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When to Use A Chatbot vs a Live Chat Agent?



Gartner predicts chatbots will power 85% of customer support services by next year. They’re high on their own supply. While chatbots aren’t as ubiquitous as predicted, there are strategic reasons you’d use one, just as there are strategic reasons to use live chat agents.

We implement chatbots and agents for clients so we’re sharing our strategies with you so you can decide what’s best for your situation.

You have to train chatbots to understand customer intent and feed the chatbot variations of questions and responses. You need to turn large volumes of unstructured data to structured data or said another way, you’ll want to look through actual conversation transcripts and turn them into data to train the bot. You’ll need substantial service experience to tell your bot, “Here are all the ways people ask X. Respond with Y.”

Most don’t realize you need to feed AI material and constantly train it for unrecognized phrases for it to recognize and learn your customer’s language and needs. Without all the dialogue, your bot will perform poorly, frustrate your customers, and you’ll quickly pull the plug.

From a user standpoint, people like chatbots for simple stuff. Non-conversational, straightforward questions that elicit simple responses. Beyond that, humans prefer humans because we can handle complexity and empathy.

Related: Everything You Need to Go Live With Live Chat

Think about the last time you called a company and their routing machine picked up: “Thank you for calling ABC. To ensure quality assurance, your call may be recorded and monitored. Press one for X, press two for Y, press three for Z or press pound to repeat the options.”

How many times have you tuned out, repeated the options and hung up?

Or when you just needed to talk to a human, did you yell, “Representative” to cut the crap and have a real person help you?

Yeah, we thought so.

You hate the automation because your questions are complex. Chatbots won’t help; you need a real person. Chatbots currently can’t handle complex emotions and syntax riddled in customer queries and people don’t know exactly how to phrase something to get the bot to work.

The bottom line: Trying to generate leads, set appointments or manage complex customer service questions? Chatbot won’t help right now.

Chatbots make sense for your business when:

  • You have a large bank of customer service data to train your bot.
  • Your customer queries are about hours, contact info, and location.
  • Your customer queries are about order status or appt rescheduling.
  • You need after-hours live chat support without agents.
  • Your customers need help with bill pay.

Chatbots don’t make sense for your business when:

  • You don’t have volumes of service data to train your bot.
  • Your customer queries are about lead generation.
  • Your customers need to schedule appointments.
  • Your sales process includes upselling cart value.
  • Your products and sales processes are complex.

Chatbots aren’t for every business, but every company can implement an AI strategy. Bots can compile large quantities of information and train alongside live chat agents. Over time, you could switch over to a full-time bot if the questions are straightforward. But until bots advance, agents are still better for complex products or services.

When a chatbot can’t handle the complexity, then it’s best to opt for a live chat agent. Plus, 73% of consumers prefer agents to bots, and 63% of customers prefer companies with real agents. Real agents can take your game to the next level, but which is better for you — overseas or US-based agents?

Historically, companies preferred overseas agents because they were cost-effective. But because foreign agents train on FAQs and scripts (like bots), AI is eating into the market.

Bots can do the same thing — respond to FAQs with preprogrammed scripts, but at half the cost.

The bottom line: If you think overseas agents are great for you, then chatbots are also great options too.

When chatbots don’t cut it, then it’s time to consider highly-trained, US-based agents.

The ROI on a live chat agent with Flow is a no-brainer when you have over 10,000 visitors per month and a lifetime value or average order size of $1,000 or more. It’s a sliding scale from there — less traffic, the higher the order size should be. Then determine if you need native speakers, great first impressions, and sales language.

The choice is a no-brainer — US-based live chat agent all the way.

You know communication is everything in customer service. Powerful conversations leave lasting impressions and less money on the table. When you choose US-based agents, you ditch cookie-cutter answers and robotic replies. You opt for the power of personalized conversations tailored to individual consumers.

Related: How to Get a Customer-Obsessed Reputation With Live Chat

Also, US-based live chat agents can do double duty. While providing customer service, they can up-sell products and conversions. Great for improving cart values and scheduling more appointments.

The bottom line: Lower cost structure plus better customer service and increased sales, equals huge ROI from US-based live chat agents.

US-based live chat agents make sense for your business when:

  • Your products and services have a consumer lifetime value over $1K.
  • You have over 5,000 visitors to your website each month.
  • Your customer queries are complex, and you need humans to take charge.
  • Your business wants to drive service while up-selling cart values and setting appointments.
  • Your business does not have customer service data to transition to bots first.

US-based live chat agents don’t make sense for your business when:

  • Your business can switch from overseas to chatbots for basic, FAQ questions.
  • Your business is small, with less than 5,000 visitors in web traffic.
  • Your product and service are less than $1K in consumer value.

Humans like talking to humans. Fewer people shouting, “Representative!” and more personalized interactions will upgrade your customer service.

You have a ton of chatbot and US-based live chat services demanding your attention.

At Flow, we deliver low-cost US-based live chat because our agents are apprentices. While handling live chat full time, they also attend classes to build their career path. It’s a part of our grand plan as a B Corp to close Colorado’s education gap.

Our model allows us to recruit and retain top talent at a lower price point than our competitors. We understand how frustrating and expensive training a new employee is after one dips out. So we solved that problem for you.

Our agents have a low turnover because they’re committed to their career paths, which we provide. This means when you work with Flow’s US-based live chat agents, you have:

  1. A dedicated team to stay with you long-term.
  2. An expert team that knows your business as well as you do.

We’re proud to say our apprenticeship program is working. This year B Lab nominated Flow as a “Best For The World Honoree.” We’re top 10% of all B Corps worldwide.

By hiring us, you provide our agents with a future in content marketing — an opportunity to realize their full potential without needing to graduate from college.

The big picture: You lower costs, improve performance, and increase sales all while contributing to the greater good.

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