Internet technology investment remains a concern for many firms, even in this day of cloud services and low-cost hardware. For a company focused on the bottom line, and not necessarily staffed by technology experts, there is great interest in adding a chatbot to a site or app, but concerns remain over the potential costs of this new trend in digital communication.
Chatbots are the current pin-up heroes of web technology and social media. They appear on the homepages of huge numbers of websites, and are available on Facebook Messenger, Skype or other social media services for brands big and small. They help businesses with customer support, sales and other tasks.
Yet, for those businesses looking for their first chatbot, there are plenty of questions over cost and accessibility, as well as the technical skills to build one.
In fact, thanks to the growth of the cloud and simple design services it is possible to build and operate a chatbot at no cost at all. Or, you can pay for expert help and support, as businesses invest in serious technology to drive their bot and integrate it with other services.
The good news is that chatbots can be acquired for free, with a little work on the script that drives it, with free deployment and analytics. There are a number of companies that provide these chatbots from the likes of Israeli startup Snatchbot where the only cost is the time you need to develop your script, fine-tuning it to your business and helping your customers with their specific needs.
Snatchbot offers a range of templates to get your business or department started and up to speed fast. Most companies can evolve their scripts from the live examples on show in the SnatchBot library. One of the joys of chatbots is that most of them perform a similar function, so you can customise an existing one with a little effort and be up and running with no need to learn coding or advanced web skills.
There are other chatbot services that let you create your bot for free, although these then require payments for various options once the chatbot goes live. Thus the free-with-upgrade Californian firm Chatfuel lets you build the bot for free but can charge for extra services, depending on your needs. They can also recommend bot building partners who can create the bot for you if you lack the time or need specific features.
If you have a particular use case in mind, there is probably a chatbot available that will cater for it, at a cost. For example, Drift is designed to automatically turn your website traffic visitors into qualified sales meetings. It can do this by focusing on the customers’ sales needs and providing the right information.
Again, there’s a free version to try out, but all the good features are in the paid for packages. They range from $50 a month to $2,000 for the enterprise version that offers Salesforce routing, Marketo integration and automated meetings, among other features.
It is also easy to find particular chatbots for a specific industry or vertical. If you work for an airport, there’s a dedicated chatbot service for you in the guise of Hong Kong firm Skychat. It is designed to handle all the specific tasks associated with public air travel including flight status, departures, gate changes, luggage collection and so on.
The developers can tailor the service and linked app to the airport’s specific requirements and deliver a project in weeks, rather than the usual months or years that IT projects used to take.
Whatever line of business your company is in, there is likely a dedicated solution accessible, or you can build your own using a general chatbot service, it all depends on the time and resources you have available.