4 Ways That Live Chat, as in 'Human' Chat, Still Beats Out the Bots

AI-lead technology is improving, but the advantages described here illustrate how human-first messaging still beats chatbots.

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By Shay Berman

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The Super Bowl is always a huge event in advertising and marketing. This year, though? It was a big moment for chatbot support. Brands all across the internet, including Kia and Domino's Pizza, launched (Kia) or expanded (Domino's) their chatbot systems during American football's biggest game. While chatbots are nothing new -- they've been around since the '70s -- they became one of the hot topics in marketing in 2018.

That doesn't exclude humans, however. Because another interesting dynamic that emerged during the Super Bowl was human-first messaging -- also called live chat, meaning real-time conversations between customers and service representatives using special software.

Live chat has been around since the early 2000s. Yes, with the emergence of AI-driven technologies, more and more brands are using chatbots for customer service. But it's been telling that the messaging that brands using live chat want to convey is that they believe in humans, not robots. Yes, AI-led technology like chatbots is starting to saturate the digital marketplace. But humans aren't going anywhere anytime soon.

Related: 4 Uses for a Chatbot That Will Transform Your Business

Chatbots' contribution

Chatbots are great for an always-on solution, and the technology is well-suited to answering FAQs. That said, each response must be individually programmed, producing some obvious limitations. If a customer is asking a complicated question -- or even a simple question in a complicated way -- the old-fashioned human service agent quickly regains the upper hand.

In addition to obvious language-processing advantages, human agents can alter their tone to fit an individual conversation, and they can respond to highly varied queries and situations. Ultimately, real and live communication allows for a level of engagement that software can't yet match. With actual conversations, business owners can unlock valuable insights about their product offerings and their customers.

How to beat the bots

Even for large businesses with lots of customers, such as AT&T and Comcast, live chat plays an important role. On the Comcast website, users can click a yellow tab to connect with a human representative, straight from the home page. With a single line of code, almost any business can get a live chat service up and running. To maximize live chat in ways that will outperform chatbots, follow these four steps.

Related: How to Use Live Chat on Your Website to Maximize Conversions

1. Add on-brand personality.

For all the hype surrounding it, artificial intelligence still feels … artificial. That's because chatbots can respond only to certain queries they've been taught, and only with certain pre-programmed responses. Their language usually lacks flavor and can come off as cold and robotic. Live chat, on the other hand, can be flexible.

In fact, live-chat personnel can be taught how to communicate "on brand," whether that means the professional and responsible verbiage of Betterment's new client-onboarding chat or the cheeky and irreverent tone of Dollar Shave Club's highly trained Club Pros. By making the up-front investment to train your service personnel, you can ensure that your company-chat program will improve engagement and customer satisfaction.

2. Engage with context.

Because Canyon Bicycles serves customers around the globe, website visitors are automatically routed to a live-chat specialist who speaks their language. Context is everything, and visitors will appreciate a chat experience that shows that a company knows how to incorporate context into interactions. Almost 30 percent of consumers in a survey reported by Kayako said they found scripted responses to be the most frustrating experience of live chat.

To get around this, create triggers when customers click on various pages of an FAQ; that will connect them with the right live-chat personnel. If a customer is looking for information about making a return, live-chat windows should put them in touch with the returns department instead of sales. If customers have made purchases before, live-chat employees can thank them for their loyalty and offer them discounts on their next purchases.

Related: Is Your Customer Support on Life Support?

3. Respond like lightning.

Although chatbots can carry on any number of conversations at once, live-chat personnel can't. The advantages of live chat can outweigh this limitation in many cases, but only if employees can respond as fast as the AI-powered competition.

Create a system that pings employees as soon as users visit a site, and ensure that employees keep live chat open on both desktop workstations and mobile devices so they can answer customer queries from anywhere. Include several different initial greetings to help employees process communications quickly and efficiently while still allowing them to deliver a more comprehensive level of service than that offered by a chatbot.

4. Track ROI and results.

The success of early live-chat implementations will need to be measured so that adjustments and corrections can be made over time. For example, if your customers are having trouble initiating a chat session during certain hours, you might find it useful to move personnel around or hire additional employees to meet the need. If chat satisfaction is low, that could be a sign that agents are attempting to handle too many chats simultaneously or need more training on how to direct inquiries.

If your KPIs indicate that live chat is more expensive than it's worth, consider outsourcing capabilities to a third party. Live-chat success stories are everywhere: Tradeshift used the tech to increase sales opportunities by 32 percent, while Put.io cut churn by 14 percent. If outsourcing can help produce big benefits, it makes sense to try it.

More and more customers are interacting with companies via live chat, and businesses are quickly responding to enable the transition. Improve your own customer satisfaction and business outcomes by following the above steps, and the result will be a robust live-chat system that enables on-demand connections between company and customer.

Shay Berman

CEO and Founder of Digital Resource

Shay Berman is the CEO and founder of Digital Resource, a full-service digital marketing agency in South Florida.

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