Startups, small and medium businesses, as well as large corporations have recognized chatbots as valuable assets. Chatbots are designed to help businesses stay present on messaging platforms 24/7, improve customer service, increase customer engagement, gain insights on user data and cut down expenses.
This is why many businesses find the idea of building a chatbot of their own quite attractive. But how much does it cost to build one?
As a starting point, let us establish an hourly rate of senior developers. The bare minimum you will have to pay per hour of a senior developer’s work ranges from $50 to $150. For now, let’s stick with the $50 per hour rate.
I am also starting by assuming that you know exactly what you want your bot to do, what the UI will look like and in which channels you will integrate it. So, let’s start with the calculations.
The Backend and Server Side
In order to start building a chatbot for you business, you will need a team of professional developers. If you don’t have an in-house one, you will have to outsource this task to a third party company or hire freelancers. And we are not talking about junior developers here. You will need developers who are familiar with natural language processing, chabot backend, omni-channel integrations and artificial intelligence.
Since your future chatbot will reside online, you will also need a server setup and deployment. This means that you will need someone who is expert in either .NET or Node.js server side SDKs. When someone has experience in this task, the entire setup will last at least 5 hours.
Communication Channel Integration
A chatbot is useless unless it can be integrated into messaging apps. Every channel is specific and you will need to hire developers to develop channel-specific UIs for your chabot. For Facebook Messenger integration alone you will need someone to integrate and set up a chatbot (5 hours), configure specific UI requirements of the channel (5 hours) and configure chatbot UI (15 hours).
Setting up Natural Language Processing
While this is not an overly complicated task, it is, unfortunately, very time-consuming. In order to set up a Natural Language Processing service, train it, and extract data and validate it from entities, your developers will need at least 90 hours of hard work.
Intelligent Conversation Design
The chatbot conversation is based on the Natural Language Processing entities and intentions, which means that your developers will have to develop algorithms for each conversation scenario. It takes approximately 150 hours to develop a decision-tree algorithm that successfully handles chatbot conversations and an additional 50 hours to integrate it with what has been built so far.
Integration with Existing Systems
This section is only for those who want to have a chatbot able to receive orders, online payments, book hotel rooms or book appointments. For the development of API, you should set aside some cash for at least 180 hours of work. This number may vary depending on your business requirements.
Chatbot Control Panel
Your chatbot has to store conversations and you will also need access to the conversation history and errors through a web interface. So, be prepared to log another 60 hours of work.
So, How Much is it in Total?
When we sum up the number of hours spent on development, we come to a nice little figure of 405. This means that building a chatbot from scratch will cost you around $20,000. I’d like to point out that my assumptions are based on minimal requirements and minimal development cost. Moreover, this chatbot will have only one purpose and will be integrated in only one communication channel (in our case Facebook Messenger).
What’s the Alternative?
Developing chatbots is an expensive and time-consuming effort. There are companies that specialise in chatbot development, whose products are already put to use in many industries. Yet instead of investing time and money into development and risk losing your competitive edge, you can start using a chatbot this very second. And did I mention that it is possible to do so for free?
That’s right. Snatchbot.me is a free chatbot building platform that can help you get your chatbot up and running on a desired channel in as little as 5 minutes. Snatchbot’s mission is to help both businesses and developers to not just build, but monetize AI-enabled chatbots by providing free access to their chatbot building platform.
What’s even more astounding is that this platform requires no coding skills whatsoever. You can make as many bots as you want and have no limits when it comes to the number of messages or channel integrations. Their chatbots are truly omni-channel, which means the same chatbot, once created, is ready to be used on Viber, Facebook Messenger, Wechat, Skype, Slack, Twilio and many other platforms.
In addition, once you create your account on their website you will be able to choose from a variety of pre-made chatbot templates, which you can integrate in your desired channel in just a few clicks.
I really hope that I’ve successfully shed some light on the price of building a custom chatbot from the ground up but also, by drawing your attention to SnatchBot, demonstrate that the landscape is changing. The era of expensive chatbot building is coming to an end.