These days, by the time a client contacts me, they already know that their business needs a chatbot.
But what about everybody else? How can you know if and when your business would benefit by having a chatbot?
Imagine that you get an urgent email from your Human Resources director, telling you that there’s someone downstairs in the lobby.
This person has a ton of experience in your field, great skills, and an impeccable resume with lots of great references. They’re punctual, hard-working, and a real go-getter. Furthermore, they’re willing to work for a very reasonable salary.
Would you hire that person?
If the answer is “yes,” then you definitely need a chatbot!
Employee of the Year
A chatbot really is like the perfect employee. They’re always on time, always in a good mood, and always ready to provide great customer service to your customers. They never need time off, never need a vacation, and they’re more than happy to work around the clock without complaining.
And as for their “salary,” well, it’s usually only $100 a less per month. And no need to pay for insurance or other perks.
Really, what more could you ask for?
Quite literally, the only downside to “hiring” is the acquisition cost. Whether it’s time or money — or both — there is always a cost in designing, building, and implementing a chatbot. But if hiring a human being could benefit your business, then it is definitely worth it to “hire” a chatbot!
Instead of hiring a bespoke designer like me, it’s often easier — and smarter- for many businesses to design and build their own chatbot.
Here are my recommendations:
Facebook Messenger — If your customers are on Facebook, you definitely need a chatbot. Both Chatfuel and Manychat offer plenty of free templates to get you going, and the drag-and-drop build screens make it really easy to get a great chatbot up and running very quickly (2 hours or less in most cases).
If your “new hire” is primarily going to be involved in marketing, I recommend going with ManyChat as they have some handy features to manage your various campaigns. Otherwise, I recommend going with Chatfuel as their design process is by far the easiest for even non-coders to learn.
Costs range from $15 to $100 a month, depending on how many users interact with your bot. Both also offer a limited-use free tier which is great for anyone who wants to play around risk-free with a chatbot and see what it can do.
In addition to running on Messenger, FB bots can also serve “double duty” by responding to comments and user interactions on your business’s Facebook Page.
Website — If you want to set up a chatbot on a “landing page” or simply want a social media platform-neutral chatbot for use/embedding in a website, I highly recommend Landbot.
Using an ultra-simple drag-and-drop design screen, literally anyone can set up a simple Landbot chatbot in an hour or less.
Unfortunately, the example chatbots that Landbot offers to show you are somewhat lacking, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t create a really awesome chatbot with Landbot if you stick to basic design principles.
Costs start at $30 a month for the lowest tier , and the “full monty” tier will set you back over $120 a month. This makes Landbot a tad bit pricier than some of its competitors, but the simple interface makes it worth it.
Landbot also lets you play around with their chatbots for free (up to 30 blocks and no more than 100 users interactions) to see if it will suit your needs.
Whatsapp — Although somewhat lacking in terms of being able to integrate with third-party systems and apps, Landbot is also the easiest build platform for creating a simple rules-based bot that will run on Whatsapp.
Live Chat — Sometimes, you want a chatbot to handle “calls” and customer service when your human employees aren’t around, but the rest of the time, you want the chatbot to pause itself. Or maybe you want a chatbot to handle any overflow customer service requests when your human workers are busy, but first priority needs to go to your human employees.
Lots of chatbot platforms allow you to integrate live chat (with a human operator), but for my money, I recommend going with Chatbot.com. Their chatbot builder is fairly simple to use, and it integrates seamlessly with the company’s LiveChat offering.
Costs start at $50 a month and go up from there depending on how many users your chatbot interacts with.
SMS/Text — The undisputed king of SMS/text-based chatbot remains Twilio, although they do not offer all of their phone-based services in all countries.
Unfortunately, their builder (called Twilio Studio) has a bit of a learning curve, but it’s not so steep that a reasonably tech-savvy person couldn’t figure it out in a day or so.
On the other hand, the cool thing is that you can have your Twilio chatbot send voice messages (whether TTS or pre-recorded audio) in addition to text messages.
Voice/Twitter/Telegram/Line/WeChat — At this point, there aren’t really any good build platforms (that I’m aware of) for someone without a deep coding background to create a really good chatbot on any of these social media networks and/or “smart speaker” devices.
Therefore, you’re probably going to have to hire someone who either knows a programming language like Python or Node.js or else jump in the deep end and learn to navigate an incredibly ungainly framework like Watson (IBM), DialogFlow (Google), Lex (Amazon), or Microsoft.
The good news, however, is that most of the above offer a free hosting tier to start, and unless you’re expecting tens of thousands of monthly users, you can probably get your monthly costs down to (at or near) zero.
And if you can master a framework like DialogFlow or Watson, you simultaneously can integrate the same chatbot across a number of channels with relative ease, including Facebook, Kik, Twitter, and embedding in a website.
Hiring a Designer
If you need something more complicated or want to create a truly standout customer experience for your new best employee, you’re going to need to hire some chatbot professionals.
Programmer — A coder will ensure that the chatbot integrates with your backend system(s) as well as any third-party websites (API) that your bot will call upon to send/get data.
Coders aren’t cheap, but the good news is that you’ll usually only need to hire them for a few hours. Their job is literally to “wire together” the parts and ensure that they’re all properly formatted and operational.
Designer/Writer — This is often the most expensive part of building a chatbot as it may take between 10–40 hours to design and create a relatively simple chatbot.
But the price is worth it as the designer will both a) lovingly craft all of the chatbot’s dialogue and b) create a “flowchart” that will serve as the blueprint for your chatbot.
Once the designer’s work is done, all you need to do is hand off the files to your programmer, and your chatbot will be live and ready to earn that Employee of the Month badge.
Pro tip: Hire a coder to do the coding parts and a writer to do the dialogue!
Happy chatbot designing, everybody 😎