When talking up their chatbot products, major vendors like to highlight the cast-of-thousands and months of work approach to get their bots up and running for customers. That helps maintain the narrative that all technology is expensive and requires great, costly, expertise. In reality, anyone can build a chatbot, and while a good one takes some effort, specialist providers show it can be done without the need for great effort. 

Do you want cloud fries with that?

Go to any sales conference around technology and the key trend is upselling. “Hi there, want a chatbot? Sure, let’s put it on our platform subscription, let’s get our (expensive) team involved to speed up development, and let’s charge you a few dollars a day for interactions, use of our cloud AI and long-term results storage…”

All of a sudden the costs mount up and what was a neat business experiment becomes a time and money sink for a growing business. Even if the costs are kept low, the vendor will want to lure you further into their ecosystem, and always offering new services or features (at a cost).

All of which will easily put off a business looking to add a chatbot to their social media or website. The truth is, much of the cost and complexity is put there by the vendors to make chatbots seem like the next “magic bullet” for business, following on from cloud, ROBO-business, Internet of Things, AI and AR/VR.

In reality, any business of any size can build a chatbot quickly and efficiently. Most chatbots are broadly similar, and their use cases align with typical business types and needs. So, your customer service bot will ask the same questions and a booking bot will take the same sorts of data.

With a little sharing as provided by services like SnatchBot, with its template and library-based approach, the structure and detail of thousands of existing chatbots are already there for you to borrow.

All your business needs to do is customise them a little to your needs and you have a working chatbot. From there, you can start to add new features, lines of enquiry and to add more elements of the business to make the bot more valuable to customers, without some pushy vendor telling you what to do, and ramping up the cost.

Starting your chatbot adventure

This approach might not suit every business or chatbot, but it provides a great way for a company to learn the ropes, to bolster their social media or customer support and take a step on the ladder to AI and natural language processing, something that will play a key role in any business in the coming years.

With chatbots appearing on websites, within apps or on Facebook Messenger, and globally using popular services like LINE and WeChat, bots are rapidly becoming multilingual smart tools for any trade.

Solving pressing business issues like overstretched customer support or accessing data that was spread across multiple resources, bots provide customers with quick and easy answers. A well written and trained bot can save time and money, and customers will expect them as a default option for most business types in coming years.

Already, 43% to 48% of people have tried a chatbot, depending on which survey you read. The remainder will soon follow, but they must have a positive experience to come back, while a bad experience could even see them switch to another company.

According to a recent Mulesoft survey, “79 percent of global consumers think it will be beneficial for chatbots to become more intelligent through being connected to more systems and data. Nearly half of respondents cited 24/7 customer service as the biggest benefit of more intelligent chatbots, followed by not having to wait on the phone (46%) and having queries answered quicker (37%).”

That should put the use of a chatbot high on any business agenda, but companies should take the time to investigate the development options, rather than rush to a generic service provider who has added “chatbots” as the latest must-have feature. Specialist providers can encourage businesses to do as much or as little of the work as needed, while maintaining control of projects and allowing them upgrade and update as and when needed, not because the vendor wants to.