtual chatbot that delivers enhanced productivity and efficiency gains, that include
- Up to 99 percent improvement in resolution times: decreasing response time from 38 hours to a mere 5.4 minutes for most Level 1 inquiries.
- A significant drop in per-query cost from $15-$200 with human agents to a dollar with AVA.
- AVA can respond to and resolve an average of 30,000+ customer support queries every month.
- AVA can also recognize 40+ distinct use cases to resolve simple requests quickly.
With businesses spending over $1.3 trillion on 265 billion customer service requests each year, chatbots can potentially help them save on customer service costs by speeding up resolution times, freeing up agents for other more challenging tasks and answering up to 80 percent of routine queries.
All of this can help businesses reduce customer service costs by up to 30 percent.
The Case for Live Chat: Areas Where Live Chat Scores Over a Chatbot
Chatbots are not the ultimate customer service tool, though, and are far from perfect. They come with some drawbacks of their own.
1. Chatbots Are Best Suited to Answer Simple Tier 1 Questions
A distinct limitation of a pre-programmed AI chatbot is its inability to think and adapt to a difficult situation where a customer might need an out-of-the-box solution.
For a chatbot to be effective, the question needs to be in a specific context, and simple. Even with machine learning, the ability of a chatbot to answer a question outside of the pre-defined scope is limited.
Besides, it may weeks or even months to fully train your chatbot.
On the other side of the coin is a live agent who can respond to any question that relates to your business, adapting to the customer needs easily.
A human agent can step up and offer other related advice to help your customers achieve success. This is a feature sorely missed in a chatbot.
2. Chatbots Lack Empathy
Let’s face it, chatting with a bot can be discouraging and even outright annoying. With chatbots, a crucial element is always missing from the conversation: the human touch.
Customers can often miss the emotional response they receive from a human agent.
There are times customers need a customer service agent to empathize with them, helping them resolve a frustrating issue. If chatbots fail to fully comprehend and address customer needs, it may give the impression that your brand is cold and impersonal.
3. Spelling and Other Errors Can Throw a Chatbot Off
Chatbots respond to keywords and are sensitive to spelling.
A customer that makes spelling mistakes can confuse the bot. Human agents can figure out the questions, even if the spelling is way off, by understanding and adapting to the context.
It’s worth noting, modern sophisticated chatbots with AI capabilities are now getting more and more immune to such spelling and grammatical mistakes.
Chatbots should be used to aid customer support agents, not replace them.
Adequacy, speed and accuracy are important in customer service. But so is the human touch. An intelligent chatbot can execute more quickly, but doesn’t have the ability to think with the customer.
In the real world, customer queries frequently require a real human to take charge.
For example, a chatbot installed on your website pages might start with engaging a client, managing to get them interested in your products or services and then hand off to a human agent pitch in to close the deal.
“While chatbots can serve as an efficient way to offer customers solutions to their problems, their future success will depend on how thoughtfully brands leverage them to meet customers’ needs,” says Kristopher Arcand, a data analyst working at Forrester. “After all, delivering a great customer experience depends on it.”
To ensure a thoroughly positive user experience, businesses should let customers know when they are dealing with a bot, and let human agents take over when the conversation is at a risk of getting derailed.
Jared Cornell is a customer-support specialist, a marketing evangelist and a book lover, associated with ProProfs Chat. Jared is passionate about customer support and loves to solve customers’ queries. He is always keen to develop new strategies to help customers seeking live chat assistance for a delightful experience. Connect with Jared on Twitter.