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AI chatbot vs. conversational AI: What’s the difference?

Georgia Brooker

August 28, 20234 minutes

robot looking in mirror, illustrating the concept of defining AI chatbot vs conversational AI

Things tend to move pretty fast in the world of tech and AI, which means a lot of terms start to get thrown around and used interchangeably. In the ever-evolving landscape of artificial intelligence, two fascinating technologies have taken center stage: AI chatbot vs conversational AI. Sometimes these two concepts get confused, yet they each have distinct characteristics that set them apart in their capabilities and applications. We’re here to dive into the nuances that define conversational AI technology overall and chatbots, shedding light on their respective functionalities, natural language processing abilities, and real-world applications.

What is an AI chatbot?

So just what is an AI chatbot? In a nutshell, basic chatbots are artificial intelligence programs designed to engage in human-like conversations through text or voice interactions. Using natural language processing (NLP) and machine learning algorithms, chatbots are clever little things that can understand human language via user inputs and provide relevant responses — so it’s almost like talking to a real person. You’ve probably seen them integrated into conversational interfaces on websites, messaging platforms, or mobile apps offering conversational customer service, answering inquiries and performing other tasks. 

AI chatbots are constantly learning to better mimic human interactions, improving their responses over time and handling many different queries at once, enhancing the customer experience. By mimicking human conversation, AI chatbots offer a scalable and accessible means of providing instant assistance and information across multiple domains.

Examples of AI chatbots

AI chatbots in the wild are generally the sort of virtual customer service assistants you see on websites and in apps. Take a look at different use case examples here or interact with LivePerson’s conversational AI chatbot on the bottom right of the page.

What is conversational AI?

Here’s where the chatbot vs conversational AI overlap happens — the term “conversational AI” refers to a branch of artificial intelligence focused on enabling natural and dynamic interactions between people and machines. It encompasses various technologies like the aforementioned NLP and natural language understanding (NLU) to facilitate these seamless conversations. 

Chatbots and other virtual assistants are examples of conversational AI systems. These systems can comprehend user inputs, context, and intent to provide relevant and contextually appropriate responses. Conversational AI is built on the foundation of constant learning and improvement — it leans on its everyday interactions with humans and vast datasets to get smarter and more efficient. Conversational AI technology is used for customer support, information retrieval, and task automation, offering user-friendly interfaces and a human-like conversational flow and experience.

Examples of conversational AI

In a practical application, conversational AI is used for complex tasks. This tech is used for virtual assistants that can manage calendars, set reminders, provide recommendations, and perform a wide range of tasks across multiple domains. You can also get a conversational AI demo from LivePerson here.

What are the key differences between the two?

The key differences between chatbots and conversational AI lie in their scope, capabilities, and complexity. Here’s a handy comparison to demonstrate.

Scope and functionality

  • AI chatbot: Specifically refers to computer programs designed to engage in conversations with users. Task-oriented and typically focused on handling specific queries or performing predefined tasks.
  • Conversational AI: A broader concept that encompasses various technologies aimed at enabling natural interactions between machines and humans. Conversational AI applications include AI chatbots, virtual assistants, and other systems capable of understanding context and intent for more dynamic conversations.

Natural language understanding

  • AI chatbot: Primarily rely on natural language processing (NLP) to understand user inputs and respond appropriately. Comprehension can sometimes be limited to predefined patterns or commands.
  • Conversational AI: Goes beyond basic NLP and incorporates natural language understanding (NLU). Can grasp the context and intent of user queries, allowing for more fluid and contextually relevant customer interactions.

Complexity and learning

  • AI chatbot: Can be relatively simple and may not possess deep learning capabilities. Often follows predefined scripts or rule-based approaches.
  • Conversational AI: Involves more sophisticated machine learning techniques like neural networks and deep learning. Learns from extensive datasets and improves responses iteratively.

Exploring the world of conversational AI chatbots

There can be a lot to wade through when first dipping your toes into the complex world of AI — especially when you want to use it to enhance your business’s customer experience. LivePerson has demystified the conversation around this brave new frontier, creating approachable AI that can be scaled to suit your needs. With always-on tech support and access to conversational AI solutions like conversational intelligence, conversational commerce, voice AI, and enterprise managed services (LivePerson’s contact center as a service solution) you’ll never look back.

Want to see how conversational AI can change the face of your customer service and commerce game?