There is absolutely no debate when it comes to artificial intelligence taking the world by storm. Many organizations are trying to go the AI way by deploying chatbots and virtual assistants to their websites and applications. In fact, according to a report by CNBC, “75-90% of queries are projected to be handled by bots by 2024.”

However, despite the ever-increasing popularity of chatbots and virtual assistants, many people get confused between the two.

Today, we aim to clear that confusion once and for all by covering the following:

 

Chatbots vs Virtual Assistants (Definition)

A chatbot is a type of AI-powered software that is pre-programmed to help you out with the most basic of queries. They are often used as an automated tool with pre-defined commands for acquiring information about you and your query.

Chatbots can be deployed in the form of the chat (commonly) and voice support (sometimes), wherein, they interpret your tone during the interaction to deliver the best-suited canned response. You can use chatbots for various processes like sales, support requests, brand engagement, product marketing, and improving your first response time.

voice-assistant

Image source – Pixabay.com

Virtual assistants, on the other hand, are also a form of AI-powered software. They try to give you the feel of an actual personal assistant. They are programmed to understand your voice commands and then deploy the most appropriate response.

Over time, with the help of machine learning, virtual assistants tend to get habituated to your likes, dislikes, and behavioral traits. They then provide a more personalized resolution to your queries. You can use a virtual assistant for taking down various tasks like creating reminders, maintaining to-do lists, scheduling appointments, and taking suggestions of holiday destinations/tv-shows/food joints.

Fact Dump: According to Techjury, “20% of all internet searches are voice-based.

Virtual assistant vs chatbot (Key Differences)

 

Features

Chatbot

Virtual Assistant

Interface Chat-based interface (commonly), voice-based (sometimes) Doesn’t require an interface and works on voice commands (majorly), chat (sometimes)
Conversational interaction Uses canned responses Uses natural learning processes to identify the tone of the user
Channels Websites and social media platforms Comes in-built with mobiles and laptops
Task Collects basic details of the user and provides information Performs complex tasks like setting reminders and making recommendations as per user preference
Language processing Limited languages and modern words according to the automation rules Uses the processes of Natural Language Processing (NLP) and Natural Language Understanding (NLU) to continuously update its language database 
Intelligence Fails to deliver the correct response for complex queries Learns and analyses the user over time to suggest the best-suited solution
Usage Acts as the first point of contact to reduce first response time Helps in navigation, suggesting music, best restaurants in town
Technology They make use of a rule-based and machine learning-powered system They make use of Natural Language Processing (NLP) and Natural Language Understanding (NLU)
Design Uses design that best suit the chatbot’s response tree and usage Uses design that incorporates ANN (Artificial Neural Networks)

 

Both virtual assistants and chatbots are two of the major entities that provide AI-powered services. However, at times you could get confused as to which of the two is the right fit for you and your business.

The following are some key differences between a virtual assistant and a chatbot:

1. Interface

Chatbots are primarily built around a conversational chatting model. In it, you can easily chat/text your queries which then entices the best-suited response from the chatbot. You can expect the interface of a chatbot to be similar to any other kind of traditional messaging app. 

Virtual assistants, on the other hand, can have a chat-like interface but don’t necessarily require a chat interface to operate. They mostly run on your voice commands with the help of Artificial Neural Networks (ANN). ANN enables the virtual assistant to better understand your behavioral traits. Next, it helps personalize, categorize, and display data according to your preferences. 

2. Conversational interaction

A chatbot can just recognize the words in the chat/speech and deploy the best-suited response. However, the chatbot is not familiar with human emotions and therefore, your conversation would end once it feels that it has solved the problem.

However, virtual assistants can identify intricate and complex tonalities in your speech with the help of advanced natural processing language. Over time, the virtual chatbot gets acquainted with your behavioral traits. Therefore, it can engage more in the conversation by providing a human touch.

3. Channels

AI-channels

A chatbot assistant has become quite common, as it can be found on all major websites, social media platforms, and customer service portals. Chatbots take the user’s queries through mobile applications and in-app chat widgets as well.

Virtual assistant, on the other hand, covers an even greater radius. The virtual assistant is an in-built feature that comes with every other mobile, tablet, and laptop. At some point, you must have come across some popular virtual assistants like Siri (Apple), Cortana (Windows), Google voice assistant (Android phones), and Bixby (Samsung).

4. Task

Chatbots can perform basic tasks like solving basic queries and providing product/service-related information. However, they fail to answer whenever you pose a complex or personalized query. Also, they fall short to carry out complex tasks, as their tasks are limited to the extent they have been automated to.

Virtual assistants, however, can carry out a much larger spectrum of tasks. They can help you with various tasks ranging from suggesting music, navigation, weather updates, product comparison, and searching for the cheapest flight. Virtual assistants can play a huge role in decision-making in various tasks that a normal chatbot can’t.  

