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Chatbot vs live chat: What to choose?

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Chatbot vs Live Chat: What to choose?

Jun 24, 2024
11 min read

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Chatbots and live chat — two powerful tools designed to help businesses provide real-time support. 

But what exactly sets them apart? 

While live chat offers an invaluable human touch, chatbots excel in delivering quick, automated responses 24/7.

So, which one should you choose for your business? That’s what we’ll help you decide today.

This article will discuss the key differences between chatbots and live chat, their pros and cons, and the best use cases for each.

Let’s start.

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Table of Contents

What is a Chatbot?

A chatbot is a software that imitates human conversation through text or voice interactions. These can be basic programs that follow scripts or advanced ones that understand and process natural language.

It’s like an intelligent assistant that is available 24/7 to help your customers. 

Chatbots provide instant responses based on predefined rules or advanced artificial intelligence. 

Pros of Chatbots:

  • 24/7 Availability: Chatbots can provide support round the clock throughout the year.  
  • Instant Responses: Chatbots can help customers instantly. This reduces wait time.
  • Cost-Effectiveness: They can handle many inquiries simultaneously without costing you money. 
  • Efficiency in Handling Repetitive Tasks: Chatbots handle repetitive tasks like FAQs, order updates, and appointments, freeing human support staff to focus on more complex customer issues.

Recommended Read: Top 12 AI Chatbots in 2024 [Key Features + Use Cases]

What is Live Chat?

Live chat is a real-time communication method that allows businesses to interact with customers or website visitors through instant messaging. It is typically embedded within a website or mobile app, enabling users to ask questions, receive support, or engage with the company quickly and efficiently.

Live chat allows customers to talk directly to a human support agent through a chat interface on a website or app. It’s super convenient because you get instant responses without navigating through an IVR system or sending out an email.

Unlike chatbots which are automated, live chat is normally run by human support staff.

Pros of live chat:

  • Human Touch: Nothing can beat empathy in customer service, and live chat allows for that human touch. It helps companies build meaningful connections with customers. 
  • Nuanced Support: Live agents can handle complex or unique customer queries that might be challenging for a chatbot. 
  • Immediate Responses: Live chat lets agents provide instant support, as compared to email or phone support. In fact, 53% of businesses that use chat technology can resolve issues in just one interaction.
  • Increased Sales and Conversions: Using live chat makes it easier for customers to get contextual answers to their queries. This can lead to more sales and increase conversion rates by up to 40%. 

Recommended Read: Live Chat Best Practices: The Ultimate List of Dos and Don’ts

Chatbot vs Live Chat: 5 key differences

ChatbotLive Chat
Nature of InteractionChatbots are AI-powered programs that can handle multiple conversations and respond instantly to customer inquiries based on predefined rules or AI algorithms.In live chat, customers and human agents can converse in real-time. Customers get personalized and detailed answers to their questions.
Availability They operate 24/7. Depends on the availability of support staff.
Cost-EffectivenessChatbots can handle a high volume of queries without incurring additional costs. It reduces the need for a large support team. Using live chat for customer service, you can offer more personalized assistance. 
However, it requires a trained team of agents, which can be costly.
Personalization and Human TouchThey lack the human touch and emotional intelligence.Support staff can better empathize, understand context, and adapt their responses to the situation.
Complexity of QueriesBest suited for handling simple, repetitive tasks like order tracking, answering FAQs, or booking appointments. Ideal for more complex issues that require critical thinking, problem-solving, and a deeper understanding of the customer’s needs.

Chatbot vs Live Chat: Which one should you choose?

Choosing between chatbots and live chat boils down to your business needs, customers’ expectations, and specific situations.  

For example, if a customer asks, “What are your business hours?” the chatbot responds with a set answer. 

But if a customer asks, “I followed the installation instructions, but the program keeps crashing when I try to open a specific file. Can you help me troubleshoot this?” 

