Chatbots vs. Virtual Assistants: Differences — and how they help

October 15, 2020 — Many of us have gotten comfortable throwing around terms like: Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Chatbots, Virtual Assistant and similar.  For many, we talk about them more than we truly understand them.

Today's blog post highlights differences between Chatbots and Virtual Assistants — and how they benefit your business..

Chatbots vs Virtual Assistants-1

No, They Are Not The Same Thing

Chatbots and Virtual Assistants may serve similar purposes, but they are definitely not the same thing.

Chatbot As the name suggests, these are robots of sorts... software code (without the structural frame like R2D2 or C-3PO in Star Wars) that is generally deployed within websites to foster conversations and communication.  Chatbots are usually very keyword search based. 

For example, when you go to our own website (, we have a chatbot in the lower right corner that asks, "Got any questions? I'm happy to help."  Our chatbot is very simplistic, to use a workflow to help visitors self-serve on basic inquiries, playing traffic cop to effortlessly direct people to the part of Vendor Surf they seek — without having to call anyone.  

Chatbots are fairly common these days, widely used.  As with anything on the Internet, some bots are malicious, but most are highly reputable, effective and efficient.  In researching, I was shocked to learn the first Chatbots date back to the 1960s.

Virtual Assistant These are generally much more complex, relying less upon basic scripted responses, and more on artificial intelligence (AI).  Virtual Assistants can often complete moderately difficult tasks for users.  I like to think of a Chatbot as more of an 'app,' whereby a Virtual Assistant is more of a 'platform,' standing-in for (or augmenting) first line customer service, with an ability to escalate onward, if necessary.

Around your own home, think about how you might ask Siri or Alexa open ended questions, and in turn, get specific and fairly detailed responses.  That is the type of capability available to your business, provided you engage the right partner. 

Benefits of These Technologies

Contrary to most technology deployment goals, reduced cost is often not the leading driver here, though a likely outcome.  Instead, key business benefits of Chatbots and Virtual Assistants are:

  • Augmenting customer service communications
  • Communicating via your customer's channel of choice; More and more, people like to self-serve, vs call customer service
  • Being perceived as easy-to-do-business-with
  • Consistency and accuracy in communication, as it's following programs to be replicated
  • The programs get stronger over time with more usage and history to draw from; Yes, they do actually learn and retain

Two Good (Quick) Reads

     LiveVox article - found HERE

     Cherwell article - found HERE


Preferred Vendors found HERE

Thanks for reading.



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