AI Chatbots vs. AI Virtual Assistants. What’s the Difference?

In today’s fast-paced, digital, and dynamic enterprise environments, the need for speed is vital. Businesses want increased productivity with less resources, more cost savings, and improved accuracy, while offering the ultimate customer experience to end-users. Employees and customers expect from IT Service Desks self-serving automation, and always-on service accessible anytime and anywhere, from any channel and device of their choice capable of instantly engaging and resolving their daily issues. As enterprises of any size and any industry vertical are becoming more and more customer-focused, many wonder how to distinguish between an AI Chatbot (or IT helpdesk chatbot) and AI Virtual Assistant.

AI Chatbots and AI Virtual Assistants

Like all new technology, AI Chatbots and AI Virtual Assistants are often used interchangeably even though their primary functions and level of technology sophistication are very different.

AI Chatbots are primarily meant to communicate with end-users, by interacting either by text, on website chats, chat applications or over email or SMS, or audibly like with Alexa or Siri. Despite what IT Helpdesk Chatbot vendors say, AI Chatbot effectiveness is guard-railed to solely basic, short and goal-oriented user-interactions. Even though some can be somewhat convincing using Natural Language Processing (NLP) technologies at appropriate times, AI Chatbot interactions and responses with users feel canned and robot-like and as of 2019, none of the AI Chatbot products in the market has reliably passed the Turing Test, a simple test which measures the likelihood that a machine can fool end-users to be a human.

AI Virtual Assistants are more advanced than AI Chatbots and IT helpdesk chatbots. They can do more because they are empowered by the latest advances in cognitive computing, Natural Language Processing (NLP), and Natural Language Understanding (NLU). AI Virtual Assistants leverage Conversational AI and can engage with end-users in complex, multi-topics, long, and noisy conversations. They can precisely understand the end-user intent(s) and provide personalized and accurate answers, but also they can trigger and complete tasks and multi-domains processes, and even escalate when and as needed to human agents. And all in a smooth, clear, and immersive experience to the end-users mimicking the behavior and interaction style of human agents.

AI Virtual Assistants Drive Productivity

AI Chatbots and IT helpdesk chatbots are “cold software programs”. They are not able to read and interpret the context within which the end-users prompt a request, nor they are able to adjust their responses accordingly. Conversely, AI Virtual Assistants contextualize and customize their interaction in real-time using advanced User Behavioral Intelligence and Sentiment analytics. They can pick up the tone negativity of an interaction and automatically switch to be sympathetic, apologizing, and more understanding to the end-user.

AI Virtual Assistants Continuously Learn and Understand

AI Chatbots do not learn and do not remember. Meant for communication, AI Chatbots and IT helpdesk chatbots engage with end-users only when a predetermined action occurs, like a user typing in a dialogue interface or speaking to a device that’s “listening”. The AI Chatbot then hand-picks pre-canned keywords from the user phrase based on its limited word-dictionary and takes the “most likely” response based on pre-canned scripted information flow to the user. They aren’t going “off the wire” or “learning” based on the interaction. 

Instead, AI Virtual Assistants never sleep, and they are in a 24/7 active learning modality. Sometimes they learn from live interactions with end-users, other times they learn from conversations between users and human agents, and when no user activity, they turn their attention into ticketing systems analyzing how tickets were successfully resolved by human agents, being a simple reference to a knowledge article or complex multi-step procedures which are preserved in AI Virtual Assistant guided workflows. New intents, entities, and synonymous, phrasal slangs, and ways to resolve simple to complex end-user requests are continuously discovered, learned, and put into action almost in real-time. A continuous learning system which aims at 100% self-service automation for IT Service Desk and Customer Service.

Popular AI Chatbot and Conversational AI Assets

A detailed analysis on the differences between AI Chatbots and AI Virtual Assistants reveals a key question to be asked: why do these differences matter? So what if AI Virtual Assistants can understand and make sense of natural language? Although AI Chatbots are incapable of holding long, continuing conversations, at least they get the job done, right? No. In fact, as businesses continue to develop and acquire new strategies that give them a strong competitive edge, it is going to take a lot more than just “getting the job done” to stand out among competitors. AI Virtual Assistants fill that gap; the purpose of their existence is not just to respond efficiently to user commands and requests, but to also revolutionize service support and enhance the entire customer and employee experience.

