How are chatbots and virtual assistants different?

Both are conversational software tools that interact with users and can be used to drive digital projects

It’s easy to confuse some concepts about chatbot and virtual assistant tools. They have similar characteristics, as they are both conversational software tools that use some level of intelligence to interact with users, but there are differences.

What exactly are the differences?

Deciphering the words can help explain differences between the tools. 

A chatbot is a robot (bot) that interacts via chat and includes messaging applications such as WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger. Chatbots perform tasks automatically.

They do that through text messages, file submissions, and routing users to the appropriate channel. Typically, these robots are used in customer support for sales and service automation.

Virtual assistants, on the other hand, are prompted by voice or text and then respond according to the availability of the most relevant information, as needed by the user.

Well-known virtual assistants include Siri, Alexa, Cortana, and Google Assistant, present on various devices such as smartphones, tablets, and computers. They assist in the use of these devices and answer users questions via conversational interfaces.

What is not different

Many people get confused and believe they see other differences. The main mistake is to think that assistants are smarter, when that is not always the case. Some chatbots use state-of-the-art artificial intelligence as well.

It is true that the features and capabilities of most chatbots are more limited than those of virtual assistants, but this difference is less and less observed in some of these solutions as they evolve. 

Another myth is that chatbots should be used for unique functions, such as sending links to buy specific concert tickets in a producer’s chat website. Actually, they are able to perform an increasingly number and variety of functions.

What are the advantages of each tool?

It would not be very useful to have a list of advantages without knowing how to use these tools in a personalized way, to improve the user experience and to develop a natural language, with consistent and useful responses.

Thinking about the experience, the great advantage is the ability of chatbots and virtual assistants of preserving the user’s autonomy. They help with searches, directions to the ideal channel, with quick responses and, in the case of assistants, they enable the user to be handsfree, because they can be triggered by voice.

As assistants evolve, they tend to “behave” as a true intelligent aide, who does research and guides users on diverse subjects while they perform other tasks.

More effectively and objectively, both technologies automate processes, lowering costs, increasing the company’s ability to scale its operation, and improving team focus on users and strategy. 

To choose the best option for your business, first understand your goals, audience, and what demand you expect for the tool. Review the processes and plan how a custom project using these tools — chatbot and virtual assistant – can drive your business.

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