chatbot | 6 min read

How Much Does Building a Chatbot Cost?

Published by Hardik Makadia on 27-Jun-2022

Thanks to the numerous chatbot benefits, businesses are implementing them at an alarming rate.

Statistics have shown that chatbots were the fastest-growing communication channel used by businesses in 2020.

And with the need to catch up, you’ve finally decided to get a chatbot solution for your business.

But like many decision-makers, you’re perplexed. Because you’re now wondering, “how much does it cost to build a chatbot?”

The answer to that isn’t as straightforward as you may think. A lot of factors go into deciding its costing but it is your business goals and approach that ultimately decide the final cost. 

So the two main questions you’ll need answers to determine the costs are:

  • What am I trying to achieve with the chatbot solution?

  • How am I going to avail the chatbot solution? 

The cost depends on whether you’re building a chatbot in-house, getting a subscription-based solution, or buying a ready-made solution. 

So let’s take a look at what the chatbot costs look like with each of these approaches and the things you should consider when choosing to invest in chatbot technology. 

Cost of Building a Custom Chatbot

Although most companies opt for a subscription model of leveraging the chatbot technology, a few even opt to go for an in-house custom bot development.

If you have the right resources and technical know-how in your team, this approach might even be the ideal option for you.

But beware: the costs associated with in-house chatbot development will be vastly different and comparatively higher initially. Yet, many businesses go for it because of the following benefits:

  • You can implement complex and unique functionalities

  • You can use the latest technologies to build the bot from scratch

  • You can practice regular maintenance, and make constant improvements without dependency on a third party. 

  • You have the liberty to develop voice-enabled devices

  • You can have customized integrations and also integrate your internal systems of live chat, and BI into your chatbot solution

  • You can ensure full security of the chatbot

This method does call for its own server infrastructure and requires sufficient time for the development and deployment of the project.

If you have still made up your mind to go with this approach, here are some custom chatbot costs to consider:

Setup and Development

If you’re starting everything from scratch, you’ll need to hire expert developers who will develop the solution for you. They need to be proficient with 

  • Existing chatbot frameworks like IBM Watson, Microsoft Azure Bot Service, etc

  • Programming languages like Java, Python, and PHP

  • Experience in integrating chatbots on different platforms

Consider their average salary of $45/hour or $80,000/ year

Also, keep in mind that this is just one developer. If you want to hasten the process, you’ll need a development team so this cost will multiply. 

Additionally, you’ll need to pay for must-have integrations such as CRM and scheduling tools. 

This is also the phase wherein you must decide on:

  • What extent of backend support will you require?

  • Which channels do you want to integrate your chatbot on?

  • How complex do you want your chatbot architecture to be?

Seeking answers to these questions will help you develop the right chatbot solution for your business.

Ongoing Support and Maintenance

In addition to building the bot, you’ll also be entirely responsible for maintaining it.

Your tool will always require research, constant updates, and tweaks that would wherein you will need to regularly allocate time and resources. The cost will vary based on the modifications but you can expect the cost to be around $100 to $2000 per month. 

Graphic Designers and Writers 

Although building a bot is fairly simple, it is the script that is tricky.

You will need to work on establishing conversational flows that imitate human interactions.

When you are building a chatbot from scratch, you’ll have to invest in a creative writer who can build strategic flows for you. You’ll also need to hire a graphic designer that will provide the personalized UI.

So, you’ll need to consider their salaries also which will be a total of around $100k per year.

Cost of Building a Platform-based Chatbot

Opting for in-house chatbot development, as we have just discussed, requires a lot of groundwork. Alternatively, you can opt for flexible chatbot pricing models that chatbot vendors provide for businesses based on their company size.

These pricing modules are:

Small Size Business 

Every small business aims to grow.

But they are often overloaded with queries and find it challenging to address and satisfy customers with a limited team.

A small business that is just starting out has the primary benefit of using automation tools — getting more work done in less time. For a small business with a team of more than 100 employees, basic features won’t suffice. You’ll need slight customizations and integrations that will fulfill your conversational goals. Brands then go for an affordable plan where you can expect the following features: 

  • NLP integrations (Dialogflow, Watson) that allow you to build AI chatbots 

  • Easy-to-use chatbot builder 

  • Email Support 

  • Chat Interface Custom Visibility for branding Customizing the look and feel of the chat widget

  • Live chat where your agents can interact with users in real-time 

  • Basic analytics to track if the chatbot is performing well

  • Team Management in live chat

Monthly Cost: $30 to $100 per month 

Mid-size Business

With an even bigger team and a bigger customer base, you require advanced functionalities. You need customizations that are tailored to your business goals. For a mid-size company with around 500 employees, businesses often opt for a business plan or a pro-plan.

You can expect the following inclusions in the business plan offered by WotNot:

  • Option to remove branding

  • Human handover from bot to live agent

  • FAQ bot builder for automating answers to routing queries 

  • Personalized Onboarding

  • Implementation Assistance and Training

  • Advance Integration like Salesforce, HubSpot, Google Calendar, Airtable, etc.

Monthly cost: $400-$500 per month

Enterprises 

An enterprise chatbot builder incorporates multiple use-cases and is pricier than the previous options. But these are especially directed toward large corporations that involve implementation, legal, and security costs. The plans include implementation and usage costs that may be otherwise absent in chatbot solutions for small and mid-size companies.

