Boosting Your Customer Support: Human-Operated Live Chat vs Chatbots


When was the last time you contacted customer support of an online business?

If you’ve had a customer support interaction recently, did you speak with a real person or a chatbot?

Chances are that your request has been handled by a chatbot instead of a person. As an increasing number of online businesses have started getting real value from chat bots, the use of this technology has skyrocketed amongst many companies in recent years. It is very possible, then, that you have probably interacted with one too (if not more!)

For example, Statista reported that the size of the chatbot market worldwide in 2016 was worth about $190.8 million but  will likely undergo a major increase; up to $1.2 billion in 2025. This means that more and more businesses will buy or develop their own chatbot solutions to improve their bottom line.

But just how effective are these AI-powered assistants at helping online businesses resolve more customer support requests? Their increasing adoption suggests that they’re pretty effective, and with chatbots rapidly gaining popularity, one may get an impression that the age of human customer support operators is over.

However, the 2018 State of Chatbots report found quite the opposite (we’ll talk about this in detail in the next section). It’s quite possible that in the next few years we’ll witness a battle between chatbots and human operators for  the title of being the most effective at increasing the helpfulness of online customer support.

At this time, however, let’s see how you can find a perfect balance between human expertise and artificial intelligence to boost the performance of your customer support.

Human-Operated Live Chat vs. Chatbots: Customer Perceptions

To maximize the effectiveness of your resources as well as the satisfaction of your customers, let’s review how people perceive chatbots and whether they’re ready to trust them with support queries.

As it was mentioned above, the 2018 State of Chatbots report found that chatbots are still struggling to become a go-to source for various requests. For example, the  image below shows that the majority of customers still prefer to contact online businesses via such channels as telephone, online chat, social media, website, and even face-to-face.


Evidently, only 15 percent of customers have chosen chatbots to communicate with an online business. But with all the hype surrounding these AI-powered assistants, shouldn’t there be more people willing to use them?

We’ll turn to the report once again for some answers-fortunately for us, it has some clues. For example, here’s the list of potential blockers to using chatbots that make customers choose other communication channels such as a human-operated live chat.


Perhaps unsurprisingly, the main reason why people avoid chatbots is that they trust “real-life assistants” with their requests. According to the report, 43 percent of respondents shared this position.

Of course, this is not to say that chatbots don’t have any future in online business. They’re being used by an increasing number of people who want quick content recommendations from businesses or have a customer support request.

In fact, they’ve been doing a good job in helping those who chose them for their requests. According to recent Statista data, 30 and 33 percent of United States-based and global users of chatbots respectively found them to be “very effective” at resolving their issues.


Image Credit: Statista

But what kind of issues can chatbots help people resolve? Clearly, they cannot match the abilities of human operators, so they must be good for simple tasks, right? Well, the aforementioned State of Chatbots report suggested that the range of use cases for chatbots is quite diverse and includes the following.


Evidently, chatbots can complete an impressive range of customer support-related tasks, and some of them are quite complex (paying a bill, getting detailed explanations etc.) Clearly, they can play a prominent role in meeting an online business’ customer support needs.

But what is the role of human-operated live chat?

To get an answer to this question, we’ll turn to GetApp Lab’s recent research on customer service preferences. Surprisingly or not, a large share of respondents – 36.6 percent – said that “talking to a real person” was the factor that had the most value for them in terms of customer support.  


Some other factors such as “Having polite customer support staff” and “Knowledgeable support staff” also pertain to a human-operated communication channel. This is strong evidence that despite the growth of chatbots in customer service, many people still prefer to talk to humans.

Added together, these factors make up 88 percent of the respondents, which means that this percentage of people prefer human assistance. Of these 88 percent, 29.6 percent even didn’t care about the communication channel with customer service, as long as they could speak with a real person.


Besides meeting customers’ preferences, in terms of customer service communication, there’s another good reason why having a human-operated live chat is a must-have option for online businesses:

Voice communication is easier, faster, and more effective than typing messages to a chatbot.

Voice is central to communication, so having people ready to assist customers makes perfect sense.

“It’s a must for businesses that operate in a number of specific industries such as healthcare, travel, and insurance,” says Chelsea Ann Dowdell, a blogger from RewardedEssays. “Since these businesses sell products and services that require additional consideration and often consultation with a real person.”