You need to understand the context better and then ask the user to take specific actions to resolve this query. Here, live chat would be more accurate.

Here are a few key aspects you should consider when deciding between chatbots and live chat for your business.

1. 24/7 availability

Chatbot > Live Chat

Chatbots are available around the clock, providing continuous support without needing breaks, sleep, or shifts. 

This means that using chatbots, customers get their questions answered anytime—day, night, weekends, or even holidays. It’s perfect for businesses worldwide that must be there for their customers, no matter the time zone.

On the other hand, since live chat depends on the availability of human agents, support can be limited. Providing 24/7 live chat support requires extension planning, where you have to ensure your support workforce is alternating shifts.

This is logistically challenging and expensive due to higher operational costs related to salaries and training.

So chatbot wins this round by a big margin.

2. Speed of Response

Chatbot > Live chat

Customers hate waiting. So, prioritizing speed is essential. 

In fact, 85% of consumers expect a response from a company on Facebook within six hours

That’s where Chatbots excel. They provide near-instant responses, typically within milliseconds to a few seconds, as they are automated and do not require human intervention. This is particularly beneficial during peak hours or when the volume of queries is high.

Many banks use chatbots for customer service. For instance, Bank of America’s Erica chatbot can provide instant responses about account balances, recent transactions, and other topics.

On the other hand, when using live chat, the response time can vary depending on the availability of support staff.  The average wait time for live chat often ranges from 45 seconds to a few minutes.

3. Nature of queries

Another essential aspect to consider when deciding between a chatbot and live chat is the nature of customers’ queries.


Chatbots are ideal if you receive many simple and repetitive queries. They can handle frequently answered questions well. For example, if you’re an e-commerce store, you can use a chatbot to answer common questions about order status, return policies, and product availability. 

On the other hand, live chat suits more complex, nuanced, highly personalized queries that require human judgment and empathy. 

For example, if you run a boutique hotel, use a live chat widget on your website to handle unique guest requests – room preferences, special accommodations, and more.

4. Personalized Assistance

Live chat > chatbot

“The greatest technology in the world can’t replace the ultimate relationship-building tool between a customer and a business: the human touch.” ~Shep Hyken

Personalization is important if you want to drive long-term customer loyalty and trust. You need to be able to tailor solutions based on what exactly your customers want.

Live chat comes out as a winner in doing this. 

It’s more effective for handling issues that require a deep understanding and a personal touch. Live chat allows support staff to empathize with and respond to customers, something that’s not possible with chatbots, as they’re automated.

For example, in healthcare, it’s important to ensure that patients can talk to a real person on the other side when they seek support. Knowing someone is listening to you and there to help makes a huge difference.

In fact, 60% of customers say they are more likely to return to a website offering a live chat option for assistance.

5. Cost-Effectiveness

Chatbot > Live chat
Did you know businesses can save up to 30% on customer service costs by implementing chatbots? This is due to reduced dependency on human support staff and lower operational expenses.

Here’s why chatbots are more cost-effective:

  • No Salaries or Benefits: Chatbots do not require salaries, benefits, or other employment-related expenses such as health insurance, paid leave, and retirement contributions.
  • Cost Per Interaction: A study by Chatbots Magazine found that the cost per interaction using a chatbot is lower than using human support reps. A chatbot interaction costs around $0.70, compared to $6-$12 for an agent-handled interaction.
  • Reduced Training Costs: Unlike humans, chatbots don’t need extensive training or continuous professional development. 
  • Infrastructure Savings: Chatbots reduce the need for extensive office space and associated infrastructure.

6. Integration with other apps

Chatbot = Live chat

Whether you’re using live chat software or chatbots, it’s important to integrate it with your other existing tools. This makes it easy to fetch customer information when needed. 

Data is updated in real-time across all systems, access to customer interaction history becomes easy, and issue tracking and resolution become more streamlined. 

All this helps enhance the customer experience and operational efficiency.


