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Chatbot ToolsMarch 22, 2017Written by Alex Debecker

The Best Chatbot Builder is Human

It is no secret: we build custom chatbots.

I have personally shared my thoughts about why I believe businesses should not use a DIY chatbot building platform in another post. In that article, I went quite deep on the technical aspects of using these platforms and why they are not suited for 'serious bot building'.

In this post, I want to take another approach. I want to touch on a rarely talked about aspect of building chatbots: the humans.

It is while working on high-end, bespoke projects here at ubisend that we have developed a human approach to building chatbots. As the leading chatbot development company, I believe we are uniquely qualified to write about this aspect of the industry.

To us, the best chatbot builder is human. Why? This is what I am going to cover in this article.


Introducing the best chatbot building tool: humans

Before I move on and talk about three aspects in which a human-powered team outperforms a chatbot building tool, I want to share a tiny bit about our process. This will, hopefully, help you understand where I'm coming from.

We have built many chatbots for businesses of all sizes. Whether it is for small charities or large enterprises, our process is always the same: we talk to our customers.

This process starts from the initial contact and follows us all the way to delivering the final build and maintaining the live chatbot.

As part of the team that handles the first point of contact with anyone reaching out to us, I particularly understand the need for a human interaction behind a chatbot build.

The truth is, at the moment, 99.9% of people struggle to formulate what they want from a chatbot. Automation? AI? What is your chatbot solving? What should your chatbot say? How should it say it?

The human touch helps every single step of the way. As experts in our field, we make a point of hand-holding our prospects from start to finish, because, well, we would not have it any other way.

What does a human-powered team bring to the table that chatbot builders cannot?


1. In-depth artificial intelligence

I have also spoken about artificial intelligence (AI) in previous articles. I often bring it up as something that is completely missing from DIY chatbot building platforms and often get told that AI is, in fact, available on (some of) these platforms.

Sure, some sort of limited AI is available. But in-depth AI? Certainly not.


Why can't chatbot building platforms offer valuable AI?

Platforms are facing a few different issues regarding AI.

The first one is that AI is complicated. As most chatbot building platforms are free to use, it isn't hard to understand that most of them will not be in a position to provide advanced technology for free to its users.

The second is that AI alone does not really excite anyone anymore. In fact, standard AI is pretty old news in our field. Nowadays, it's all about machine learning and deep learning. And guess what? These two fields are even more complicated than 'simple' AI. So that is not going to happen either.

The third and final issue is due to the very nature of DIY platforms: they must suit the largest common denominator.

This is true for any platform of any kind. Although WordPress has grown to become a highly customisable DIY website building platform, you are still bound and limited to using their assumptions.

Customisation is, therefore, extremely hard to service as a platform simply because anything you build has to suit (or serve, or make sense to) all customers.


Why can a human-powered chatbot building team offer valuable AI?

Simply put, it is because a human-powered chatbot building team can do custom work.

As we grow, we get to work on projects that have vastly different requirements in terms of AI. Aside from the exciting aspect that no two days are alike, each team gets to go deep on projects without interference from other builds going on at the same time.

What may be required in terms of AI for a doctor chatbot is different from the AI requirements of a joke-delivering Monkey chatbot. While a DIY platform, due to the 'one size fits all' nature, could not service these two projects at the same time with in-depth AI, we can, thanks to our humans.


2. A wealth of experience

Do you know what, more than anything else, is missing in the chatbot field right now? Experience and best practise.

The modern chatbot industry is so new, you would be hard pressed to find experienced chatbot builders (although you did find us, sooo..). It is even hard to find chatbots to actually test in real time.

At the moment, if you are looking to get a chatbot built for your business, your biggest hurdle will be to find a company that can deliver and has done it successfully before.


Why can't chatbot building platforms share their experience?

After all, some of them boast pretty high numbers. Some platforms have been used to build thousands of chatbots, why don't they have the experience you need to build your company's chatbot?

Because the experience they have is not in building chatbots, it is in offering their platform for people to build their own chatbots. There is no valuable learning there for you to grab - unless you speak to each and every one of these thousands of people.


How can a human-powered chatbot building team use their experience?

We believe one of the first questions anyone looking into custom chatbots should ask their potential chatbot developer (or team of) should be about experience.

'What have you learned from your previous work that could help you with my project'?

Once again, at the moment, it is hard to find a chatbot building company that has the experience to give you a straight answer to that question.

Just like with anything else in life, with practice comes experience. Getting our hands dirty and working on a project gives us the opportunity to learn from the field.

We can then transfer this experience to our new clients and give them in-depth insight on how to build something more powerful, more successful, and better suited to their needs.

It is the humans in our team that make learning from experience possible.


3. Customisation and pivoting

At this very moment, every single company in the world that wants a chatbot wants something custom. They want something that works for them. They want something that solves one of their problems.

Sure, some of these could be grouped into categories ('chatbots that help with sales', 'chatbots that help with customer support', and so on). However, at their core, these chatbots must be unique. If nothing else, in terms of conversational UX, each chatbot should do its own thing.

Countless times we have started a project one way and ended it a completely different way. Pivoting, adapting and working with the client during the build is part of the job.


Why can't chatbot building platforms offer a custom experience?

You can probably see where I am going with this.

Chatbot building platforms are built to please the masses. They have the basic functions a chatbot needs to operate (such as user says xx & chatbot replies xx).

They, however, lack customisation.

Although you get to change the language, customise some words here and there, and build your own messaging flow, a chatbot building platform does not allow you to build something bespoke to your specific business and its specific needs.

A good example is how 99% of chatbots you see works where the bot sends a message, then the user, then the bot, then the user, then the bot and so on. How often do you have a natural conversation with someone where you each take it in turns to send one line of text?

Also, what happens when your chatbot needs to connect to a bespoke API, grab a specific data set, feed a specific notification to the user, and populate your bespoke CRM once the user replies?

A 'built for the masses' chatbot platform will not be able to do it for you.

In a previous article, I wrote about how these platforms can be really useful to play around, learn, and dip your toes in the waters of this exciting new trend. Custom work is the point at which you need to take your toes out and go talk to real humans.


How can a human-powered chatbot building team offer customisation?

Humans are there to help. Humans adapt to the situation and should do everything they can to accommodate your needs.

As I said earlier, clients change their minds, requirements change and we have had to pivot in the middle of a chatbot build before. It happens. Thankfully, a team of humans is able to react, take what can be saved, and move on.

Had our clients started down the DIY chatbot platform rabbit hole, they would have had to scrap everything and start again - not ideal.


The best chatbot builder is human

As you can see, I have a pretty strong opinion on the matter. The truth is, at the moment, experienced humans will do a much better job at building a chatbot that works (and works well) for your business than any DIY platform.

Whether it is due to their wealth of experience, their ability to do custom integrations, their capacity to pivot at the drop of a hat, or the depth of the artificial intelligence they can offer; a team of humans will always be your best bet.

Your best course of action? Play with a platform for a little while. Figure out what this whole chatbot thing is all about. Then, give a few humans a call and get the real fun started.