Live Chat vs. Chatbot: 9 Core Differences

Bhavna Gupta

May 16, 20247 min read

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Today, the modern customer expects quick and personalized support. Now, there are two popular ways to deliver this – Live chat and Chatbots. Both have their own pros and cons. 

Live chat uses customer support agents to provide humanized responses but chatbots can provide assistance 24/7. There are many other nuances as well.

So, who wins the battle of live chat vs. chatbot?  

As a customer support executive, what would you prioritize – the human touch or speed and agility? Moreover, is it feasible to integrate live chat and bots to get the best of both tools?

Confused? Fret not, we will help you figure all this out. Read on.

Table of Contents

Chatbot vs. live chat: Key differences 

Live chat and chatbots are the foundational pillars of customer service. While the former relies on human agents for support delivery, the latter relies on automation and artificial intelligence for the same.

Read More: What are the other Pillars of Good Customer Service? 

Let’s understand the differences between live chat and bots in detail below: 

Aspect 

Live Chat 

Chatbot 

Interaction 

Human-to-human interaction 

Human-to-machine interaction 

Real-time  

Provides responses in real-time within business hours 

Provides automated responses in real-time 24 x 7 

Personalization 

Can offer personalized assistance 

Limited personalization, based on programmed rules 

Scalability 

Limited by the availability of human agents 

Highly scalable, can handle multiple conversations parallelly and schedule callbacks 

Complexity 

Can handle complex queries and situations 

Limited to predefined responses and actions 

Training Required 

Human agents require training in customer service skills 

Chatbot requires programming and training in AI technologies 

Cost 

Generally higher costs due to human resources 

Often lower cost due to automation 

Maintenance 

Requires ongoing monitoring and training of agents 

Requires updates and maintenance of AI algorithms 

User Experience 

Offers a more personalized and empathetic experience 

Offers consistent and efficient responses, but may lack customer empathy 

 Now, let’s delve into the pros and cons of using each customer service strategy:   

Live chat entails real-time interaction between customers and support agents, outperforming automated chatbot interaction in terms of personalization. However, this doesn’t mean that live chat is free of drawbacks.   

Advantages of live chat: 

  • It is personalized, humanized assistance 

  • It can be used for driving cross-sells and upsells 

  • It can be used to address complex issues beyond the scope of chatbots 

 Suggested Reading: How Contact Centers Should Use Live Chat  

Disadvantages of live chat: 

  • It is costly and labor-intensive 

  • It can be delivered only through live agents during business hours 

  • It becomes insufficient when contact volume spikes 

  • It is handled 1-on-1 while other customers wait in the queue 

Chatbots refer to rule-based or AI-powered software that is capable of interacting with customers, delivering assistance and answers to their customers round the clock. Chatbots are famed for their prompt responses which appeal to click-happy customers. But, just like all technologies, customer service chatbots also come with a few disadvantages. Let’s discuss. 

 Advantages of chatbots: 

  • They can be used 24/7 with minimal or zero human intervention 

  • They can be implemented out of the box with quick time-to-market 

  • They can juggle multiple interactions simultaneously, reducing customer wait time 

  • They can handle routine issues independently, lowering the burden on customer service teams 

  • They can be integrated into popular digital channels like WhatsApp and Telecom 

Dive deeper: Top Benefits of Chatbots for Business in 2024   

Disadvantages of chatbots: 

  • They may not be able to address complex queries and customer service scenarios 

  • They entail hefty development costs and involve a learning curve for new users 

  • Their adoption is low amongst users who prefer traditional support tools like phone calls and email 

  • They may fumble with the interpretation of subtle emotions (like humor, satire, etc.) in conversations owing to faulty natural language processing algorithms 

Chatbots vs. live chat: How to choose your best fit 

When deciding between chatbots and live chat for your business, several factors should be considered. Both options can provide a positive user experience if implemented effectively, but there are potential drawbacks as well. 

For instance, if you manage a tech startup focused on software development, utilizing a chatbot might prove beneficial for quickly addressing common technical inquiries and guiding users through your product offerings. 

However, suppose you operate a boutique hotel with personalized services. Your guests might have various unique requests regarding room preferences or local recommendations. In such cases, guests may prefer engaging with a human concierge familiar with the hotel and its surroundings. 

The solution mentioned above presents a hybrid approach. You can direct users to specialized staff members for personalized assistance. Simultaneously, for routine inquiries like booking confirmations, employing a self-service chatbot can streamline the process and improve response times.

1. Speed of response 

✅ Chatbot scores 5/5 

❎ Live chat scores 3/5 

One primary benefit of chatbots is their ability to provide instant responses to customers, thereby eliminating any waiting time. This feature is particularly advantageous as customers generally dislike waiting.  

According to the latest AI statistics, nearly 87% of businesses report that conversational AI tools like chatbots help expedite complaint resolution while easing agent workload. Most customers consider immediate response to be crucial for good customer service. Furthermore, the study found that waiting for a reply is the most frustrating aspect of seeking assistance from a company. 

Now, with live chat, the average time to reply varies for different types of businesses and industries. However, it’s widely accepted that it should be less than three minutes. The global live chat average response time is less than a minute. 

In the world of online business, every extra second can determine whether a customer buys your product or leaves your website. And chatbots can definitely give you the upper hand here.

