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Chatbot vs. Live Chat: What Conversational Marketing Tool is Best for You?

Live Chat vs. Chatbots

On 7 February, The Chat Shop’s Co-Founder and Director delivered this talk on conversational marketing technologies and strategy to the UK Contact Centre Forum. Conversational marketing helps brands in any industry connect with their customers in digital through live chat solutions and chatbots. At The Chat Shop, we have just a bit of experience in that space; we operate and optimize managed live chat services across the UK and the US, chatting on behalf of our clients. We also build customized chatbot solutions. And we seem to be doing something right because the UKCCF has been kind enough to give us a few of their awards for customer service.

We live in the on-demand world

We live in the on-demand world. I can get a cab, I can book hotel room and I can get my laundry picked up on my schedule using only an app in my phone. I can talk to you how I want, I can talk to you when I want and I can consume what I want on my terms, as a consumer.

The intersection of speed and access opens up the on-demand world. Brands invest in meeting consumers in the channels they use, delivering excellent experiences in those channels and enabling ease of conversion in those channels.

TL;DR Brands are trying to keep up with consumer expectations of ease of access to get more revenue.

But there’s another trend that’s complicating every brand’s smooth journey to meet consumers in the on-demand world. Accenture calls it liquid expectations. What this means is instead of your brand competing with your competitors in terms of service experience, you’re competing with any company your customer might touch in terms of service experience.

Your brand now has to be aware of service delivery across industries. For example: “If I can do this on a cab app in two clicks, why do I have to spend half an hour on the phone to switch my energy provider?”

Customer expectations are now not necessarily in your hands; they’re driven by leaders in the market (whatever market that is) who can meet consumers in the on-demand world.

The takeaway: It’s no longer good enough to look in your market and say, “Oh, okay, this company is terrible and we’re a little bit better, so we must be winning.” That’s not really how we’re going to cut the mustard as a strategy anymore.

Why chat is the channel for on-demand

Conversational marketing tools like live chat and chatbots comprise the only digital, real-time channels that allows you to interact when someone is “in your store” (eg on your brand’s owned website). Every other conversation happens pre or post transaction, from advertising through to fulfillment. That level of consumer access is a game changer.

Because live chat and chatbots enable real-time conversation, they allow brands to alter a shopper’s behavior. Everything else is asynchronous. Further, the digital world is open 24/7. More brands are offering an always-on service proposition and this access is becoming a baseline expectation to a lot of customers.

In the same way no high street retailer would have an empty shop during trading hours, if you’re not practicing conversational marketing with live chat or chatbots on your brand’s website, you’re basically inviting loads of people to an empty store.

And live chat or chatbots’ impact isn’t specific to ecommerce and retail. You wouldn’t walk into a car dealership and not have a car dealer. You wouldn’t walk into a lawyer’s office and not have a lawyer. You wouldn’t walk into a dentist’s office and not speak to a receptionist. The list goes on.

24/7, chat is positioned to capture and convert your website visitors. And that important point brought up earlier about on-demand service being scored against access and speed? Don’t forget that chat is faster than all other service and sales channels, including the phone.  

The takeaway: Chat enables brands to bring in additional revenue by catering to on-demand consumers.

Live chat

Live chat has been around for awhile. But it is much more powerful than most brands realize or are willing to invest in. To get the most out of live chat, brands need to identify their business goals and develop an effective live chat strategy that can help them deliver on specific objectives.

Check out our video on live chat for business growth  

48% of prospects would rather connect with a company through live chat than any other means of contact, and in some B2B services, actually 77% of customers won’t consider a purchase if live chat is not available.

The Chat Shop has worked with live chat for seven years; one of the really interesting things that we’ve seen is that brands that come to us have an existing chat program because they think they’re supposed to have chat.

That’s the extent of their thinking about it. Which is fine. At least new channels are being tested.

But with this thinking, brands are missing out on revenue opportunity. As a brand, you must start viewing the customer contact journey out of the customer service silo with the live chat channel. Consider the people staffing your live chat, the measurable variables you can test in chat and the incremental revenue you can drive from deploying the channel across the buying journey.

TL;DR Don’t just add live chat because you think you should have it. Understand the goals it should help you achieve and monitor its efficacy with rigorous live chat quality assurance and live chat KPIs.

Chatbots

Chatbots are becoming excellent tools to deploy as part of your conversational marketing portfolio. However, the worst (and most common, in our experience) assumption most brands make when starting a chatbot program is this: You can just get a chatbot and it’ll know everything it needs to know.

Chatbot technology isn’t really that smart. Out-of-the-box solutions that work exactly how your business want and reflect your brand well in interactions with consumers are years away. Right now, the best this technology can do is basic semantic matching on its own.

If you’re considering using a chatbot as part of your conversational marketing approach, you need to plan, strategize, develop, deploy, optimize, train, update and monitor the software. You need to test it rigorously and ensure that the conversation flows and stories resolve customer queries and dispatch important consumer data in a compliant and iterative way.

Why do chatbots require this much oversight? Because they’re not people. They can’t bring a problem to management and provide feedback. They’re only as good as the software they rely on.

Now, that doesn’t mean chatbots chat crap. They’re incredibly useful and easily developed and trained to succeed in defined processes and deal with routine FAQs.

In activities where brands are trying to drive conversations that are processual, like changing a billing address, checking order status or finding the closest branch, chatbots shine across sales and service.

So, what’s the right conversational marketing tool for me?

The easiest way to evaluate how you can get started with conversational marketing is to audit your products and your sales process to understand where conversations will fit into your customer contact.

capabilities matrix

Simple Sales

Say your brand sells tea cups. Your marketing relies heavily on activating a large email database and nurturing that database. However, your challenge is acquiring emails in lead capture forms.

Your requirements are processual and your brand’s sales objectives are relatively simple to execute on once you’ve captured a lead’s contact information. There’s a strong case for you to implement a chatbot to drive more leads.

Simple Support

You’re still selling tea cups. Sometimes they break and your company has a free replacement warranty. It’s a straightforward process once a customer comes to you; your brand simply fulfills the replacement ASAP upon delivery of a valid SKU and customer ID.

Instead of having a customer call in with that SKU and their customer ID for a replacement, you can deflect simple service requests and resolve time-consuming admin tasks with a chatbot. Your people can focus on more important things like VIP account support.

Complex Sales and Support

If you’re selling cars, engagement rings, satellites, mattresses or a high value service, think about your ICP and existing customer base. Your brand likely spends a lot of time (and money) not only on products, but on bringing those products to market. Your brand likely relies heavily on relationships. Your brand sells big ticket items and you have to live with long buying cycles and customers who research you and everyone else in your market.

Your conversations in digital should probably be handled by a knowledge human live chat agent. For sales and support, these big ticket items rely too much on a customer experience that is flawless and authentic and can understand and digest questions that go far off the FAQ script you can feed to a chatbot.

You’re looking at live chat support services rather than chatbots.

If you’re looking to grow your business in 2019 and beyond, you need to make sure your digital engagement strategy is aligned with your marketing, customer service and brand goals.

Need a little extra help?

Take our conversational marketing quiz to discover the right chat tool for your business here.

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