People want answers, and they want them now. When we’re looking for information online our attention span is pretty short, and our buying impulse can disappear in an instant. Capturing my attention requires a bit more effort and for good reason. But, which is better, a chatbot or a live agent? I warn you, like either option, the answer isn’t perfect.

When a sales funnel pays attention to the customer needs nurtures the relationship at every stage everyone is happy. Sure, it can be challenging, especially in an information overload environment, but don’t we all deserve to be taken care of when we need something?

 

Helping is the New Selling

Fortunately, there are innovative tools to help your business navigate the process. 24/7 Live Chat agents and even some chatbots are used for support and sales to provide quick access to harder-to-find information and make a purchasing decision.  In rare cases these “conversations” can be automated to a point that a user has their question answered, and buys a product, all in the same conversation.

According to Forrester, consumers are 66 percent to 90 percent of the way through their buying decision before they ever speak to a salesperson because they have completed the majority of their research online. Many times a simple question like, “Do you ship to Canada?” has been asked, and was the only factor holding up a purchase. So, yeah, if you could program simple answers to be triggered after certain phrases are submitted, but there are so many variations, it would be a monumental task and we simply don’t have the time or money to address every micro interaction in a chatbot.

However, just because these prospects have autonomy online, doesn’t mean you should ignore them.  In fact, Live Chat is an opportunity to guide them through their purchasing journey.  The key is to engage at the right time, with the right message. Address the macro audience and broader questions and concerns through FAQs which can be plugged in to your bot.

There are a lot of distractions on the internet, and by making an effort to be helpful, you’ll stand out while demonstrating why your solution is the best fit for their problem.

We should all focus on what we can give the consumers, not what we can immediately sell. 

 

Solve Problems

For interested customers, internet users can conduct research when it’s convenient for them and businesses leverage this in different ways.  If your peak web traffic is at an inconvenient time, it may not be an option to sit on live chat at 3AM every night, but there are alternatives that may be well worth the investment.

The prospect’s highest point of interest is immediately after they ask for information.  Eliminating any lag time in responding to their question results in an increased probability of a sale. This is not easy. Consumers expect you to be open 24/7 and available to respond instantly. 

The solution is an intelligent messaging platform or a live agent (with a script). The latter option is going to produce better results because no matter how sophisticated a chatbot is, people know a bot when they see one. However, a bot isn’t necessarily a bad option if the budget doesn’t allow for a live agent on call 24/7 and you can solve problems with a little programming.

 

Smart Chatbots OR AI

I am not going to throw around gimmicky works like AI when I refer to chatbots, too many SAAS are trying to exploit this concept. What I would call it is, “Intelligent messaging” which is how we streamline the sales process with a chatbot from a multi step approach, with missed calls and unanswered emails, to just two steps.

So, the prospect finds your business online, the intelligent messaging platform (aka Chatbot) greets them, asks qualifying questions, provides information, converts them to a sales lead, and directs them to the right sales representative. It works well if you are constantly asked the same questions or if you have a very simple product offering.

This of course isn’t always the case. For example, if you have to confirm dates for delivery or reservations, etc. This is when it makes more sense to have an actual person helping but there are ways to show popular page links or FAQs within a chatbot window if certain trigger words are entered, such as “Available” or “Reservation”.

Intelligent messaging platforms can help capture leads, qualify interest, book appointments, check inventory, and serve consumers 24/7, without taking a sick day. For example, Accenture reported that chatbots could solve 80 percent of customer queries.

Make Their Lives Easier

89 percent of consumers prefer messaging versus phone or email, as discovered by Twilio.

Offering messenger platforms can occasionally nurture your online leads in a way that is better suited to their style and can give your online experience a more “personal touch”. By leveraging the power of chatbots, you’ll have a better chance of holding their attention at the right time during the buying journey and be able to highlight value.

The experience chatting with a live agent, even when I know it is a chatbot, still feels more genuine than filling out a form. I would speculate that most consumers don’t really trust web forms and don’t have time for phone tag so opening your business to the channels prospects prefer, instantly improves the customer experience.

The biggest benefit in my opinion is keeping open communication channels and providing instant gratification of a response. This alone can be the difference between closing a sale and losing a prospect to a competitor.

Add a Human Touch

As previously mentioned, there is no replacement for an actual human being and in some cases, a chatbot may end up annoying your users more than it helps them. If you find that to be the case, look into hiring an actual agent on Upwork or other freelance sites. There are free live chat plugins out there, and easy to follow instructions, if you want to see if it makes any immediate difference before you make a long term commitment and investment.

 

Chatbot and live agent Cost Comparisons

You can often pay per lead or per conversation if you’re wondering how much it will cost to have an actual person online. The cost will be more than a chatbot software but the return will almost always be higher with a person than with a bot. From my experience,  an entry level chat agent will be around $350 – $550 per month, and generate about 10 – 30 leads a week, all depending on your traffic.

With the same amount of traffic, a good chatbot I have used will cost you $200 per month (not including programming or on-boarding), but provide about half of the amount of leads, without a sales person involved who  can close the deals. Where a chatbot becomes really helpful, is when you have more traffic than a single live agent can handle and the bot is programmed to funnel the qualified leads to the sales agent. Funneling can be setup by using  “triggers” to notify an agent when it’s time for a person to hop on a chat.

When a trigger notifies an agent, they can jump in and take over for the chatbot.  Only salespeople can relay a more personal message and respond with complex details about the product or service that provides that extra push the customer needs to complete a purchase. 

Either way, with more live chat featured on the web, we will see less annoying contact forms, have fewer missed phone calls, and far less spam.

If you’re curious how live chat can help your business get leads or provide support to your consumers, we should talk.  Schedule a free consultation.

 

Add Live Chat or a Chatbot to Your Site!

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Nick Cunha

Nick Cunha

Digital Sherpa

Nick is former Creative Director and part owner of aLookingGlass, BVI. With extensive experience of over 15 years in traditional marketing, graphic design and branding. After exiting aLookingGlass in 2019, he has since shifted his focus to cutting edge digital marketing and online brand experiences, in his home town of Lake Tapawingo, Missouri. Now, as an IoT marketing consultant, his role is to determine which digital marketing tactics can most benefit his clients, and tailoring a suite of complimentary services such as: digital branding, social media management, SEO and PPC marketing in order to generate and sustain a long-term and quantifiable ROI.