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Live Chat vs. Chatbots: The Pros & Cons of Each

Live chat and chatbots are slowly taking over websites. And for good reason.

Geared toward the younger generation, both live chat and chatbots create a unique customer experience for users who don't want to call up a company or send them an email with a question or concern.

How are chatbots and live chat different?

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What's the Difference Between Live Chat and Chatbots?

Live chat is a function on your website that allows users to connect with a sales rep or other employee from your company immediately.

A chatbot is an automated system of communication with users. By building out chatbot flow and if/then logic, a chatbot can answer questions, send users to specific pages on your site, or qualify them before sending them to an employee for further discussion.

Essentially, it streamlines customer support

The Pros and Cons of Live Chat v. Chatbots

But, have you ever considered the pros and cons of each? In what ways is one better than the other?

Here are the pros and cons of live chat and chatbots on your business's website.

Live Chat

Pro: Customers Receive the Instant Gratification They Want.

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An Econsultancy article found that 79 percent of customers say they prefer live chat over other channels (e.g., email, phone calls) because of the immediacy it offers. Because of this, customers are more likely to head to your website to connect with an employee about questions or inquiries they may have.

Have you ever really enjoyed those 25 minutes on hold with scratchy elevator music blaring into the phone? I didn’t think so.

Con: Customers Have to Wait For an Agent to Come Online.

Although live chat offers real-time connection with a business, someone from your team has to accept the chat. Therefore, depending on the time a user sends a message over live chat, they may have to wait.

Various time zones and after work hours could leave someone waiting hours (even days, if on the weekend) for a response. This contributes to a common pain point of long wait times.

Pro: It Can Boost Retention.

An Emarketer statistic shows that 63 percent of customers were more likely to return to a business website that had a live chat function.

People enjoy positive experiences, and they love sharing it — 29 percent of consumers have told others about a positive live chat experience. Live chat can encourage positive experiences if your team members are able to effectively answer questions or guide users in the right direction. More likely than not, they’ll come back for more.

Pro: Live Chat Can Boost Customer Loyalty.

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Branching off of the pro above, 51 percent of consumers are more likely to stay with a company or buy from them again if their website offers live chat. Happy customers like happy experiences and might even buy from you again.

Con: Having to Monitor Live Chat Can Take Valuable Time Away From Day-to-Day Business.

Unfortunately, not everyone seems to understand the purpose of live chat. Businesses have received “hello” and other random messages that rarely relate to their business products or services.

Live chat is not useful when it takes time out of your employees’ day to answer unnecessary questions. You don't want your live chat to become counterproductive for your team. 

Chatbots

Pro: They Work 24/7.

Unlike live chat, where an agent has to be online to chat with a customer, chatbots work all hours of the day.

Chatbots don’t have lunch breaks or nine to five work hours. They’re designed to answer the common questions a user visiting your website might have whenever they might have them.

Pro: They’re Fast, Accurate, and Customizable.

Chatbots can respond within seconds of a message. When you design your chatbot logic out, build out the answers to common questions.

If you are using a more robust chatbot feature, like HubSpot’s chatbot, you can customize your chatbot however you like – from colors and appearance to the if/then logic of how your bot functions.

Con: Customers Could Get Frustrated.

If a customer is looking to speak with a rep from your company, they may get frustrated with an automated response of a chatbot.

Because a chatbot only functions within the realms of its design, it may not properly answer questions or send people to the right place.

Luckily, some chatbot softwares, including HubSpot’s, can add the option to speak immediately to an employee, eliminating the need for bot functionality.

Pro: If Designed Correctly, Chatbots Can Qualify Leads.

Some chatbots can be uniquely created to qualify leads before directing customers to a rep. With this capability, your employees don’t have to stress about talking to customers who aren’t a right fit for your company’s services.

Con: They Aren’t Suitable For Every Business.

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Unfortunately, chatbots aren't best suited for every business and every industry. If your services are too robust or require thorough consultations, a chatbot probably won't benefit your website functionality or lead-qualifying efforts.

