Which is better for business: live chat or chatbot? (pros and cons)

In this 7-minute read:

  • What is live chat?
  • What are chatbots?
  • How to decide which to use
  • Options for live chat a chatbot services for business websites

It’s not a matter of whether or not you should have chatting capabilities on your business site (you totally should), but a matter of which type of chat serves your business best. Consumers are relying more on online communications with businesses as they do their research for a service or look for customer support. In fact, 70% of customers today prefer messaging to voice for customer support. 

In this guide, we’ll walk you through live chat and chatbots and tips on how to decide which is best for your business. 

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What is live chat and why is it important?

Live chat gives your business the capability to chat with a customer in real-time via an online messaging platform. This can be hosted directly on your website or on another platform that you send customers to with a link. Facebook Messenger is a great example of this. A customer can message a question and an employee can promptly respond, ideally helping the customer within that same conversation. 

Live chat is important for businesses that want to provide real human interactions with real-time support. It adds an additional outlet for customers to reach your business and contributes to higher customer satisfaction. 

What are chatbots and why are they important?

Chatbots are preprogrammed chatboxes that are embedded into your website. Generally, a business will provide a list of common questions and answers that customers might ask when they arrive on their site and give these to their chatbot provider.

Many chatbot solutions are getting really powerful with AI technology that allows them to generate an answer to a user’s question without them even having to select a pre-programmed question. 

Chatbots can range from super simple, where they just welcome a user to the site and then ask them to wait for an employee for live support, to extremely complex (on the development side of things), where they allow the user to type in a question and can hold an entire conversation to help answer the users’ questions without any human interaction at all. 

Like live chat, chatbots are important to use for those customers that prefer to do their own research or don’t want to pick up the phone to call. Unlike live chat, chatbots can work for you 24/7/365. They can help your customers answer questions without needing an employee to be logged into your chat system. 

Is live chat or a chatbot better for your business?

To determine which solution (or combination of the two) is best for your business, you need to outline your customer service goals and what you want that experience to look like. 

Is it important for customers to be able to “reach” your business outside of business hours? Or do you want to make sure a customer is always talking to a real person?

Let’s discuss a few different goals that you might have and if live chat or a chatbot will work better for each one. 

Response time

First, how quickly do you want to be able to respond to your customers’ questions? Is it important to you that they get an immediate response?

Customer satisfaction goes way up when you can get back to them quickly. It may take several hours or even a day or two to get back to a customer via email or on Facebook Messenger. Even live chat can take a little bit of time if your queues are full. 

If you want customers to receive an immediate response when they hop onto your chat, then a chatbot may be the best route here. If you aren’t worried about a little bit of wait time scaring customers away, especially outside of business hours, then live chat should work just fine. 

You can even have the best of both worlds with a live chat option that has a few pre-programmed responses to help with simple questions that can then redirect customers to an employee as needed. 

Cost savings

It’s generally safe to assume that business owners like to save money and want their operations to be as cost-effective as possible. Both solutions can help you increase your bottom-line, it just comes back to your goals and current budget. 

Live chat is generally very affordable, so long as you have the personnel to monitor and run the chats. Beyond its affordability, live chat also helps increase customer retention with real-time communication that prevents sales funnel dropouts. 

Chatbots are a great cost-saving solution in that they don’t require personnel to get the job done. Around 80% of customer queries on chatbots have been resolved without human supervision. This can save your business a lot of the time and money that it takes to answer simple questions over and over again. You could preprogram your FAQs into your chatbot to help give your customers the answers they didn’t search your website for, too. 

Accuracy

While chatbots are getting better at handling more complex answers with improving AI and Machine Learning capabilities, they don’t get it right 100% of the time. It can be frustrating for a customer to ask a question to a chatbot to get an answer they’ve already seen or something that doesn’t answer their question at all. 

If your company’s products and services tend to do get a little more complex, you may want to consider live chat, or at the very least program your chatbot to direct customers to your employees when a query falls outside the simple answer.

That being said, there is a range of chatbot solutions that you can choose from to help mitigate this problem. You can use chatbots that only have pre-programmed questions if you wish, so a customer has to select from a list that your chatbot provides. That will ensure accurate answers from your chatbot, but then it functions more like your FAQ page and doesn’t allow the customer to search for the specific question that brought them to your site. 

If you need to answer simple questions quickly, without human supervision, a chatbot is the best solution here. But if things are more complex, then live chat will give your customers a better experience and, hopefully, earn you more sales. 

Personal touch

Customers that feel a human connection to your business and have successful personal engagements generally turn into repeat customers, or at least spend a little more. Live chat helps achieve the desire for personal connection with real-time assistance, increasing customer satisfaction. 

If your ideal customer prefers human interaction, then live chat may be the best solution for you. Chatbots are better if your customer wants a fast, self-service answer to a simple question so they can purchase quickly and move on with their day. 

Some live chat and chatbot solutions to consider

Once you’ve determined which solution works best for your goals, you can put a plan into action. 

Here are a couple of popular solutions we’ve found that you can try:

  1. Facebook Messenger. Facebook has a chat plugin that allows your web developers to embed your Facebook chat into your website. You just have to be logged onto Facebook and connected to your business Facebook page to respond to questions as they come in. This eliminates the need to redirect customers to your Facebook page to chat with someone. And, it’s free! This is definitely a live chat solution, but Facebook does allow you to program some simple questions into the chat, too
  2. LiveChat is considered the industry leader in live chat solutions. It has tons of integrations with different software you may use—Google Analytics, chatbots, email marketing services, CRMs, and more. It does start at $16/month per agent that you have available to chat, so there are some costs to consider here
  3. ChatBot is a great chatbot option for businesses. For $50/month, you get an active chatbot with 1000 chats/month (then $0.01/chat thereafter), all integrations that the software provides, unlimited conversation scenarios, basic reporting, and data security 

There are also several industry-specific chatbot solutions out there too, so definitely look around to find the best solution for your business. Maybe even check out what your competitors are using and test it out to see if that would fit your needs. 

Increase customer retention with email marketing

Along with online chatting solutions, your email marketing campaign can help increase customer retention and satisfaction. 

Womply’s automated email marketing engine allows you to tailor messages to your customers and schedule them to send out at the opportune moment. Create lifelong customers with simple messages that show them you care. 

Learn more, plus get free reputation monitoring and customer insights when you sign up for Womply Free

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