The Perfect Professional Bot Development Process
You have decided a chatbot is right for your business. Good decision, if you ask me.
Now you need to embark on a series of meeting with this oddly geeky company you've picked to build it. You are not quite sure what to expect from the first meetings. Nor are you confident about what goes on once you start moving forward on the project.
What does a professional bot development process look like?
Fear not, I will walk you through it right here. Read this before your first meeting/phone call with the chatbot development company. You'll know what to expect, what you should prepare, and what should raise red flags.
Ready to dazzle them all with confidence? Here we go.
Table of contents
Pre-bot development meetings
Before jumping in the first few meetings, I need to make sure you have done your due diligence.
Have you picked the right company to help you?
We wrote on the topic so, for my own peace of mind, please go and read these articles:
Finally, even if you don't read any of the above, please grab this 20 Questions to Ask Your Chatbot Developer worksheet. It's free, easy to use, and will help you weed out the right company to work with.
Right. This one was for me. Hopefully, if you are reading this article you knew all this already. Let's get cracking.
Your first bot development meeting
It's all about you.
Your first meeting with a chatbot building company should be about your company, your role(s) within the company, and the issue(s) you'd like to tackle.
Don't think of this meeting as a job interview. You are not (yet) testing the company you're meeting. You are there to lay out the structure of your business, explain the issue, and send them away.
The first meeting is also about introducing everyone. You should have engaged quite a bit before the meeting via email, Skype, etc. Make sure everyone knows everyone.
Timing: plan about one hour, maybe less.
People: involve the person who made the first contact with the chatbot company and a manager of the department the chatbot is going to help.
Assets: bring anything that could help the company understand your issue better. That could be a laptop to show the internal HR self-serve software, for instance.
Actions: send the team on its way telling them to plan for your next meeting. If they are any good, they'll know what they need to do to dazzle you.
Red flags: if they try to shove something off-the-shelf down your throat on your first meeting or come with an already fully prepared plan (and price), it is usually not a good sign.
Your second meeting
It's all about them.
During the first meeting, you have put all cards on the table. Now it's time to lay back and see what the chatbot company has to say about it.
In the second meeting, they should take the lead and explain what they can do for you. You should have allowed a couple of weeks between the two meetings for them to prepare. They should be back with a plan, ideas, and an open mind.
Try to understand their thinking. Ask lots of questions. Why would they do it like this? What are the benefits? Which platforms do they recommend? Who will be involved? How much would it cost?
Timing: allow two hours or more for this meeting. You need to dig deep into their thinking and allow them the time to explain. This meeting should definitely not be rushed.
People: involved the same people as the first meeting. If possible, bring technical backup from your tech team. Bring someone senior, too. Now's the time to get approval from upper management on the project and the team.
Assets: you don't need to bring anything.
Actions: Send the team away with notes on their work. If they dazzled you, tell them to get prepared to move forward. If they had a good idea, tell them to make them perfect. If they sucked, tell them you're not going to see them again.
On your end, you need to go and get approval. Now is the time to get the right people on board. Later will be too late. Book a meeting with a C-level exec and go through it all. This is going to involve money and time, someone needs to approve it all at some point.
Red flags: anything that sounds lazy and unprepared. You can think of this second meeting as a job interview. Did they dazzle you? Did they think about solving your HR problem or an HR problem?
Your third meeting
Show me the money.
The nature of this meeting will depend on the previous one.
If they did an OK job, the third meeting will be about ironing out the last few details. You want to make sure you understand what they'll do for you. You want to make sure they prepared this time and have something for you.
If they did a great job during meeting number two, it's time to talk finances and dates. Remember when I told you to get approval from an exec after meeting two? This is going to make meeting three easier.
Be prepared to talk about budget. The chatbot building team will expect to come out of this meeting with an agreement on price, timeframe, and key deliverables. You should as well.
Timing: about an hour should do it.
People: bring anyone who needs to be involved regarding budget allocation. Usually, a senior person of the right department should do it.
Assets: make sure you come to the meeting with a number in mind. You should have discussed budget earlier on anyway, but you must now have a clearer idea. Bring a pen, you might need to sign paperwork.
Actions: get the scoping document signed. Request an email copy of it as well and make sure you enter each key dates in your calendar. Coordinate with the different teams (design, tech, etc.) about this project going forward. Let the chatbot building team get on with their work.
Red flags: too much money or too much time. You're going to have to feel this one out.
Agile development, standups, and BAU
At ubisend, we like to hold weekly or bi-weekly meetings with our clients. We feel like they keep everyone on track.
These meetings are here for you. You should request them if your chatbot team doesn't come up with it. During these meetings, get a feel for how the project is doing. Request to see the latest updates and ask if anyone is stuck anywhere.
We also like to use various project management tools to help us along the way. This allows us to keep a written track of everything we've done.
You need to realise this: building a chatbot for your HR/sales/marketing/whatever department will require work from you as well. A good chatbot building company should not go away and build anything without your input and help.
During the scoping phase (meeting two or three), you will be requested to deliver specific assets at specific dates as well. The weekly meetings will also serve the chatbot building team to keep you on track for these as well.
The 'unique snow flake' caveat
Tyler Durden was wrong. You are a unique snow flake.
The layout above will not suit everyone. You may need three introductory meetings. You may need one month between meeting two and meeting three. You may not need to involve anyone senior to get everything signed off.
This is not a set in stone sequence of meetings. Take this as a blueprint of the three steps you will need to go through before things get started. Make sure you remember the red flags. Make sure you get the action points.
Even if it all takes ten meetings, you will find the same things come up. Hopefully this article has prepared you for it all.