Canned responses vs chatbot responses: which should you use?

Canned responses and chatbot responses are two sides of the same coin. They serve a similar purpose: to automate the messages that a business sends to a customer in a web chat session.

Lately, it seems as though these terms, or tools, are starting to overlap. This is thanks to chat solutions evolving to incorporate the flexibility of hybrid chat. (I.e., chat sessions in which bots and agents collaborate to handle queries as quickly and efficiently as possible.)

So, if canned responses and chatbot responses increasingly overlap, what’s the difference? Which should you use?

A terminology touch-up

Canned responses: pre-written replies to commonly used phrases or questions. Here, an agent selects the canned response – clicking on an answer instead of having to manually type it out.

Chatbot responses:  pre-written replies to commonly used phrases or questions. Here, a chatbot sends the response automatically – there’s no agent involvement.

The similarities

So, as we can see, both canned responses and chatbot responses automate the process of answering common and routine queries.

In other words, they are automatic responses saving agents from typing out the same answers and asking the same questions over and over, day in, day out.

The question is, why have two chat tools that do the same thing?

The differences

While these automated messaging tools serve a similar purpose, they do so in different ways and serve different contexts.

Canned responses are for use in agent-led conversations. They act as a time-saver in an otherwise human interaction. A human selects them, chooses when is appropriate to use them, and sends them manually. Their purpose is largely to cut down on the effort spent typing.

Chatbot responses, meanwhile, are used in agent-free or agent-pending conversations. They’re automatic answers to routine FAQs. Another use for chatbot responses is to automatically handle the basic fact-finding for a chat, before handing over the reins to a human agent.

Not a question of which, but when

The fact is, canned responses vs chatbot responses is a flawed question. This is because it isn’t a question of one or the other. Both are useful, and while both serve a similar purpose, they don’t share the same context.

Use canned responses when a human agent is handling the chat in question. They are not for automating entire conversations. The point of a canned response is to prevent time wasted on repetition, not to automate every reply. (And so, ruining the human touch that an agent would otherwise provide.)

Use chatbot responses in a bot-led, FAQ-based interaction. (Or a bot-led part of the interaction – such as routing or fact-finding.) They’re what enable a chatbot to automate conversations. When they’re used, the customer knows they’re talking to a chatbot, and so if the responses come off robotic, it’s not as frustrating.

Enter hybrid chat

So, how are the two terms / tools overlapping?

Hybrid chat is the latest evolution of live chat technology, allowing agents and chatbots to smoothly tag-team in a conversation.

For instance, a chatbot starts a conversation, hands over to an agent when the human touch is needed, and takes back over when FAQs need answering.

This is where the line between canned responses and chatbot responses has started to blur. The agent can use canned responses in much the same way the chatbot does.

But this doesn’t dissolve the differences. Canned responses are pre-written messages agents use. Chatbot responses are the pre-written messages chatbots use. And both have a place in modern chat-based customer service.

TL;DR: Canned responses vs chatbot responses

As chat solutions evolve to incorporate hybrid chat, canned responses and chatbot responses are starting to overlap. But for all this overlap, they’re not two chat tools doing the same thing. Both have their own place, their own context, and their own valid use case.

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