Live Chat Verse Chatbots: A Beginners Guide

There’s been a lot of discussion within the web world, surrounding the use of ‘live chat’ and ‘chatbot's’ as alternative platforms for providing customer service.

In actual fact, both Bot and Human channels offer the potential to provide a high level of customer service. At the end of the day, It’s up to you and your employees to ensure that they be setup and configured in a way that delivers the best possible customer service offering on behalf of your business. Our suggestion? provide your customers with options. However, before you can do this, you need to understand how both live chat and chatbot's actually work as well as the the risks and benefits of each .

In this article, we’re going delve right in and give you a break down of all the things you need to consider before implementing live chat or chat bots, as a customer service initiative onto your website.

What is Live Chat?

With the rollout of the NBN across Australia, seamless internet connectivity has upped the ante in online customer service. Real-time customer service tools such as live chat and video conferencing via corporate websites have become the norm. These tools help capture leads, convert sales, address enquiries and typically only require as much effort as manning the office desk phone.

To put it simply, live chat acts like an ‘instant messenger’ that your customers are able to use to get answers quickly and accurately without needing to pick up a phone.

We’d argue that Live Chat is one of the most dynamic methods available, for connecting with your customers. Why?

All the benefits of email and phone support

Live chat has many of the qualities of email or phone support. Customers are able to send through an enquiry at their free will, and can receive the answers to their questions with the same level of immediacy as a phone call. Similarly, Live chat also allows your customers to receive all the personal attention that they need, in a more relaxed environment. Unlike a phone call, live allows your customers to remain in a setting where they are able to multitask e.g. watch tv, listen to music, study, work etc. Think of live chat, as the perfect solution for people are commonly doing two things at once, such as parents, college students, secretaries etc.

Remove Language Barriers

Live Chat basically removes language barriers. While you might not think you have many international customers, we can't assume that all of your customers all share the same first language. Offering support via Live Chat, allows your customers to comprehend each sentence at their own pace or use translation devices at their free will. Some Live Chat tools even have these inbuilt which is an extremely helpful tool!

Allows for creativity

Since live chat has been introduced to the game, many business have noticed the benefit of adopting a 'live chat strategy'. Often in particular to not only support their customer services initiatives, but also their sales and conversion initiatives. Rather than relying on their establish UX flow to move clients down their investment funnel, live chat allows the opportunity for your sales staff to provide, instant, personalised services to your website visitors at their point of peak interest. From a support stand point, live chat is a great means to smoothing over customer complaints or pain points before they are no longer able to be resolved. Take the below example of how an Amazon staff member managed to diffuse an otherwise uncomfortable situation:

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Convinced that live chat is for you? There are many great Live Chat tools out there. Internetrix uses Zendesk Chat, but can integrate almost any Live Chat tool with your website (Olark, Live Chat, etc.). Most, like Zendesk, offer a free ‘Lite’ account for those who are just after the basics.

What is a Chatbot?

Recently, there has been significantly more and more effort being put into creating proprietary Artificial Intelligence (AI) technologies for business use. We see industry leaders such as Google and Facebook investing in machine learning initiatives every week. This is tied to the growing number of internet searches using voice search. Early this year, Forbes reported that Voice Search will be the third largest SEO trend in 2017. Anyone seen the Google Home product yet? Voice searches will be a norm before you know it, but that’s another blog article in it’s own (standby).

Now before you start thinking, ‘is he saying we should invest in a SkyNet Cyberdyne Model T800?’. No, I’m not.

Your website is a 24/7 storefront and Chatbots are the 24/7 employee. Essentially, a chatbot can be defined as a computer program, designed to simulate conversation with human users. Generally, chatbots provide service to customers, and are powered by rules and sometimes artificial intelligence. You interact with chatbots, usually via a chat interface. Some interfaces where you you may have come across chatbots include Facebook Messenger, slack, telegram etc

This Chatbot doesn’t need to know how to answer philosophical questions, it just needs to know which business it works for, what the business has to offer, how to answer simple questions, and refer customers to the store manager if it gets too difficult.