So, as far as integrations are concerned, both live chat and chatbots are on par. Simply put, both these tools can be connected to a wide range of systems. 

Let’s try to understand this using some examples. 

For Chatbots…

  • API Integration: Chatbots can pull customer data from CRM systems (e.g., Salesforce, HubSpot) to provide personalized responses or update records automatically based on interactions.
  • Automation and Workflow Integration: Chatbots can be very useful in the healthcare industry. They can integrate with scheduling software to book, reschedule, or cancel appointments automatically.
  • Payment Gateway Integration: Chatbots can also help streamline finance operations. They can integrate with Stripe or PayPal to process payments directly within the chat interface.

For Live Chat…

  • CRM Integration: Live chat tools like Hiver integrate with Salesforce to provide agents with comprehensive customer profiles and interaction histories, facilitating more personalized and informed support.
  • Help Desk and Ticketing Systems: Zendesk Chat integrates with Zendesk’s ticketing system, allowing agents to create, update, and manage support tickets directly from the chat interface.
  • Collaboration Tools:  Live chat can also integrate with tools like Slack or Microsoft Teams, facilitating internal communication and issue resolution.
  • Marketing Automation and Analytics: Live chat solutions like Drift integrate with marketing automation platforms like Marketo to help nurture leads based on live chat interactions.

7. Ease of use

Chatbot = Live Chat

Setting up both channels is extremely easy.

Both live chat and chatbots typically use a chat window on a website or within an app. Users type their messages and receive responses in this window.

Setting these up is also pretty straightforward — most chatbots and live chat tools offer no-code solutions, allowing you to deploy them without programming knowledge. 

They offer drag-and-drop interfaces, pre-built templates, and conversational flow builders – making it easy for any company to offer real-time support. 

Additionally, these tools offer detailed guides and video tutorials to help you through every step of the setup process. 

8. Scalability

Chatbot > Live chat

One of the most significant benefits of chatbots is that they’re highly scalable.


Chatbots can handle virtually unlimited interactions simultaneously, have low marginal costs, and are easy to update and integrate. 

What’s more… you can also update a chatbot’s knowledge base centrally, and it will immediately reflect across all interactions. This makes it easy to scale new information or features.

On the other hand, live chat requires more effort in staffing, training, and managing real-time support operations. It also involves continuous resource management to scale effectively.

9. Sales and Upselling Opportunities

Live chat > chatbot

This was a tricky one, but… 

Forrester Research says that customers who engage with a company’s live chat are2.8 times more likely to convertthan those who do not.

Understanding customer needs, building rapport, and providing dynamic, real-time solutions are powerful tools for increasing sales and driving higher average order values. This is possible using live chat and not chatbots. 

Here are a couple of examples to help you understand:

  • Zappos is known for its excellent customer service. Their agents are trained to create a personal connection with customers. They use this relationship to recommend additional products that customers might enjoy, leading to increased sales and customer loyalty.
  • Dell uses live chat to assist customers with product choices and to provide technical support. This interaction often leads to upselling opportunities where agents can suggest higher-end models or additional accessories based on the customer’s needs.

10. Improve Customer satisfaction

Chatbot = Live chat

Both chatbots and live chat can positively impact your customer satisfaction scores. 

Here are a few stats to help understand:

  • Building rapport with customers through live chat increases trust. Kayako found that 79% of businesses believe offering live chat positively impacts sales, revenue, and customer loyalty.
  • Customers prefer live chat over other support channels due to its convenience and speed. An eDigital’s Customer Service Benchmark report found that live chat has the highest satisfaction levels for any customer service channel, with 73% compared to 61% for email and 44% for phone.
  • Chatbots provide round-the-clock service, ensuring customers can get help anytime, which is crucial for maintaining customer satisfaction. Invesp reports that 64% of internet users say the best feature of chatbots is their 24-hour service, underscoring the importance of constant availability.
  • Live chat agents can provide more personalized and contextual support by accessing customer data and interaction history. A survey by Kayako found that 52% of customers are more likely to repurchase from a company that offers live chat support.

