Today’s customers want quick answers to pressing questions at any time of the day. They expect a business to address their needs immediately and would rather switch to another brand than tolerate longer wait times. Who or what can help your company meet the high demands of existing clients and acquire new fans without over staffing and cost overruns? One of the most effective and innovative solutions is building an intelligent chatbot to provide customer service 24/7.
Over the last few years, chatbots have impacted many industries, from health care to retail. Digital assistants continue to transform the way people select and buy things, plan their vacations or schedule appointments with a doctor. Their number and the role they play will only grow — as recent surveys predict that by 2020, 85% of customer communications will rely entirely on automated tools.
Alongside the popularity of chatbots, their availability increases as well. You don’t even need technical skills to create a simple bot and integrate it to your website, add it into your app or use it to reach your target audience on Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, and other messengers or social media platforms.
There is a huge variety of chatbot building solutions, each having unique features, flexible payment plans and integration opportunities. If you are looking to improve your customer satisfaction with the help of a digital assistant, let’s delve deeper into the matter and compare chatbot platforms.
What’s the right chabot partner for you?
When we talk about chatbots, it’s crucial not to confuse a chatbot building platform with a chatbot publishing platform. The building platform, or chatbot builder, is an app or ecosystem for bot creation. The publishing platform is a channel or medium where users can find your bot and interact with it (for example, Kik, Slack, FB Messenger, Telegram, your mobile app or website).
To choose the right channel, you need to know what messenger your clients use most. To choose the right chatbot builder, it’s necessary to understand the available options in the market. Roughly, all companies offering bot building services fall into three large groups.
Self-service visual chatbot builders
These apps allow you to create a simple bot from scratch by means of a handy graphical user interface (GUI). They don’t require coding skills — you just drag and drop the ready-made components to design your work flow.
Quick time to market and low expenditures make this type of platform an appealing option for companies with a tight budget and little to no technical expertise. Your bot will be able to test your business idea, answer frequently asked questions or provide your customers with basic information about your product and services, but don’t expect your digital assistant to be sophisticated or very smart.
Self-service AI chatbot development platforms
They also often use GUI and drag-and-drop templates, but also include APIs, SDKs, and libraries to give your bot machine learning (ML) and natural language processing (NLP) capabilities. It means that your digital agent will learn from every interaction with a customer and become smarter over time.
The simplest AI chatbot can be built within a few hours, but you need at least a basic programming background to deal with SDKs and other tools. Keep in mind that AI-fueled digital assistants require training before they are ready to help your clients online.
The good news is that with an experienced technical team you can create a world-class chatbot. Especially, if you opt for services, backed by one of the tech giants such as Google, Amazon, Microsoft, or IBM. All these heavy-weights offer their powerful NLP engines for designing self-learning voice-enabled multilingual conversational agents. Yet, the more intelligent and complex your chatbot is, the higher the price of development, training, deployment, and support.
End-to-end chatbot providers
Obviously, the most hassle-free way to adopt a bot is to rely on end-to-end solution providers. Some of these vendors build chatbots on top of their own platforms, others use third-party technologies. Some of them specialize on a particular niche, others concentrate on enterprise-grade bots which are capable of handling millions of requests. Anyway, if you are choosing an end-to-end provider, the price will be higher than in the case of self-service solutions.
The magnificent ten
In this article, we’ll focus on the most popular self-service chatbot builders that deliver effective solutions for various industries.
Available publishing platforms and integrations: FB Messenger, Twilio SMS, Telegram, Shopify, WooCommerce.
ActiveChat’s visual bot architect applies the concept of Lego bricks to bot building, so all you have to do is to join basic blocks in a proper way. Moreover, you can just choose one of the ready-made templates. For seasoned designers, the platform offers advanced tools to create tailored digital assistants. It also allows connecting with third-party providers of NLP like Google’s DialogFlow at the click of a mouse.
Monthly fees vary from zero (for a single chatbot integrated with Dialogflow and no more than 500 active users per month) to $249 (ten NLP-fueled bots, each servicing up to 50,000 users).
Available publishing platforms and intregrations: FB Messenger, Twilio SMS, Slack, mobile apps, IoT devices, CRM systems.
Image credit: Amazon Lex
With this service, you can design a text and voice-enabled chatbot for your website with the same speech recognition engine that powers Amazon Alexa. Amazon Lex provides you with the console to build, test, and deploy your AI-fueled digital assistants which are able to scale automatically.
While you need some technical background to work with Amazon Lex tools, the platform doesn’t require deep learning expertise. A developer just designs the basic conversational flow in the console, and Lex helps you manage dialogues and adjust responses
Amazon Lex charges clients only for what they use, so the price will depend on the number of requests processed by your chatbot ($0.004 per speech request and 0.00075 per text request). Within the first year you can try the platform for free if your monthly traffic doesn’t exceed 10,000 text requests and 5,000 speech requests.
Available publishing platforms and integrations: Slack, FB Messenger, LINE, Apple Business Chat, Skype, WhatsApp, Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, Jira.
Image credit: Botlist
Botmock is another codeless platform that will help you create chatbots rapidly. Its main focus is designing conversation flow in a convenient drag-and-drop editor. You can instantly test your future digital agent on different publishing platforms, invite users to try your bot and collect their feedback.
After 15 days of a free trial, you have to choose either a basic ($17.99) or advanced (29.99$) monthly plan. Large teams aiming at creating an enterprise-grade solution need to negotiate their specific terms directly with Botmock.
Available publishing platforms and integrations: Slack, FB Messenger, Amazon Alexa, RSS Feed, Google Sheets, Google Search, Shopify.