Why Are AI Virtual Assistants Important?

From a user perspective, it is common to feel hesitant and exasperated when sending in requests and queries to an organization’s chatbot service. The thought of waiting too long for an answer only to have chatbots fail to understand the intention behind the request is unappealing and almost laughable. Unsurprisingly, AI Chatbots and IT helpdesk chatbots are often completely avoided when considering what sources to go to for help. Instead, users go straight to human agents because they are more “reliable” and “capable” of resolving issues, leaving AI Chatbots discounted and untouched. Piles and piles of requests then fall onto the laps of human employees, leaving them drowned with tasks that could have been handled and resolved elsewhere.

Leveraging NLP, NLU, and machine learning (ML) capabilities, AI Virtual Assistants can understand and analyze the intricacies and nuances of natural human language. This makes self-serving more streamlined and appealing to users because they have the freedom to write naturally and easily when interacting with AI Virtual Assistants. Users no longer have to worry about being misunderstood or possibly leaving the conversation with unresolved issues. Instead, users can trust that AI Virtual Assistants will understand the intent behind their queries in order to generate immediate and appropriate responses. Receiving quick and accurate resolutions will then drive up customer satisfaction levels, encouraging them to continually return to using AI Virtual Assistants for their service support needs. From an employee perspective, an increase in the number of customers seeking help from AI Virtual Assistants results in decreased call center volumes, allowing human agents to focus on higher-value tasks that require complex thinking and abilities.

AI Virtual Assistants continuously learn from past interactions and results, allowing them to communicate effortlessly with users from start to finish. AI Virtual Assistants can also remember context from a user’s previous question, ensuring the conversation flows naturally rather than having to repeat or start over. By recognizing patterns within past and current requests, AI Virtual Assistants are able to give accurate responses to users within seconds. Equipping virtual assistants with the ability to retain and apply knowledge from previous interactions is advantageous for businesses because customers demand to get their issues resolved in a fast and efficient manner. On the user end, customers find waiting around for chatbots to generate appropriate responses to be a waste of valuable time. On the employee end, human agents dread having to sift through various channels and databases to retrieve relevant information. By offering quick resolution times to users, businesses establish themselves as “customer first” entities. After recognizing the effort businesses put into enriching user experiences, customers feel valued and respected, leaving them happy and loyal to the brand. When it comes to employees, being freed from monotony allows them to focus on more meaningful tasks, such as improving and developing their own customer engagement strategies.

AI Virtual Assistants can also detect user emotion and modify their behaviors accordingly, making their interactions with customers more natural, personalized, and human-like. The ability to change tones to match a wide range of user emotions is extremely valuable when striving to deliver positive user experiences. For example, when a customer is frustrated or upset, an AI Virtual Assistant is able to recognize this and work to improve the customer’s mood. This can be through becoming more sympathetic towards the customer or offering additional suggestions to help them resolve their issues. By delivering a conversational experience that mirrors human interaction, Conversational AI and AI Virtual Assistants are able to establish user trust, engagement, and satisfaction, all of which are pivotal to the success and growth of any organization.

AI Virtual Assistants: Unlocking the Future of User and Employee Experiences

The future of customer and employee experience innovation is all about creating and delivering solutions that help make every interaction more efficient and meaningful than the last. Businesses are investing in Conversational AI to drive better and more efficient interactions with customers and employees. As businesses continue developing and acquiring new ways to enhance their user and employee experiences, it is important to prevent oneself from remaining stagnant or from falling behind. With advanced capabilities such as NLP and NLU technology, AI Virtual Assistants are undoubtedly game-changers in the service support industry, continuously paving the way for smarter, more efficient business outcomes.

Aisera offers the most feature-comprehensive and technology-advanced self-service automation solution in the market, which blends AI Virtual Assistant technology, Conversational AI, and Conversational RPA into one SaaS cloud offer for IT Service Desk and Customer Services.

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