Chatbots! They’re new, high-tech, and exciting – not to mention, they can save you time and increase your leads. We’ve discussed how these intelligent conversational interfaces can be in assisting online chatting for ordering, customer service questions, and more…but we haven’t talked much about how much they cost. So let’s look at the different levels of chatbots and their costs to what is the best fit for your brand.

Building a Full Chatbot from the Ground Up: $30,000 – $150,000

This is the plan if you need a complex chatbot that can listen for a variety of questions, respond appropriately, and direct prospects and buyers in more complex tasks: In this case, you probably won’t be able to find an in-house solution no matter what talent you have. This case calls for contracting with outside developers that are skilled in creating the highly complex algorithms needed to make your chatbot seem smart, friendly, and capable.

So what does this sort of bespoke work cost you? A lot. A powerful chatbot designed by an outside agency will cost, at the minimum, $30,000. And that’s for a simple bot, too. A more advanced, top-line bot can cost as much as $150,000 (That’s a big range, and there are some excellent answers on Quora about just why there can be so much difference in the costs).

Of course, it’s also important to consider long-term maintenance costs, which will typically require either your own IT specialist with enough skills to manage and update the bot, or repeated sessions with outside experts to help fine-tune it. You can see why these advanced bots are typically reserved for the largest corporations!

Constructing a Simple Chatbot through Available Apps: $3,000 – $5,000

If you don’t need a chatbot that’s quite so advanced and tailored to the company, you can use dedicated tools and services too build your own. These tools provide the building blocks – usually in the form of a platform and bits of code for developers to put together – to create a chatbot. The goal is to making bot design easy enough for even small and mid-sized companies to handle it in-house.

These apps are new, and not yet perfected, so results can vary. However, costs are much lower – you may have to pay for access to the app, and you may need to recruit some new talent or hire a temporary developer to work with you, but overall these apps fit far more easily into your budget. Chatbots at this level cost several thousand dollars to make, on average. If you are curious about specific bot platforms that you can use, there are several effective examples.

Use Chatbot Tools on Present Platforms – Time Costs

This method is even more specific – you’re designing a chatbot for a very specific platform, using a specific set of tools (usually developed by the platform creator). The best example of this type of chatbot is Facebook’s Messenger bot toolset. It only works on Messenger, but it’s made so that most in-house developers can put one together to meet simple goals.

Since you probably already have the talent to make this type of bot, the costs come from re-assigning a person or team to work on it. Depending on how it fits into your schedule, you may be looking at a sunk cost of a few hundred to a couple thousand dollars.

In the End: Outline Your Chatbot!

We know “it depends” isn’t the answer anyone wants, but when it comes to chatbot costs, the price really is dictated by what sort of bot you want, and how much work you’re willing to do. Start by outlining your plan for the chatbot, what you want it to be able to do, and what data it will need to access.

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