Recommended Read:7 Different Ways to Measure Customer Satisfaction

11. Insights into customer behavior

Chabot = Live chat

Customer service metrics are essential because they help you understand how well your service team is performing and how satisfied your customers are.

Both chatbots and live chat can provide valuable insights into customer behavior, but they do so in slightly different ways.


Insights provided by the chatbot include:

  • Response Time: Average time taken by the chatbot to respond to user queries.
  • Resolution Time: Time taken to resolve user issues via the chatbot.
  • Automation Rate: Percentage of queries resolved without human intervention.
  • User Path Analysis: Tracking the flow of user interactions and common paths taken within the chatbot conversation.
  • Common Queries: Frequently asked questions and topics users inquire about.

Insights provided by live chat include:

  • Resolution Rate: Percentage of issues resolved successfully during live chat sessions.
  • First Contact Resolution (FCR): Percentage of issues resolved on the first interaction without needing follow-up.
  • Escalation Rate: Frequency of issues that need to be escalated to higher-level support or other channels.
  • Customer Sentiment Analysis: Analysis of the tone and sentiment of the customer’s messages during the chat.
  • Common Issues: Frequently raised issues and concerns during live chat sessions.

Should you use both chatbot and live chat?

We did a study at Hiver and found that 50% of support experts believe AI will work alongside humans going forward. 


So the answer is not ‘chatbots’ or ‘live chat’ but a mix of both.

But how do you reach that sweet spot?

Here’s what you can do:

  • Answer simple, straightforward questions using chatbots.
  • Use chatbots to collect essential information before transferring the customer to a live chat agent – in case of complex issues.
  • During peak times, use chatbots to manage the influx of queries and escalate to live chat when necessary.
  • Use chatbots to gather feedback after an interaction, with support staff following up on negative feedback.

Provide the best real-time support using both Chatbot and Live Chat.

If you’re an online business looking to set up both chatbots and a live chat widget, then tools like Hiver can help.

Hiver’s live chat feature is integrated directly into Gmail, allowing you and your agents to manage chat queries without switching platforms. 

Similarly, Hiver’s Chatbot helps you build customizable and engaging chat flows. You can include various action points, such as message delivery, multiple-choice questions, and contact forms. 

The most significant benefit is that you and your support agents can manage live chat and chatbot conversations from the same place where you manage all other support channels – phone, email, and WhatsApp.

If you’d like to see this in action, take a 7-day free trial today—no CC required.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

  1. Chatbot vs Live Chat: Which is better?

Chatbots offer 24/7 availability and are the most cost-effective. They’re great for handling simple, straightforward queries. However, they may need help to respond when the issue needs to be understood in detail. Live chat excels at resolving complex problems and providing personalized service but is limited by human working hours. A hybrid approach, using chatbots for basic queries and human agents for complex concerns, could be ideal for most customer service teams. 

  1. Is Live Chat a real person?

Yes, live chat typically involves human support staff interacting with users in real time via a conversation-style interface.

  1. When should live chat be used in customer service?

Live chat should be used in customer service to handle complex issues and provide personalized service immediately. It is beneficial for resolving multi-step problems that require detailed, real-time interaction.

  1. How do you implement a chatbot in customer service using Hiver?

Implementing a chatbot using Hiver is straightforward. You can enable one from within your Hiver account and use it to respond to commonly asked questions. Use Hiver’s Chatbot Flow Builder to design structured and engaging chat flows, handle routine queries, and free up human agents for more complex issues. 

B2B Saas content marketer helping her readers make an informed decision. Her expertise lies in creating research-backed and valuable content for CX pros and customer service teams to provide exceptional support. When she's not working, you can find her playing Injustice, watching a movie, or going for a run.

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