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Chat Features vs. Chatbots

By Snap Agency August 9, 2019

Have you ever been pleasantly immersed in an ecommerce shopping experience, only to be snapped out of your retail dream because you need help with your purchase? You could search through the product page, checking reviews and descriptions to try and find an answer or a contact page. Or, like 63 percent of shoppers regularly choose to do, you could reach out to the retailer via an online chat. Typically, questions, comments, and concerns sent in through a website are handled using either a live chat feature or an artificial intelligence (AI) chatbot. 

Could these tools make your customer service process more efficient? And which one should you try out? Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of each. 

What Is a Chatbot?

Chatbots are AI systems that prompt and answer consumer questions. Generally, these automated bots are activated in apps, websites, emails, or texts, and are meant to create a better customer service experience for site visitors. Chatbots hit the digital world in the late 90s and have come a long way since. 

Although these programs are continually evolving, they are most effective when built into massive ecommerce websites. The social media giant Facebook has also found some success using them. On web pages, chatbots are useful for directly interacting with site visitors to collect information and gather new, targeted leads. On Facebook, they’re utilized most often on business-centered profiles in similar ways. 

What Is Live Chat?

Live chat bubbles often pop up on the side or bottom corner of screens (in much the same way as chatbots) to ask if assistance is needed. What sets them apart from AI chatbots, though, is the brain behind the screen. Instead of being run off an AI engine, live chats involve a real person sending and responding to messages. Because they aren’t limited to automated responses triggered by keywords, live chats are generally much more effective in creating a smooth customer experience and answering complex questions.

Which Tool to Use—and When

Since both tools have their advantages, how do you choose which option is a better fit for your brand and consumer base? Let’s take a closer look. 

Chatbots are growing in popularity because they generally require less manpower, time, and budget to operate when compared to live chats. However, 92 percent of customers still feel more satisfied when interacting with a brand or company via live chat. This may change as chatbots and AI technology continue to evolve, but currently, when mishandled, the limited responses and lack of understanding chatbots exhibit can be more of a frustration than a help to confused customers.

Depending on the circumstances, however, chatbots offer advantages that live chats can’t. For example, a massive online retailer might have the resources to staff enough customer service reps to field questions in real-time, but all of that time and energy could be better utilized in other ways than just answering simple product questions. 

For a small business, which might only receive a few inquiries per day, live chat serves multiple purposes. Not only does having a real person encourage communication and trust while making every visitor to your site feel seen; it works to create an overwhelmingly positive customer journey—which leads to reviews and testimonials that can drive new business. 

Check Your Fit

At Snap, we generally only recommend utilizing chatbots for large companies with a heavy reliance on ecommerce. With the ability to host thousands of conversations at once and evolve according to the information processed, chatbots can provide an effective solution when a brand has too many customers for its team to handle. 

However, this doesn’t mean small businesses can’t also use chatbots, or that big ecommerce brands can’t use live chat. Examine your company—nobody can know your needs or your consumer base better than you. If bots are a better fit for your brand, use them! If live chat is the way to go, we’ll be there to support your efforts every step of the way. 

Recognize Your Business’ Digital Needs

Despite the increasing shift towards artificial intelligence, not every brand is keen on introducing chat features to their site or media, and we get that. Especially for companies with a small but loyal customer base, chat features have their risks. Chatbots might end up frustrating your customers more than helping them. Real-time live chat might also not be the right fit. Just like the choice to use bots or a chat function is your call, the decision to use any chat features at all also comes down to your business objectives. Take the time to walk through your existing conversion funnel, and figure out how these tools might or might not fit in. You may find another solution to your needs, like a website update or redesign. 

Strengthen the Customer Journey With Snap

Not sure which chat feature would be most beneficial to your brand right now? Looking for a more comprehensive digital marketing strategy? Contact Snap. Our experienced team of marketing professionals can offer a recommendation based on what will work best for both your needs and the needs of your customers. We look forward to working with you!