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Chatbots vs. Web Chat: 5 Key Differentiators You Need to Know

Tony Dolan 14 November 2019

Live web chat is a popular way to deliver customer support, in fact, you can argue that some demographics prefer website chat to other channels such as voice or email. Web chat has its challenges though, particularly in terms of scalability. Chatbots promise to alleviate typical web chat limitations, but what exactly is the difference between chatbots and web chat, and when should you choose one over the other?


Find out more about the different technologies available and how best to use  them in our guide

What Is A Chatbot And Why Is It Different From Web Chat?


It’s easy to see why there’s confusion around live web chat and chatbots. After all, the dialogue box looks just the same and chatbot AI will closely emulate human conversation. But chatbots are fundamentally different from live web chat in several ways. Let’s take a look.

AI Drives Chatbot Conversations


Chatbots are, as the name suggests, essentially robots. Today’s advanced chatbots utilise a mix of tech including artificial intelligence (AI) and natural language processing (NLP) alongside machine learning that is powered by a database of past conversations and responses.


With this tech prowess, chatbots can understand natural language and respond in equally natural language, asking further questions or leading the customer to a solution. This all happens automatically, in case of a chatbot, without human intervention.


In contrast live web chat as we know it is, of course, operated by a human. Customers type their queries, and a customer support agent responds by manually typing their answers.


Some chatbot examples can be so good at solving certain types of queries that their robotic nature is not immediately obvious. Either way, there are clear advantages to using automated chatbots under many scenarios.



AI knowledge

24/7 Support Made Easy with Chatbots


Employing agents after hours or implementing follow-the-sun customer service can be expensive but it’s no longer the competitive advantage it once was as many customers expect round-the-clock support in today’s always-on society.


In contrast, because chatbots are effectively operated by computer hardware there is no reason why chatbots cannot run around the clock.


Of course, chatbots cannot answer all queries – sometimes the human touch is essential. Nevertheless, chatbots can help organisations that struggle to meet 24/7 customer care goals to more readily answer at least some customer concerns around the clock.




Chatbots Often Respond Far Quicker


The agents that operate live web chat are typically still required to manually look up customer queries – at least for some queries.


In contrast, chatbots are highly integrated into enterprise systems. Chatbot AI has immediate access to your entire CRM and knowledge base, instantly extracting what you know about a customer.


So, chatbots can answer typical customer queries far quicker. Cleverly designed chat flows that effectively guide customers help to speed up the resolution of queries. They can also be used to deflect customers to another channel, e.g. providing helpful links to related knowledge base articles that may answer their query quicker.

Unlimited Concurrent Chats


It’s not just the manual processing of queries that keep customers waiting. We’re all familiar with the queues that build up when live chat operators get overwhelmed with requests.


Chatbots never suffer from this problem – the computing resources required to operate a chatbot is, relatively speaking, minimal. In other words, chatbots can effectively deal with unlimited concurrent chats without breaking a sweat.


The result: where queries are straightforward customers can get almost immediate resolution thanks to a chatbot without the need to interact with an agent.

Chatbots Can Be More Personal


It sounds like a contradiction: how can a machine come across as more personal than a human being? It’s simple really – as we suggested earlier, chatbots have almost instant access to your CRM and knowledge base in comparison to a live agent who needs to look it up – unless you have a system that presents relevant articles to your agent’s desktop.


A cleverly designed chatbot can deliver a more personalised response to customers simply because a chatbot is instantaneously aware of the entire customer journey.


Furthermore, advanced data analytics and machine learning enable chatbots to come to conclusions about customer requirements far faster than human live agents. In turn, customers can get the answers they want more quickly than before – in essence, experiencing more personalised customer care.

Knowledge base


Which Is Better – A Chatbot, Or Live Web Chat?


The answer depends on your use case. However, a mix of chatbots and traditional live web chat is often the best solution.


Chatbots are great at solving simple, repetitive customer queries. Questions like: where is my shipment? Or can I change my payment method? Chatbot responses to predictable questions where answers are contained in customer records can be instantaneous and highly effective.


Where queries get more complex or indeed where customers are escalating an issue the human touch still matters.


So, combining chatbots with live agents can deliver the best of both worlds: affordable around the clock responsiveness for commonly asked questions, with a human touch when queries warrant a customer representative.

Getting Started with Chatbots


When looking at web chat customer service statistics, Gartner suggests that by 2020 25% of customer service operations will be using chatbots. The same report also found that organisations enjoy a 70% reduction in calls, emails and live chat queries if a chatbot is in place.


Of course, chatbots running amok will harm the customer experience. Customer service operations need to get the chatbot customer journey right before rolling them out and design a smooth handover process between chatbots and live support agents.


Your customer experience partner can help you configure a chatbot that delivers both efficiency and happy customers.


At Conn3ct we’ve seen over and over how chatbot technology is a powerful part of the user experience mix. Chatbots are cost-effective and the right chatbot customer journey boosts customer satisfaction.


For more on how chatbots fit into the contact centre landscape download our guide to Everything You Need to Know About Contact Centre Technology.


Or, get in touch with Conn3ct to explore how chatbots can support your existing online live support efforts.

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