Chatbots, Live Chat & "Meet with Me" Apps: the Growing Self-Service Side of Sales

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Today, when we want to learn more about a company, browse for products, or find a place to eat, just about every single one of us with internet access starts with an online search. These search engines are powered by self-improving algorithms that make it easier to find exactly what we’re looking for. Many businesses understand this trend of using technology to get answers and have begun incorporating similar tools right on their homepage. When a customer has a question, concern, or needs help navigating the website, they are now often aided by a chatbot, a technology strategy that’s already proving very useful for businesses.

What are Chatbots?

If you’ve been online at all over the past five years or so, chances are you’ve come into contact with a chatbot without even knowing it. Chatbots come in two main forms: artificially intelligent programs that use Natural Language Processing (NLP) to decode text (or speech) and produce responses based on that data; or, pre-scripted programs that are coded to recognize specific patterns of words and respond in automated ways. Software developers typically code these programs to replicate human interaction as closely as possible so the customer has a familiar and pleasant experience.

Just as a search engine analyzes the questions and keywords provided by the user, chatbots do the same. Users can input their query and the chatbot will do its best, using all the information at its disposal, to respond with something useful. Many sites will let a customer know, upon visiting, that a chat service is available if help is needed, prompting the visitor to interact with the bot.

Chatbots Vs. Live Chat

Sometimes the prompt to “speak with someone now” actually refers to another human being. Before chatbots became technologically viable, this was how businesses provided self-service solutions to their customers, and it’s still a common practice today. But which of these technology solutions is better for businesses?

Of course, many customers still prefer writing to or speaking with another person rather than a digital algorithm. In this way, live chat doesn’t just help customers find out more about your company, it helps connect them to it as well. The “live” component is also huge. No one likes waiting several businesses days to finally get an email back that may be automated anyway. The modern consumer simply won’t wait for answers anymore, so immediate services win, live or automated. Of course, live chat often yields better, more focused answers than chatbots, which might provide irrelevant information or oversimplified solutions.

While live chat has an edge over chatbots in terms of personalization, chatbots win in the cost and efficiency departments. Aside from the costs to purchase and run whichever chatbot software your business will use, digital algorithms don’t require wages, salaries, vacation, or sick days. These bots are on 24/7, respond quicker than humans, and save companies a lot of money each year. Any IT support you need to fix a bug or restart the program amounts to a negligible cost compared to hiring more customer service representatives.

Is Chatbot-Based Self-Service the Future?

The record already shows that self-service is the way forward for businesses to make more sales and help and engage customers. The question remains, however, whether or not chatbots will ultimately supersede live chat services. It seems likely. The more advanced AI gets and the more data chatbots can access, they will more convincingly mimic human responses. Until then, these bots still require IT companies to keep them running properly. But every day we get closer to an automated world.

At Affinity Technology Partners, we know that it’s necessary for businesses to stay on top of the latest technology trends, including chatbots and live chat integration. Our IT services help businesses manage all their technology needs and stay ahead of the curve. For more information on our services, call us at (615)-372-0300.