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Chatbot DevelopmentMay 9, 2017Written by Dean Withey

4 Qualities You Really Need In Your Chatbot Agency, UK Edition

Looking for a chatbot development company huh? Well, you just found one. Grats. Here's our contact page, chat soon.

Wait. You want more info? Argh. Why is it never that easy?

Of course, you are going to spend hours trawling the interwebs looking for our competition. It is important, go do it. Create a spreadsheet, weigh the pros and cons... these guys have that really good case study, those developed a similar solution to what we need but I realllllly like the design of that site, and so on.

FYI, do yourself a favour and grab our top 20 questions to ask your chatbot developer worksheet (we know those hard-to-answer questions!). Ultimately, we are confident you will be back to chat to us, and we have magnificent answers to your questions ;)

When you are digging through the competition (and us) here are four qualities to look for when picking a chatbot agency, UK edition.


Ability to learn

Although some of us have been fiddling around with mobile messaging and AI for years, most of our competitors are new to this industry. And boy, do things move fast.

Almost every day APIs change, best practices are updated (*cough* we typically create best practice *cough*) and messaging app providers reveal new functionality. This does not include the rapidly changing user sentiment and sociological implications of machine-humans (*cough* what other agencies generate fresh research like our chatbot and mobile messaging surveys *cough*). This also does not even include the backend technological developments like always-improving artificial intelligence, codebases and enterprise-grade infrastructure.

Long story short, your chatbot agency needs to demonstrate their ability to learn.

Not only do they need to learn from their successful developments, but they also need to be in bed (not literally) with industry experts and research the results and failures of competitors. Your chatbot agency needs to hold your hand, to offer advice and expertise. It goes way beyond just smashing out thousands of lines of code.

The learning does not end once your chatbot is delivered. Data analysis, user feedback and subsequent functionality roll-outs will undoubtedly, and should, happen.

Learn and iterate.

Learn and iterate.

Learn and iterate.

Diverse skill sets

A chatbot is an odd beast. Most non-geeks do not actually realise all the work that happens in the background.

Unlike a website, there's no UX, no traditional design elements, no flashy background images or responsiveness. There's nothing for users to see or for clients to justify the cost. There's little evidence of work; all a chatbot does is spit out a bit of text, right?

Sidenote: this also makes chatbots pretty dull to develop, so we tend to get super-geeky on the geeky bits to make up for it.

Here's a list of the traditional job roles included in a typical enterprise-grade chatbot development (well, for a good chatbot anyway...).

  • Copywriter
  • Backend Programmer
  • Frontend Programmer
  • Database Administrator
  • Artificial Intelligence Programmer (NLP specialist)
  • Dev Ops
  • Designer (for web interfaces)
  • Designer (for conversations)
  • Sys Admin
  • Account Manager
  • Project Manager
  • Data Analyst (for post-launch iterations)

Doesn't look so easy now, right?

Unfortunately, most 'chatbot agencies' in the UK and around the world are kids sat in their pants smashing out the chatbot equivalent of £200 Wordpress websites.

Your agency needs to demonstrate the ability to not only develop, but maintain your solution. Unless of course, all you want is a £200 Wordpress chatbot.


Ability to speak human

A chatbot, for most of our clients, is a new technology. New lingo, new concepts and tough ideas to transfer between humans.

Actually, it is a challenge for both the client to try and explain their vision and what the solution should look like, and for us to explain WTF we have been building for the last X weeks.

To use our website analogy again, most people understand terms like UX, responsiveness and SEO. In chatbots, we use terms like artificial neural network, descriptive models and natural language processing, to name but a few.

Your chatbot agency will spend lots of time working with you on your brand, conversational tone and language and problem-solution fit. You need to be able to communicate.

I guess the point I am trying to make is that your chatbot agency needs to speak human just as well as it speaks geek. At the very least, you need to have confidence that your project/account manager can speak both human/geek well enough to be the interface between you and the geeks (unless you speak geek, then refer to the sidenote below).

Sidenote: if you do speak geek then let us know, we are always hiring people like us...


Think long-term

A chatbot is not just for Christmas; it is for life. Wait. Have I heard that somewhere before?

A £200 Wordpress-grade chatbot or the result of a code-free drag and drop chatbot building platform will be a transactional product. You will ask for X, and you will get x (note the smaller x - read into that what you like).

Although required, expected and completely natural, this low-end range of the chatbot market delivers a simple solution that will attempt to solve a simple problem.

It is a shame.

A chatbot is an extension of a brand. It is the opportunity for consumers to enter into a real, engaging conversation with a business. It is much more than just getting opening times or reading the latest crap from a blog (except this blog, obvs).

It is about consumers understanding what a brand stands for, to get real personal shopping or customer service. It is about engagement, loyalty, experiences. A crap chatbot solves a meh problem but a good chatbot delights and creates a lasting memory.

I know, I know. I am being melodramatic and OTT. However, think about it. Think about your business being a real person. Imagine your consumers, fans and audience actually talking to your business.

What would your business be like? Would it be fun? Would it be professional and serious? Would it use humour and make jokes? Who knows? Do you know?

What will your chatbot do? Will it 'do' sales and help people through the product selection and buyer journey? Will it 'do' customer service and answer questions, tell people for the 10,000th time to reset their password or deal with whiney complainers? Perhaps it will be an internal thing and help HR deal with holiday requests and updates to employee handbooks? Maybe an internal sales training tool for sales staff to ask for advice on how to handle an objection or query? Maybe everything? (refer to me harping on about iterating above)

At ubisend, we spent much time (and money...) working on how best to explain what we do. Yes, we are a chatbot development company. We build chatbots. Hardly a tough thing to explain. But a chatbot (as I just touched on) can kind of do anything. A custom developed chatbot can be crafted to solve complex business problems - hardly a bish bash bosh product, huh?

A real chatbot is a transformational solution. It will be embedded into your company systems, services and products. It will also probably become the face and voice of your brand. It will be how your users interact with you and revolutionise how your staff communicate internally.

A real chatbot is not a £200 product.