When to Use Chatbots

With perks and faults on both sides, it can be hard to judge when you should leverage chatbots and when to stick to your support reps.

Here are the top three reasons when you'd want to look into using chatbots:

1. Budget Is a Priority.

For live chat services, you need to factor in compensation for your sales reps, the cost of their equipment, and other similar expenses.

In most cases, if you're on a tight budget, it's less of a wear on your resources to invest in chatbot software and services. You'll still be able to assist your visitors without breaking your bank.

2. Maintain Open Availability.

Not every business is able to offer overnight customer service, and that's where chatbots shine. While your office is closed, any visitors doing some late night searching will still be able to get some guidance from the bot.

Some software even has the ability to schedule appointments and meetings to your reps' calendar in the case that a visitor needs some more involved attention.

3. Keep Your Website Scalable.

If you have a huge website with hundreds of pages, your visitors are going to feel overwhelmed, even if they all have valuable information.

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Unless you have an absolutely amazing knowledge management system (KMS), your visitors will appreciate being able to turn to your chatbot and get a few, quick redirects to find what they need.

Chatbot Logic Best Practices

When designing your chatbots, there are certain logic rules to follow in order to supply the best user experience to your visitors.

Your potential customers are looking for a personalized, one-on-one experience from your company, even if they subconsciously know it's just a computer program. Give them the suspension of disbelief by following these practices.

Proper Grammar and Spelling

This seems like a no-brainer, but it has to be said. Chat software is inherently text based, so you need to make sure that your chatbot is developed and optimized to use basic grammar, spelling, and capitalization.

Minor errors are annoying, but can be excused. If your bot is answering in unintelligible phrases though, that directly impacts your visitor's user experience.

Open-Ended Conversations

For a more organic, human-like interaction, developers should build your bot with conversational logic that can actually engage in conversation with the user. It should be able to initiate and lead it with coherency and context.

Bot Personalities

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Visitors want to believe that they're working with a person who knows what they're doing. You can try to meet them in the middle by creating a persona for your chatbot.

Never just refer to your chatbot as "bot." Give it a name, like Steve or Jane, and program it to sound as if it has a bit of personality to it. Some developers build in humor or sass to make the interaction feel a bit more natural and memorable.

The Human Touch

Even if it's just an AI crafted out of code, you can still add a bit of human touch to the experience. It's the little nuanced details of a human conversation that you'll want to try to build into your bot if you know how.

For example, when a user has indicated that they're ready to end the conversation, the bot can give a pleasant goodbye. They might even address the user directly if their name was provided earlier.

Keyword Identification

Of course, a great deal of the conversation can progress only if the chatbot understands what's being said. It's important that the bot can identify a large number of keywords or phrases and know how to respond to them.

Those terms will help the bot understand the user's intent or question and be able to supply resources or redirections. Be careful not to build your bot to rely solely on these phrases, but if it has a large enough "vocabulary" it can hold its own.

Use Live Chat and Chatbots Together for a Unique Customer Experience

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A best approach to using live chat and chatbots is to use them both.

Place chatbots on webpages that are more general and where customers might have general questions. For example, you can use chatbots on your blog page to share other relevant blog content based on what viewers are currently reading.

Use chatbots as a lead-qualifying method before sending customers to a live chat conversation with a rep. With this, your sales reps will have a better understanding of who they are talking to before they even talk to them.

Utilize live chat features on other parts of your website that might require more in-depth conversations between a prospect and your sales team, such as your services tab.

With live chat, it'll be easier to tailor a conversation to the specific person interested in one of your services.

Understanding the pros and cons of both of these functions will give you better insight as to which is best for your business. Better yet, find ways to use both to boost your brand loyalty, provide valuable information and answers, and identify qualified leads to nurture into customers.

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Micah Lally

Micah Lally

I’m a Content Writer at Bluleadz. I’m a big fan of books, movies, music, video games, and the ocean. It sounds impossible to do all of those at the same time, but you’d be surprised by the things I can accomplish.