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Do Chatbots Convert Better than Forms?


Businesses are always looking for the latest way to connect with prospects and coax them down the conversion funnel. And the latest lead generation trend is for chatbots and live chat.

As with many new developments in the marketing world, this new technology is all very exciting. But is it a case of the emperor’s new clothes? We think so. Here’s why.

What Are Chatbots and Live Chat?

Chatbots Magazine defines chatbots as, “a service, powered by rules and sometimes artificial intelligence, that you interact with via a chat interface.”

You’ve probably come across one already on a website, social media platform or another chat product like Facebook Messenger. Chatbots can be used in many ways including customer services, sales and a combination of the two where help turns into up- or cross-selling.

Depending on the purpose and location of your chatbot, each would be programmed with a specific script. An example would be a customer service chatbot that pops up in the corner of a screen and asks someone if they need any help as in this example from M&S Bank.

Source: CBInsights

The chatbot then assesses the response and replies in a conversational style that’s designed to help the customer or elicit more information from them. This could include asking for personal details like name, address and email.

A slightly different approach is live chat where online messaging apps connect a user with an agent as in this example from GoDaddy.

Source: Tintup

Both these approaches can be used to gather information as part of the lead generation process, providing a potential alternative to online forms.

What’s All the Fuss About?

The aim of this technology is to start a two-way conversation with the user making the interaction more human and engaging. Chatbots and live chat also give people instant, or fairly instant, responses so they aren’t waiting for answers.

When they do ‘speak’ to an organisation, customers won’t be subject to human error and should get the right pre-programmed information. There’s also an opportunity for the chatbot to qualify leads and push them further down the conversion funnel.

Why Chat Won’t Supersede the Form Any Time Soon

Why is a form analytics platform discussing chat? Because this new technology is simply a glorified version of an online form and one that we’ve got our own opinions about.

They Say: chat is ready, willing and able

Chat technology is here and it’s about to take over the world.  

We Say: chat is developmental technology

The premise of artificially intelligent chatbots that can converse as well as humans might sound good but the reality is very different.

Most companies cannot afford this technology which means chatbots operate on the basis of decision tree models which are basically a database of question and answer responses. The linear coding means users don’t always get the right answer to their question and that chatbots can only respond to certain commands.

As a result, conversation isn’t always free-flowing. And because the chatbot is focussed on a particular topic they’re unable to make the conversational leaps that humans can.

When chat ux design isn’t quite right, consumers receive automated responses like these.

Source: ChatbotFail

Conversations like these are as frustrating for online users as they are in real life. And poor ux design can leave customers feeling that they’re getting nowhere making them inclined to believe your company is cold and indifferent to their needs.

The stats back this assessment up:

They say: what data problems?

Chatbots and live chat use secure messaging products to protect our customer’s data.

We say: don’t leave data security to chance

Sharing personal details with a robot reduces risk. After all, they’re hardly likely to steal your credit card number and go on a shopping spree. But you need to ask yourself, “how secure is the platform that’s holding the data?”

We know that forms are designed to plug in to other systems where data is stored securely. But not all chatbots do this: research shows that although most will encrypt data in transit the majority do not verify the identity of the person providing the information. And many platforms fail to encrypt data at the provider’s end.

Hardly the security we expect for our personal data.

They say: everyone wants to chat

Chat provides your business with a way to meet and greet customers online and answer any questions.

We say: not always

In the same way that shop assistants can be annoying, so chat functions can tread on toes.

Sometimes people want to visit a website or an app and take the next step without talking to anyone. There are many reasons for this: perhaps your user simply isn’t in the mood to interact with another ‘person’; or maybe they just want to add data to a form and leave without any pleasantries.

They say: engagement is all

Chatbots emulate the human touch; people want warm and fuzzy.

We say: users like speed and chat can take longer

In a non-stop world where everyone’s busy, chat often takes up precious time. Instead of quickly scanning a form and adding their details to the sections that are required, chat means users must answer questions that may not be relevant.

Often, what’s being asked via chat could easily be asked in a form. Simply write your form in the right tone of voice and you can deliver warm and engaging without the expense and disruption of introducing chat. Take a look at typeforms that provide this exact experience.

Another challenge for chatbots is that computers aren’t good at reading between the lines and are unable to pick up on context. Live chat is similar in that tone of voice, emphasis and subtleties are all lost when messaging.

In a context that is supposed to be engaging this could result in user frustration. With a form, customers get what they expect: a place to enter data and leave.

They say: we’re ready when you are

Chatbots are always ready to go and live chat means agents can handle several calls at the same time.

We say: timeouts and multi-tasking mean poor performance

When users need to find specific information they don’t want to feel they’re up against the clock. With good form ux design you can give users plenty of time to find the information they need before the form times out.  

With chatbots you only have a limited period before the session shuts down. Meaning you need to start all over again.

Live chat means there’s someone waiting on the other end of the computer. Which makes for a pressurised user experience. It also means that the agent your dealing with is managing several other chats at the same time potentially resulting in a poor user experience.

That’s not to say live chat isn’t ever useful: our experience shows it’s a helpful addition to online forms, providing customers with someone to turn to if they have a question or are facing other difficulties.

Chat might help businesses find out certain information about their customers with the potential for moving them further along the conversion funnel. But the technology isn’t there yet for this to be a serious contender for most businesses. In many instances users want to complete a form and get on with their lives. And they also want to know that the data they provide is secure.

Forms do all this without the expense and upheaval associated with introducing a new, and not always effective, technology.