With Conversational AI becoming an essential part of most business plans, and as a CMO/CPO, you’ve probably already considered getting a chatbot to manage some aspect of your business. This could be anything ranging from Customer Support to Lead Generation to Engagement to Collecting Feedback.
As part of this, you might have done a lot of research to learn what chatbots are, what they can do for your business, zeroed in on that one or several pain-points that needs a chatbot, and are now set to make that final ‘BUILD or BUY’ decision!
Before we begin, here’s a definition of what we mean by the terms “Paid chatbot” and “Free chatbot”:
But, should you go for paid or free bots?
A million-dollar question, one that every company asks itself before implementing a new service. And we have some advice to give based on our experience building chatbots for more than 50 clients across enterprises.
Here are some questions you need to ask yourself to decide which model is good for your business:
1. Do you wish to answer complex or simple queries?
If you simply need a “chat now” button on your website that users can tap to enter their query, a free chatbot option is fine for you.
Most free, 5-minute chatbot options are a simple way to replace a form option and give you a chat window where users can enter their questions which is then directed to a human agent. Some options let you configure a few basic questions which then redirect to a human agent.
With a paid chatbot vendor, you get the full flexibility of a comprehensive bot building platform that supports complex chat-flows and open-ended questions.
Complex bots not only guide users to complete a certain goal (E.g. Buying a flight ticket, getting a test report) but can also switch between contexts if a user sends an unexpected reply. A well-trained bot can handle a majority of the basic questions your users ask, thus freeing up your human agents to handle the more complex, nuanced questions.
2. How much scale do you need to handle?
Most free bot options will have a limit on the number of users it can handle. These bots are not trained with custom data and may not be able to answer in-depth questions about your company or products. This limits the number of questions they can answer on their own.
If your business caters to a large audience base, it makes sense to invest in a paid chatbot that can answer most mundane questions and support many users simultaneously.
Going for a non-scalable option when you need to handle a large crowd can lead to terrible results and unhappy customers. Anticipate correctly and go for an option that matches the size of your audience base.
3. Is multi-platform support important to you or do you only need a single platform presence?
Most free chatbots give you the option to install the bot on a single platform, like Facebook Messenger or your website.
According to this Global Web Index report, the average person has at least 7 social media accounts. Thus making it necessary for your company to maintain a multi-network presence at all times.
It’s crucial that your company is able to answer time-sensitive queries on many digital platforms 24/7. A full-fledged paid chatbot platform can ensure that multiple profiles are being monitored constantly.
Here’s an example of an omnichannel experience!
4. Are you looking to offer personalized answers?
Free chatbots’ generic limited capabilities with back-end integrations mean that personalized answers are hard to come by. At most, these bots allow the addition of some basic FAQ’s but cannot be plugged into your existing database.
Paid chatbots are able to contextualize answers and can incorporate your CRM and customer specific data with help of back-end integrations.
Let’s say you are a bank. Between sending notifications to customers, providing balance information, providing credit report updates, and paying bills to help customers with simple transactions, there is an infinite number of query combinations.
A strong back-end integration means that the chatbot can authenticate these users, fetch data from your database and respond to the query correctly. all through chat. This seamless user experience makes the painstaking process of a financial transaction much easier.
5. Do you want pre-trained, smart AI bots or do you wish to start from scratch?
A free chatbot won’t offer any pre-trained data as per your business requirements because it’s merely an off-the-shelf solution. You are starting from nothing. Whereas a paid chatbot can help you get-to-market faster with a central data corpus that has already been trained with years’ worth of data.
✨ For example:
Future Pay was able to boost their engagement by 30% by integrating Haptik’s Quiz bot with their digital wallet app. The bot is part of our Concierge Bot SDK which contains over 40+ bots that have been pre-trained with conversational data from over 4 years.
When KLM airlines rolled out its Facebook bot, there was a spike in customer queries due to the high adoption of the bot. The bot’s AI learned from various human agents’ actions and provides suggested replies to human agents. Over 50% Over 50% of the queries are now being answered with the help of AI. The bot’s ability to automatically answer the users’ repetitive inquiries have freed the agents to solve more complex tasks, leading to a better user experience.
Your bot’s NLU capabilities also dictate how well it can understand queries no matter how they are phrased.
A bot with a strong AI layer backing it can differentiate between “Can you place the order” and “Has my order been placed?”.
6. Do you require in-depth reports about your customer’s queries and their experience using your product?
Most of the free chatbots offer limited basic tools and dashboards for reporting and analysis. Paid chatbots can offer valuable insights and reports across all channels based on user data, intent, and other important factors.
An intelligent reporting dashboard(like Haptik’s Analytics Dashboard pictured below) can give you a holistic view of what your customers are saying about your product. This collated real-time information keeps your finger on the pulse of your customer.
✨ An example:
Imagine if you were a fast food brand and have newly launched an item. The best feedback about food is qualitative where your customer describes the taste and their preferences. This type of information is difficult to collect and analyse using paper survey forms and in-person interviews are not scalable. A chatbot can not only collect qualitative feedback but can also analyse millions of answers to quickly give you a snapshot of what people are talking about like “Amazing sauces” or “Not crunchy”. Here’s an in-depth look at what a feedback bot can do for you.
7. Do you want a strong, expert solutioning support or prefer a DIY solution?
When you opt for a free chatbot solution, you are completely responsible for deploying, debugging and maintaining your bot. There is very little hand-holding or technical assistance available if anything goes wrong.
By opting for a paid chatbot solution, your company is given a dedicated solutioning team that helps you design, develop and maintain your bot. Some platforms even offer a dedicated POC responsible for continuously monitoring and training the bot to answer new user queries over time.
8. Do you have a failsafe when your bot can’t answer correctly?
Simply sending an unhelpful ‘Beyond my scope’ message or worse, repeating the same wrong answer can lead to bad mouthing on social media or can even mean losing a customer.
This is why having a human intervention option is such an important feature for any bot. By routing complex conversations to human agents, your business ensures that sensitive queries are given their due and no customer is left exasperated. Additionally, this lessens the load on your customer service agents whose time can now be focussed on handling complicated queries.
Intelligent human agent routing based on context is a feature very few bot providers offer. It requires an intelligent layer of NLU and an integrated Agent Chat Dashboard alongside your bot.
So, when you evaluate a chatbot vendor, make sure that they have a human intervention option.
So finally, should you opt for paid or free bots?
This is purely dependent on your business needs and goals.
If you’re an enterprise that is:
1) Looking to solve a complex problem end-to-end and
2) Give your customers a value-added service and
3) Have the budget to spare
Then, you should definitely opt for an expert chatbot provider. This will pay off in the long run when you wish to scale massively and automate more customer touchpoints.
Here’s a summary of all the features you should be looking out for: