When attending trade shows and conferences supporting Conversica, a question I am frequently asked is whether Conversica’s Intelligent Virtual Assistant for customer engagement is “a chatbot.” And while I can understand the source of the question, I emphatically stress that Conversica is not a chatbot.
A more cynical reader might assume that this differentiation is little more than branding. But I can assure you there are very real differences between what the Conversica Sales AI Assistant offers and what chatbot providers deliver. Each technology has its place and purpose, but neither is synonymous with the other.
Below we will discuss and contrast chatbots and Conversica so you can make better decisions when considering adopting these technologies to match your business needs.
What Is a Chatbot?
To understand what a chatbot is and does, consider this familiar example. An online shopper lands on an eCommerce website and is immediately met with a chat window in the bottom-right corner of their screen. The prospect types a question into the chat window: “What is your return policy for clearance items?” The chatbot platform matches the words “return policy” to an FAQ page and returns a URL to the prospect who then clicks the link and finds the information they need.
A chatbot is a simple piece of rules-based software that fields simple inquires and matches them to pre-programmed responses. Since chatbots respond in real-time, they are well suited for customer support requests. This saves time and energy for customer support representatives who no longer need to handle run-of-the-mill queries and can focus on more complex tasks.
Marketing and Sales teams are increasingly adopting chatbots to drive certain actions such as reminding website visitors to sign up for email newsletters or complete lead forms. Interested visitors are encouraged to share company and professional contact information via a chatbot. And to their credit, chatbots see a higher engagement rate than traditional lead forms.
Of course, chatbots also have their limitations. Canned responses, as anyone can tell you, do not feel like real conversations. Nobody confuses a chatbot for a person nor do chatbot providers promote the idea that these software solutions are anything but “bots.”
While chatbots can handle real-time requests, they can only do so when those requests adhere to the parameters set by the provider or managing organization. They cannot handle multiple requests in the same message nor can they handle nuanced requests. The minute a dialogue gets off the predefined path, the chatbot will need to escalate the request to a staff member.
The purpose of a chatbot is to drive operational efficiency and to deflect the cost of using a person to answer common questions and requests. But what if you need something more? What if you need a technology that can engage leads or customers in human-like conversations that drive to a specific goal? In that case, you’ll need an Intelligent Virtual Assistant.
What Is an Intelligent Virtual Assistant?
An Intelligent Virtual Assistant is an AI-powered software that serves as a virtual team member who autonomously engages contacts, leads or customers in personalized, two-way conversations at scale. Our Intelligent Virtual Assistants are called AI Assistants. The use cases for these AI Assistants from Conversica include:
- Marketing and Sales
- Customer Success
- Admissions for Higher Education
- Automotive Sales
- Automotive Service
AI Assistants automate tedious, but important, repetitive tasks so that people can be more productive and happier in their jobs.
Let’s say your Sales team is inundated with leads following a trade show or major media push. Rather than requiring your Sales team to prioritize some leads and ignore others, you direct your Sales AI Assistant to follow up with every lead including those at the top of the Sales funnel, leads who have gone cold, or leads who require multiple attempts before they respond. The Intelligent Virtual Assistant autonomously determines which leads are ready to speak to a Salesperson and which leads ought to be nurtured until they are Sales-ready. This provides a number of benefits including booking more meetings and allowing Salespeople to focus on converting leads rather than chasing them.
How Intelligent Virtual Assistants Work
How does an AI Assistant perform this function? Unlike chatbots, Intelligent Virtual Assistants leverage Natural-Language Processing (NLP), Deep Learning, and Natural-Language Generation (NLG) to interpret and respond to conversations in a personalized way. Conversica’s AI platform is so convincing that our customers regularly report leads apologizing to the Assistant for not responding in time, thanking them for their persistence, and even looking to meet the Assistant in person.
The purpose of an Intelligent Virtual Assistant is to drive a specific action like confirming a meeting with a salesperson. It is not meant to deflect costs, but rather to boost revenue and create more opportunities for Marketers, Salespeople and Customer Success Managers.
Below is a quick cheat sheet to the differences between Chatbots and Intelligent Virtual Assistants.
Intelligent Virtual Assistants
|Chatbots expect real-time conversations.||IVAs repeatedly touch leads until intent is assessed, whether it takes one day, eight months, or even two years.|
|Chatbots live within a single channel.||IVAs can communicate over multiple channels including email and SMS text messages.|
|Chatbots are simple, rules-based systems.||IVAs are powered by AI which can interpret and generate conversations autonomously.|
|Chatbots interpret simple, static responses on a single path (it cannot interpret conversations).||IVAs utilize NLP and NLG to interpret and respond in human-like, two-way conversations.|
|Chatbots are triggered by certain actions or time spent on a webpage.||IVAs immediately start outreach after the lead expresses interest through various marketing activities.|
|The goal of chatbots is to answer common questions and to drive operational efficiency.||The goal of IVAs is to provide more considered dialogue to drive leads into opportunities, engage customers and build advocacy.|
|Limited or no interactions beyond what’s canned.||Interprets, understands and generates language (responses are not canned); Autonomously manages conversations to ensure personalized, polite, and persistent communication.|
|Many chatbots have little to no integration with a system of record or engagement.||Integrates with CRM, email automation, and sales enablement tools to update contact information and provide context for the next round of conversations.|
|Handles real-time exchanges.||Drives the next best action.|
|Chatbots provide simple canned answers to FAQs.||IVAs provide dynamic and intelligent answers and drive revenue growth.|
|Chatbots are non-adaptive.||IVAs learn over time thanks to AI and Machine Learning.|
It's important to understand that chatbots have their purpose and place just like how AI-powered Intelligent Virtual Assistants have their place. Not all communications are equal or the same. Sometimes you need to offer customers instant access to information. Other times, you need more considered dialogue to drive leads into opportunities, engage customers and nurture relationships. And in these cases, you will want to deploy a Conversica AI Assistant.
Don’t send a bot to perform the duties of an Intelligent Virtual Assistant. See what a Conversica AI Assistant can do for your business by requesting a demo today!