What are the differences between Live Chat and Chatbots?

Live chat vs chatbot

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What are the differences between live chat and chatbots?

The ways customers communicate with businesses have changed dramatically over the last 5 years, thanks to technologies such as live chat and chatbots.

Now as many as 62% of customers expect a chat option to be on your website, according to Forrester.

For many smaller businesses, adding a chat channel to their offering seems daunting. Many don’t understand the differences between the services available and are nervous to explore further. This attitude is likely to mean they are quickly left behind.

So what are the key differences between live chat and chatbots?

What you need to know

A true ‘live chat’ is a web chat that is answered on the other end by a real human. Perhaps you go on a website and a chat bubble pops up, you click on it, type your question and then wait. With live chat, the message you receive will have been sent by a person in real-time on the other end.

In a lot of cases, the responses can be a form of pre-written skeleton reply, which an agent will use as a template to expand upon. Alternatively, in some cases, it could be a completely free text answer. It will depend on many things such as the provider, the time of day, or the complexity of the conversations.

On the other hand, chatbots are exactly what they sound like – robots. They are a form of AI which is designed to simulate the interactions a real human would have with a customer.

Because bots are feeding back automated responses, they require programming. You need to know the types of questions people are likely to ask and create stock answers and decision trees around how you want these questions answered.

How to use them

A bit of clever programming can go a long way with bots. Many people use a bot in the first instance, to answer very simple issues, or gather basic info, and then the chat will move to a human. This initial automated stage acts a bit like an IVR on a phone line. This is where you are directed to respond with a number selection in order to get yourself sent to the right person to speak to. Simple automation like this could save your customer care team a great deal of time.

Back in 2015, ICMI told us that more than half of all customers prefer to chat with someone in real-time and online, rather than call a phone number for help.

If however, you feel a bot doesn’t show the empathy you require – use live chat. Having a real person respond to enquiries through chat is fast and, for many small businesses, cost-effective.


Since 2015, the number of chats and chat users has only increased, as the new generation of customer comes into the limelight. Have a think back; in your last 5 interactions with companies, how many times have you used a web chat if it was offered? It’s going to be more important than ever to offer one type of chat service or another. You need to consider whether live chat or a bot will be the best fit for your business.

If you need advice on this, speak to our experts today.

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