Some common features that an enterprise plan includes are: 

  • A single sign-on (SSO) where users can use one login credentials to access multiple applications 

  • 24/7 Prioritized Support for any queries and dedicated support assistance

  • Custom development of features and integrations that make the chatbot deeply connected with the internal systems 

  • Analysis assistance and inclusions of any custom KPIs on the analytics dashboard 

  • Optimization services

Monthly cost: $1000 to custom pricing per month

Costs of Ready-made Chatbot Platform

If you want to skip the hassle of building a chatbot, you can opt for ready-made chatbot solutions in the market that solve specific business needs. You can simply access the templates and pick one according to your use case and your bot is ready for deployment. 

However, you’ll get access to a fixed amount of features and limited options for customizations. If you’re a solopreneur who just needs to automate a few operational tasks, this solution works best for you. 

There are also marketplaces for accessing chatbots on apps like Telegram and Slack. This option will save you time and money on chatbot development and helps you access chatbots in one location. The costs associated with this approach are almost nil. 

Many chatbot vendors including WotNot offer a free plan where small businesses or startups can use a chatbot free of cost. The inclusions in this plan are:

  • No-code chatbot builder where you can self-build chatbots without technical expertise 

  • Ready-to-use templates for different use-cases

  • Unlimited bots for different pages 

  • Analytics Dashboard for real-time analytics of the bot

Monthly Cost: None

Evidently, your end-costing will depend on the size of your business and what chatbot development method you choose. Below, you can check out the differences in each of these approaches which will help you decide your budget.

Crucial Factors that Determine the Chatbot Cost 

You also need to take into account other elements that will help you determine the final costs associated with implementing a chatbot solution. 

Let’s take a look at these factors in detail:

1. Chatbot Type 

Chatbots come in several types and forms. 

Rule-based bots have a decision tree type of conversation flow but their length and complexity will depend on your goals. So it is those factors that will decide the final cost but you don’t have to pay for any add-ons associated with AI integrations.

On the other hand, AI chatbots are built with the help of NLP engines like Dialogflow. To build one, you need to know defining intents, entities, and responses on Dialogflow (Or any other NLP engines) or you need to hire an expert that does.

AI chatbots will hence involve the costs of NLP engines as well as the skills associated with building the bot. If the cost of a rule-based bot is $400 per month, you can expect the cost of an AI chatbot twice as high at around $800 per month. 

2. Chatbot Integrations

Integrations are pretty much anything that your bot will need to plug into. A chatbot has to have some integrations for the solution to work in a wholesome way.

The prices of these integrations vary. It takes around 30-80 hours to integrate a tool into your chatbot and will cost you somewhere around $1000 to $10,000.

Some of the top integrations that you might want to consider are:

  • Customer Service Tool like Zendesk

  • CRM system like Hubspot, Salesforce, Zoho

  • Payment Platforms like Paypal, Amazon Pay

  • Accounting like Quickbooks

  • CMS System like WordPress, Magneto

  • Utility Apps like Airtable, Google Sheets, Zapier 

  • Channels like Facebook, WhatsApp, Slack

3. Chatbot Use-case 

Depending on your industry and goals, chatbots can have multiple use cases. It can be to generate leads, train employees, schedule visitor appointments, etc.

For example, in eCommerce, most opt for a product recommendation chatbot or a customer support chatbot. A real-estate brand is inclined towards building an appointment scheduling bot and so on.

The point is that these use-cases will decide the integrations you need to have and decide the complexity of the bot flow which will decide the end cost. 

4. Chatbot Design 

Designing a bot flow that results in a positive experience for the user is a skill. Chatbot design includes everything from defining the goals, to writing the script, making it engaging at every step of the flow, and ensuring that the conversation reaches its goal. This cost is directed towards the marketing and design team who ensures that the chatbot fulfills its purpose. 

The chatbot flow and design depend on the extent of conversation you want your bot to have with your customers. Do you want the bot to have end-to-end conversations or just a brief conversation to get the customer on board and appoint them to a live agent? 

If you decide to let the chatbot take over the reins entirely, the chatbot flow will be longer, resulting in a higher chatbot cost. 

5. Chatbot Usage Costs 

After the what and how you need to know where to deploy your bot. Your platform will ultimately decide the usage costs you’ll incur. While your website chatbot or a Facebook Messenger chatbot will not involve any additional costs, other personalized platforms like WhatsApp and SMS will.

The usage costs include the chatbot cost you pay per conversation. For example, the cost of an SMS chatbot, where you can have automated conversations via text messaging will be based on each text message you send via SMS. These costs are decided by communication API providers like Twilio. They charge different rates for different countries.

Demo SMS cost for the USA

Source: Twilio

Conclusion

One of the many benefits of chatbots is that they’re ‘cost-effective’. But they can only achieve this if you have done your research and figured out an optimized solution based on your business requirements.

Ensure that whatever you decide, the chatbot cost doesn’t exceed what you can’t afford. You can always start small and opt for an advanced solution as you realize its benefits and start generating a reasonable ROI. 

Too many things to remember, right?

We know it’s tricky to decide on an option where you spend less and get more.

It would be wise for you to get a demo to understand the dynamics of chatbot cost. You can get in touch with us and we’d be happy to help. We can walk you through the different pricing modules and help you choose the right plan for you. The one that can reap chatbot benefits in the future.

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