Live Chat Bots and Customer Service:

More and more websites are integrating Live Chat bots onto their websites. That small speech bubble symbol is quickly becoming a familiar sight in the bottom right-hand corner of our screens.

Love it or loathe it, it’s here to stay!

But, are they an annoying and intrusive distraction to user experience, or an inevitable consequence of the evolution of conversational marketing?

Hubspot research reinforces how customers are continuing to demonstrate less patience and become more focused on a personalised service with instant gratification.

So, is the rise of the machines simply a reaction to changing consumer habits?

Frustrations of customer service graph

It’s true that a live chat bot can potentially solve 4 out of the 5 issues above, but does that mean that they’re a solution for everyone?

The use of chatbots by 2020

Just because the usage trend is increasing, doesn’t necessarily mean Chat Bots are a good fit for every business.

Live chat support isn’t a stand-alone ‘set and forget’ business tool. When integrated correctly it can help to synergise marketing, sales and customer sales team functions. It can also act as a great source of continual feedback, as well as automating certain aspects of time-consuming customer services.

However, if there is an expectancy that live chat is a solution to a system or process that is already failing within a business – think again!

In this article we’ll uncover the pros and cons of live chat bots. We’ll also discuss the advantages and disadvantages of human operated live chat support.

Striking the right balance between humans and machines seems to be the biggest challenge facing live web chat. As well as making it a commercially viable way to offer online support.

Check out this link for a Brief History of Chatbots:

Live Web Chat:

Before looking at the relative advantages and disadvantages of the human and bot versions of live chat we’ll look at the pros and cons of instant access online support in general.

Pros of Live Chat Support:

  • Allows a customer to multi-task during chat whereas a phone call makes this process much harder.
  • Is accessible to those who are hard-of-hearing and people who don’t like to talk on the phone for fear of conflict or lack of understanding.
  • Permits increased lead and information capture. Chat transcripts can be useful customer analysis content for feedback gathering
  • Frees up time and resources.
  • At the right times it can be used to upsell, offer discount codes or suggest alternative products.
  • Instant gratification, with very short wait times. Check out the results below from a 1000 website study

response times for live chat support graph

  • Increasingly sophisticated artificial intelligence drives the conversational marketing abilities of chat bots. This drives commercial viability.
  • Works on both desktop and mobile devices.
  • Can help to highlight areas where the main content and user experience (UX) of a website may need to be changed or additional information added that may help increase future conversion rates (CRO).
  • Provides a communication channel as well as a data and information vault for consumer queries, problems and pain points.
  • Customers don’t have to repeat their query/concern to numerous people – chat transcripts can be transferred ‘live’ between departments (or bot to human).
  • Can create an additional, automated revenue stream for certain types of business.

Cons of Live Chat Support:

  • Some people find it intrusive to be asked ‘can I help you’ as soon as they arrive on a site – similar to retail when an assistant asks if they can help as soon as you walk in.
  • Destroys the design UX of a site, can sometimes impede navigation.
  • Some people don’t like ‘talking to a machine’, or trying to initiate a conversation when met with obvious scripted responses.
  • Can sometimes be difficult to use on mobile devices due to small window sizes and dropped connections.
  • Can quickly be detrimental to ‘Customer Service’ perception if they are used incorrectly or if they go wrong.
  • It can mistakenly be seen as a sales tool when primarily (at least at the moment) it is a Customer Service tool – making it much more important to get right. It’s much more damaging to lose a customer than to lose a sale.
  • ‘Live’ Chat can still experience long wait times and at worse be completely ignored if not managed correctly.

It can be argued, that the introduction of Live Chat and its subsequent development has been in a direct response to consumer needs and behaviour.

As we saw from the Hubspot research results earlier, consumers want quicker answers, less waiting and more efficient ways to avoid repeating questions and queries between departments.

The challenge is to strike a commercially viable balance between staffed support and utilising live chat bots.

