Creating the best experience through automation

Live Chat vs Chatbot vs Intelligent Widget: Which automation-driven solution creates the best customer experience and efficiency for your website?

New Kids on the Block

The last couple of years have seen significant changes to how websites cater to their online visitors, and the biggest departure from the static lead capture that these new solutions bring to the table - is that they are conversational. With static lead capture forms, users have to not only fill out an array of fields, but have to wait a while before hearing back from an agent or company. For the customer who just wants answers, the static lead form process can be impersonal, disengaging, and unrewarding with no immediate direct value. 

So what are the best-performing agents using that counters that? Here are three routes that have gained popularity and we take a look at the pros and cons of each. 

Live Chat 

What is it? 

Live chat software is an application or program that gives visitors the opportunity to ask questions via a pop-up box. Ranging in features, cost-efficiency and speed, they provide powerful backend tools and reporting capabilities to agents in real-time. According to Outbound Engine, there are a number of stats to prove the power of live chat: 

  • On average, brokerages see a 36% increase in leads from live chat 
  • Live chat leads convert at an average rate of 7.5%, which is 3 times the average for general online leads in the industry. 
  • Approximately 49% of live chat leads were promising enough for an agent to follow up. 

Pros: 

  • Ease of communication for consumers - great for visitors querying during office hours
  • Faster response rate than email
  • FAQs dealt with right away - freeing up future and other support lines to address more convoluted issues or questions further along the customer journey. 

Cons: 

  • Agents have to put in the time to be online and respond quickly 
  • If unable to man a live chat themselves, agents will have to hire someone else or a team to do so. 
  • Like other plugins, live chat software could potentially slow down a website and disrupt customer experience 

Overall, nearly 60% of respondents to a Real Trends survey revealed that live chat was an important part of an agent’s business and the experience was a positive one. Live chat across multiple industries has proven to gain the highest customer satisfaction level (81%) compared to email and phone, according to Econsultancy

Chatbot

What is it? 

Chatbots are software that generates automated responses according to keywords in people’s messages. We’ve seen early variations of it on Facebook for years but AI has progressed so much that more sophisticated versions are being implemented by industries everywhere, including real estate. A chatbot box pops up on a corner of the page, with pre-entered, carefully chosen questions to initiate conversation with visitors, (aimed to pre-qualify the visitor, and hopefully convert them to a lead). 

Pros: 

  • Many repetitive and mundane tasks can be offloaded, answering prospect queries, collecting data, (which can be automatically integrated to the agent’s chosen CRM). 
  • 24/7 availability and multilingual. 
  • Actionable greetings that promote most relevant listings to gauge interest, or qualify leads according to their needs, drastically speeding up the sales cycle. 
  • Can schedule further live chats, calls, or even face-to-face meetings or property viewings. 
  • Can host multiple conversations simultaneously, leading to that much more quality and qualified data entering the agent’s workspace. 
  • Because chatbots utilize AI, (at least at the decision-tree logic level), they are ever-learning on the job, getting smarter with each ‘conversation’. 
  • Scalable according to the level of expertise and needs of the agent
  • Multichannel support (Facebook, Slack, etc.) making the agent ‘reachable’ everywhere. 

Cons: 

  • Because of AI integration, there is a risk of losing authenticity as a live agent may connect better with a visitor. 
  • Visitors urgent to speak with an agent may lose interest and/or patience when confronted with a bot. 
  • A chatbot is only as good as its digital code, and programmers may not be able to anticipate some visitor queries, or some concepts may be lost in translation. So agents have to conduct routine maintenance and quality checks on their chatbot performance. 

Chatbots are revolutionizing communication channels in real estate, with the industry being listed as the most profitable field for chatbots. BusinessInsider, too, reported the chatbot market size is projected to grow from $2.6b in 2019 to $9.4b by 2024, proving that consumers trust the process. 

Intelligent widgets

What is it? 

In a nutshell, widgets are self-contained mini programs that can be applied on a website or phone.

Pros: 

  • Widgets add value to the customer experience, whether it be educational, informative, or solution-driven. Examples of widgets that agents use are: 
  • Google Street View, (interactive, 360 views of a property’s area), 
  • Mortgage Calculator
  • Appointment booking widgets, 
  • Photo gallery widgets (a great way to showcase success stories or current listings). 
  • Reusable, can be easily replaced with other versions, and very often free of cost

Cons: 

  • Level of security threat - adding a widget to a site means pulling data from another server somewhere, which can affect loading time. 
  • Limited multi-language capabilities 
  • Needs regular maintenance as many widgets don’t have the security patches to deal with viruses
So is the static lead-form capture dead? 

With these technologies increasingly making their presence felt in real estate, what happens to the static lead capture form, always having to maintain the delicate balance between ‘ask’ and ‘reward’? While it has been effective in the past to capture/nurture leads, consumers no longer want to spend time filling out multiple fields to get a free e-book which doesn’t even address the query they have. It’s vital to take note that in an age where consumers are usually literally one tap away from finding answers online, the newer, more AI-powered solutions that the live chat, chatbot and widgets supply is already becoming the norm.

There isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution here, however, and agents need to strategize exactly how these methods (if any) will enhance their business goals.


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