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    Picture of Sam Meza
    By Sam Meza in December, 2019 | 5 minute read

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    Chatbot vs. Live Chat: Which One Should You Use?

    As chat becomes a standard channel of communication, understanding when to use a chatbot vs. live chat is crucial. Learn when to use a chatbot to save time and resources, as well as when a live chat option is the best choice.


    With 79% of businesses saying that live chat has had a positive effect on sales, revenue, and customer loyalty, it's no wonder that it's becoming an increasingly crucial staple in the world of customer service and delight. Similarly, chatbots can also be a useful tool to help businesses save up to 30% on customer support costs.

    Both live chat and chatbots are worthwhile investments for businesses across industries. But which one should you use?

    When to Use a Chatbot

    Here are the top four times where using chatbots is the ideal option for your company:

    1) To Greet and Route Users

    One of the best ways to use chatbots is to streamline your incoming chats. The chatbot can provide a friendly introduction and ask some simple questions to help connect the user with someone who can best assist them.

    To use a chatbot to greet and route users, you’ll have to determine the different routing options that are available within your company. For example, you may want to segment inquiries by the department, such as billing, customer support, or sales. Another option would be to route incoming chats for new vs. existing customers.

    A marketing chatbot can be set up to ask for their name and contact information, then to inquire about the basis of their issue. From there, they can connect the user to the appropriate live person for further help.

    2) To Qualify Leads

    Chatbots are great for collecting information. They can be set up to ask specific questions and follow different branch paths based on the user’s answers.

    To use a chatbot to qualify leads, you’ll have to determine your qualifications as well as the desired outcomes for both qualified and unqualified users. For example, you may want to use a chatbot to book meetings with decision-makers, but you don’t want to book meetings with people who are in a less authoritative role. Your chatbot could ask the user for their title or position, then continue the conversation accordingly based on their answer.

    In this case, your qualification is job title or position, your desired outcome for qualified users is a booked meeting, and your desired outcome for unqualified leads could be to provide content that they could share with the decision-makers.

    3) To Offer Support When No Humans Are Available

    Most SMBs don’t have the resources to be available for live chat 24-7. Chatbots can help fill the gap, especially since 64% of users say that 24-hour service is the best chatbot feature.

    One simple practice that many businesses have adopted is to use live chat during business hours and employ a chatbot during off-hours. This can be a better option than having your chat functionality be unavailable and thus losing out on potential inquiries simply due to timing.

    4) To Answer FAQs

    When you’ve been in business for a while, you’ll likely start to notice patterns in the questions that you get asked. A marketing chatbot can be used to answer the most commonly asked questions, saving both you and the user valuable time. In fact, 55% of respondents say they would most enjoy getting an instant response and answers to simple questions from a chatbot.

    Think of this type of chatbot as a sort of modernized automated telephone service. It can provide business hours, contact information, product options, and support documents to quickly help the user find what they’re looking for.

    Just as with the automated phone systems, however, beware of frustrating your users with overly complicated or redundant options. Keep it simple and, whenever possible, always provide the option to transfer to a live human instead.

    The Ultimate Guide To Customer Service 101

    When to Use HubSpot Live Chat

    Using chatbots is an excellent addition to your lead nurturing strategy, but until the robot revolution occurs (2125, maybe?), they can’t replace human interactions. When it comes to the chatbot vs. live chat debate, here are the top four times you should use live chat:

    1) To Provide Pricing Options or Quotes

    Users with questions about pricing or quotes are likely very warm and ready to buy. These delicate situations are best handled by a trained sales rep who can promptly respond to their questions and offer options to better meet their needs.

    When their money's on the line, users want to make sure it’s being spent on the right stuff. 30% of people worry that a chatbot would make a mistake, such as purchasing the wrong item or making the wrong reservation. Talking to a live person helps users feel more confident in their purchase and allows your sales team to do what they do best — sell!

    2) To Respond to Negative Feedback

    Responding to negative feedback can be an unforgiving obstacle course. It requires a level of finesse that can only come from a live human empathizing with and responding to the user.

    While AI is certainly growing in its ability to interpret context, most basic chatbots are not able to pick up on the clues and tones of language the way that a live person can.

    Moreover, the pre-scripted responses of chatbots can be frustrating for your already agitated users. It’s not worth the risk of escalating a situation that could be more efficiently resolved by a simple chat with a real person.

    3) To Answer Complex Questions

    Though businesses find chatbots incredibly useful, 47% of users feel that chatbots give too many unhelpful responses. That’s why they should be reserved for specific situations, while real people should handle more complex chats.

    What qualifies as a complex question? That might vary from business to business. Generally, if your answer to a question stays the same no matter who asks it, it can probably be handled by a chatbot. If your answer to a question changes based on various situations or variables, it should probably be handled by a live person.

    4) To Ask Open-Ended or a High Volume of Questions

    Basic marketing chatbots ask a question and provide a set of answers for the user to choose from. They often disable the user’s ability to type in an open-ended response due to the chatbot’s limited ability to interpret long-form responses.

    In situations where you want to ask the user open-ended questions, HubSpot live chat is the preferable option. In addition to asking the open-ended question, you can then ask follow-up questions based on their responses. This type of tailored experience can be challenging to create in chatbot form since it can’t think on the fly as a person can.

    Live chat is also better suited for asking a high volume of questions. Most people don’t mind answering a few qualifying questions for a chatbot, but being asked an influx of questions by a chatbot can be annoying. A live person can work the questions into the conversation more naturally to improve the user’s experience.

    Chatbot vs. Live Chat

    In the end, a simple answer is that you should be using both a chatbot and live chat. Each comes with its own benefits and challenges, but they are stronger when used in conjunction!

    The Ultimate Guide To Customer Service 101

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