5. Language processing

AI-language-processing

Chatbots can only interpret a certain number of languages that they have been automated for. According to the automation “rule” (pre-defined conditions), the chatbots can identify a set of words and then deploy the best-suited response. Also, when you put forth a simple query put up in a linguistic manner that isn’t defined in the chatbot’s rules, it fails to identify the problem.

Virtual assistants, on the other hand, make use of advanced languages processing methods like Natural Language Processing (NLP) and Natural Language Understanding (NLU). These processes help the virtual assistant to keep themselves updated on a whole plethora of new words, modern slang, and multiple languages. Also, processes like hard-coding, keyword training, and word-matching help the virtual assistant to provide a conversational interaction.

6. Intelligence

virtual-assistant-IQ

In terms of intelligence, there are certain limitations to chatbots. Due to the chatbots being primarily chat-oriented, they fail to understand a query that isn’t programmed in their domain. It leads to them having a short-term interaction with you. However, up-and-coming chatbots do include audio and visual elements in their arsenal.

But such is not the case with visual assistants. They can identify the intent behind your tone and then deliver the best-suited response. Also, with every interaction, they keep learning small details about you and then inculcate the same during your next interaction. It leads to the virtual assistants having a far longer and more fruitful conversation with you compared to chatbots.

7. Usage

Virtual Assistant Use cases

The main usage of chatbots is to be the first point of contact, whenever you pose a query. It leads to a significant decrease in the average response time. Also, chatbots are the best way to collect basic details of a user and their queries. It helps the agents in solving the next query of that particular user quickly.

Virtual assistants, however, have a wide range of usage. They can be used by you for a range of different tasks ranging from, setting reminders of events, searching for the best restaurant in town, navigating to the nearest tourist destination, and making notes.

Did you know?

According to a report by MIT, “90% of businesses report faster complaint resolution with chatbots.

8. Technology

AI-technology

Chatbots mainly use a rule-based or ML (Machine learning)-powered system. In it, the chatbots are pre-programmed with various canned responses for different kinds of words used during a conversation. The up-and-coming chatbots are getting more advanced, through which they can learn from their previous interactions and improve themselves accordingly.

When compared to chatbots, virtual assistants have a slight edge in technology over them. They run on advanced language-processing methods like Natural Language Processing (NLP) and Natural Language Understanding (NLU). This keeps them updated with the linguistic trends of multiple languages. Also, many virtual assistants integrate and collect information with the help of search engines to provide you with the best results. 

9. Design

chatbot-design

Chatbots go ahead with the design that best suits their response tree. Relevant models for the design are then pitched according to the usage and tasks of the chatbot.

Virtual assistants, on the other hand, run on designs that best suit Artificial Neural Networks (ANN). The ANNs are used to provide the virtual assistants with the correct analysis of your inputs that help them give out accurate solutions.

10. Core functionality

The core functionality of chatbots is mostly for businesses and customer service companies. They ease the workload of your business by reducing the first response time and holding conversations till the agent comes online. 

However, virtual assistants can be used both personally and in business. In both scenarios, the virtual assistant acts as your own personal assistant who is scheduling your tasks, setting reminders of events, and suggesting you all sorts of business-related articles.

Did you know?

According to Review42, “There are more than 300,000 active bots on Messenger.

Chatbot and virtual assistant (Benefits)

Before the advent of chatbots, due to the lack of an active agent at a particular time, customers had to wait for a long time to get their queries addressed. Chatbots are extensively used by businesses to provide a positive customer experience and increase productivity and revenue.  

Many companies use chatbots to increase their first response time by timely responding to the customers’ queries. The use of chatbots can help you reduce additional customer service expenses and improve your overall operational efficiency.

Virtual assistants, on the other hand, primarily focus on making you or your business’s daily tasks a bit easier. They help you maintain a healthy work-life balance by taking on tasks like maintaining notes, setting reminders of events, suggesting movies and songs, and scheduling appointments.

Apart from this, the upcoming virtual assistants can easily integrate with the smart devices in your home. They can be used to turn on/off your bulbs, television, music system, and thermostats.   

Did you know?

According to Statista, “Alexa is the leading virtual assistant in the US, with a market share of almost 38%.

Conclusion

There is no denying that artificial intelligence is a lifesaver for many businesses. The chatbots and virtual assistants help take a significant load off of your shoulders. 

The distinguishing features of chatbots and virtual assistants go on to prove that they are way different from one another and are used by two entirely different sets of individuals and businesses.

Sometimes, chatbots fail to deliver the best-suited response due to their language processing and intelligence limitations. This is where outsourcing can be a good option for you. 

Helplama can help you achieve a good mix of both a chatbot and human interaction. Also, you can try the Helplama Helpdesk – the customer service software that helps you automate and scale your customer support.