Chatbot vs Virtual Agent | Which is Better?

Want to manage the time of your team and customers? AI tools may be the right solution for you. Let’s discuss the difference between chatbots vs virtual agents.

chatbot vs virtual agent-bot

Artificial intelligence is developing at an astounding pace, and it’s playing a massive role in technological changes in the business arena. It is completely changing how people work. And both chatbots and virtual agents are an essential part of this technological revolution. Although they both serve to make your job easier and recoup the time of your teammates, there are massive differences in terms of their functionalities, features, and modes of operations. Their primary goal is to make jobs easier for both agents and customers, and we’re going to break down their individual contributions in this Chatbot vs Virtual Agent review.

Chatbot vs Virtual Agents

What is a Chatbot?

A chatbot is an automated program designed to communicate with users. They can interact with you via

  • SMS,
  • text,
  • website chats, or even
  • audio media.

The first chatbot, Eliza, was invented by a team from MIT in 1966. Since then, chatbots have proven to be one of the most crucial tools in enhancing customer engagement and retention. Siri and Alexa are two of the most popular chatbots of today.

A good chatbot can speak naturally in a human-like tone, and they’re usually quite convincing. Businesses are incorporating chatbots for customer support. They help convey clients’ experiences, and most of the time, clients can’t even tell the difference. And the best part is that chatbots are exceptionally fast at retrieving information. They are in fact a promising medium of interaction between machines and people.

The client-support chatbots operate using watchwords. Their answers are mostly based on an archive recovery framework, which again can prove to be quite disappointing sometimes. You certainly won’t be impressed if you ask Alexa a question only to get an irrelevant reply.

However, chatbots can be trained faster – that too on a large scale – which may not be the case for humans. This saves businesses a huge amount of money in wages and training.

Upon receiving a user request, a chatbot first identifies the watchword or user intent. Then they try to retrieve information from the archive. That’s when chatbots get back to users with a predefined text. All these are done in a matter of split seconds, and that’s what makes the technology so appealing. 

How you want to train your chatbot largely depends on your business needs, but Chatbots are generally tasked with customer support, streamlining interactions, and offering personalized alerts to prospects or customers. All the while, they can save you tons of company time and money, which you can spend on increasing operational efficiency.

What Is a Virtual Agent?

A virtual agent is another conversational agent that can help with customer support. However, its functions are slightly more advanced than chatbots. While chatbots are primarily tasked with chatting and making conversation, virtual agents are tasked with multiple responsibilities at once. They can provide automated services and resolve common issues, like password resets, while carrying out a conversation with clients.

Companies who work with customer services often integrate virtual agents for top-notch results. They can operate on scripted rules and guidelines. Virtual agents began to emerge in the early 2000s, and they have evolved over time. Now, organizations can train their virtual agents to handle more complicated requests and workflows.

Virtual agents have now moved much further on than chat and voice response. They are now being programmed to understand the intent of their customer and support them with more personalized responses. Virtual agents can be relied upon with tasks that are highly repeatable; they are a lot like automation solutions for your business but smarter. 

Virtual agents can perform the following and more:

  • Email automation
  • Manage smart devices
  • Get you directions using maps
  • Play music, run a google search, offer breaking news, and much more. 

You will find a large number of cloud-based virtual agent providers that are trained to carry out customer service jobs. You can either customize them to meet your business needs or use them as is.

Chatbots generally fail to understand your mood, so they cannot respond accordingly. In contrast, virtual agents are integrated with natural language processing which allows them to speak according to your mood. This makes virtual assistants much more human-like AI software than chatbots.

Benefits of Using Chatbot and Virtual Agent

These artificial intelligence tools can completely change how your customer relationship management works. Their benefits include:

●        Time Efficient

These programs are easy to train; all you have to do is put in the necessary codes and they will be up and running. So, mass training is possible at once. This saves a ton of company time.

Moreover, since you do not have to allot as many employees for customer service, you can potentially employ your resources a lot more on operations and other essential aspects of businesses. As a result, your business is likely to scale much faster.

This also enhances the overall well-being of your employees, as they can now invest their time on more engaging fronts and leave the boring details to the software.

●        Easy setup

You will find many plugins and APIs for both chatbots and virtual agents. They’re rather easy to program and run A/B tests. They mostly work on SaaS platforms. As a result, installing and updating the software takes little to no time.

●        Increased customer satisfaction 

Since your customers are now receiving support and response much faster, the system is likely to improve customer loyalty and overall satisfaction.


While the terms chatbots and virtual agents are often used in the same context and regarded as interchangeable, they are quite different in the way they are programmed, trained, and operated. Chatbots are designed to operate in a much more straightforward work environment while virtual agents can carry out more complex roles. We hope that our article on chatbot vs virtual agents has helped clear any confusion that you might have had regarding the two artificial intelligence applications.

Source photo: Unsplash

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4 thoughts on “Chatbot vs Virtual Agent | Which is Better?”

  1. Hello Marisa, it’s a really interesting and engaging article you have here and many of us who are into a business can make do with the information you’ve shared. For me, both are really essential in business and while you do that, we all should be aware that there is a limit a chat bot can do and from there an agent will be useful.

    • Hi Justin, I agree, in the end no bot can replace us humans. Many times these bots get on my nerves haha, especially if I´m in a rush for some info. Thank you for writing and sharing your views. 

  2. I never knew that this two are different in any way but gladly you have taken out time to tell us some information about them and how they work. I feel like I use the chat bots more though. In my own analysis I would have categorized Alexa and Siri as Virtual agents because they multi task too rather than just chat.

    • Hi, thank you for writing and for sharing your insight. Alexa and Siri may be somewhere in between as they do multi task but it is difficult to figure out a more complex question. According to a study Google assistant outperformed both Alexa and Siri. 


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