What is a chatbot and what is live chat? Learn the differences between the two, and how each has its own effectiveness for your organization.
Today's young consumers probably find it perplexing how information is not always readily available within a moment's notice. Think about how many times you had to wait until a business was open to call and ask about their closing time. Or how about driving to the closest home improvement store to learn about a new appliance you saw on TV? Also, off-topic, does anyone still watch TV? People seek self-service more often and, in many cases, prefer it. These trends and behaviors indicate that it would be easier, faster and less of a hassle to get it ourselves.
Businesses have recognized this behavior and include solutions in their DXP portfolio of business tools and are implementing customer self-service practices by exposing more ways to collect and provide data online. Since the Internet provides businesses access to a much bigger pool of consumers, there is an enormous number of repetitive tasks being done in support of those customers.
Many self-service tools involve the use of chat, a form of back-and-forth online conversation. The two main forms of chats used with digital channels today are: live or bots. The main difference, as I'm sure you already figured out, is that a live type of chat involves interacting with a live person in real-time. A bot, or more commonly referred to as a chatbot, type involves interaction with a robot. A "robot" you say? Yes, but probably not the cool-walking-upright kind—more in the self-aware, AI-based, science fiction kind. Now to make it confusing, there are different types of chatbots with many aliases such as chatterbots, auto chat, interactive agent or even live chatbot. But do not confuse “live chatbot” with “live chat”! The keyword here is bot.
So, what are the other differences, and which is more appropriate for my site? Let's dive in a bit more.
According to Oxford Language (ahem, Google’s dictionary) the definition for a chatbot is “a computer program designed to simulate conversation with human users, especially over the internet" (see reference).
A chatbot simulates responses in a conversation as if it were a live person. The computer program (robot) participates by using data obtained from user input, auto-detection, artificial intelligence, machine learning or a knowledgebase and calculates a response using predefined or cognitive algorithms. Chatbot programs with access to both customer and business data can provide personalized responses to the user. Thus, selecting a chatbot solution that integrates with your business and marketing tools is very important.
Progress’ NativeChat supports integrations with external systems and provides clear configuration instructions in the online documentation.
Ease-of-use is also a crucial factor when choosing the right chatbot solution for your organization. Going beyond the back-and-forth conversation, having access to a deeper level of business data and customer data makes for a great opportunity to cross-sell or upsell to your audience. Being able to personalize chatbot responses becomes a valuable marketing tool. Not only can you remove any frustration by getting the customer to the right content in that moment of time, but you can also better influence the customer journey, help customers complete tasks and therefore meet more conversions during the conversation. By the way, have you seen what Sitefinity Insight can do for your DXP needs?
(NativeChat's simple to use backend interface)
Chatbots usually require some level of data input by the customer. It can be extremely useful, but not always 100% accurate. Its success is determined by multiple factors such as data accuracy provided by the customer, access to the right information and alternative options, should the response not be sufficient. Chatbots work best for short, simple and repetitive tasks for locating and collecting data.
A lot of information can be obtained from a chatbot, but from your audience's point of view, submitting or acquiring information quickly is the goal. Be sure you can deliver the data you are offering and clearly state to the visitor what the chatbot can and cannot do. An opening window with a short list of sample questions, entitled "These are the type of things you can ask me?" subtly sets the expectations for how the chat session will proceed.
This interaction may frustrate the visitor because the assumption was made that a restaurant would be found in each city from the predefined list that was presented to the visitor.
Many companies have successfully implemented chatbots on their digital channels. However, not all those implementations retain happy customers. Remember, chatbots are used to complete a task or locate specific information, and they are not intended to replace live customer service agents. If a customer cannot complete their task, they will seek a live representative, leading to another type of chat.
Live chat software is a form of instant messaging, allowing conversation between the customer and a company representative in real time (sorry, Google wasn’t offering up its own definition for this one). Live chat is a method of providing customer service virtually through a digital channel, such as a website or a mobile application. A personalized interaction occurs more naturally because you are interacting with a live person.
Ease-of-use is still an important factor when choosing the right live chat solution (for example: Sitefinity DXP offers integration with LiveChat). Cross-sell and upsell opportunities are still possible with live chat (have you ever called about plan options for your cable or cell phone?). However, data used from these interactions for marketing purposes may be limited. It’s important to consider your digital marketing strategies when selecting a live chat solution.
Now, of course with live chat, the customer is still providing data. Although chatbots do not always provide accurate responses, it’s not a guarantee that live chat will either. Live chat relies on the company representative having access to the appropriate user or business data. Instead of a response determined by preset algorithms, AI or other technology, a successful live chat interaction relies on the data provided and decisions made by the live company representative to provide an acceptable response. Live chat is better suited for more complex tasks. It generally takes more time to complete your tasks using live chat than with a chatbot. Therefore, it is also important to clearly state to the customer what live chat can and cannot do.
One of the other key differences is that the full service is only available when there is a person available to interact with. And as stated for chatbots, the same holds true for live chat—many companies have successfully implemented live chat on their digital channels. But not all those implementations retain happy customers. If there is not enough staff to support all the ‘calls’ coming in through your live chat service, it will inevitably cause frustration to your customers.
So, back to the question asked earlier; which one is more appropriate for my site? Perhaps the right answer is both, but that is not always realistic. You will find many reviews online, such as G2, and Gartner Peer Insights, with star ratings and alternative options. Many companies implement both. Some chat solutions offer both types of conversations. It is a form of customer service that you are offering so it is a question only you can answer.
MeiLani Dumont is a senior sales engineer for Progress Sitefinity. MeiLani's career in the WCMS, CMS, Commerce and CD/DXP software industry spans over 15 years. She has worked with many CMS/DX/DXP products in various roles including technical support, consulting, training, web application development and technical presales. In addition, she has given presentations, large and small, to a broad range of Marketing, IT and Business professionals. Lastly, MeiLani especially enjoy the creativity in this space, and bridging the gap between technical and non-technical audiences.
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