What Drives Sales – Chatbots or Live Agents

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“Chat bots are AI- or rules-powered services that automate interactions via a chat interface. In a sales context, chat bots can engage customers, answer simple questions, and determine how and when leads should be deemed ‘qualified’ and escalated to the appropriate human representative,” – Inc.com

Technology drives significant change in every domain of human activity; commerce and commercial operations are no exception to this rule. The many uses of technology have driven brands and businesses into a tighter integration with consumers and customers in modern times. These tools include telephone-based customer service and sales operations, text message-based interactions, and online chat modules that facilitate contact between commercial organizations and their prospective customers. However, a debate has emerged that seeks to explore whether chat bots or live agents represent the best strategy to engage human consumers and to push a sales pitch to prospective customers.

Chat bots represent the latest iteration of technology-driven commercial interactions between a brand and its customers. These programmes are essentially software-powered algorithms that answer customer queries on various electronic platforms that include websites, mobile apps, online forums, and online blogs. A chat bot thrives on speed of customer interaction and is optimised to interact with multiple customers simultaneously. These aspects lend velocity to digital commerce and hence chat bots appear as attractive tools to modern organizations. In light of the above, these algorithms appear to lend weight to automation when we consider the debate that explores whether chat bots or live agents are more efficient in driving sales.

Live agents, on the other hand, leverage real-world relationships to execute selling practices. A live agent is essentially a human person that communicates with customers by using online messaging systems. In addition, live agents can interact face to face with human customers in commercial or business premises. For instance, a brand or a business can depute human sales representatives to connect digitally with customers in a bid to increase product or service sales. The live agent essentially initiates a conversation with customers and sales prospects with the aim of closing a sale. We note that live agents can explore significant context in terms of an individual customer’s requirements. The subsequent discussion can help the live agent to estimate customer wants and preferences, followed by a potential sale that caters to the above conditions. We must note that these interactions may proceed on digital media and bolster the case of human agents in the debate whether chat bots or live agents are best to drive sales.

Persistence is an attribute that applies to chat bots employed in selling activities. These digital machines can survey individual customer histories and product buying behaviour in order to estimate the time for a repeat sales pitch. For instance, a customer may use his smartphone to purchase a pair of sports shoes from an e-commerce app. We may note that the digital sale involved using the services of a chat bot embedded in the mobile app. Once a certain length of time elapses, the chat bot may initiate a conversation seeking information on the possibility of the customer ordering a second purchase. The ensuing conversation between the chat bot and the customer may earn additional dollars for the business. This instance clearly illustrates the efficacy of using artificial intelligence-powered chat bots in the chat bots or live agents debate.

Live agents can offer more variety in terms of products and merchandise in their sales pitches. This is a significant input into the debate that centres on chat bots or live agents. The said agent can initiate a regular conversation with business prospects by wielding a variety of contextual inducements that include a discount or an add-on piece of merchandise at a lower price point. The live agent can choose to interrogate the present state of mind of the customer and suggest options. In addition, the agent may refer the customer to convenient and available financing schemes that can ease a commodity or product purchase. Therefore, the human attribute of empathy and understanding can enable the live agent to close a successful sale. In light of the above, we may state that the human factor tilts the scale in favour of live agents in the chat bots or live agents debate.

A sub-optimally engineered chat bot can defeat the very purpose of using automation in selling practices. This poses a danger because an irritated or disgusted customer can abandon a sales conversation and cause harm to a sales campaign. For instance, a chat bot designed to use visual aids, such as images, can insist that a customer upload certain images of products he or she is seeking. The customer may not have access to such imagery and the insistence of the chat bot can defeat the selling campaign. An analysis of this interaction proves that automated selling methods may fail at certain junctures of customer interaction. The inability of the chat bot to sense the customer’s frustration may trigger a subsequent flight of customer dollars to competing businesses. This instance clearly marks the limits of using artificial intelligence when we survey the chat bots or live agents debate.

A live agent or a human sales representative can deploy flexible selling skills and domain knowledge or expertise to close a successful sale. The element of human interaction remains a prized aspect of commerce and therefore, every brand or business should deploy live agents in a bid to achieve high sales. Market research indicates that every sale is not closed in a single interaction with the customer. Therefore, brands and businesses need to depute human agents in a bid to drive multiple sales meetings to a successful conclusion. This instance clearly favours the human element when we consider the chat bots or live agents debate.

Chat bots enable agility in business practices and therefore, should be considered for selling campaigns that target mass markets. As noted above, these digital machines bring speed and velocity to multiple conversations with customers. Chat bots can operate on a 24×7 basis and can handle both incoming and outgoing conversations with customers. In light of these facts, we may note that chat bots are the ideal driver for organizational sales pitches. That said, certain observers have stated that chat bots can direct certain interactions to human sales personnel in the interests of closing a complex, multi-tier sales pitch. This illustration explores the middle ground between sales automation and the human touch. This instance also invests heavy credence in the efficacy of automation in the chat bots or live agents debate.

In the preceding paragraphs, we have sought to explore the various points of benefit between automated, artificial intelligence-powered sales machines and the human factor enshrined in live agents. The debate offers many salient points to the interested observer. However, we may note that a golden mean can be achieved when brands and businesses meld the best of chat bots and live agents. This combination can enable commercial organizations to fashion outstanding sales strategies that yield the desired business outcomes. In addition, brands and businesses must brainstorm to realise that there are no substitutes to the human factor in commercial negotiations. Hence, we advise brands and businesses to deploy their best sales personnel as live agents while improving the quality of algorithms that power sales operations.

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