Five years ago people mostly communicated via email and – from time to time – via phone. Now we are more likely to use Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp. In the near future, we will see another shift in trends due to the increased popularity of chatbots. Soon it’ll be enough for customers to open a messenger and enjoy a completely new way of instant communication with your company. Chatbots have the potential to revolutionize presale processes and support service as they are able to give instant answers anytime your customers want.
More and more companies become interested in building their own chatbots. According to the survey held by Oracle, 80% of the respondents (chief strategy officers, senior marketers, and sales executives) said they already used chatbots or planned to use them by 2020.
Before implementing a chatbot, you should answer the following questions:
- What needs to be done prior to building a chatbot?
- What does the chatbot development process involve?
- How much would it cost to develop a chatbot?
In this article, we’ll cover all the above-mentioned issues. We’ll also focus on cost-efficiency factors and give an approximate estimate of each phase, as well as the whole development process.
CHATBOT DEVELOPMENT PHASES
It’s needless to say that the main factor influencing the final price is the work being done to develop a product. The development process is usually split into several phases. Having a general idea of the project phases may help you make a rough estimation of the chatbot cost. The following roadmap has been found suitable for developing chatbots and is adopted by Azati.
1. Discovery Phase
As the first step, we define the project purpose and value proposition. We set goals, expectations, and metrics. Having a proper understanding of what you want a chatbot to do and the ways it can improve your business helps us define an appropriate development strategy. These findings would also play an important role when deciding on the technologies to use. As a rule, we focus on the following points:
- What is the size of your business – small, medium, large?
- Do you want a chatbot to entertain the clients or to provide full customer support with minimum human involvement?
- Which processes can be automated with a chatbot in your case (presale customer communication, customer support or any other)?
- How many messaging platforms are you going to cover? What are they?
- How many users do you expect your chatbot to serve? What is the expected conversational flow?
Although the questions are fairly simple, this step is crucial for in-depth analysis since the outcomes of this phase determine the following development stages.
The discovery phase is about learning what business has, wants and needs. So, the next move is to identify the requirements and functional units of a chatbot, such as:
- Conversational Flow
- Control Panel
- Interaction Channels
- Natural Language Processing
You also need to decide how the chatbot will be built. Basically, it might be the most important aspect that affects the chatbot development price. There are two major options for you to choose from:
– Building a custom solution
It’s great to get a chatbot that is built according to your needs, preferences, and plans. This way, you are not tied to any platform abilities; although, the support and maintenance of such a bot becomes your responsibility.
– Building a bot on top of a bot-platform
As a rule, creating a chatbot using an existing platform is a more cost-efficient option. Such services work on a subscription basis and charge monthly fees (sometimes basic functionality is provided for free). However, there are additional fees for customization, and oftentimes the final sum you pay equals the sum you’d pay for a custom solution.
All in all, this option means that:
– a chatbot is built faster (as basic functionality is already offered by a platform);
– you get support and maintenance provided by the platform;
– you can still get a custom chatbot.
There is no right choice here. The complexity of the future chatbot doesn’t matter when choosing between the options – any of them might be suitable.
By the way, we went the extra mile and wrote the article about the main difficulties you may face if you develop a chatbot on the platform
Finally, the project managers estimate time, energy and budget, and reflect it all in the corresponding documentation.
After that, the parties define the scope of work needed for the next move (which is the prototype development). If all the required data is accessible, the phase takes 5-7 working days on average.
At Azati, we usually go through the discovery phase for free.
2. Prototype Implementation and Evaluation Phase
A prototype is an early model that does not have all the functionality of the final product. It can be code-based or simply in the form of a mockup (the choice depends on the chatbot complexity). A prototype helps to learn many essential things. It is built to verify some key functional aspects of the intended design, 0r in other words, to conduct a feasibility study.
Once the prototype is built, it is discussed with the client. The client and the developers are then able to validate the requirements, outline options, and make adjustments if needed. The risks and costs associated with software implementation are dramatically reduced, as the requirements are well-discussed early on, prior to development.
We are striving to make this phase as affordable as possible. Typically, the chatbot prototype costs are about $3,000 – $5,000.
3. Minimum Viable Product
Bearing the findings from the prototype phase in mind, we develop a minimum viable product (MVP). An MVP is a product with basic functional features, a light version of the ultimate solution that already works with actual data. The MVP is exposed to a small group of end users in order to gather vital feedback. It is way less expensive to modify the system at this stage, than when it is fully developed.
The cost for a chatbot-related MVP ranges between $10,000 – $20,000, depending on the total project size and complexity.
4. Chatbot Release
As a result of this phase, the product with a complete set of predefined features is developed and then launched onto the market. During the preceding phases, we elicit and validate the exact requirements. Therefore the end product is made with minimum risk.
The cost of the release phase is usually estimated during the previous phases.
CONTINUOUS TRAINING OF A CHATBOT
Just as the employee’s effectiveness depends on their experience, the effectiveness of a chatbot depends on its knowledge base and training. The AI-powered chatbots are able to learn from the data submitted by end users continuously. The training process is ongoing, and much attention should be paid to it. With such outstanding ability, you’ll see your chatbot grow more intelligent, respond to detailed queries and communicate in a human-like manner, raising the level of customer satisfaction.
HOW MUCH DOES THE CHATBOT ACTUALLY COST?
The common misconception about AI-driven chatbots is that they must cost a fortune. Thanks to the emergence of various tools, libraries, and frameworks, chatbot technology is becoming affordable for many companies.
The chatbot costs vary and are calculated for each case in particular. Most often software companies charge from $15,000 to $30,000 for a custom bot.
The companies located in Silicon Valley set a minimum price of $30,000 for a pretty simple bot that is able to reply to various users’ questions.
The price for a very sophisticated AI-chatbot for customer support ranges from $40,000 to $100,000. Such bots are powered by Natural Language Processing and Machine Learning technologies, and are endowed with more powerful capabilities of learning and absorbing information. They can target customers through marketing campaigns and media, handle personalized news and content distribution, and more. If combined with payment services, such chatbots become fully fledged business solutions.
One may start with a simple chatbot that automates routine flows of your company, and opt for an AI-based bot as soon as the first one shows its efficiency.
Finally, the chatbot development price may vary from $5,000 up to $150,000 owing to many factors.
Hardly anyone would refuse to recognize the chatbots’ great capabilities in identifying and satisfying the users’ needs. Gone are the days when your customers had to call during office hours. Luckily, today many businesses can appreciate the easiness of a self-serving tool, that would inform the customers about their products and services 24/7/365.
Do you need any help with a chatbot? Call us at +1 201 464 6906 or fill out the form below for a free consultation.