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Guest Post: Chatbot vs. Live Chat – Which delivers the best customer experience?

This week we feature an article by Jonny Everett who discusses what businesses must do to be successful in the on-demand world in which we live. Liquid expectations and the on-demand world We live in an on-demand world. Your customers are used to ordering a taxi, booking hotel rooms and getting their shirts dry-cleaned in […]

This week we feature an article by Jonny Everett who discusses what businesses must do to be successful in the on-demand world in which we live.

Liquid expectations and the on-demand world

We live in an on-demand world. Your customers are used to ordering a taxi, booking hotel rooms and getting their shirts dry-cleaned in a few taps of their phone screen or clicks of their mouse.

Customers can get the service they want, when they want it, how they want it.

Those brands leading this wave – the Ubers, Booking.coms and FlyCleaners of the world – used to be disruptors. They used to be the alternative. That’s not the case anymore.

They’re continuing their aggressive growth. Their once-disruptive ease of use is now the norm. Their customers aren’t cash-strapped market segments. Their customers are your customers. They’re you and me. And amongst that shared audience, their customer experience becomes the expectation set on your brand.

Accenture calls these new, slippery customer expectations liquid expectations. Consumers have been in disruptors’ marketing, customer interaction and customer experience for so long that their ease-of-use, millennial-friendly, low-commitment selling points are no longer isolated in industries or verticals. This new set of customer expectations is portable; your customers are bringing their experience with the Netflixes and AirBnBs of the world to you. If I can change my billing details in 3 taps and a card scan in their app, why do I have to be on the phone for 20 minutes with your company just to be told I need to quote a reference number I lost five years ago?

Customer expectations are out of your hands. They’re out of your industry’s hands. They’re not restricted by physical location, cultural context or social segment.

Ease of use has gone global. Customer experience has been democratized.

Accessibility and the on-demand consumer

Your customers don’t want to wait. Your customers don’t want to opt in or call up. The increased customer accessibility pioneered in the past decade by digital disruptors demonstrates what customers have come to expect. Digital has enabled the on-demand customer and, in turn, the on-demand customer has set the bar high for access to your brand. You don’t want to fall short.

Accessibility isn’t just about product, device, service or channel design. Accessibility is the commitment of brands to deliver experiences and customer contact in a holistic process that harnesses both customer communication methods and the understanding that each of your on-demand customers is a (drumroll) human. It’s the promise of brands to give a one-to-one customer experience to every customer, on-demand.

Chatbots and live chat for the on-demand consumer

The on-demand world requires channels that reflect the accessible, liquid expectations of consumers.

Think of how you contact friends and family. WhatsApp, iMessage, Messenger and good old SMS. Now think of how the Ubers and AirBnBs of the world allow customers to engage with their brand. More often than not, they’re the same or very similar channels.

Chat reflects the customer-centric desires of on-demand consumers:

  • I want the contact on my schedule
  • I want the contact to be an instant interaction
  • I want the commitment to be suited to my lifestyle

With chat channels available, I access a brand on my schedule, in a channel I use every day, while I order a latte through a Starbucks app, pay for my ASOS order and text my mom back. These events can happen simultaneously, all within similar channels. My liquid expectations are transferred and met in each scenario.

Chat provides customers instant, accessible experiences. Chat channels are easy to staff 24/7, text-based, low-commitment, require low customer effort and provide increased access to your brand.

And if you’re reading this article, you probably already understand that chat can be leveraged in this way. Chatbot and live chat technologies are not new, but their utility as effective parts of on-demand consumers accessing your brand is.

Choosing between chatbots and live chat for your customer experience goals means evaluating your customer service and your brand’s values against the expectations of the on-demand consumer.

Chatbots are becoming every customer experience professional and marketer’s most prized possession for automated customer interactions.

Chatbots are simply machine-to-human, real-time text-based communication with your brand’s scripted FAQs. The scripted qualifier here is key; expectations that you can purchase a chatbot technology, stick it on your site and expect it to work are misleading. Chatbots require scripting from your existing human, customer-facing team. They require training. They require defined goals and monitoring for success.

Once these hurdles are passed, there are fantastic applications for chatbots to grant the on-demand consumer further access to your brand, especially where those interactions are defined process.

Across simple sales and customer support journeys, where conversations are process driven, chatbots can be used effectively. From checking an order status to password resets to guidance on returns, anything that’s structured in terms of the support journey is a really good opportunity for chatbots.

But what about more complex journeys? Enter live chat.

Fundamentally, live chat technology is a way of connecting people. It’s a technology that enables real-time, human-to-human interaction over text, bridging the gap between on-demand consumers who expect instant access to your brand.

Live chat flourishes in complex sales and customer support journeys. Our experiences of digital exchanges like booking a hotel room online or ordering an Uber are only considered good if the technology facilitating that exchange functions better and faster than a human alternative.

If we are purchasing a car, ordering a new bed or finally asking someone to marry us and purchasing an engagement ring, human-to-human interaction in a live chat meets consumers’ liquid expectations of access to your brand from pre-sale education to post-sale customer delight.

Equally, for complex customer service situations like technical troubleshooting or high-value order support, a live chat agent can provide an on-brand, human experience of your brand to loyal customers.


In the highly connected digital world, liquid expectations are a reality that all customer experience, service and marketing professionals have to deal with.

Your customers are bringing experiences from every other brand they come in contact with; your customer contact mix must meet those on-demand, primed consumers in the channels they use.

Jonny Everett is Co-Founder of The Chat Shop, providing award-winning UK and US live chat and chatbot outsourcing and consulting.

For more articles from Shep Hyken and his guest contributors go to

Read Shep’s latest Forbes article: Coach Of Stanley Cup Champions St. Louis Blues Teaches Valuable Business Lessons

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