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Chatbot ROIApril 1, 2019Written by Alex Debecker

Chatbots vs Live Chat: The Ultimate Customer Service Showdown

The battle between chatbots and live chats in full swing.

Which of the two technologies will come out victorious and dominate as the customer service tool of the future?

In this article, I will start by throwing a bit of a curveball in the current 'chatbots vs live chat' climate. We will also review the pros and cons of each solution, as well as dig a bit deeper into some of their key features.

Table of contents

The pros and cons

Chatbots vs live chat: the quick comparison

If you are too busy to go into the details below, here is a quick and easy comparison between chatbots and live chat.

Chatbots are automated and instant. Users love them because they answer questions immediately. Companies love them because they save money. However, poorly programmed chatbots may slow the actual resolution of issues.

Live chat is very easy and quick to implement. Users love them because they don't have to pick up the phone. However, live chats rely on human agents, which are costly, work slower, and stick to working hours.

Want more? Time to throw a bit of a curveball into this debate.

Not 'either or'. Chatbots and live chat.

If you've read other articles on this topic before landing on our website, you've probably read something along the lines of:

'Live chat and chatbots both have great positives but chatbots are more cost-effective in the long run. Please buy your chatbot here (which is conveniently what we sell).'

Now, I'm not trying to tell our competitors off. They have an extremely valid point. We too believe chatbots are more cost-effective in the long run, and overall just better than anything out there.

However, we have enough experience in the business and confidence in the technology to tell you this: the best course of action is live chat and chatbots.

Chatbots can handle repetitive, FAQ-style enquiries with ease. In turn, this gives your live chat agents more time to focus on extremely complex or deeply emotional enquiries.

When working in tandem, live chat and chatbots become an unstoppable force.

Chatbots solve live chat pain points

Chatbots are incredible for customer service.

All the benefits everyone talks about are real, we've seen it first hand. However, the biggest pain points chatbots solve are pain points that arise after a live chat solution has been up and running for a while.

Here are the questions a customer service department should ask themselves when thinking about chatbots and live chat.

live chat or chatbots question comparison

In more practical terms, here is what you will need to create a worthwhile customer service chatbot solution:

  • A flexible chatbot platform (hey, that's us!)
  • An economically inefficient customer service process. Servicing those customers costs your business too much and/or you can't satisfy reasonable SLAs.
  • An understanding of the most frequent questions your customers ask, along with appropriate responses.

Now, here is the deal.

If you have neither a live chat or a chatbot and your customer service team (phone/email) are overwhelmed, you could go straight to a chatbot -- but this means you're missing out on a few opportunities.

Our recommendation? Combine both live chat and a chatbot.

Doing so, you'll unclog the phone lines, get agents to work 3-4-5 live chats at once, and, more importantly, start keeping track of the questions your customers ask.

Rather than opting for a single solution, you get the best of both worlds.

You can turn live chat on during peak hours and off when you don't have the resources to manage it - all while your chatbot's steadily dealing with the repetitive FAQs.

Could you skip live chat?

Of course. We've done it many times before.

The above is just what we would advise. In fact, it is partly the reason behind our implementation of a live chat feature into our chatbot widget.

ubisend live chat agent view

Should you wish to skip straight to a chatbot, we would advise going down the proof of concept route. This way you can benefit from chatbot technology at a limited cost while gathering the information you need to move towards a more integrated and cost-effective solution.

The chatbot and live chat comparison chart

Let's put the two pieces of technology up against each other. Live chat and chatbots serve a similar purpose but with a few differences.

Live chat's there to provide on-demand assistance for complex queries.

Chatbots are there to provide instant answers to questions and guide customers through processes.

Live chat Chatbot
Preparation requirements
Time to implement
Reduce tickets
Data harvesting
Minimise agent fatigue
Advanced analytics
Customer appreciation

Calculate the return-on-investment of a customer service chatbot

As we are about to move on to the pros and cons of live chat vs chatbot, it's important you find a framework to calculate the ROI of a customer service chatbot.

Most of the time, live chat and chatbots are used in a customer service setting. It is, indeed, one of the most obvious ways to use this exciting technology.

Our team compiled a (free) ROI calculator specifically focused on customer service solutions. You can grab a copy of it here: Customer Service Chatbot ROI Calculator.

customer service chatbot ROI calculator

The worksheet comes with a handy step by step guide on using it and tips on approaching such a project in your company.

Grab your copy, enter your numbers, and get an estimate of the resources your company could save!

Chatbots vs live chat: pros and cons

Now that you've had a neat overview of the pros and cons of each in the comparison chart above, let's dive a bit deeper into each of them.


