Nearly everywhere you turn these days, AI is being used in one fashion or another. From mapping
the ocean floor to exploring the Martian surface and virtually every single thing in-between, Artificial
Intelligence is expanding our capabilities and enhancing our lives in innumerable ways.
But are artificial intelligence and the tools it powers perfectly for every situation? Of course not.
We don’t have AI-powered judicial systems, self-flying planes (at least not yet), robotic cashiers
(again, not yet), or college courses with artificial professors. While someday we may have high-risk
or precision surgery performed by, or at least heavily assisted by AI, there haven’t been many
consumer-facing aspects to the industry to date. The list goes on; artificial intelligence is spreading
through the world in which we live, but it’s still far from ubiquitous.
However, one area where we’ve seen a lot of growth and evolution in recent years with regard to
artificial intelligence making its mark is in the area of digital customer service and support. More
specifically, on-site chatbots powered by artificial intelligence are a relatively new – and growing –
segment of the digital world.
While the days of basic “Ask Jeeves” type algorithms are far behind us and today’s chatbots are
exponentially better at answering questions and addressing comments than their earlier static
counterparts, many companies are now questioning the validity of continuing to use them. Why?
Because for now, having people answering chat inquiries provides a better experience than an AI-
powered chatbot. However, there are benefits and advantages to both solutions.
So which is better, chatbots or a live chat team? Let’s take a look.
No Matter How Hard You Try, You Can’t Cover Them All
Like all software, chatbots are only as good as their programming. And while artificial intelligence
has come leaps and bounds in recent years, in many ways it still leans much more to “artificial” than
“intelligence” when it comes to providing chat support.
You and your developer or digital service provider can spend hour upon hour attempting to pattern
answers for each and every question you think a client or potential customer may have, but you can
safely bet that sooner rather than later, someone is going to hit the system with a question the AI
simply doesn’t understand.
Whether the syntax is slightly off, the customer doesn’t speak English as a first language, the
keywords have been overlooked, or whatever the case may be, a chat system that can’t comprehend
the issues simply cannot provide viable resolutions. Even worse, the experience can become
frustrating for the visitor as they struggle to understand why the chat agent can’t understand them!
Chat teams made of real people, on the other hand, not only avoid misunderstanding simple typo
issues, keyword omissions, language-barriers, or other simple shortcomings, they can guide the
conversation in a more personable and personal manner. Additionally, Subject Matter Experts
(SMEs), knowledge bases and supplemental resources are readily available to most live teams, giving
them an even sharper edge over their AI counterparts.
As we all know, you can please some of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the
people all of the time. Your customers are going to have complaints and when they do, the last thing
they want to encounter is a chat system that expresses false empathy, provides incorrect diagnostics
or simply doesn’t understand the entire issue.
Again, you can attempt to program your chatbot with a vast library of preset questions,
troubleshooting steps, and issue resolving guidelines, but you can’t design true empathy. A chat
system staffed by live technicians provides that human element that just hasn’t quite been duplicated
at this point.
Just about every tech support agent will tell you that in a wide variety of cases empathy, sympathy,
and truly understand the frustration and disappointment that various situations can evoke is key to
successfully resolving issues to the customer’s satisfaction. The wrong customer on a wrong day with
just the right issue can result in loss of revenue, reputation and much more if not handled in a
satisfactory manner. With the stakes so high, is it truly wise to leave the answer to an AI-powered
Speaking of Coverage
The two main advantages that chatbots provide are the ability to offer “live” support 24×7 and to
provide support for whatever quantity of site visitor is in need of help. That is to say that all day,
every day, hundreds of site visitors can be chatting with an AI-powered chatbot. Meeting that same
support burden with real humans would quickly become untenable…not to mention expensive.
While around the clock support agents may be feasible for large corporations, most companies
simply believe that option is not a viable, budget-friendly solution. Bots are easily scalable, adjusting
the number of available “technicians” as needed and handling requests in a reasonable timeframe, no
matter the time of day or night.
A live chat team may be able to apologize and empathize with long wait times a lot better than their
AI alternatives, but when sales calls exceed expected volume and opportunities are lost due to
excessive hold times, it can be next to impossible to pull enough staff online to handle the influx
before frustrations begin costing the company in more ways than one.
When it comes to customer service, communication is not the only key, but how fast you respond to
any given inquiry will also reflect greatly on your company and brand. On average, companies
typically take up to 24 hours to respond to an email and 5 to 10 hours on average to reply to a social
It’s because of these extended wait periods that many consumers are simply foregoing those options
altogether and either turn to phone or chat support. Rare is the day that you meet someone that
hasn’t had a horrible experience with phone support hold times, and literally, nobody wants to spend
their lunch hour dealing with the purchase or technical issues…especially when a large part of that
time may be spent on hold or waiting for a response.
When it comes to having a chat team, wait times are much shorter than social media or email and
since agents can grab additional chat requests as soon as they appear, it’s generally more efficient
than phone support as well.
However, chatbots have an instant response. Within seconds of a customer posting an inquiry, a
chatbot can generally recognize the issue and generate an answer immediately. If you’re looking for
the hand’s down fastest response times, chatbots win.
The Human Element
AI has advanced so much that responses by chatbots can often mimic human answers to the point
that many times, customers don’t even notice that they’re speaking with a bot.
That being said, in the report last year, “The 2018 State of Chatbots Report: How Chatbots Are
Reshaping Online Experiences,” 43% of consumers polled said that they prefer to deal with a real-life
assistant. An additional 30% said they would shy away from using a chatbot because they are afraid
it would make mistakes.
While around 37% also said that they expect to encounter a chatbot when getting a quick answer in
an emergency, 34% said they would rather utilize a chatbot to help them find an actual customer
service associate to help with their issue or question.
As you can see, your customers likely still have reservations about using this technology.
Knowing When to Use as Well as What to Use
While chatbots definitely have their benefits and perks, nothing quite compares with the knowledge,
comprehension, and support that live chat teams provide. However, many companies are finding
that providing an amalgamation of the two options to be an avenue well-worth exploring.
By utilizing chatbots to handle basic requests and “training” them to hand off to a live chat session
with an actual human when appropriate, they can provide the best of both worlds. Depending on the
situation, the chatbot can continue the interaction or transfer the session to a specific department,
such as a sales inquiry going to sales, a tracking issue sent to shipping, and a tech support question
getting routed accordingly.
Still, others are using chatbots to cover the time when their chat teams are off-shift or to augment
their in-house staff in times of unexpected volume spikes.
In many areas, AI will likely never fully compare to actual humans. However, as it continues to
evolve and improve, it’s definitely a tool that will continue to aid and enhance our lives. And thanks
to the progress already made in the field of artificial intelligence, more and more companies are
choosing “both” not “either” to support customers and clients. If you are interested in learning how
chat technology can help your brand keep customers, prospects, and site visitors happy and coming
back for more then contact us today. Our team at Multidots supports some of the largest
organizations in the world by building intelligent support systems combining the best of artificial
intelligence and a human touch. We would love to help you do the same.