Chatbot Pricing: What Does a Chatbot Cost?

Are chatbots worth it? It depends on what you pay.

While chatbots began taking the business world by storm a couple years ago, the momentum has slowed. It’s becoming clear that quality chatbots require a significant investment. On the flip side, lower-tier bots may actually hurt the customer experience. 

From international supply chains to marketers’ cubicles automation has been a buzzword for a long time. And messaging for lead conversion has dovetailed nicely with that trend. Bots are automating customer engagement with online visitors through artificial intelligence. But how much does a bot that utilizes machine learning cost? We’ve covered live chat pricing. Now it’s time to dive into chatbot implementation cost.

The Cost of an Intelligent Chatbot

The cost of chatbots can be prohibitive? What?

It sounds weird, but it’s true. You may have to shell out big bucks if you want the sort of chatbot that isn’t going to turn off visitors with odd turns of phrase and obvious quirks. A free bot may come across as creepy or stilted. Basically: not human enough.

Making your own chatbot is tough. And it takes a heavy time investment. The best chatbot software isn’t cheap either. Whether you’re using your chatbot for customer support or lead generation, you’re going to want a good one.

Are you willing to risk bad interactions?

Sure there are bots available for little to no cost. But is that the right move for your business?

Chat is a great lead generation and support tool. However, that doesn’t mean the AI variety doesn’t come with some baggage. Primarily, that’s because some people just aren’t ready to rely on robots. Consumers are prepared to talk to bots, but they’re not ready to hand over all support responsibilities to AI. Hubspot found 79 percent of consumers say they’re OK with messaging a bot if there’s a human around to back it up.

Schedule a meeting with a chat specialist

More so, 57 percent of people would rather talk to a human than a bot. They just don’t trust robots to help them get all their questions answered. That may be because 48 percent of them think chatbots are “creepy.” Sure, free is nice, but is it worth bad interactions?

How about a top quality AI messaging service?

Alternatives to Chatbots

If you’re looking for the best of the best, there are a few routes you can take to adding an effective chatbot to your website:

  1. Build a chatbot internally: Take the software development route and build a bot specifically for your business.
  2. Use a chatbot framework or bot builder: Use a third-party provider such as Facebook to build a chatbot.
  3. Use an AI chat service: Purchase a chatbot service such as Drift, and decide which plan fits your business.
Cost of live chat bots

Cost of live chat bots

What does a chatbot cost?

There are several different chatbot options depending on your business needs. Starting from scratch and developing a chatbot internally can cost over $300,000. Even if you use a prefabricated chatbot framework, you’re still looking at a price tag that could close in on $40,000. On the other end of the spectrum, you can find bare-boned chatbots for the always affordable price of free. 

What does it cost to build a chatbot?

Christian Rennella, CTO and co-founder elMejorTrato, invested plenty into building an enterprise chatbot for his business, according to CMSWire. ElMejorTrato’s sales team spent nine years answering chats before the business turned to AI. The cost chatbot development can be exorbitant. Ultimately, the Argentina-based company sank $340,000 into the chatbot. Most of the money went to developers’ salaries.

What is the price of building a chatbot around a framework? 

There are other ways to get a customized conversational chatbot. Jonathan Duarte, co-founder of GoHire, described to CMSWire his company’s experience with building a chatbot through a third-party framework.

“There are lots of third-party bot-building frameworks,” he explained. “We took several days to review at least 10 of them. Some work only on Facebook Messenger, which is fine if that’s your only future channel.”

GoHire invested a lot of time and money in building costs to ensure they had an intelligent chatbot. Duarte noted the business spent $41,000 on creating the chatbot through a framework with the help of two developers.

However, he added that the bulk of the cost is monthly. Depending on the bells and whistles you’re looking for and your chat volume each month, your business could be looking at a $500 bill each month.

What does premade chatbot implementation cost? 

Your business may not have to hire developers in order to get a high-end chatbot up and running on your website. Some of the most popular options are pre-built for you. So, what does this sort of chatbot cost?

Drift is one of the more popular chatbot platforms. Its basic platform is free. That certainly sounds great. But when you visit Drift’s pricing page, you’ll notice that the free version of Drift’s chatbot doesn’t come with many of the features you need to guarantee exceptional customer experience. The free platform comes with: 1 seat, 100 active contacts and some limited integrations in addition to other features.

The paid iterations of the chatbot provider offer a little bit more to businesses. Another version is available for $50 each month. But it doesn’t offer full control over scripting. To get full customization, complete control over scripting, your business’ branding, a suite of integrations and revenue reporting your business will be on the hook for a bigger bill: $500 each month.

Other AI-chat providers are similarly expensive. DontGo, for example, is a chat service that utilizes AI and services the home improvement vertical primarily. The company doesn’t reveal the exact cost of its service on its website. However, a recent webinar shed light on DontGo pricing. The chat provider’s setup fee is a one-time payment of $1,495. And from there, users pay a starting pricing of $599 each month for DontGo’s chat service.

Live chat and chatbot options

Live chat and chatbot options

What are my other options?

If you’re evaluating chatbot cost, keep in mind that the best ones are often expensive. And the cost to build isn’t much better. But when they’re affordable or free, bots can hurt your business’ reputation.

However, they’re not the only option. You can turn to your own sales team to handle inbound messages. However, this isn’t a perfect option either. After all, it would be expensive to keep a human agent active 24/7. And having your own staff take chats during the workday takes them away from their core responsibilities.

Other live chat services offer third-party, human chat agents who are trained to converse with web visitors and capture lead information. The costs of these options vary, with some billing a flat fee monthly and others charging per lead captured every month. The more affordable services charge as little as $18 per qualified lead. This means your bill will rise or fall with your inbound website leads. That can help keep the cost of chat under control.

Chatbot Versus Live Chat: What Determines the Cost?

Chatbots are a tool that’s becoming increasingly popular for businesses, and they’re only going to get more advanced as artificial intelligence continues to develop. While these bots can be used as a stable and effective alternative to a live chat run by an agent, it’s important to consider whether automation aligns with your business goals and is a worthwhile investment. 

A variety of pricing factors can influence a chatbot’s cost, so you can expect a wide range of pricing plans. Some factors that can add costs include:

Balancing Chatbot Cost and Quality

Ultimately, you should choose the chat platform that works best for your business. Otherwise, you may risk your website’s ability to convert or lead or provide quality customer service. After all, spending a lot on chat doesn’t make sense if you’re not getting enough visitors each month. In that case, you may be better off sticking with a free or affordable chatbot until you can build a more consistent stream of visitors.

However, if you’re getting plenty of traffic but your conversion right isn’t where you want it to be, then chat may be the right option for your website. And in that case, you’re going to have to decide how much you’re willing to spend to achieve the best customer experience possible.