Chatbot vs Virtual assistant – What’s the difference?

Maybe your initial reaction now will be; “What, isn’t virtual assistant and chatbot the same thing?”. If so, your understanding of AI needs an upgrade. There’s in fact a distinct difference between the two and it’s useful to understand when implementing AI technology for your company. While AI has evolved dramatically during recent years, useful AI applications have been introduced as a poster child. Overall, these can help organizations boost productivity by automating some extents of their customer interaction as well as their internal business process.

So how do they differ? Chatbots are generally used as information guides, like helping you find a PDF or providing you with contact details for the department you want to reach. Virtual assistants on the other hand help with daily business such as reminding you of that meeting you forgot about or and managing to-dos. So, to sum it up quickly, chatbots are used to leverage customer support, and virtual assistants help with business process.

virtual assistant in companies


Chatbots are automated programs used as a medium to interact with humans and is therefore generally used to fortify customer service. The technology today holds a crucial role for many companies as they are able to gather information from customers by asking relevant questions, and then in turn using those to provide smart options or solutions. Some are even tech-savvy enough to book appointments.

  1. Effective support -Because they can help answer simple questions as well as gather important information, customer service colleagues can focus on solving more complex issues.
  2. Increased customer satisfaction -Because a chatbot can respond within seconds, it is often appreciated by customers who expect a quick response.
  3. Multifunctional – There are plentiful ways a chatbot can be useful, whether it be customer service, orders or marketing.
  1. Limited answers -They may be speedy, but they are not perfect. For example, they may not understand complex questions, which means that some may not get their questions answered or be locked into a human employee.
  2. Expensive complex models -It is of course possible to implement more complex functionality to solve the disadvantage above, but it often comes with a hefty price tag.
  3. Doesn’t suit all companies -If your business is very complex and there are too many questions and steps to program with a chatbot, it is almost counterintuitive. The idea is to help reduce costs and labor, not the other way around.

Virtual assistant

A virtual assistant is a digital software-based agent that helps us with our daily tasks such as notifications, booking appointments, making calls, organizing tasks, etc. They’re much like a personal human assistant in that sense, but do the work online and behind the scenes. Some of the most famous virtual assistants are of course Siri and Alexa who slowly have integrated themselves into our daily lives. They have become our main resources for searching for information, handling information in an intuitive way without having to do anything outside their comfort zone.

  1. Effective work – A virtual assistant can help facilitate smaller tasks such as organizing your schedule or booking appointments. Although it is not extremely time consuming in itself, all the small tasks gathered are time consuming.
  2. Smarter with age – The more you interact with a virtual assistant, the smarter they become. They learn to understand your preferences over time and can thus provide better answers.
  3. Understands natural language – The accuracy with which they interpret natural language and distinguish between similar-sounding words during voice searches has improved remarkably in recent times.
  1. Security – Although most providers claim high security, it is incredibly important for those using a virtual assistant that the information entered is secure.
  2. Limited voice recognition – Although it is often advanced voice recognition, it is not perfect and you may sometimes need to repeat the same sentence. Related to the point above, safety is also an issue here. Because a virtual assistant is latent listening in the background, security is important. Even if they are triggered by a keyword, there have been glitches where the keyword is believed to have been heard in a regular conversation that has since been recorded.

What’s the difference?

One of the main differences between the two is the human element whereas chatbots lack the ability to comprehend emotions. You’ve probably noticed while visiting a web page that if your question leans too much on emotion rather than asking a clear question, you won’t get much help. Virtual assistants on the other hand often include natural language processing which means they’re able to analyze the complexity of language. This results in a much more human-like experience and often higher accuracy.  Another difference that relates to this is that if you break the conversation flow with a chatbot, it won’t be able to catch up with the context of the interaction. Virtual assistants instead use dynamic conversation flow technique in order to understand human interaction.

Both in essence hold core capabilities for companies and don’t exclude one another. These just tend to be more useful in different parts of the company. Try mapping out the customer journey and see where each of them fit in. For example, for the first interaction, use a chatbot to provide customers with useful answers in order to feel confident enough to take the next step. Then use a virtual assistant to help you lock that deal down with the new potential customer.





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