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Chatbots & Virtual Assistant- Which One Should You Choose?

Artificial intelligence has brought about a paradigm shift in how businesses operate.

Did you know that 35% of companies now use AI in their business in some form, and another 42% are currently exploring AI?

AI-enabled applications have taken over a range of repetitive business functions, whether it is answering customer queries or managing day-to-day activities. This is why organizations across the globe are implementing AI in more areas to increase their revenue and reduce costs.

Conversational programs such as chatbots and virtual assistants comprise a key part of this transition.

You may confuse them for being the same since the terms are often used interchangeably (& inaccurately so). But this couldn’t be further from the truth!

While both AI-powered programs respond to human queries and automate processes, chatbots and virtual assistants serve vastly different functions and have varying implementation scopes. 

In this chatbot vs virtual assistant comparison guide, we list the key differences between these AI applications and help you find the solution that suits your business needs best. But before we delve into this, let’s take a look at each of their characteristics and benefits.

What is a Chatbot?

A chatbot is an application that lets you engage with customers in real-time to provide quick and effective support. They help deliver human-like responses to visitors and automate support experiences, contributing to customer delight.

Chatbots can be deployed on your website, within applications, and on messaging platforms. 

Primarily, chatbots are responsible for supporting customers at lower costs. You can also use chatbots to book appointments, generate leads, collect information, promote products, and enable self-help. 

Take this sales chatbot created using ProProfs Chat, for example. 

It can help you drive human-like conversations with buyers, helping close more sales. You can create custom conversational flows to deliver the most appropriate responses to sales-related questions. With such a chatbot in place, prospective customers visiting your website can seek answers to their queries related to your products and services, so they can make the buying decision quickly.

According to Gartner, chatbots will become a primary customer service channel in the next 5 years. 

The reason for this can be understood by considering the broad range of benefits that chatbots offer, including:

  • Strengthen Customer Support 

Chatbots offer quick and automated support in real-time, contributing to improved customer experiences. They can be used to drive personalized, human-like interactions and foster engagement across multiple channels. 

Related Watch: How to Automate Your Customer Service 
  • Grow Leads 

Chatbots hold conversations with incoming website visitors and collect relevant information from them using pre-chat forms. This helps you grow your lead lists with potential customers that demonstrate an interest in your business.

  • Aiding Self-Help

Chatbots enable self-help by delivering relevant knowledge base articles to customers based on their queries. This works for customers that are looking to resolve queries on their own without having to wait around for a support executive.

Aiding Self-Help
Read More: Self Service Customer Support – Everything You Need to Know
  • Assist Support Executives

Chatbots offer quick solutions and reduce the number of support tickets. They take care of frequently asked questions, which takes some work off the plate of support executives, enabling them to focus on more critical customer issues. 

  • Intelligent Routing

Advanced chatbots can create tickets automatically and route complex queries to a human support agent. This increases the speed and efficiency of issue resolution.

Intelligent Routing


Watch this video to learn more about adding chatbots to your website:

What Is a Virtual Assistant?

Virtual assistants are online applications that assist people with day-to-day operations. Whether it is making appointments, taking notes, setting the alarm, or scheduling reminders, virtual assistants can address a variety of needs. 

Essentially, they act as personal digital assistants that provide administrative support. Virtual assistants free you from performing tedious and repetitive tasks, so you can engage in activities that are more critical to your business.

Just like a human assistant, virtual assistants aim to make your life easier. This requires them to be intelligent programs that can understand and process human language. 

You are most likely already familiar with Siri, Cortana, Alexa, and other such popular VAs. These assistants execute tasks based on voice commands. You can also opt for custom-built virtual assistants that perform tasks by learning from your company data and delivering relevant solutions to user requests. 

Virtual assistants can be used day in and day out to perform a range of tasks. Some of the key benefits that have resulted in the widespread popularity of this application include:

  • Reduce Workload 

Virtual assistants take care of tasks that would otherwise take up a huge chunk of your time and resources. This frees you up to take on more challenging and high-yielding tasks.

  • Enhance Productivity

Along with easing operations, virtual assistants also contribute to improved productivity. They get rid of manual errors and automate processes, which enhances your overall effectiveness.

  • Highly Accessible

A significant benefit of virtual assistants is their ease of access. These assistants can perform tasks based on verbal commands as well as a chat-like interface, making them extremely convenient to use. 

  • No Downtime 

Virtual assistants function round the clock, enabling you to get things done without any delay. Moreover, they do not require any breaks or pay raises, making them the most effective personal assistants that you could use. 