What are Chatbots used for?

As I said earlier, no one minds talking to a bot or a human, it all depends on whether their purpose for engaging a communication channel requires one or the other. For example, if my task is simple, and I wish to know what specials an online store has, I don’t want to talk to a human..

  • It will take too long for them to fulfil my request;
  • I’ll probably be added to some godforsaken queue; and
  • It’s a little overkill

A sophisticated Chatbot who can give me a simple, straight and real-time response is what I’d be after. However, if I wanted to discuss a product return and refund, then perhaps it’d be better to talk to a human rather than a Chatbot.

How the two work together ( why not both? )

Now, obviously there will be some scenarios that fall into that middle area, or may require a mixture of Chatbot / Live Chat engagement. It is important that you understand the stages of these scenarios and the process steps involved. Once you have a firm understanding of the process steps, you can then decide how to configure your Chatbot to act as a gatekeeper to the Live Chat personnel.

Again, think of your Chatbots as your 24/7 employee. Acting as a gatekeeper, you should ensure your Chatbot is able to refer customers to the Appropriate Personnel [Live Chat] if it gets too difficult, or the customer request calls for human interaction. The last thing you want is to have a human trying to put through a complex request and the Chatbot getting them nowhere but frustrated.

There is less risk with Chatbots than there is with Live Chat

If you are concerned with the idea of having a Chatbot on your website as the face front of you business’ online presence. Just remember that it is a lot easier to govern a Chatbot than it is the govern a human-being on a Live Chat channel. The digital pioneers who integrate and configure your Chatbot can program response guidelines to ensure the correct process is always followed and consistency in customer service is applied. Internetrix believes in thorough testing, and let’s be honest, trying to break a Chatbot would be kind of fun.

Still not sure if you need to implement live chat, a chat bot or both? Be sure to keep the needs of your customers in mind.

Consider the needs of your customers

You may have found that some of your customers prefer to get in touch via phone call, while others prefer to send an email. How your customers choose to get in touch with you for their enquiries, depends on a number of factors, such as.

Their personality or preference

Maybe your customer is shy and the thought of human interaction, sends them into a downward spiral of nervous anxiety. In instance, it’s no wonder that they might prefer to get in touch via email or chatbot. Or perhaps, live chat provides enough of a mask that they are still able to interact with a human, without the fear of face to face contact.

On the other hand, your customer may prefer to chin wag with a “real” person. We’ve all been in that situation where a phone call has been automated and we’ve been left cussing due to the number of times we’ve had to press #4 to ‘hear the options again’. While the technologies behind chatbots are quickly advancing, they are still not exempt from causing frustrations like these. In these instances, it’s no doubt that live chat would be beneficial.

Their current situation

It’s important to consider that the present situation and environment of your customers, may impact how they choose to get in touch with you. If they are short of time, they might opt to engage with the chatbot, on the other hand if they are sitting at their desk, multi-tasking browsing products online and need some additional advice then live chat might seem like the best option.

The level of technical ability or awareness that your customers have, may also impact their choice. Many people quite often, are deterred by chatbots because they don’t quite understand that they’re not talking to a human and vice versa when it comes to live chat!

The purpose of their enquiry

Sometimes the preference of your customer, will be dependent on the purpose of their. Is their enquiry urgent and do they require an immediate response? Or, do they have a set of complex questions and an automated response would not be able to provide a fulfillful answer.

Why you should consider these alternative forms of customer service

As voice searches grow in popularity with the increase of voice query technology advancing everyday. It is important to acknowledge that Chatbots are a potential game changer for your business. Not only will you be offering a new level of customers service, but you will be saving hours of staff work, be recognised as an industry leader by all who visit your website, and stay ahead of the pack in the land of SEO.

Did I mention hours of fun Chatbot testing?

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