When we talk about “conversational interface,” we’re really talking about two very different interfaces: text conversation and voice. Users interact with chatbots using both interfaces every day, with each interface having its own pros and cons. What are the key similarities and differences between voice chatbots versus messenger chatbots, and which is right for your chatbot? With this run-down on each, you should easily understand which contexts and use cases favor each interface.
Messenger Chatbots vs. Voice Chatbots
The big difference between a messenger chatbot vs virtual assistant or voice chatbot is how we interact with them. A text-based messenger chatbot exists on one or more messaging platforms, including both SMS and web-based messengers. This means users primarily interact with them on a screen via text or button presses. A user interacts with a voice enabled chatbot differently: they converse with such a bot via their voice in natural language. The voice chatbot then answers back using pre-recorded messages, text-to-speech responses or a mixture of both.
A voice activated chatbot is usually called upon in many devices. For example; mobile phones, computers, smart speakers (like Amazon Echo or Google Home), wearable devices (like Apple’s AirPods) or other Internet of Things devices. A voice chatbot enables users to accomplish tasks on these devices hands-free. The main benefit to a messenger chatbot is that it has the ability to exist on multiple messaging platforms, synchronized across devices. In fact, some messenger chatbots are available via smart speakers—which function like platforms themselves—essentially turning them into voice chatbots as well as text-based bots. Some text-based chatbot examples that you can use on Amazon Echo or Google Home include ELIZA and Fitness Tips.
Key Similarities and Differences Between Voice Chatbots and Messenger Chatbots
Voice chatbots and messenger chatbots share some similarities and differences. Given their differences, which interface is best depends largely on the purpose and context for a chatbot’s use. Both a voice enabled chatbot and messenger chatbot allows users to accomplish tasks or find information they need via natural language. Text-based bots can sometimes function as voice enabled chatbots; a user can dictate using their phone’s text-to-speech feature or the bot may be available as a skill integrated into a voice activated chatbot.
Another similarity between voice chatbots and messenger chatbots is that they are both reliant on natural language processing. It’s true that some text-based bots are rigid, menu-based systems that don’t use NLP. Though we’re at a point now where some level of sophisticated NLP is the norm for designing chatbot responses. While both types of bots rely on NLP to make sense of user input and provide a response, each type has its own challenge unique to the interface. Text-based messenger bots must understand shorthand and typos, which are common in mobile-based messaging. Developers of a voice enabled chatbot, meanwhile, must take special care to ensure the chatbot understands different accents.
One of the biggest differences between chatbot vs virtual assistant is accessibility. A messenger chatbot might be more tempting to users because they can easily begin chatting with it on their phone. Unless voice chatbots exists on a user’s phone or computer, interacting with it requires buying a new smart speaker device. That said, voice activated chatbots are the ideal interface when hands-free interaction is necessary, like walking the user step-by-step through a recipe when their hands are full.
Other Key Points on Voice Enabled Bots vs. Messenger Bots
Texting and messaging have become the dominant mode of communication for millennials. That makes messenger chatbots a more natural fit for communication with the user. The ubiquity of mobile devices also provides a lower barrier of entry to the user when it comes to using a messenger bot.
That said, while smart speakers have not yet hit the mainstream, they’ve done very well over the holiday season. Amazon reported that its Echo Dot was its best-selling item across the holiday season; meanwhile, Google Home devices were given a dramatic discount in a push to enter more homes. Also Apple’s hotly anticipated HomePod speaker is soon on the way. The smart speaker market seems hopeful in 2018, which will make it easier than ever for everyday uses to interact with voice activated chatbots.
Again, the interface that best fits your bot hinges on your use case. Consider whether a screen is essential to your user experience (for example, someone booking a hotel room with a chatbot might want to swipe through a carousel of photos before selecting the room or hotel they want). Also consider where and when the user will call up the bot. A voice activated chatbot is perfectly suited for someone driving, jogging or otherwise busy. By having a clear idea of your audience and the context of their relationship with the chatbot, which interface is right for you should become obvious.