Chatbots vs. Live Chat: Which One Is Better For Your Business?

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At a glance:

- What are Chatbots?
- How to Decide Between The Two?
- Chatbots and Live Chats - Differentiating Factors
- Conclusion

When building a website for your business, you will inevitably have to optimize the user experience for best results. While some companies use email as a medium for customer support, others prefer live chats and chatbots. The use of chatbots and live chats as a medium to interact with customers is becoming increasingly popular, especially in the B2C (business-to-consumer) scenario. While both chatbots and live chats are excellent tools for effective conversational marketing, here’s how to decide which one is a better fit for your business -

Firstly, What Are Chatbots?

A chatbot is a computer program that uses artificial intelligence (AI) to simulate conversation with humans through text-based communication. Chatbots can be used to automate customer service tasks, provide information, answer questions, make recommendations, etc. They have been around since the early 1980s but have only recently become popular due to advances in AI technology.

There are two types of chatbots for websites:

a. Natural Language Processing (NLP): NLP bots use natural language processing to understand human speech and respond accordingly.
b. Machine Learning (ML): ML bots use machine learning to learn from data and improve their performance over time.

Next, What Are Live Chats?

Live chats are a way to interact with your customers in real-time. You can chat with them as they browse through your site, helping them find what they need and answering any queries about your products. Live chats are available via social channels like Facebook, Instagram, Messenger, and WhatsApp. Many eCommerce platforms (including Shopify) offer live chat functionality as an add-on feature that allows businesses to integrate with third-party providers like Intercom, Drift, Zendesk Chat, and Olark — all of which allow easy integration of live chats with your website via simple code snippets (no coding required).

To learn why customer experience should be every business’s topmost priority, read this.

Chatbots vs. Live Chats - How To Decide Between The Two?

When you're trying to decide between live chats vs. chatbots for your business, you need to start by asking yourself a few fundamental questions:

  • Why exactly are you looking to implement a conversational marketing strategy?

  • On which pages would you want to embed the feature and what is the reason for choosing those pages?

  • How many people from your company can you assign for overseeing this?

  • Which key performance indicators (KPIs) will you be tracking to gauge the success of your marketing strategy?

Make sure you have the answers to all of these questions before chalking out a plan of action. 

To read a concise guide to conversational marketing, click here

Chatbots and Live Chats - Differentiating Factors

1. 24/7 Support:

A chatbot can be available 24/7 and talk to multiple customers simultaneously. As per a survey conducted by Drift, over 64% of people agree that 24/7 availability is a highly favoured feature of chatbots. While a live chat agent can help only one customer at a time and has limited availability, a chatbot can work round the clock, even when your team is offline. You can certainly get more leads with a chatbot. Besides, when people visit your website, they may have questions but might be hesitant to pick up the phone or send an email. However, most of them will interact with a chatbot. This is especially true for Millennials and Generation Z who are used to communicating via messaging apps like Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp. If your business needs to handle keyword-based queries all throughout the day, then chatbot integration is the ideal choice for you.

2. Functionality:

Online live chat is the ability to have a conversation with someone in real-time. It's easy— a visitor can just click on the "chat now" button on your website and chat with your customer service executive to receive immediate assistance. Chatbot technology, on the other hand, can be both -  simple and complex. While advanced chatbots use artificial intelligence to converse with the user as if they are human, the basic chatbot functions by responding to specific keywords and phrases only. Due to the nature of its function, a basic chatbot may not always recognize what someone is saying and return an answer that doesn't quite fit the question.

3. Response Time:
As far as speed of responses is concerned, chatbots take the crown. They offer much quicker responses and lesser wait times as compared to live chats. This functionality is great for banking institutions, online shopping websites, and all other businesses where customers need quick replies to FAQs to perform an action. Generally, chatbots take around 4-5 seconds for responding to a query whereas live chats can consume comparatively more time to get back to the user. In addition to that, depending entirely on human chat operators implies that people might end up waiting in a queue if all operators are occupied, thereby further delaying the response from the company’s end.

4. Personalized Responses:

Live chat software offers various possibilities that can be used to streamline how you interact with customers. You can create personalized greeting messages that are triggered by specific events like site navigation or email signups, sort messages in folders to keep the inbox organized, and assign chats to specific agents or groups. This can prove to be highly beneficial for high-volume chat sessions and when your agents have multiple clients to manage at the same time. On the contrary, Chatbots can be extremely useful in many different situations but they have their limitations when it comes to personalization. However, if your business is used to getting a lot of repetitive keyword-based queries, chatbots should do the job for you.

5. Integration & Implementation:

Live chat customer service implementation requires adding a code snippet to your site that enables the software to work. It's not difficult but it does require some technical knowledge and access to the backend of your website. For example, you need to be able to edit HTML code and add a JavaScript file. This can be done by a developer or someone on your team that is proficient in coding. Compared to that, chatbot integration is much easier because they're already on popular messaging platforms like Facebook Messenger, Slack, and SMS. You don't need any coding experience or help from a developer in order to get started with chatbots for websites, which makes them a good option for most businesses.

6. Customer Satisfaction:

The customer support experience can make or break a sale. For users, online live chats are a great alternative to phone calls, which gives them an opportunity to communicate with someone directly through text.  However, since chatbots are not operated by humans, they cannot offer personalized responses to the user. This can often create a frustrating experience for website visitors who are looking for personalized human interactions to solve their problems. Therefore, businesses looking to offer personalized experiences to their prospects should opt for live chat. This way, you're able to build trust with your customers and provide great customer support all at once! More than 73% of clients regard live chat as the most satisfactory outlet of correspondence with a business.

7. Cost-Effectiveness:

Research shows that chatbots are helping businesses bring down their operational costs by 30%. Chatbots integration is undoubtedly a great solution for businesses that want to provide their customers with 24/7 support at a low cost. This can be done through text-based conversations or voice assistants such as Amazon Alexa. When a customer interacts with the chatbot, it can help them find information about your business or answer their questions without having to speak to an agent. Whereas, in the case of live chat customer service, it requires an agent to be present for every interaction. This means that there will be more costs associated with this type of solution for a business. For instance, if there’s a call center with more than 100 employees, hiring and training live chat operators would be a considerably expensive process.


In conclusion, if you simply want to collect information about your demographic, and organize the contact details of your potential customers, chatbot integration can be a great option. On the other hand, if you’re planning to foster good client relationships or enable subtle choices, live chats are the best option for you.

However, if there's one major takeaway here, it's not to treat them like they're mutually exclusive – using a live chat alongside a chatbot can achieve the best of both worlds. This means that the initial interaction with the user can be taken care of by the chatbot and going forward, you can offer a live chat experience to meet the user’s expectations. Doing so, allows you to provide an immediate response round-the-clock, boost leads and conversions, and enhance the customer experience - all at an optimized cost for your business!

Do you want to leverage the benefits of live chat and chatbots for your business? Reach out to us at Parkyd Digital today! We are a B2B digital marketing agency in Toronto focused on delivering cost-effective, innovative, strategic solutions that align with your sales and marketing goals. You can get in touch with us here.

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