‘You’re going to have to lead us on this, we have no idea’.
That is the typical answer we hear when we start talking with potential clients about budgets. Most of the people we talk to don’t know.
Who could blame them?
The chatbot industry is relatively new. Chatbots are the new fandangle thingies businesses are starting to decide if they need.
It is tough to estimate the cost of a chatbot when you don’t even know what it will do.
In this article, I want to shed some light on this very topic. My hope is you will have a better idea about chatbot pricing and how much investment you’ll need to solve the problem your company has.
Have to admit, I used the word ‘taboo’ for effect.
There is nothing taboo about chatbot pricing -- at least on our end. If you engage with us, present your project, and ask us for an estimate; we will always oblige with a full break down that includes every penny.
In fact, our pricing outline is part of the sales deck we take to every client.
Like I said in my introduction, the taboo here is really that... no one talks about it. You just won’t find much information out there.
Pricing a chatbot: custom versus off-the-shelf
Pricing a chatbot is, in many ways, like pricing a website.
Want an off-the-shelf Wordpress, one page-style site? Fine, get one for free pretty much anywhere on the web.
Want a simple 5-page website and don’t want to do it yourself? You can get one for a couple of hundred quid from any number of digital agencies.
Want a full-on e-commerce, international, multilingual website with forums, support tickets, Salesforce integration, and comprehensive product libraries and custom design? Well, you’re going to have to invest with a specialised agency and have a sizeable budget.
Chatbots are the same.
Off-the-shelf chatbots can be built for free using DIY platforms like Chatfuel.
There are already plenty of companies and teenagers sat in their pants out there building flow-based chatbots at a low price (TBH, we’ve been known to build some for prototyping).
Want something more substantial? Custom chatbots, like custom websites, come at a price.
The exact price?
Cut to ‘how long is a piece of string’ speech. For custom development, expect anything between £8,000 and millions. The upside is, of course, you get a solution that solves your exact problem(s).
A pricing breakdown
A chatbot is not ‘just’ the build.
It is worth breaking down the costs you can expect from a chatbot building agency like ours. Again, this is the way we work. You might find other agencies do it differently (but why would you go with the rest when you can stick with the best? /brag off).
We break down the price of our chatbots in
- ML/NLU training
- QA and testing
- Ad hoc development
Let’s go through each of these.
The scoping phase is of paramount importance. We try to book between two hours and half a day with you to understand your project.
The focus is to come out with the key information we need from you:
- The exact purpose of your chatbot.
- Your chatbot's One True Goal. What is the thing it is going to be amazing at?
- User stories. Who is going to use the chatbot, how, and what do they need for their experience with it to be perfect?
- KPIs and benchmarks. What does success look like for your chatbot? What metrics are we working to improves?
- Phase rollout. A chatbot project can encompass many things. Now that we have focus, how will we rollout its features? Are we deploying a pilot first? How often can we iterate?
All of this costs exactly zero pennies.
This is generally the most significant part of the investment.
The development phase is where we get our geeks to build the custom parts of the chatbot. Beyond the usual language, NLU, and functionalities; this is also where we develop the custom integrations to third-party software (i.e. Salesforce, custom CRM, etc.).
This one depends entirely on the complexity of the ML/NLP we need to build for a specific chatbot. We try to keep this cost low at first. The reason behind this is we want to get our clients something that works first; we will perfect its AI later as the chatbot garners more data for training.
QA and testing
Testing, testing, testing. And more testing.
We have staff members (and machines) doing this all day every day. Expect us to spend a good amount of our time testing what we build. Our testing phases include internal testing (on our end), external testing (on your end, with a small hand-picked number of people), internal again (on our end), and third-party (with a completely different team on our end, for fresh eyes).
The three sections above (development, AI training, and QA/testing) are a one-time investment.
Like everything else in our lovely tech world, chatbots need TLC.
The maintenance fee keeps the servers running, helps us maintain our crazy-good uptime SLAs, and pay the people who keep an eye on your chatbot day to day. It means your chatbot stays chatting and continues to get smarter and smarter.
As you can see on our pricing page, we charge £0.03 per unique user per month for unlimited conversations and messages. Simple.
Ad hoc development
Because we’re such nice people, our clients tend to ask us to do more for them.
Most of our builds start off small, following one of our main chatbot building principles: one true goal. Once that has been tackled, though, we are ready to expand the project and work on the next thing. That’s how we roll.
This is when the ad hoc chatbot development pricing comes in. For anything that is beyond the scope of the initial plan, you should expect extra investment. Nothing surprising there, really.
The way we do it is either by pricing our work hourly for small features, or we work with you to develop a brand new scope for larger projects. This works well and I would assume most agencies do the same thing.
As an example, if we build you the most amazing sales chatbot and you want it to start doing customer service, we will scope it out, develop user-stories and get to work on the new project. However, if you implement a new CRM and just need the chatbot to connect to a different API, we will just tell you how many hours it will take.
Random sidenote: once we deliver it, the chatbot is yours, you have the keys to the castle. If you like, you never have to speak to us again *sad face*.
I hope you found the information you were looking for.
Our pricing is nothing secret. We build exactly what you need to solve your problem. Some problems are big; some are small.
If you have a project in mind and feel like you need the big guns, aka us, get in touch.