An ideal scenario would be to utilise existing customer information and data to provide a seamless and efficient experience that utilises both technology and human input.

chat bots, humans and data all working together

However, should they try to operate individually without the others input, both humans and machines offer their own advantages and disadvantages:

Humans Live Chat

Pros:

  • Should always be able to provide a 100% satisfactory experience. Ideally closing a customer interaction with one chat.
  • Bigger brands are integrating live video chat too – human face as well as a voice – creating an immersive one-to-one personalised service.
  • Can help ensure good customer service and engagement and can turn a detractor into an advocate (in an ideal scenario!).
  • They can adapt quickly to the behaviours and attitudes of individual customers.
  • Humans provide empathy and understanding for complex issues.

Cons:

  • Relatively expensive when compared against automated chat bots (free trials usually allow for a monthly ‘try before you buy’ to assess the commercial viability).
  • Difficult to scale quickly and easily without disruption.
  • Restricted hours – financially difficult to provide a 24/7 service.
  • Lack of knowledge/understanding (accountability) if a 3rd party service is used (often following a script or template).
  • Can only deal with a certain number of customer queries (perhaps 2 or 3 at once) that negatively affects response and wait times.

Costs:

In House – Staffing costs and training, initial set up and integration

3rd Party (Global): Chat Heroes £150/month 50 Chats 30 Days Free Trial

3rd Party (UK based): Zen Desk 

zen desk human chat support packages

Live Chat Bots

Pros:

  • Can take the customer down “popular’ pre-defined buying and/or informational journeys.
  • Quick answers to FAQs.
  • 24/7 Availability – easily and quickly scalable – (both up and down).
  • Customised and scripted responses can be programmed.
  • Responsive and provides a smooth path to purchase – particularly in e-Commerce.
  • Can deal with initial security questions and GDPR in an automated format to reduce customer waiting time.

Cons:

  • Hard to deal with complex queries.
  • Not a personalised experience and will lack deeper understanding and empathy.
  • Frustrating answers when questions aren’t understood or are misinterpreted.
  • Can feel very wooden and automated.
  • Imperfect language can quickly confuse a pre-programmed response software set-up.

Costs: (Resources and Money)

Customisable chatbots: Smartsupp

Chat software integration and set up costs:

Be sure to be aware of additional charges over contracted chats and how an actual ‘conversation’ is measured

3rd Party (Global): ChatBot $50/month for up to 1000 Conversations

3rd Party (UK Based): Hotcomm

Customer Expectations:

Can you tell the difference between an automated and human customer service support?

Would it bother you to have your query dealt with by a machine if it were able to guide you through the same customer journey and reach the same answer or conclusion as a human?

Chat Bots can initiate a chat then pass over to a human after a certain time, or if the chat gets complex or beyond the realms of the bot programming.

More and more bots are being used to answer security and GDPR related questions to reduce waiting times and manage customer expectations. Having information up front allows a more ‘personalised’ chat and a reduced handle time – 2 major pain points for users.

The Future of Live Chat Support:

Live chat and online support have to be used in the right way to compliment the overall customer experience.

Different types and sizes of business have opportunities to use live chat support in different ways. It is important to ensure that the use of live chat has a positive effect, and aligns with your business goals, staffing levels and budgets.

It is also an adaptable tool, so measure the use and success against pre-determined KPIs or targets.

Live chat support is not a quick fix for an already broken sales/marketing or customer services department. It should be built with the foundations of offering increased value and/or service and not as a stand-alone replacement.

It’s also important to make use of the data that live chat can gather: share the information available at all levels of the company so that everyone can benefit.

This data allows analysis of customer behaviours, buying habits and pain points that will feed into the development of live chat support systems. It can help the allocation of resources to improve problems and highlighted areas of weakness or underinvestment.

Be sure to ask for feedback at the end of a chat: email the transcript and ask if you can help with anything else. These automated tasks can help increase customer retention and further brand trust.

Live Chat will start to incorporate more Live Video calling, and advancing technology will make it more accessible to all types and sizes of organisation.

We would expect both artificial intelligence (AI) and augmented reality (AR) to also weigh in with more innovation, providing immersive experiences in the never ending mission to keep customers happy!