2. User experience 

✅ Chatbot scores 4/5 

✅ Live chat scores 4/5 

Instant responses undoubtedly lead to a good customer experience, but there are other critical factors too, including personalization, empathy and active listening.

Latest customer experience statistics indicate that 74% of customers want to feel understood and heard by the brands they patronize. Human agents and advanced conversational AI chatbots are both adept at understanding context and tailoring responses, making customers feel heard and understood.

💡Did you know: Today, there are generative AI-enriched bots capable of moderating response tone according to the scenario and customer sentiment. An irate customer will be greeted by an extra-empathetic bot that can easily pass off for a live agent. Check out a demo of Sprinklr’s generative AI-integrated platform to see how that happens! 

Read more: How Does Generative AI Improve Customer Experience 

3. Availability 

✅ Chatbot scores 5/5 

❎ Live chat scores 2/5 

Another advantage of chatbots lies in their ability to operate 24/7 without fatigue or downtime. This feature is particularly beneficial for companies striving to provide unbroken customer service but not having the resources to staff live chat continuously. Chatbots can handle the majority of customer inquiries and requests autonomously, without human intervention.

4. Personalized approach 

❎ Chatbot scores 2/5 

✅ Live chat scores 5/5 

The human touch of live agents is something no chatbot can replicate or surpass, no matter how advanced its technology. During live chat, agents can connect with customers, build a rapport with them and deliver memorable experiences that go beyond the immediate transaction. 

Chatbots, on the other hand, can miss the mark by giving inaccurate, irrelevant information that frustrates or worse, churns out customers. Today, there are generative AI-enriched bots that can replicate the human voice and deliver context-rich answers. 

🤖If you’re using one of these generative AI bots, it would be wise to assess their accuracy using a comprehensive framework.  

Sprinklr has devised a 5-step framework to evaluate generative AI bot accuracy for common pitfalls like hallucinations, plus: 

  •  Detailed evaluation steps 

  • Quick checklists 

  • Takeaways and expert insights 

5. Ease of implementation 

❎ Chatbot scores 2/5 

✅Live chat scores 5/5

Chatbots can be implemented via website and app widgets. Most conversational AI platform vendors provide plug-and-play chatbots that can answer routine questions right away, without any coding. Building custom chatbots entails training effort and some ramp-up time. It’s advisable to go for omnichannel bots that can be implemented across different channels with minor tweaks. 

To establish live chat, agents should be onboarded on one of the live chat solutions out there. These tools offer integration with your knowledge base, chatbots and CRM software to equip agents with all pertinent information and assistance. Unlike chatbots, live chat does not require the addition of any widgets, hence it’s easier to implement. 

6. Upfront and maintenance costs 

✅ Chatbot scores 4/5 

❎ Live chat scores 2/5 

While both chatbot and live chat software are reasonably priced, there are ongoing costs of maintenance to consider before we give our verdict. Chatbot vendors provide tiered plans with prohibitive chat volumes. If your chatbot handles more conversations than included in the scope of work, you will be charged extra. Customization and integrations might also be charged additionally.  

With live chat, there’s the issue of paying salaries to handle agents on a monthly or hourly basis. On top of this, there are hiring, training and retention costs that inflate the overall costs of live chat.

What’s our verdict?  

Overall, chatbots come out cheaper than live chat, especially if you use the basic, rule-based variety of chatbots. Enterprise chatbots are another story. They require costly design and coding expenditures to design custom intents and interfaces essential to cater to enterprise customers.

7. Features and integrations 

✅ Chatbot scores 4/5 

✅ Live chat scores 4/5 

Both live chat and chatbots are ripe with rich features and integrate with prevalent software for ticketing, CRM, marketing automation, sales and knowledge base. So, how do you compare your options?  Opt for tools that offer these essential features/functionalities: 

Conversational commerce in Sprinklr
  • 🤖Generative AI: Automates post-call work like case summarization and disposition, saving productive time. Also, ensure more first contact resolutions by moderating response tone to suit particular customer service scenarios. Additionally, gen AI surfaces helpful resources for agents and chatbots to share during interactions. 

Check out how Sprinklr’s genAI-enriched platform, Sprinklr AI+, summarizes cases in split seconds 👇

To summarize the comparison between live chat and chatbot, here’s a nifty table:  

Parameter 

Live Chat 

Chatbot 

Response Speed 

⭐⭐⭐ 

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐  

User Experience 

⭐⭐⭐⭐  

⭐⭐⭐⭐  

Availability  

⭐⭐  

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐  

Features & Integrations 

⭐⭐⭐⭐ 

⭐⭐⭐⭐  

Costs 

⭐⭐ 

⭐⭐⭐⭐  

Implementation Ease 

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐  

⭐⭐ 

Personalized Approach 

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐  

⭐⭐  

Combine chatbot and live chat and leverage both with Sprinklr

With an all-in-one customer service solution like Sprinklr, you can get the combined power of chatbots and live chat to drive speed, excellence and revenue with customer service.  Here’s how that happens: 

  • Add a live chat widget to your chatbots, allowing agents to take over complex conversations 

  • Identify common contact drivers that can be handled by bots independently 

  • Allow live chat agents to manually trigger bots in specific scenarios 

  • Schedule callbacks from agents via the bot interface 

 With Sprinklr, you can use both tools seamlessly and delight your audience with prompt, personalized and relevant support.

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