Live chat: con

Chatbot: pro

The biggest appeal for chatbots is their instantaneity. This was already the case back in 2017.

2017 chatbot report ubisend sneak peek

Live chat does offer a sense of instantaneity, provided an agent is free at the exact moment live chat is requested. Unfortunately, the humans working behind the live chat feature must abide by reasonable working hours.

This sometimes creates friction and frustration, as the users' expectation (instant help) is often not met.

Preparation requirements

Live chat: pro

Chatbot: con

Provided you have a prepared team, ready to jump into live chat conversations, there are virtually no preparation requirements to implement a live chat.

Chatbots, however, require more preparation. You will have to create the FAQs, conversations, and set up any integrations you may need (chatbot integrations can either be set up by yourself or by your chatbot provider).

Of course, in the long run, the time spent preparing your chatbot will be extremely worth it.

Time to implement

Live chat: pro

Chatbot: pro

Implementing a live chat solution is incredibly easy. Most modern live chat platforms (including ours) only take signing up and adding a line of code on your web page.

Editor's note: actually, ours also allows you to implement live chat across all our integrated channels. Yes, that was a bit of a brag.

At ubisend, we've worked hard to make sure implementing a chatbot is as easy as that.

Reduce tickets

Live chat: con

Chatbot: pro

Ok, let's be real for a minute.

Does live chat actually reduce the number of tickets? Or, does live chat merely move the tickets from one channel (emails/phone) to another?

A chatbot, on the other hand, actively reduces the number of tickets humans have to handle. We've seen customer service chatbots take away 35% of tickets within minutes of implementation.

ubisend customer service chatbot case study final

Read the case study

Data harvesting

Live chat: con

Chatbot: pro

Data harvesting, in this instance, is extracting valuable data from conversations.

As you know, conversations with customers are choke-full of valuable information. Your customer service department is quite literally a goldmine of information about your customers' wants, needs, language, impression of your brand, etc.

This is very complex information to gather at scale. Until you implement a chatbot, that is.

While live chat solutions can help you store conversations between your reps and your customers, it cannot help you much deeper than that.

A chatbot, though, is fully automated and can harvest valuable data at scale.

Minimise agent fatigue

Live chat: con

Chatbot: pro

Unfortunately, live chat rarely reduces agent fatigue.

While a live chat takes queries away from the phone line, they pile up on the actual chat. Agents are also often required to work multiple chats at the same time, something they would not do over the phone.

chatbots vs live chat channels

Chatbots, however, actually relieve the service reps by taking tickets away.


Live chat: pro

Chatbot: pro

Since both live chats and chatbots are online tools, one can expect both to present at least some sort of analytics.

With live chat, you'll be able to track the number of live chat conversations, both active and past. You can also dive deeper into the length of conversations, positivity and individual agent performance.

Chatbots provide the same level of analysis, along with a few extras.

Advanced analytics

Live chat: con

Chatbot: pro

Following on from the expected analytics, chatbots provide a wide range of advanced and custom analytics that live chat simply can't match.

Using the ubisend dashboard as an example, you're able to create custom metrics that track your KPIs exactly. These custom metrics can then be assigned to any chatbot interaction, providing complete flexibility when it comes to analysis.

custom chatbot dashboards

Part of a custom dashboard for a customer service chatbot


Live chat: con

Chatbot: pro

Can a live chat solution allow for multitasking? Yes, to a certain extent. However, employees are limited in time, resources, and attention. You wouldn't want a customer service rep multitasking beyond 3-4 conversations.

Now, consider a customer service chatbot that can handle hundreds of messages per second with the same level of laser-focused attention.

That is multitasking.

Customer love

Live chat: pro

Chatbot: pro

Finally, the real topic we should all care about when talking about customer service: the customers.

Do they prefer either or?

It turns out, customers love live chat... and chatbots.

According to research, 53% of customers would prefer to use online chat before calling a company for support (Harris Research).

According to our own research, 69% of customers prefer using chatbots because they provide instantaneous answers.

2017 chatbot report ubisend 69pc

Download the 2017 Chatbot Report

Closing thoughts: is it really chatbots versus live chat?

We don't believe so.

Chatbots are the natural progression of live chat solutions.

To businesses overwhelmed with enquiries, a live chat solution will not suffice. It's just moving the pain from one channel to another.

If you are in this situation, a chatbot will take away those pain points while helping your customers stay happy -- and offer more data, flexibility, and customisation.

Based on customer research and feedback from ubisend users, all ubisend chatbots also support live chat.

You can either connect your current live chat provider or use the built-in live chat service. Turn it on when you need it and off when you don't, it's the best of both worlds.