Botsify simplifies the process of making AI chatbots for non-programmers by offering a convenient interface with drag-and-drop elements. Published on your website, Facebook or Slack, bots give customers instant answers to their questions and send notifications and alerts. They use conversation forms to collect consumer data, like email, phone number, address, or location.
The bot platform provides a free 14-day trial and two pricing plans, self-service ($50 per month) and fully-managed ($300 per month). The premium package comes with chatbot development, managing and customization services, and weekly reporting.
Available publishing platforms and integrations: FB Messenger, Slack, Live Chat, Webhooks, Zapier.
ChatBot gives you an NLP framework combined with convenient visual tools to create a bot that performs different types of responses and actions within one interaction. You may opt for text replies, images, cards, buttons, carousels, and emojis. ChatBot is integrated with the LiveChat platform, so your intelligent digital assistant can easily connect your customers with a human agent if they need further clarification.
The platform allows you to test their bot features for free for 14 days. After that, the monthly price will start at $50.
Available publishing platforms and integrations: FB Messenger, Google Sheets, Gmail, MailChimp, HubSpot CRM.
The chatbot development platform requires no coding to create digital assistants which are able to deliver visually rich responses, including gifs, carousels, and videos. The application makes designing a smooth conversational flow as easy as possible. Moreover, there is an option to use one of the 20 pre-built customizable chatbots. The bots are powered with contextual AI, so they have self-learning capabilities and can be trained to enhance customer experience.
ChatterOn charges $0.0010 per message processed by your bot, but you pay nothing if the number of requests is less than 15,000.
Available publishing platforms and integrations: FB Messenger, Slack, Kik, Skype, Telegram, Viber, LINE, Twitter, Twilio, Google Assistant, Microsoft Cortana, Amazon Alexa, Cisco Spark.
Image credit: DialogFlow
Powered by Google’s machine learning engine and voice recognition technologies, DialogFlow enables you to create a self-learning voice assistant that supports 20+ languages. The platform lacks a drag-and-drop interface, so the building process won’t be as simple and you will need some coding skills. Yet compared to visual builders, it provides far better NLP capabilities to analyze intents of your customers and to give the most appropriate answer.
Small to medium businesses can use Standard Edition of the platform’s services which is available for free. Easy-to-scale Enterprise Editions stick to a pay-as-you-go pricing model.
Available publishing platforms and integrations: FB Messenger, Slack, Kik, Skype, Telegram, Viber, LINE, Twitter, WhatsApp, Google Sheets, Google Calendar, Gmail, HubSpot CRM, MailChimp, PipeDrive, Zapier.
Besides code-free bot creation and ready-made templates, Engati’s clients take advantage of NLP, voice features, and a convenient FAQ builder. Moreover, they are able to use the same platform for bot training and connecting customers with human agents via live chat. Engati also offers a rich analytics framework to give you insight into your customer behavior.
You can build and publish up to two multi-channel bots for free, but if you are looking to handle over 1000 interactions with customers per month and want more functionality, the monthly price will start at $21.
Available publishing platforms and integrations: Slack, FB Messenger, Twilio SMS, Telegram, Twitter, GitHub, Gmail, Google Sheets, LinkedIn, Jira, YouTube (in total, over 100 integrations).
Flow XO comprises a visual editor to build a smart bot once and publish it on several channels. Your customer can begin to chat with the bot on your website and then continue the session on a mobile device, via Facebook Messenger. The best feature of Flow XO is a large number of available one-click integrations, including Stripe which enables you to receive payments from customers inside your bot.
As for AI capabilities, the platform uses only a simple word and phrase matching algorithm. If you aim to train your bot and create a top-grade natural language UI, the best option would be to integrate Flow XO with DialogFlow NLP services.
To test Flow XO, you can start for free and create up to five bots. Thereafter, the price depends on the number of bots and interactions you require. The minimum standard plan costs $19 per month and includes 15 bots and 5,000 interactions.
Microsoft Bot Framework
Available publishing platforms: Slack, FB Messenger, Skype, Microsoft Teams, GroupMe, Kik, Cortana.
Image credit: Microsoft Bot Framework
Microsoft’s AI chatbot platform assists developers at every stage of a bot’s life cycle. Along with a friendly environment, your team can benefit from Cortana skills, including speech recognition services and automatic translation to over 30 languages. Bot Framework also comes with active learning technology and pre-built models that can be easily adjusted to your business needs. To seize every possibility provided by the platform, you need software engineers with expertise in C# or Node.js.
Similar to Amazon Lex and DialogFlow, Microsoft follows a pay-as-you-go pricing model, charging $0.50 for 1000 messages. There is also a free trial plan for 12 months.
How to choose the best chatbot platform
Selecting the right AI chatbot builder is no easier than finding a good employee. Before making a decision, you should answer the following questions:
1) What is your business size?
For startups and small e-commerce businesses, it makes sense to start with a simple and cost-effective chatbot platform that has a convenient GUI. Tech giants like Amazon Lex or Microsoft Bot Framework would be a better fit for enterprises with millions of customers or mid-sized tech-savvy businesses.
2) What tasks are you planning to automate?
Don’t opt for complex and super-intelligent solutions if you only want your bot to perform routine tasks (e.g. answering simple questions or providing basic information).
3) Do you have skilled developers in your team?
If not, choose a code-free visual chatbot builder.
4) Where do your customers spend most of their time online?
Pay attention to the list of available publishing platforms and opt for a bot builder that will help you reach as many customers as possible.
You should also consider pricing plans, availability of pre-built models, and analytical tools to study your customer behavior. If you are still unsure as to what the right solution is for your needs, drop us a line and we’ll help you create your dream chatbot to reduce labor costs while boosting conversion rate.