Rethinking Customer Service: Chatbots vs. Live Chat

Chatbots vs. Live Chat

Providing immediate answers to customer questions is crucial for any business. However, even with quick communication channels like live chat, this doesn’t always happen.

Live chat is an invaluable tool for moving visitors through the sales funnel quicker.

Key Takeaways:

  • Both live chat and chatbots have unique strengths and weaknesses in customer service.
  • Chatbots provide 24/7 availability, simultaneous conversations, and low costs at scale.
  • However, live chat delivers personalized service with human nuance and understanding.
  • Ideal customer experience comes from thoughtfully combining chatbots’ accessibility with live chat’s human touch.

Research shows that 79% of consumers prefer live chat functions because they get instant responses without waiting on hold.

But effective implementation is key. Unless you strategically deploy live chat, with reps ready to rapidly respond, customers may be left waiting and dissatisfied.

This is where chatbots come in

Chatbots were invented to overcome human limitations in customer service.

Although advanced chatbots can be highly responsive, often faster than human-run live chat, they still have restrictions. Most can only provide pre-programmed answers, unable to think beyond what they’ve been specifically taught.

So which wins out in customer service: chatbots or live chat? Let’s compare them across a few key factors:

Human Involvement

A major benefit of chatbots is their ability to operate without any human assistance. Once installed, a chatbot can chat for hours without help, saving time and money.

For example, chatbots can be programmed to answer common questions or have conversations that drive engagement, no humans required. This frees up staff to focus on more complex tasks, with the bot handling basic customer interactions.

Evidence shows this works: 80% of common customer queries are successfully resolved by chatbots without human supervision.

In contrast, live chat relies entirely on available staff. When no one is present, live chat simply goes offline, frustrating users with unanswered messages.

human live support agent vs ai chatbot

Multitasking Capabilities

Imagine one live chat agent needing to serve hundreds of customers simultaneously. Most would still be waiting by day’s end, likely defecting to competitors.

With a chatbot, one is all you need. Install it and serve countless customers at once.

Response Time

Chatbots have unlimited availability. Multiple customers get real-time solutions, improving the experience.

Live chat depends on staff workload and queue size. Customers may wait minutes for responses while agents wrap up other chats or tasks.

Once again, chatbots win on responsiveness.

By 2027, chatbots will become the primary customer service channel for roughly a quarter of organizations, according to Gartner, Inc.

Ease of Use

Some live chat software is complex, with separate interfaces for visitors and admins. Effective use requires investing in team training.

Chatbots offer a unified interface where customers chat and you train the bot.


No human rep can offer 24/7 live chat. Even with shifts, the costs in money and energy add up.

Chatbots never take breaks; they are available 24/7 year-round. This ensures customers worldwide can access support whenever needed.

Research shows 68% of customers leave over poor service. If you aren’t available 24/7, you’ll lose business. Being accessible always makes customers feel valued.

Cost Efficiency

Assuming over 1,000 daily visitors, no single live chat agent could handle that volume. You’d need multiple trained reps, which would cost substantial time and money.

Chatbots are inexpensive to implement and require minimal effort. One bot can readily serve 1,000 or more customers.

So it seems the evidence weighs heavily in favor of chatbots. But live chat still wins in some areas:

Live Chat Advantages

Chatbots only provide simple, specific answers. They lack human-like flexibility and can’t think outside of programmed responses. Live agents can answer broader questions to help customers.

Some customers miss the human touch of live chat. Chatting with a bot has limitations and lacks real conversational nuances.

Chatbots struggle with spelling errors or typos, getting confused by mistakes. Live agents can interpret intended meanings.

Who Wins?

Live chat is great if it is properly resourced. It’s becoming expected for businesses nowadays.

Long-term, AI-powered chatbots show immense promise for transforming customer service.

For now, chatbots excel as tools to save money, time, and energy rather than fully replacing humans.

With the ability to have both live chat and chatbots, businesses can offer the best support through a powerful combination.

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