It’s also safe to assume that live chat is critical for all businesses selling high-end or expensive products because customers need to speak with representatives directly to ensure that their purchase will meet their needs and minimize the risk of wasting a lot of money.

How to Find a Perfect Balance for Your Customer Support Needs

At this point, it’s clear that your business should use both chatbots and human-operated live chat to meet the needs of customers. Of course, chatbots can be better for resolving easy requests while humans are the best for complex issues, so, to tackle the whole range of tasks, it seems logical  to use them both.

The challenge now is to determine specific uses for them.

Before we do that, let’s reiterate some important principles to guide our thinking towards the right path.

  • Chatbots cannot solve 100 percent of customer support requests, so they can not replace humans
  • Chatbots are perfect tools for completing repetitive customer support interactions that human operators don’t need to spend time on.

Anyone with experience in customer service will tell you that a large share of customer requests are high-frequency, common, and simple. These requests tend to be fairly simple to resolve without human operators; moreover, most of them have low value for the business, e.g. recovering a password to an account.

Since the solution is the same for every person making a password recovery request,It seems ill advised to have a human operator type the same reply countless times to so many people.

To illustrate, here are some of the most common customer service questions, as described by Georgias. holiday-support-questions

As you can see, most of these requests can be automated with chatbots. For example, if a customer requests the status of their order, the chatbot can ask them for its number and then provide a status update, e.g. “shipped.”

The success of chatbots in communicating with customers and providing them with the answers they’re looking for largely depends on the script they use. To ensure that the script, and therefore, a chatbot’s answers to customers, are error-free, proofread them with online tools such as HotEssayService Hemingway Editor, and SupremeDisertations.

In other words, if your online business has a higher ratio of repetitive questions, you can derive a lot of value from chatbots. Your customers shouldn’t wait in a queue to get a simple answer about order status, and likewise, a human customer support operator shouldn’t have to do things like explaining how to recover a password 30 times a day.

On the other hand, there are some specific, complex, high-value customer requests that should be handled by human operators to maximize success. Let’s review some of them.

  • Complex troubleshooting. As it was repeatedly mentioned above, humans should deal with complex customer requests that can not be solved without expertise. For example, these requests may involve gathering some rich information from the customer to determine the best solution as fast as possible.
  • Upselling. Chatbots aren’t good at persuading people to buy things, obviously, so if a customer shows a purchasing intent, he or she must be transferred to a human agent who can offer other similar products. As a result, you’ll be able to capitalize on more upselling opportunities.
  • Win backs. Chatbots aren’t good at being empathetic, either. If a person has trouble with a product or service or is dissatisfied with it, they won’t be able to help. Human operators, on the other hand, are typically trained to offer empathy and advice.

So, since the share of customer support requests handled by chatbots is larger, it may be a good idea for your support to follow the 70/30 rule (depending on the nature of requests you receive). For example, the first respective number indicates the share of customer requests that could be solved without human intervention while the second one shows the percentage of requests that should be handled by operators.

Wrapping Up

Now, let’s summarize the most important takeaways from the article:

  • While the adoption of chatbots is rapidly growing, many customers still prefer talking with human operators to resolve their requests
  • Each business has a large share of customer support requests that could be handled by chatbots (recover a password, cancel an order etc.), so automation is recommended here
  • Human-operated live chat is the best communication option to help customers solve complex issues
  • Human-operated live chat is more personal, so it’s a better option for high value requests, upselling opportunities, and win backs.

Clearly, your business will benefit the most from using the live chat and chatbots together to address customer queries. To ensure maximum performance of your customer support, you need to determine its main problem area and ensure that customers get all the support they need.

And don’t be afraid of using chatbots; when programmed appropriately, they can be a huge help with handling thousands of daily support requests and giving your operators more time to focus on more important things.

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About the author
Bridgette Hernandes

Bridgette Hernandes is an enthusiastic writer with a passion for science and online business. She says that the secret to writing engaging content is to create it with passion because it’s easy to let the dedication and true interest shine through text and have readers relate to it. Bridgette has contributed to numerous blogs and is currently writes content for GrabMyEssay and reviews for IsAccurate . As a researcher and as a writer, she doesn’t limit herself to writing articles and plans to publish a book on Anthropology one day.

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