Chatbot vs Virtual Assistant: 5 Key Differences

Chatbots and virtual assistants are both conversational assistants that offer relevant responses based on the user’s query. However, they serve different purposes. While virtual assistants can handle a broader set of tasks, chatbots are more concerned with customer engagement and support. 

To settle the chatbots vs virtual assistants debate once and for all, we have compiled a list of the key differences between both.

  1. Technology 

Chatbots operate on rule-based flows and branching logic, while virtual assistants work on machine learning and natural language processing. This means that while they are both powered by AI, these programs have different technologies as their foundation, which affects their overall performance and operability.   

Furthermore, Chatbots have a conversational chat-based interface, while virtual assistants can work on both voice and text commands. 

  1. Functionality 

The core functionality of chatbots is to augment customer support experiences. On the other hand, virtual assistants help execute tasks that are vital to conducting day-to-day operations effortlessly. 

Chatbots are restricted to pre-defined conversational flows and terminology. Virtual assistants perform specific tasks based on user requirements and are capable of understanding intent to execute tasks more efficiently. 

  1. Intelligence 

Chatbots are more straightforward solutions that are fairly lacking in understanding human emotions. They provide responses based on their programming and usually offer a pre-defined set of answers that can make the conversation easier for the customers.

Virtual assistants are much more intuitive and learn from previous interactions. They help drive more contextual and meaningful conversations based on the intent of the query.

  1. Deployment Channels

Another key point of distinction between a chatbot and a virtual assistant is the platforms through which they are made available to the users. 

Chatbots are deployed on websites, in-app widgets, messaging platforms, and help centers. Virtual assistants are available on a variety of devices, such as smartphones and tablets. 

  1. Cost-Effectiveness 

Chatbots are far less expensive than virtual assistants. The lower deployment and operational costs associated with chatbots make them appropriate for businesses that require a tool that supports their customer service and marketing operations.  

According to Juniper Research, the average cost saved per chatbot interaction is $0.70. This makes chatbots a highly favorable and cost-efficient investment for businesses across industries. 

Attribute Chatbots Virtual Assistants
Technology Rule-based conversational AI Natural Language Processing & Machine Learning
Functionality Automated programs that enhance customer engagement and support Intuitive digital assistants that perform a wider range of tasks
Advanced emotional intelligence No Yes
Deployed/ available on Website, app, messaging channels Devices such as smartphones, smart speakers, wearables, etc.
Examples Customer service chatbots, sales chatbots, lead generation chatbots, appointment setting chatbots, etc Siri, Alexa, Google Assistant, Cortana, etc.

Virtual Assistants vs Chatbots: Making the Right Choice 

Now that we have listed the key difference between the two, it’s time to choose between chatbots vs virtual assistants based on your business needs and use case.

Understanding the above-mentioned differences can help you implement the more appropriate solution and maximize your profits. Here’s a quick overview of their functionality to help you choose the more effective option out of the two. 

Choose chatbots for:

  • Enriching your customer support experiences
  • Providing quicker responses & answering routine questions 
  • Acquiring relevant information from users
  • Enabling self-service by integrating with your knowledge base 
  • Scheduling appointments 
  • Delivering product recommendations & information to users 

Choose virtual assistants for:

  • Performing daily tasks such as making calls, taking notes, typing out texts, setting reminders, etc. 
  • Carrying out interactive and advanced human-like conversations with users
  • Handling the responsibilities of a personal assistant
  • Learning preferences and predicting user needs 
  • Executing tasks based on voice or text inputs 

To put it simply, if you are looking to advance your productivity levels, a virtual assistant would be the right choice. At the same time, a chatbot is an ideal option for improving customer support and satisfaction. You can also choose to leverage both these AI-powered applications in distinct areas of your business to enhance your business outcomes further. 

Should you decide to apply a chatbot, make sure to only invest in a dynamic software solution such as ProProfs Chat to make the most of this conversational interface. This will help you create highly customized chatbots with branching logic and powerful automation capabilities that save you a lot of time and keep customers delighted! 

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ProProfs Editorial Team

About the author

The ProProfs Live Chat Editorial Team is a passionate group of customer service experts dedicated to empowering your live chat experiences with top-notch content. We stay ahead of the curve on trends, tackle technical hurdles, and provide practical tips to boost your business. With our commitment to quality and integrity, you can be confident you're getting the most reliable resources to enhance your customer support initiatives.